Research Faculty

Stephanie Grutzmacher, PhD
Principle Investigator

Dr. Stephanie Grutzmacher is a Faculty Research Associate and Extension Family Specialist in the School of Public Health. Stephanie began her academic career in upstate New York at Syracuse University where she received her Bachelor’s degree in both Psychology and Communication & Rhetoric. She then pursued both her master’s and doctoral degrees at the University of Maryland in Family Science. Stephanie is the faculty mentor of the research projects associated with the FSNE-SPH Research Group. It is her interest and passion in health literacy and nutrition education for low-income families that has fueled these projects. Stephanie is the author of several peer reviewed articles and book chapters. She has presented her research throughout the state of Maryland and across the country at conferences including APHA, NCFR, Preister ADA, and SNEB. Stephanie’s research interests also include social welfare policy, food security, and health program planning and evaluation. Aside from her research endeavors, Stephanie loves coaching girls’ lacrosse, eating lots of fruits and vegetables, and acting as a mentor for the Food Desert Team of UMD's Gemstone Program.

Kate Speirs, PhD
Faculty Research Associate

Dr. Kate Speirs recently earned her PhD in Family Science from the University of Maryland. She came to Maryland with a Master’s degree from the University of Connecticut in Human Development and Family Studies and a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Hamilton College. Kate has been involved in the FSNE-SPH Research Group for three years and has been an essential part of several projects. Most recently, since the completion of her doctoral degree, Kate holds a post-doctoral faculty researcher position with the FSNE program within the Department of Family Science. In this position, Kate leads two important projects. She is the author of Feeding for Healthy Eating, a nutrition education curriculum for use with low-income parents and childcare providers that teaches healthy parental feeding practices.  Kate is also a lead researcher on the Text2BHealthy Evaluation Project, a nutrition and physical activity promotion program delivered via text message to low-income parents.

Graduate Research Assistants

BreAnna Davis, MS

BreAnna Davis is a recent graduate of the Couple and Family Therapy Master’s program at the University of Maryland.  Prior to obtaining her Master’s degree, Brianna attended the University of South Carolina where she received a Bachelor’s degree in Human Development and Family Studies. She is a recent addition to the FSNE-SPH Research Group and is excited to begin working as a Research Assistant. Her research interests include racial socialization and identity and African American families, gender socialization, and relationship satisfaction in couples.

Kat Downes, MPH

Kat Downes is a first year Maternal and Child Health doctoral student. Before coming to the University of Maryland, Kat earned her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Florida in Tampa. She also earned her MPH in Epidemiology and Biostatistics from the same institution in 2007. Since then, Kat has worked as a statistical data analyst for several companies. She is excited to be moving north to join the program and to begin working as a Research Assistant. She was also selected as a 2012 Dean's Fellow in Public Health, representing the MCH program.

Lauren Messina, MS

Lauren Messina is a third year doctoral student in the Department of Family Science at UMD She graduated from Villanova University with a B.A. in Communications and joined the FSNE-SPH Research Group while working towards her Master’s degree in Couple and Family Therapy at the University of Maryland. Lauren has worked with the Research Group for three years, where she has collected, entered and analyzed data for the Maryland Health and Nutrition Literary Study, and managed data collection and the delivery of nutrition education for theFood Smart, Fresh Start program. Lauren is involved in the Text2BHealthy Evaluation Project and in the writing and editing of the Healthy Cents curriculum. Lauren has also using qualitative data from the Maryland Health and Nutrition Literacy Study to explore the parental feeding practices of low-income, African American parents. Apart from being a Research Assistant with the FSNE-SPH Research Group, Lauren also works as a Couple and Family Therapist, where she specializes in working with families in conflict, child and adolescent psychopathology, and parenting. On campus, she is a proud member of the Maryland Terrapin Network, a network that enhances support for LGBT individuals and allies at Maryland.

Ash Munger, MS

Ash Munger is a second year PhD student in the Department of Family Science. Prior to her doctoral work, Ash earned her B.A. in Psychology from Grove City College and her Master’s in Couple and Family Therapy from the University of Maryland. Ash has worked with the FSNE-SPH Research Group for three years and she has worked on a number of projects. Specifically, Ash has been an integral part of the Maryland Health and Nutrition Literary Study, Text2BHealthy Evaluation Project, and the development of the Healthy Cents curriculum. Ash’s Master’s thesis used data from the Maryland Health and Nutrition Literacy Study to explore the relationships between food security, mental health, and health locus of control. Currently, Ash is also working on exploring the qualitative interviews of the Latino Immigrant Substudy where she is analyzing the transcripts of interviews with Latino men and women to further understand their experiences of food security and their use of food resources. Apart from her time with the FSNE-SPH Research Group, Ash is also involved in a project with Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, where she studies physical and psychological aggression in couple relationships. In her spare time, Ash enjoys traveling with her husband and doing yoga.

Research Consultants

Patty Fanflick, PhD

Patty Fanflik is a recent graduate of the Family Science doctoral program at the University of Maryland. Previously, Patty received her B.S. in Psychology from Palm Beach Atlantic University. She also has two Master’s degrees in Human Development and Family Science from Kansas State University, and in Sociology from Southern Illinois University. Patty has worked with the FSNE-SPH Research Group for over four years, and is currently working on an article titled: “Navigating social support networks: How low-income men experience food insecurity and acquisition.” This manuscript utilizes qualitative data from the Maryland Health and Nutrition Literacy Study. Aside from her research endeavors, Patty is the Sexual Assault Prevention coordinator for the Department of Fraternity and Sorority Life at the University of Maryland. She is also the instructor for several FMSC undergraduate courses, including one that she created, titled War and Families.

Kate Riera, PhD

Kate Riera is a recent graduate of the Family Science doctoral program at the University of Maryland. Kate entered the FMSC program after graduating from Muhlenberg College with a double degree in Psychology and Spanish. Kate also earned a Master’s degree in Psychological Services from the University of Pennsylvania. Since her graduation from the University of Maryland, Kate has moved to Newark, Delaware, where she is the instructor for several human development and family studies courses at the University of Delaware. Kate’s work within the FSNE-SPH Research Group has focused on analyzing data from the Latino Immigrant Substudy of the Maryland Health and Nutrition Literacy Study. She was involved in conducting interviews in Spanish and translating qualitative interviews from Spanish to English. Currently, Kate works on qualitative analysis and manuscript development of these data.