Northern Illinois University

Trauma, Mental Health & Recovery Lab

Graduate Students


Rachel Kendra (Kendra CV)

Rachel Kendra is currently a sixth year NIU clinical doctoral student.  Rachel attended Birmingham-Southern College (BSC), a small liberal arts college in Alabama, for her undergraduate training.  As an undergraduate, she worked on the Clinical Psychology Research Team with Dr. Tricia Witte, and studied IPV, sexual victimization, and risk recognition.  Rachel graduated from BSC in 2007 and began her graduate training in August 2007, where she has worked under Drs. Holly Orcutt, Michelle Lilly, and Kathryn Bell.


Rachel is currently a member of Dr. Michelle Lilly’s Trauma Laboratory.  Her research has predominantly examined intervening variables that predict intimate partner violence perpetration and adverse mental health outcomes following trauma, with a specific focus on the roles of emotion regulation, anger, and substance abuse.  Her thesis project investigated the effect of alcohol expectancies on IPV perpetration, and her dissertation is a longitudinal study examining the relationship between risk recognition, PTSD, and IPV victimization.  


Christine Valdez (Valdez CV)

Christine Valdez is a fourth year doctoral student in the clinical psychology program at Northern Illinois University. She earned her B.A. in Psychology in 2008 from California State University, East Bay. There her research spanned the area of traumatic life experiences, with a particular focus on intimate partner violence and the role of attachment in abusive relationships.

Before coming to NIU, Christine worked in research at the VA National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in Palo Alto, California. She worked on projects exploring veteran’s healthcare utilization and treatment outcome with the goal of improving VA services to aid recovery of veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder.

Christine's broad research interests include interpersonal trauma and revictimization. In particular, she is interested in studying cognitive and emotional processes that contribute to posttraumatic sequelae, and recovery from trauma.


Phylice Lim (Lim CV)

Phylice Lim is a third year doctoral student in the clinical psychology program at Northern Illinois University. She hails from Malaysia and came to the United States in 2007. She earned her B.A. in Psychology in 2010 from University of Kansas. There she was involved in various research projects, particularly on the topics of intimate partner violence, attachment, gender. Her undergraduate honors thesis investigated a model including attachment, rumination, and aggression, and examined the possible moderating role of rumination.

To complement her research interest in intimate partner violence, Phylice also worked as a volunteer advocate at the Willows Domestic Violence Center in Lawrence, Kansas. There she observed how various research and theories are being applied and could benefit the survivors of domestic violence.

Broadly speaking, her interests include a) understanding factors impacting the occurrences and reoccurrences of intimate partner violence, b) examining the dynamics of intimate partner violence in different social classes and ethnic groups, and c) exploring how the above mentioned contextual factors facilitate or hinder survivors’ recovery from the violence.


Melissa London (London CV)

Melissa London is a second year doctoral student in the clinical psychology program at Northern Illinois University.  She earned her B.A. in Psychology and Sociology in 2011 from Hunter College, of the City University of New York.  Her undergraduate thesis focused on how specific behavioral coping methods buffer the harmful effects of stress on health.

Melissa’s interest in interpersonal violence and trauma emerged from her various clinical experiences as well her research. Before coming to NIU, Melissa worked as a Case Manager for homeless persons with mental illnesses and a Substance Abuse Counselor in a Chemical Dependence Outpatient Program.

Melissa’s research interests include predicting onsets of disorders related to trauma, examining coping strategies and other protective factors to promote resilience from trauma, as well as understanding the cultural variation in response to and during recovery from interpersonal violence and trauma.


Mary (MC) Mercer (Mercer CV)

MC Mercer is a second year doctoral student in the clinical psychology program at Northern Illinois University.  She earned her B.A. in Psychology in 2010 from Maryville College in Maryville, Tennessee.  While there she participated in the research and prevention of sexual assault on college campuses.  Her undergraduate honors thesis examined the prevalence, attitudes, adjustment, and alcohol use of sexual assault victims and aggressors. 

Upon graduation, MC continued to develop her research interests.  She presented her undergraduate thesis findings to the Maryville College faculty, staff, and resident assistants.  Additionally, she worked as a research assistant in an intimate partner violence lab at the University of Tennessee.  Her responsibilities included the collection and organization of study data and the recruitment and scheduling of participants.

MC also gained clinical experience by working at a small nonprofit organization that offers equine-assisted grief and trauma therapy.  As the equine specialist, it was her role to maintain a safe environment for the therapy session.  Furthermore, she initiated and organized a research project which sought to examine equine-assisted psychotherapy and the utilization of coping skills. 

Broadly speaking, MC’s research interests are focused on the etiology of sexual victimization.  Specifically, she is interested in the social, aggressor, and victim understanding and misunderstanding of sexual assault; this includes the maintenance of rape myths and world assumptions, attribution of blame, and assault outcomes.