Christopher G Beevers
Ph.D., University of Miami
Professor and Director of the Institute for Mental Health Research
Etiology, maintenance, and treatment of unipolar depression in adults; translational behavioral research; integration of genetic and cognitive perspectives.
Christopher Beevers received his doctorate in adult clinical psychology from the University of Miami in 2002. His clinical internship and postdoctoral fellowship were completed in the Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at Brown University. Dr. Beevers' primary research interest focuses on the cognitive etiology and treatment of major unipolar depression. He believes that understanding normal cognitive processes provides an important foundation for identifying how these processes go awry in clinical depression. Further, he is very interested in using experimental psychopathology methods to understand why treatments work and translating these same methods into effective interventions for depression and related psychopathology (e.g., anhedonia, negative affect). Dr. Beevers is particularly interested in the interplay between biology (e.g., variants of the serotonin transporter gene) and cognitive risk and maintaining factors for depression. Current project utilize behavioral, eye tracking, and EEG methodologies to measure cognitive bias combined with smart phone methods to measure negative affect in its natural environment. He collaborates with numerous faculty at UT, nationally, and internationally. Please see this brief video for more information about Dr. Beevers' work.
See Google Scholar profile for more information.
Dr. Beevers plans to review graduate student applications to his laboratory for admission in Fall of 2017. See Info for Prospective Students for further detail.
My laboratory conducts translational research on the etiology and treatment of depression. We are particularly interested in the intersection between cognitive models of depression, genetics, and neuroscience. The Mood Disorders Lab focuses primarily on the collection of phenotypic data, such as cognitive vulnerability to depression, measured with a variety of different approaches. Central techniques include behavioral reaction time tasks and psychophysiology, including eye-tracking and more recently electroencephalography. In close collaboration with geneticists, we are then able to explore the genetic underpinnings of vulnerability to depression and its correlates. We are particularly interested in whole genome approaches and epigenetics.
We have numerous ongoing projects within the lab. Here is a current sampling of projects:
- We are conducting a therapygenetics study, which examines whether genetic variation can predict response to internet delivered psychotherapy. This project is funded by the Brain and Behavior Foundation and is being conducted in collaboration with colleagues at Brown University (J. McGeary).
- Related to the idea above, we are also exploring novel analytic approaches (e.g., machine learning) to identify who is most likely to respond to various forms of depression treatment.
- We are exploring different approaches to cognitive training, in an effort to reverse the cognitive biases that are believed to maintain the disorder. This work falls under the category of Cognitive Bias Modification. This is an exciting new area of research that promises to merge basic psychopathology research with treatment development.
- We are also conducting research that examines decision making in healthy and depressed individuals. This work is in collaboration with Todd Maddox and is funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
Current & Past Graduate Students
Current Graduate Students
Rahel Pearson, M.S. (4th year)
Rahel completed her B.S. and M.S. in psychology at the University of Amsterdam. The research for her master's thesis was conducted at Stanford University, exploring the relationship among 5-HTTLPR, stress, and decision making. After graduating she worked at UCSF where she helped investigate risk factors for the development of psychosis. She is interested in gene-environment interactions, specifically whether individuals with certain "vulnerability" genes are more sensitive to both negative and positive environments. She is especially excited to learn how this phenomena, known as differential susceptibility, relates to mechanisms implicated in the onset and maintenance of depression (e.g., cognitive bias).
Justin Dainer-Best, B.A. (4th year)
Justin received his undergraduate degree from Haverford College, with bachelors degrees in both Psychology and English Literature. After a year as an English teacher in Spain, he joined a psychology laboratory at the University of Miami for two years studying attention, working memory, and meditation in high-stress cohorts. Justin is interested in the cognitive bases of attention and mood disorders, attentional control of memory and emotion, and emotional resilience and regulation. He is also interested in neurobiological methods of understanding depression and stress, and in exploring new ways to use contemporary technology to study the mind.
Past Graduate Students
Peter Clasen, Ph.D.
Peter joined the clinical psychology PhD program at UT in 2008, under Dr. Beevers_ supervision. Peter's research involves integrating cognitive and biological models of depression. In 2011, he received a National Research Service Award (NRSA) from the National Institutes of Mental Health to conduct research on the cognitive control of emotional information in major depressive disorder.
Seth Disner, Ph.D.
Seth's research interests include investigating cognitive and neurobiological substrates of depression and identifying biomarkers that might facilitate treatment response. His recent publications include a review on the neural mechanisms of Beck's Cognitive Model of Depression, which was published in the August 2011 issue of Nature Reviews Neuroscience. He joined the Mood Disorders Lab in Fall of 2009.
Tony Wells, Ph.D.
Tony received his B.A. in psychology in 2001 from the University of Texas in Austin and his M.A. in psychology from the University of Pennsylvania in 2003. He joined the Mood Disorders Lab at UT in June 2005 and received his Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin in 2011. Tony's research interests include the etiology and maintenance of depression with a current focus on genetic and cognitive risk factors.
Alissa Ellis, Ph.D.
Alissa recently completed a dual fellowship (T32) from UCLA's Semel Institute in Child and Adolescent Mood Disorders and Clinical Neuropsychology. Alissa is now on faculty in the Department of Psychiatry, Semel Institute of Neuroscience and Human Behavior, UCLA. She was recently awarded a 4-year grant (K-23) from NIMH entitled, "The effect of EEG biomarkers of approach motivation and reward sensitivity on mood symptom stability."
Jenna Baddeley, Ph.D.
Jenna is a staff psychologist in the Ralph H Johnson VA Medical Center, located in Charleston, South Carolina. Jenna received a BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2002 and an M.A. from Connecticut College in 2006. She joined the Mood Disorders Lab in fall 2006. Her research focuses on the social consequences of psychological pain (including depression, bereavement, and other stressful life events) and disclosure.
Translational Research Helps Understand and Treat Mental Health Disorders
Understanding Mental Health Disorders
Almost one in two people in the United States will experience a mental health disorder in their lifetime. Despite this fact, there are relatively few effective behavioral treatments that provide long-lasting relief from problems like depression and anxiety. Dr. Christopher Beevers, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin and director of the Institute for Mental Health Research, is trying to change this. The institute's mission is, "to transform the understanding and treatment of mental illness through basic and clinical research, paving the way for prevention, recovery, and cure."
To Treat Depression, a New Approach Tries Training the Brain
Published in the Wall Street Journal on June 1, 2015
Computer games, chirping birds and electrical stimulation in studies to change how depressed people think
The Attention Machine
Published in the Atlantic on February 9, 2015.
A new brain-scanning technique could change the way scientists think about human focus.
Info for Prospective Students
Frequently Asked Questions
Will you be taking a graduate student into your lab this year?
I am hoping to admit a graduate student in the Fall of 2017. This is pending budgetary approval, which has not been finalized yet.
Are there any particular experiences that I should emphasize in my application this year?
This year I am especially interested in students with interests and experience with programming and coding (e.g., Python, Matlab, etc.), particularly as it relates to advanced data analytics and/or collecting and analyzing large research datasets. Students with strong experience in cognitive neuroscience and are interested in using these methods to study clinical populations are also encouraged to apply. Although these topics are of interest, any student with outstanding potential to be succcessful in graduate school and beyond will be considered.
What other attributes to do you look for in graduate students?
First and foremost, good graduate students are passionate about their work. This is important because the research process can take a long time from start to finish, there is often not much positive reinforcement along the way, and it can be easy to get distracted. Passion for what they do helps sustain students through this process. Good students are also highly motivated to succeed and willing to work very hard. Being smart, curious, a good writer, and having good quantitative skills also helps.
What are your top tips for students interested in applying to a psychology graduate program?
- Fit between your research interests and those of the advisor you are applying to work with is probably the most important aspect of your application. Not just in terms of your stated interests, but also in terms of your experiences. For instance, if someone is interested in studying alcohol disorders in graduate school, the most competitive students often have worked in an alcohol research laboratory as an undergraduate.
- I would also recommend doing as well as possible on the GREs, particularly the verbal section. This is one of the few ways faculty can compare students across a level playing field.
- Remember that most people do not get into graduate school the first time they apply. Our doctoral program in clinical psychology only accepts 3-5 students from approximately 350 applications every year.
- I would also recommend verifying that the faculty member you would like to work with plans to accept a graduate student that year.
Do you take people straight out of undergrad?
It is somewhat unusual for me to take someone who just received their undergraduate degree. I like to admit people who have worked as post-bac RAs for a year or two because if they still want to do research after working full time for a couple of years, that is a good sign.
When (if ever) is the best time to get an email from an applicant asking: 1) if you are taking students next year; and 2) just expressing interest in your work as a way to say please look at my application?
A month or two into the fall semester. Too early and faculty won't know if they are able to admit a student. I think it is OK to express interest in my work--just try to be concise. It is useful to say specifically why you are interested, rather than just saying you admire it etc. I also think it is a great idea to attach a CV, as that is a good way for me to quickly see what sorts of experiences a student has had.
Do you hate these emails? Do you like them?
I don't mind them.
When (if ever) is the best time to get an email from a faculty mentor suggesting that I should look at a particualr applicant closely?
Probably right around the application deadline. Much earlier than that, and I would likely forget! So, best to catch the advisor near the time when he/she starts looking at applications. And, at least at Texas, we don't start looking at applications until after the deadline (which is usually early to mid Dec, which means I usually don't look at them until after Christmas early Jan).
Other useful resources: