Our Team

Andrea Gonzalez

Andrea-GonzalezDr. Andrea Gonzalez received her PhD (2008) in Psychology and Neuroscience from the University of Toronto and completed her CIHR and Lawson Foundation funded postdoctoral fellowships at the Offord Centre for Child Studies (2012) under the mentorship of Drs. Harriet MacMillan and Michael Boyle.

Currently, she is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences, with cross-appointments in the Department of Psychology, the Neuroscience Graduate Program, and the Department of Health Research Methods, Evidence and Impact at McMaster University.

Dr. Gonzalez is also a core member of the Offord Centre for Child Studies. She is an Editorial Board Member for the journals Archives of Women’s Mental Health, Child Abuse & Neglect and Child Maltreatment and holds a Tier II Canada Research Chair in Family Health and Preventive Interventions. Dr. Gonzalez’ research program focuses on the developmental consequences of early life adversity; the impact of traumatic experience on brain development, behavioural outcomes and health; the intergenerational transmission of risk; and developing and evaluating evidence-based preventive interventions.

Her previous training encompasses psychology, neuroscience and epidemiology with specific emphasis on assessing preventive interventions, stress physiology, parenting, and statistical modelling. Dr. Gonzalez is principal investigator on several studies investigating: 1) the intergenerational transmission of risk; 2) preventive interventions and the role of biological mechanisms – of note, Dr. Gonzalez is the PI of the Healthy Foundations Study (biological investigation of the Nurse Family Partnership) and co-PI of the Canadian evaluation of the Family Check-Up and the SafeCare program; and 3) preventive parenting interventions –Promoting Healthy Families evaluation funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada. Dr. Gonzalez adopts a multi-levelled, multi-method approach, collecting behavioural, cognitive and biological measures from mothers and their children (ages 0-6 years) within the context of evidence-based interventions.

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Anna DeSimone

Anna DeSimoneAnna DeSimone is the Program Administrator for the Family Violence Research Program in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences at the Offord Centre for Child Studies at McMaster University.

Anna is a graduate from the Medical Office Administration Program at Mohawk College and completed first- and second-year courses at McMaster University.

Her career began in 1997 in the field of mental health where she worked as an Intake Coordinator for 9 years in the outpatient unit at Credit Valley Hospital in the Department of Psychiatry, which lead her to her current  position at McMaster University at the Offord Centre for Child Studies. Anna has taken on various roles in the 23 years working at McMaster.

Her first role as a Research Coordinator was for the EDI Program with Dr. Magdalena Janus, with the Implementation of the Full day Kindergarten Program in Ontario,  followed by another position as a Project Coordinator for the NFP (Nurse Family Partnership) Project with Dr. Harriet MacMillan, then as Program Administrator for the VEGA (Violence Evidence Guidance Action ) Project for Dr. Harriet MacMillan.

She is currently the Program Administrator for the Family Violence Research Program working for Dr. Andrea Gonzalez and Dr. Harriet MacMillan on various projects.

Her role as a Program Administrator is to coordinate and manage multiple projects and interact with various project team members, faculty and students to ensure the projects stay within their projected timelines.

She attends and participates in regular project meetings and provides her skills and experience in the operations and reporting related to the project. Her focus is to provide ongoing administrative support on the day-to-day activities of the program, which include administrative, research and financial budget management and mandatory reporting.

Caroline Parkin

Caroline Parkin

Caroline Parkin is a team member of the project, Promoting Healthy Families: A Canadian Evaluation of Two Evidence-based Parenting Programs

With over 20 years’ experience in government, university and not-for-profit sectors, Caroline applied her depth and breadth of expertise to help disadvantaged children and their families succeed. She passionately applied rigorous evidence-based research and front-line experience to inform policy development in her positions at the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services (formerly the Ministry of Children and Youth Services).

Caroline completed her Ph.D. in Medical Sciences, Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences at McMaster University in 2008 where her research focused on the psychological and physiological characteristics of adolescent girls at risk for major depressive disorder. She completed her Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Offord Centre for Child Studies, focused on school-based mental health.

Sharon Peck-Reid

Sharon-Peck-ReidSharon is a research assistant for McMaster’s STRONG families and children at the Offord Centre for Child Studies.

Sharon’s background includes 13 years in research. Education includes multimedia, Business Management, and Business Administration.

Sharon assists in literature searches, database management, and programming surveys.

Meghan Kenny


Meghan is a Research Coordinator in the Department of Health Research Methods, Evidence and Impact.

A graduate of the MA in Community Psychology program at Wilfrid Laurier University, she has a strong background in program evaluation, program management, and community engagement.

She has several years of evaluation experience, ranging from community-based program evaluation to large scale systematic reviews.

She has contributed to numerous systematics reviews and co-authored publications in peer-reviewed journals.

She is appreciative of the collaborative atmosphere of STRONG and how the team’s work is enriched by the unique skill set that each member brings.

Jazzmin Demy

Jazzmin DemyJazzmin is a research assistant in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences.

She graduated with her B.A.Sc in Child, Youth and Family, and B.A. in Psychology from the University of Guelph, where she focused her research on youth mental health.

Since graduating, she has had the opportunity to conduct research at hospital and community-based programs focusing on clinical outcomes for youth receiving treatment for mood and anxiety disorders.

Other research projects include brain imaging, evaluation and cost-effectiveness studies as well as investigating risk and protective factors, and symptom and functioning outcomes. Jazzmin is excited to be a part of the team and to continue conducting research she is passionate about in order to improve the lives of youth and their families.

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Former trainees

Krysta Andrews

Krysta AndrewsKrysta Andrews received her undergraduate degree at Queen’s University in Biology and a Master’s degree in Social Work at the University of Toronto.

She completed her doctoral degree under the supervision of Dr. Andrea Gonzalez in the Neuroscience Graduate program at McMaster University.

Krysta’s research interests broadly focus on examining the effects of early adversity on child cognitive, physiological, and behavioural outcomes as well as the efficacy of evidence-based preventative interventions in supporting, educating, and strengthening families.

Krysta is currently completing a Postdoctoral Fellowship with the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences at McMaster University.

Ashwini Tiwari

Ashwini TiwariDr. Tiwari’s research program is focused on reducing health disparities among high-risk and victimized populations in a family violence context.

Her work focuses on biobehavioral trajectories and responses to trauma-based prevention and intervention efforts, while considering the impact of non-modifiable contextual stressors and intra-individual variation.

She has a special interest in stress physiological and genetic profiles among victimized youth populations who receive trauma-based care. Her recent research has focused on understanding the implementation, barriers and effective components of trauma-based treatments for youth victims of sexual abuse in community settings.

Research Interests: family violence, child maltreatment, evidence-based parenting interventions, mental health, biobehavioral stress, trauma-based interventions.

Gillian England-Mason

Gillian England MasonGillian England-Mason is a Postdoctoral Fellow specializing in Neurodevelopmental Disorders at the Owerko Centre, University of Calgary.

Gillian received her PhD in Neuroscience from McMaster University, under the supervision of Dr. Andrea Gonzalez. She is currently working with the Alberta Pregnancy Outcomes and Nutrition (APrON) Study Team under the mentorship of Dr. Deborah Dewey. Her program of research is supported through a Postgraduate Fellowship in Health Innovation provided by Alberta Innovates.

Gillian’s research broadly examines how early environmental factors influence emotional and cognitive development during childhood. She is particularly interested in biological and relational predictors of neurodevelopmental and mental health outcomes. This multidisciplinary research aims to better understand the mechanisms of developmental change and inform preventative interventions for families.

Heather Prime

Heather PrimeDr. Heather Prime joined the Department of Psychology at York University in 2020, following a CIHR-funded postdoctoral fellowship at the Offord Centre for Child Studies, McMaster University (with Drs. Andrea Gonzalez and Terry Bennett).

Her research program uses a family-based approach to understanding and supporting socio-emotional and cognitive development in young children, with a focus on family interactions and relationships.

She is interested in risk and resiliency processes that occur involving social disadvantage, caregiver and family wellbeing, and children’s adjustment. Current activities include: (1) The development and evaluation of family-based early intervention programs; (2) Knowledge synthesis activities used to examine pre-existing literature on early family-based interventions; (3) The development of behavioural observation tools for assessing family interaction patterns; and (4) Secondary analysis of pre-existing datasets in order to better understand early childhood development.

Dr. Prime is registered with the College of Psychologists of Ontario and she is a practicing clinical psychologist in the Greater Toronto Area, with expertise in working with the family unit to support children’s mental health and well-being. As a clinical psychologist, she is committed to using her clinical training to guide her research, and she emphasizes clinical utility in her research endeavors.

Madeleine Harris

Madeline HarrisMadeleine Harris received her undergraduate degree at McMaster University in the Health Sciences program where she completed her undergraduate thesis with Dr. Gonzalez and worked as a research assistant with the lab.

She went on to receive her Master’s degree in the Neuroscience Graduate Program under the supervision of Dr. Gonzalez.

Madeleine’s research interests include the influences of child adversity and other contextual factors on caregiving practices and child health and development, as well as preventative interventions. Madeleine now studies medicine at the University of Toronto.

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Postdoctoral Fellows

Jennifer Khoury

Jennifer KhouryJennifer received her PhD in Clinical Psychology at Ryerson University in 2017.

From 2017 to 2019 she completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Cambridge Hospital and Harvard Medical School. Jennifer’s research examines the early biological and social influences on development, both typical and atypical, beginning in infancy and spanning to later childhood.

Her first postdoctoral research assessed the complex associations between maternal history of child maltreatment, parenting behaviour, and infant neuroendocrine stress reactivity and brain development.

Jennifer has been completing a postdoctoral fellowship at the Offord Centre since 2019.

Here, Jennifer is working on the Family Check Up project, a series of meta-analyses to examine outcomes of childhood maltreatment, and COVID-19 research in pregnancy. Jennifer’s research is currently funded by a Michael DeGroote Postdoctoral Fellowship and a CIHR Fellowship.

Divya Joshi

Divya JoshiDr. Divya Joshi is a Postdoctoral Fellow under the mentorship of Dr. Parminder Raina and Dr. Andrea Gonzalez.

Divya received her Ph.D. in Health Research Methodology (Clinical Epidemiology) at McMaster University.

Divya’s overarching area of interest is in examining the associations between exposure to childhood adversity, biopsychosocial resilience, and healthy aging. Divya’s current research focuses on examining pathways linking early life adversity and poor health outcomes including multimorbidity and poor physical and cognitive functioning in an aging population.

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Jennifer Mepham

Jennifer MephamJennifer Mepham received her Bachelor of Science degree with an Honours Specialization in Psychology from the University of Western Ontario.

She then went on the earn her Master’s of Science, also from Western, studying the neurobiological basis of Autism Spectrum Disorders.

Jennifer is now working toward her Ph.D. in Neuroscience under the supervision of Dr. Gonzalez.

Before beginning her Ph.D., Jennifer trained and worked as a Psychometrist in a private practice, as well as working as a Research Associate in the STRONG Families and Children lab.

Her specific research interests are focused on the biological outcomes of intergenerational and prenatal stress and trauma, child resiliency factors, and parenting strategies.

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Taylor Nelles-McGee

Taylor Nelles-McGee is a Master’s student in the Neuroscience Graduate Program at McMaster University under the supervision of Dr. Gonzalez.

She holds a Hons BSc in Psychology from York university, a BMus in classical performance violin from The Glenn Gould School at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto and is a certified End-of-Life Doula.

Her research interests include biological indices of accelerated aging in children and youth who have experienced adversity, associated resiliency-related factors, intergenerational effects of adverse experiences, and childhood grief and bereavement.

Outside of the lab, Taylor works as a professional violinist and teacher with Sistema Toronto, a program delivered through music education and a comprehensive social curriculum to children in vulnerable communities, and is involved with grassroots community organizing around issues of social justice and inequity.

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Other Trainees

David Kanters

David KantersDavid Kanters is a PhD candidate at McMaster University in the Department of Health Research Methods, Evidence, and Impact.

He has a wealth of experience working with population-based studies in his research on determinants of health and healthy aging, with a particular focus on health measurement.

Rafaela Costa Martins

Rafaela Costa MartinRafaela Costa Martins has BS in Physical Education (2014) at Universidade Federal de Pelotas (Brazil) and MSc in Epidemiology (2017) at Universidade Federal de Pelotas (Brazil).

Nowadays she is a PhD student in Epidemiology at the same University, with an exchange period in McMaster University (Canadá). She studied the Epidemiology of Physical Activity from 2014 to 2017 in both urban and rural populations.

Her thesis is about the Epidemiology of Violence, focusing on chronic stress measured by hair cortisol. She has experience in epidemiology, hair cortisol, statistics, physical activity and public health.

Also, she is a member of the DOVE: Human Development and Violence Research Centre, member of Study and Research Group in Accelerometry (GEPEA) and a member of the Global Observatory for Physical Activity (GoPA!).

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Honours Bachelor Students

Jasmine Zhang

Jasmine ZhangJasmine completed her Bachelor of Science at McMaster University, where she studied mother-child emotion regulation with the STRONG Families team.

Her research interests include early childhood adversity, parenting processes, and children’s emotional outcomes. She is excited to be pursuing graduate studies in clinical psychology at the University of Waterloo.

Zoe Weidman

Zoe WeidmanZoe recently graduated with a B.Sc in Psychology, Neuroscience, and Behaviour from McMaster University.

She joined the lab in September 2018 and has enjoyed working on various projects, such as the Making the Race Fair Study. Zoe’s honours thesis examined the moderating role of parenting on the association between neighbourhood characteristics and children’s executive functioning.

She is very excited to continue exploring factors influencing children and their families as a member of the Strong Families team!

Sawmmiya Kirupaharan

SawmmiyaSawmmiya is an undergraduate student in the Bachelor of Health Sciences (Honours) program at McMaster University.

She has a strong passion for social justice and child health research.

Her current project aims to elucidate the impacts of food insecurity on child development.



Katelyn Judges

Katelyn is an undergraduate student in the Psychology, Neuroscience, and Behaviour – Mental Health Specialization Program (B.A) at McMaster University.

She has been working with the lab since September 2018 on the Examining Trauma-Based Interventions for Youth Victims of Sexual Abuse Project. For her honour’s thesis, Katelyn is exploring the role of caregivers in youth trauma-treatment modalities.

She is looking forward to graduate studies that will incorporate her desire to work therapeutically with clinical populations while continuing trauma-focused research. Her interest is in fostering resiliency.

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