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Graduate Student Spotlight

Danielle Chapa, M.A.Danielle Chapa, M.A.

Ph.D. Candidate and Recipient of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) R36 Dissertation Award

Research Focus: Using technology in eating disorder assessment and treatment; the definition, assessment, and treatment of unhealthy exercise behaviors among persons with eating disorders

Recent Publication: Chapa, D. A., Hagan, K. E., Forbush, K. T., Clark, K. E., Tregarten, J. P., & Argue, S. (2020). Longitudinal trajectories of behavior change in a national sample of patients seeking eating‐disorder treatment. International Journal of Eating Disorders.


Where are you originally from?

San Antonio, Texas

How did you learn about the Clinical Psychology graduate program in the Psychology department? When applying to graduate school, I was looking for experts in the eating-disorder field as potential advisors. At the time, KU recently hired Dr. Kelsie Forbush, who is a well-known researcher in the eating-disorder field. After interviewing at KU, I quickly realized that the program offered everything that I desired in terms of clinical and research training.

What is the current focus in your research? My research aims to understand unhealthy exercise behaviors in the context of eating disorders. Many persons with an eating disorder engage in exercise that is harmful (e.g., exercising two or more hours in a day, exercising when sick or injured, or exercising according to strict rules and rigid routines). Persons who engage in unhealthy exercise will stay in eating-disorder treatment longer and will relapse faster.  My research focuses on understanding when exercise crosses the line from being a healthful behavior to unhealthful. My research also aims to understand the purpose that exercise serves for individuals with eating disorders. If we can understand unhealthy exercise and the purpose(s) it serves, we can create and implement effective treatments in the future. My dissertation research utilizes Actigraph technology and a mobile-phone application to answer some of these questions. More information about my dissertation study can be found here.

How did you become interested in Clinical Psychology? I took a Clinical Psychology course as an undergraduate student and became very interested in the field, especially when I learned about the clinical impairment that accompanies every mental health diagnosis. Persons with untreated psychiatric health conditions, like eating disorders, experience clinical impairment such that their lives are significantly altered. For example, tasks that used to be a part of someone’s typical routine may become incredibly difficult or no longer possible (e.g., concentrating on class work, getting dressed, taking a shower, feeding oneself, participating in relationships, etc.). The idea of clinical impairment motivated me to learn more and more about the field.

What do you like best about Lawrence?

Dani’s top 10 favorite things about Lawrence:

  1. Mass. Street holiday lights until February!
  2. Local businesses with cats
  3. That downtown Lawrence closes for very unique annual events
  4. You can get almost anywhere in 15 minutes or less
  5. Santa finds himself trapped on top of Weaver’s every Friday after Thanksgiving (and never learns)
  6. Amazing biking/running trails
  7. Craft Breweries
  8. Artisan Coffee
  9. Artisan Bread
  10. Lawrence covered in snow; it is like a wonderland!

What are your plans for after graduation? Clinical Internship and Post-Doc!


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