Faculty Profile

Psychology Faculty

Melissa Tomasulo, PhD

Associate Professor of Psychology

Ph.D., Experimental Psychology, Specialization in Health Psychology, The Ohio University
M.S., Experimental Psychology, Specialization in Health Psychology, The Ohio University
B. A. Psychology, Baldwin-Wallace College, Berea, Ohio

Areas of Expertise: 

Psychology of health and illness, in particular the acute and chronic effects of stress on the mind and body; behavioral medicine including the psychological, social, and behavioral moderators of disease pathogenesis.

Courses I Teach:

Undergraduate:

  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Psychology of Health and Illness
  • Statistics and Research Methods II

Areas of Research:

Physiological effects of psychological stress, in particular how stress-induced physiological reactivity (e.g. cardiovascular, neuroendocrine, and immunological) may lead to deleterious health effects and cognitive functioning; acute and chronic effects of stress on the mind and body.

My colleague Anthony Richardson, Ph.D. and I formed the Psychophysiology and Virtual Reality Laboratory at Saint Michael's College where we use impedance cardiography, neuroendocrine and immune system markers, and virtual navigation simulations to address our research interests.

Publications:

Richardson, A. E.,† & VanderKaay Tomasulo, M. M.†  (2011). Influence of acute stress on spatial tasks in humans.  Physiology & Behavior, 103(5), 459-466. doi:10.1016/j.physbeh.2011.03.019  Note.  † Denotes both authors contributed equally to the manuscript.

Patterson, S. M., VanderKaay, M. M., Shanholtzer, B. A., & Patterson, C. A.  (2008).  Influence of acute fluid hydration on stress-induced hemoconcentration and cardiovascular reactivity.  Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 31(4), 319-330. doi:10.1007/s10865-008-9162-7

VanderKaay, M. M., & Patterson, S. M.  (2006).   Nicotine and acute stress: Effects of nicotine versus placebo on stress-induced hemoconcentration and cardiovascular reactivity.  Biological Psychology, 71(2), 191-201.  doi:10.1016/j.biopsycho.2005.04.006

Presentations:

Note.  *Denotes co-author is a Saint Michael's College current student or graduate.

VanderKaay Tomasulo, M., *Zimmer, N. K., & *Olsen, M. A. (2013).  Stress-induced cardiovascular and neuroendocrine reactivity within habitual, intermittent, and non-smokers.  Poster presented at the Annual Vermont Genetics Network Annual Retreat, Burlington, Vermont.

*Zimmer, N. K.,*Olsen, M. A., & VanderKaay Tomasulo, M.  (2013).  Coping styles, enriched environment, and stress-induced cardiovascular reactivity among habitual, intermittent, and non-smokers.  Presented at the Vermont Genetics Network Annual Career Day, Burlington, Vermont. 

VanderKaay Tomasulo, M.  (2012).  Incorporating the iPad into a college course.  Invited presentation at the 10th Annual Teaching with Technology Workshop, Saint Michael's College, Colchester, Vermont.

VanderKaay Tomasulo, M. M., Richardson, A. E., *Hanko, E.,*Sparks, R., & *Willette, A.  (2011). HPA activation by a socially evaluative cold pressor test leads to sex differences in spatial attention.  Poster presented at the 23rd Annual Convention of the Association for Psychological Science, Washington, D.C.

*Hanko, E., VanderKaay Tomasulo, M. M., & Richardson, A. E.  (2010).  Impact of acute stress on cardiovascular reactivity and spatial performance.  Poster presented at the 18th Annual Vermont Space Grant Consortium (VT-NASA EPSCoR), Burlington, Vermont. 

*Amey, K. N., & VanderKaay Tomasulo, M. M. (2010). Past sexual education and religiosity: An analysis of college students’ sexual ideologies and current sexual practices.  Poster presented at the New England Psychological Association Conference, Colchester, Vermont.

Richardson, A. E., VanderKaay Tomasulo, M. M., & *Allen, R. L. (2010).  Impact of stress on cardiovascular reactivity and neuroendocrine responses in spatial tasks.  Poster presented at the 22nd Annual Convention of the Association for Psychological Science in Boston, Massachusetts.

*Pietroski, J. M., & VanderKaay Tomasulo, M. M.  (2010).  Effects of low dose nicotine administration and nicotine abstinence on stress-induced cardiovascular reactivity in a sample of chippers.  Poster presented at the 16th Annual Meeting of the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco, Baltimore, Maryland.

*Allen, R. L., Richardson, A. E., & VanderKaay Tomasulo, M. M.  (2009).  The impact of psychological stress on cardiovascular reactivity and neuroendocrine responses in virtual navigation and spatial learning tasks.  Poster presented at the 17th Annual Vermont Space Grant Consortium (VT-NASA EPSCoR), Burlington, Vermont.

*Murphy, M., Kirshenbaum, A., & VanderKaay, M. M.  (2007).  Psychophysiological measurement of human sexual attraction based upon fertility status detected through odor changes across the female life span.  Poster presented at the 1st Annual NorthEastern Evolutionary Psychology Society Meeting, New Paltz, New York.

Grant Awards:

2012 Vermont Genetics Network, Pilot Grant
Title: Stress-induced physiological reactivity amoung daily and light female smokers
2010 Saint Michael's College, Faculty Expense Defrayment Grant
Title: The effects of psychological stress on neuroendocrine functioning and cardiovascular reactivity during virtual navigation and spatial learning tasks

Mentored Student Grants:

I have been the advising professor for several joint student-faculty projects funded by both externally through the NASA-Vermont Space Grant Consortium and Psi Chi – the International Honor Society in Psychology; and internally at Saint Michael’s College through the Vice President for Academic Affairs, Social Science Research Center, and the Psychology Department.  My students and I have presented our findings at the annual meetings for the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco, Association for Psychological Science, and the New England Psychological Association.  Below is a sample of the grants that I have mentored:

2014 Vice President for Academic Affairs Summer Student-Faculty Research Grant, student

Kelcey Briggs ‘15 received funding for summer research

Title: Nutritional components and stress-induced salivary Immunoglobulin A (SIgA) reactivity

2012 Vice President for Academic Affairs Summer Student-Faculty Research Grant, student

Megan Olsen ’13 received funding for summer research

Title: Cigarette use and stress-induced cardiovascular reactivity: The influence of environmental enrichment in childhood

2012 Vermont Genetics Network – Undergraduate Student Summer Research Grant, student

Natalie Zimmer '13 received funding for summer research

Title: Stress-induced physiological reactivity among daily and light female smokers

2011 NASA-Vermont Space Grant Consortium Mentored Undergraduate Research Grant, student

Rachel Rainville ’12 received funding for summer research

Title: The effect of psychological stress on mental rotation in men and women

2011 Psi Chi - International Honor Society in Psychology Undergraduate Research Grant, student

Rachael Sparks ’11 received funding for her senior honors thesis

Title: The effects of stress-induced immune response and cardiovascular reactivity in daily and light-intermittent smokers

2010 NASA-Vermont Space Grant Consortium Mentored Undergraduate Research Grant, student

Eric Hanko ’11 received funding for summer research

Title: The effect of stress on virtual navigation, spatial attention, and physiological processes in males and females
Co-advisor with Anthony Richardson, Ph.D., Saint Michael's College

2010 Vice President for Academic Affairs Summer Student-Faculty Research Grant, student

Rachael Sparks ’11 received funding for summer research

Title:  The effects of acute psychological stress on immune response, neuroendocrine response, and cardiovascular reactivity in intermittent smokers

2010 Psi Chi - International Honor Society in Psychology Undergraduate Research Grant, student

Jenny Pietroski ’10 received funding for her senior honors thesis

Title: The effects of nicotine, nicotine abstinence, and acute psychological stress on cardiovascular reactivity and neuroendocrine functioning in a sample of habitual smokers and tobacco chippers

2009 The Social Sciences Research Center (SSRC) at Saint Michael’s College, Student Summer Research Grant, student

Jenny Pietroski ‘10 received summer funding

Title: The effects of acute psychological stress on neuroendocrine response and cardiovascular reactivity in a sample of tobacco chippers

2009 NASA-Vermont Space Grant Consortium Mentored Undergraduate Research Grant, student

Rachel Allen ’10 received funding for summer research

Title: The impact of physiological stress on cardiovascular reactivity and neuroendocrine responses in virtual navigation and spatial learning task

Co-advisor with Anthony Richardson, Ph.D., Saint Michael's College

2009 Psi Chi International Honor Society in Psychology Undergraduate Research Grant, student

Erica Masi ’09 received funding for her senior honors thesis

Title Impact of different types of friendship support during psychosocial stress on cardiovascular reactivity and salivary cortisol levels

2007 The Social Sciences Research Center (SSRC) at Saint Michael’s College, Student Summer Research Grant, student

Matthew Scanlin ’08 received funding for summer research

Title: Effects of acute psychological stress on cardiovascular reactivity and renal excretion in a sample of nonsmokers

Life Off Campus:

I enjoy traveling, science fiction movies and books, organic gardening, art, hiking, and listening to music, particularly the thought-evoking lyrics and melodies from the band Incubus. 

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