Faculty Profile

Psychology Faculty

Melissa VanderKaay Tomasulo, PhD

Associate Professor of Psychology

Ph.D., Experimental Psychology, Specialization in Health Psychology, Ohio University
M.S., Experimental Psychology, Specialization in Health Psychology, 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:


  • Advanced Topics: Human Psychophysiology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Psychology of Health and Illness
  • Statistics and Research Methods II


  • Physiological Dimensions in Psychology

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.


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

I have been the advising professor for several joint student-faculty projects funded by the NASA-Vermont Space Grant Consortium and Psi Chi – the International Honor Society in Psychology.  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 New England Psychological Association.

In the summer of 2009, my colleague Dr. Anthony Richardson and I collaborated to form the Psychophysiology and Virtual Reality Laboratory at Saint Michael's College where we use impedance cardiography and virtual navigation simulations to address our research interests.

Citation Paper, Society for Behavioral Medicine, 2001 & 2002

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        

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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