"Stress is life and life is stress" - Dr. Hans Selye (1956)

Rima Azar, PhD


Dr. Rima Azar is the founder and director of the Psychobiology of Stress & Health Lab (PSHL). She is an Associate Professor & a CIHR New Investigator in Developmental Psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) at Mount Allison University where she joined the Psychology Department in 2008 and earned tenure in 2011. Dr. Azar is also an Adjunct Professor at the Université de Moncton and an Honorary Research Associate within the School of Graduate Studies at the University of New Brunswick. Recently, she became a CIHR Advisory Board Member (effective September 2013) for the Institute of Human Development, Child, and Youth Health (IHDCYH).

Before joining Mount Allison, she was a CIHR/OWHC Postdoctoral Fellow in the Women's Health Program at the University of Toronto Health Network where she worked with Donna E. Stewart, MD, FRCPC. Her postdoctoral PNI research focused on depressive symptoms in adult women and men, inflammatory markers, and risk for coronary artery disease.

Dr. Azar received her M.Sc. and Ph.D. from the University of Montreal in Developmental Psychoneuroendocrinology. Her doctoral work on infant cortisol (stress) reactivity was undertaken under the supervision of Daniel Paquette, PhD (University of Montreal) and Mark Zoccolillo, MD, FRCPC (McGill University). She has enjoyed working with 228 teenage mothers and their cute babies!

Dr. Azar has shown that maternal prenatal major depression in teen mothers is linked to their infant's HPA axis function (work published in Biological Psychiatry). She has also conducted the first study on conduct disorder and cortisol levels in high-risk families such as teen mothers. This work, published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry generated (favourable) commentary from two leading experts, Drs. Pajer and Gardner. This study was the third in the literature on women's antisocial behaviour and their cortisol levels (Pajer's work was the first).

One of the main projects at the PSHL, in collaboration with a team of co-investigators, is the PNI of Pregnancy Study. The latter examines if maternal prenatal depressive and anxiety symptoms lead to low birth weight, through inflammatory pathways. In subsequent follow-up projects, the PSHL plans to follow the newborns in the postnatal period to examine early risk factors for cardiovascular diseases.

Some of Dr. Azar's Honours students have been involved in other stress-related projects with high-risk groups (e.g. inmates, correctional officers, etc.).

Julie Lewis, B.Sc, M.Sc Candidate

Research Coordinator

Julie holds an Honour B.Sc. with Specialization in Biology from the University of Ottawa ('08). She is a research professional intrigued by a multidisciplinary approach to knowledge, which explains her interest in studying psychoneuroimmunology. She joined the Psychobiology of Stress & Health Lab (PSHL) in August 2011.

Primarily, she is the research coordinator of an ongoing PSHL multi-site clinical study entitled “Feelings matter when expecting a baby: the psychoneuroimmunology of pregnancy”. Other tasks within the lab include editorial activities as well as helping with the coordination of other research projects. She recently submitted a manuscript to be reviewed for publication, with Dr. Rima Azar as a co-author. She is currently working on her masters, Assessing the risk of Lyme disease in New Brunswick, under the supervision of Dr.Lloyd.

Additionally, she has participated in the organization of lab activities such as:

  • A CIHR Café Scientifique entitled “My body is simmering: Minimizing the inflammatory effect of stress & depression”. This community-based event was widely attended (Fall 2012).

  • Mount Allison University's research open house where the PSHL was chosen, along with two other labs, to give a media tour in order to celebrate the contributions of funding agencies to the university, as well as highlight the novel research at MTA's labs (Fall 2011).


Nina Hindrichs

Honours Student

My name is Nina Hindrichs and I am from Lynden, Ontario. I am currently going into fourth year. This year I will be researching "smoking in youth with and without past depression".

Meagan Blacquiere

Honours Student

From Allison, New Brunswick. Beyond my interests in psychology, I also enjoy playing hockey, dancing, and reading. I also have an appetite for learning and speaking new languages, especially my secondary language of French. My work this year will build upon research already done at the PSHL and will be looking at smoking in early pregnancy as it pertains to umbilical cord blood concentrations of C-reactive protein.


Alyssa James

Honours Student

My name is Alyssa James and I am from Moncton NB. I am currently going in my fourth year at MTA. This year I will be working on "Serum levels of pro-inflammatory biomarkers as a function of the severity of depressive symptoms in nulliparous expectant women during early-to-mid pregnancy".

Kate Stymiest

Honours Student

Kate, from Fredericton, NB, enjoys reading and swimming in her spare time. The title of her research project with Dr. Azar is "Depressive Symptoms and Low Vitamin D in Expectant Women".


Mo Santander

Honours Student

Mo, from Glenwood Springs, CO, enjoys the hiking, backpacking, and generally discovering the Great Outdoors. In his time at PSHL, Mo studied the occupational satisfaction of correctional officers in Atlantic Canadian institutions. His thesis titled "Job Satisfaction, Managerial Satisfaction, and Turnover Intention in Atlantic Canadian Correctional Officers" is currently being adapted for publication in journal-article form.

Robert Calder

Honours Student

Robert, from Springhill, NS, enjoys building bicycles and developing board games. In the lab, Robert examines the prevalence and patterns related to prescription opiate use among male inmates in Canada, specifically poly-drug use, early-age drug use, and suicide. Robert currently resides in London pursuing career opportunities as well as continuing lab research.


Sarah Leger

Honours Student

Sarah, from Moncton NB, enjoys volunteering and travelling in her spare time, and is an avid reader for pleasure, even during the academic year. After completing her thesis in the PSHL, she went on to pursue a Master of Arts in Women and Gender Studies at Mount Saint Vincent University studying human sexuality and gender identity and performance. She will be graduating in May 2014 and hopes to continue on to her PhD, hopefully as an international student abroad.
Thesis Title: Do Smoking Self-reports and Biomarkers Tell the Same Story?

Adrian Gee

Independent Studies Student

Adrian, from Kitimat, BC spends his spare time playing volleyball, running/hiking, doing naturalistic photography, and going through various series on Netflix. In his time at PSHL, Adrian explored the relationship between childhood obesity and inflammatory markers such as C-Reactive protein. He is currently a student in the Faculty of Medicine at Memorial University of Newfoundland where he is conducting a spatio-temporal analysis of STIs on the east coast with respect to domestic migratory behaviours. He also is working on an ongoing bone marrow and stem cell databasing project (One Match) with Canadian Blood Services.
Report Title: Childhood Obesity & C-Reactive Protein

Mo Santander

Independent Studies Student

In his time as an Independent Studies Student at PSHL, Mo examined health-psychological theories related to vaccine demand and the psychological aspects of preventative health behaviour in pandemic scenarios.
Report Title: H1N1 Pandemic: Lessons Learned


Pamela Hudson

Honours Student

In her time at PSHL, Pam studied the relationship between perceived social support of expectant mothers and infant birthweight.
Thesis Title: Perceived Social Support During Pregnancy & Birth Weight

Sarah Smith

Independent Studies Student

Project Title: Mindfulness


Darren Mercer

Honours Student

In his time at PSHL, Darren examined the relationship between prenatal affect and inflammatory markers in the expectant mothers.
Thesis Title: Feelings matter in pregnancy: A pilot study to test whether prenatal affect influence 1. Maternal serum pro-inflammatory markers and 2. Fetal growth

CIHR Graduate Scholarship

Annie Richard

Honours Student

In her time at PSHL, Annie studied the effect of smoking on markers of inflammation.
Thesis Title: Pilot Study: Salivary C-Reactive Protein as a measure of the effect of tobacco smoke exposure on inflammation.


Laura Stephenson

Honours Student

Thesis Title: Nagivating, surviving...and perhaps enjoying the freshman year: What can we learn from the relations between daily hassles, social support, and anxiety?

Sarah Smith

Independent Studies Student

Project Title: Does Postpartum Maternal Affect Effect Maternal Perceptions of Infant Health or Infant Health Outcome?

Graduates, All Years

Ms. P. Tryphanopoulos

Interdisciplinary Studies PhD Candidate at University of New Brunswick

Dissertation Title: Professional Interaction Guidance to improve maternal-infant relationships of depressed mothers: A Randomized Controlled Trial (RCT)

Dr. Azar has served on Ms. Tryphanopoulos' Dissertation Committee since 2010

Ms. V. Poulin

Psychologie Professionnelle (Clinique) PhD Candidate at Université de Moncton

Effet de la dramatisation sur la modulation émotionnelle de la douleur chez les individus de la douleur chronique

Effect of dramatization on the emotional modulation of pain among patients suffering from chronic pain

Dr. Azar served as Internal Reviewer to Ms. Poulin's dissertation

Ms. E. Faubert

Maitrise en Psychologie Candidate (2010) at Université de Moncton

Thesis Title: Le rôle médiateur de la colère dans la relation entre la dramatisation et l'expérience douloureuse

Thesis: The mediating role of anger in the relationship between dramatization and pain experience

Dr. Azar serves as External Reviewer to Ms. Faubert's Thesis

Ms. J. Lewis

M.Sc Candidate at Mount Allison University

Assessing the risk of Lyme disease in New Brunswick

Dr. Azar will serve as a member of her Thesis Supervisory Committee

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