Angela Bryan, PhD and Renee Magnan, PhD
Lab Co-Directors

The SHERPA (Social, Health, and Evolutionary Research Program of Albuquerque) lab, located at the University of New Mexico Psychology Department, is led by Angela Bryan, PhD, a Research Professor, and Renee Magnan, a Research Assistant Professor. They are both affiliated with the Center for Alcoholism, Substance Abuse, and Addiction (CASAA) at the University of New Mexico. Dr. Bryan has moved to the University of Colorado at Boulder, where she is a Professor in the Social Area of the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience and co-leads the CUChange Lab with Dr. Kent Hutchison. Dr. Magnan is located at UNM. In general, at the SHERPA lab we seek to conduct transdisciplinary research to explore the psychological, physiological, and genetic factors that are linked with health behavior. We believe that a better understanding of the full range of influences on health behavior will allow better tailoring of behavioral interventions to increase health behavior and decrease morbidity and mortality.

The SHERPA lab currently supports research in three broad domains:

  • We seek to develop theory-based biopsychosocial models of health behavior, and to use these models of behavior to design, implement, and evaluate theory-based behavior change interventions to improve preventative health behavior. There are currently two areas of behavior change under investigation: the prevention of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases among high risk adolescents, with a focus on the role of alcohol use and marijuana use in facilitating sexual risk behavior, and the reduction of diseases associated with sedentary lifestyle (heart disease, Type II diabetes, various cancers) through exercise promotion.

  • We conduct work in basic evolutionary social psychology to understand the role of our evolutionary history on our current social behavior. Current projects include studies of the role of various personality traits (dominance, agreeableness) and physical characteristics (attractiveness) in mate preferences and studies of altruism.

  • Finally, we are interested in work that merges traditional health psychology with evolutionary psychology. For example, can life history theory help us to understand age-related fluctuations in levels of phsycial activity? Can the neurophysiology underlying evolved appetitive drives help us to understand linkages between drug use and sexual behavior?

The lab includes faculty, post-doctoral researchers, graduate students, professional reserch assitants, undergraduate honors students, and undergraduate research assitants. Please contact us if you would like to see how you can get involved.

Dr. Bryan seeks graduate students with interests that fall under any one of the above three broad domains. A successful applicant will have clear and innovative research ideas that he/she wants to pursue in graduate school and beyond, strong GREs/GPA, research experience in psychology, strong letters of recommendation, and good ideas about what he/she can contribute to Dr. Bryan's program of research. Interested applicants should contact Dr. Bryan to ask whether she is taking graduate students for a particular academic year. Please note that since Dr. Bryan is a faculty member at the University of Colorado at Boulder (, any new students will work with her there. She is no longer taking graduate students at UNM.