Article by: Alina Serbina

Hannah Lightcap is currently a Research Associate at Yale University. In August, she will start her Ph.D. in Psychology at the University of New Hampshire under the advisement of Dr. John Mayer, the co-creator of the concept of Emotional Intelligence. In order to tell you about what she does now, she wants to talk about how she got here. Below is Hannah’s full story ( as we promised you on our Facebook Page).

“My Master of Science in Health Promotion and Graduate Certificate in Health Coaching (from UD) taught me that knowledge alone is not sufficient for health behavior change. A health program or health coach must incorporate facets of health behavior change such as increasing awareness of a behavior, helping the person build their confidence and self-efficacy, helping them develop a new skill, and affirming their health changes with positive talk. These aspects of a person’s psyche that influence health drove my interest from strictly health promotion to Psychology.

From this realization, I started focusing on why people acted the way they did and the psychological underpinnings of health. That led me to apply for the position at Yale and learn more about Psychiatry and Psychology. Currently, my lab’s research focuses on psychiatric genetics, in which we identify genes that can influence someone’s susceptibility of developing a substance use disorder. As a part of my position, I conduct 6-hour interviews with participants and ask questions about their drug, alcohol, and psychiatric history. While this research is fascinating, it didn’t satisfy my craving of the Psychological concepts I learned and loved in Graduate School. In July of 2018, I emailed Dr. John Mayer at UNH because I had always loved the concept of Emotional Intelligence and wanted to learn more about his work and the possibility of working for him as a Ph.D. student. From our discussions, we started a manuscript on health coaching and emotional intelligence. Earlier this year, I applied for the Ph.D. in Psychology at UNH so we could continue our work together and so I could fulfill my dream of becoming Dr. Lightcap. I was delighted upon acceptance into the program and I cannot wait to start.

UD prepared me for success in so many ways. The research projects I did with the BHAN faculty, specifically Dr. Kuczmarski and Dr. Suminski, gave me the confidence I needed to step out into the real world and conduct research with less supervision. They really valued my independence and my vision. Not many graduate students are trusted with taking a project from inception to completion, so I was lucky and honored when they allowed me to step into that role. I also grew personally from the relationships I had with other faculty that mentored and supported me; specifically Drs. Mackenzie, Schwenk, and Pacanowski.

That would be part of my advice to other students: when you find mentors and faculty that believe in you, lean on them, learn from them, and tell them your dreams. The aforementioned faculty truly made me believe I was prepared to achieve my goals in life. While amazing mentors is a key to success in this field and any field, another piece of advice for students would be to never, ever, for any reason, give up. I’ve had so many circumstances that had I given up, I would not be starting a PhD in the fall. If you know, deep in your heart, you are destined to be in a specific field or place, do not stop until you get there.”