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Our Graduate Students


The Institute on Aging employs several graduate students at any given time. They teach, research, and learn alongside faculty mentors to help achieve educational goals.

For information on becoming a graduate assistant or teaching assistant, click here.

Melissa Cannon

Community development to create inclusive, age-friendly places universal design principles that encourage healthy, active lifestyles for people across the lifecourse; providing accessible and affordable housing, transportation, and services for people of all ages and abilities; developing innovative programs that support wellness and improve quality of care among older adults; supporting persons with dementia and their caregivers and successful models of Alzheimer's and dementia care facilities.

While working on her dissertation proposal, Melissa is working as a graduate research assistant for the Institute on Aging, conducting qualitative and quantitative data analysis for the Institute and its programs. She is assisting with data collection, analysis, and development for the service-learning program “Global Aging and Health: Enhancing Communities in Nicaragua” led by faculty members Margaret B. Neal, Ph.D. and Keren Brown Wilson, Ph.D, and is helping prepare manuscript submissions to academic journals. She is also the project manager for federal grant proposal, “Strengthening Nicaragua’s Research Capacity in Chronic, Non-Communicable Disease across the Lifespan,” which will be submitted to the National Institutes of Health in September 2012.

Selected Publications

  • Neal, M. B., Hammer, L. B., Pines, M. A., Bodner, T. E., & Cannon, M. L. (Forthcoming). Working caregivers in the “Sandwiched Generation.” In R. Burke, J. Field, & C. Cooper (Eds). Handbook on Aging, Work & Society. Newbury Park: Sage Publications.
  • Working caregivers in the “Sandwiched Generation.” In R. Burke, J. Field, & C. Cooper (Eds). Handbook on Aging, Work & Society. Newbury Park: Sage Publications.
  • Heying, Charles. (2010). Chapter 14: “Leather.” In Brew to Bikes: Portland’s Artisan Economy. Portland, OR: Ooligan Press.
  • Neal, Margaret, DeLaTorre, Alan, Nolan, Betsy, and Melissa Cannon. A study of Nicaraguan older adults living on the edge: Research from an international university-community partnership. Intended for the International Journal of Aging and Human Development
  • Estimated completion date: July 2012

Iris Wernher




B.S. (1998) and M.S. (2004) in Psychology, Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg, Germany

Research Interests

Global aging; age-friendly and dementia-capable cities and communities; community-based, sustainable models to prepare for the demographic transition; innovative approaches to dementia care and caregiver support; long-term care and aging in place; cultural construction of aging, health, and disease; aging in developing countries; intercultural health communications; interdisciplinary networks; the role of technology in aging societies; Ambient Assisted Living.

Current Projects

Iris is working toward her Ph.D. in Urban Studies, with a special interest in gerontology, planning, and community development. She works as a graduate research and teaching assistant at the Institute on Aging where she is actively involved in the “Age-Friendly Portland” initiative and the coordination and preparation of the service-learning program “Global Aging and Health: Enhancing Communities in Nicaragua.” Due to her professional experience as a clinical psychologist and counselor in dementia care, Iris is a passionate advocate for persons with dementia and their informal caregivers. She is currently working with Dr. Margaret Neal on a study to evaluate the efficacy of a community-based intervention to reduce sundowning symptoms in people with late-stage dementia and the perceived stress of their caregivers. In the context of her dissertation, Iris is particularly interested in ecological approaches to making cities and communities “dementia capable.” 

  • Neal, M. B., & Wernher, I. (2014). Evaluating your Age-Friendly Community program: A step-by-step guide. [Prepared for AARP's Public Policy Institute as part of AARP's Network of Age-Friendly Communities Tool Kit]
  • Wernher, I., Bjerregaard, F., Tinsel, I., Bleich, C., Boczor, S., Kloppe, T., Scherer, M., Härter, M., Niebling, W., König, H.-H., & Hüll, M. (2014). Collaborative treatment of late-life depression in primary care (GermanIMPACT): Study protocol of a cluster-randomized controlled trial. Trials, 15(1), 351. doi:10.1186/1745-6215-15-351
  • Wernher, I., & Hüll, M. (2011). [Dementia diagnostics: What’s the ideal screening approach?] Demenz: Was ist die optimale Screening-Diagnostik? Neuro aktuell, 25(4), 31-33.
  • Hüll, M., & Wernher, I. (2010). [Psychosocial interventions and caregiver support.] Psychosoziale Interventionen und Angehörigenverfahren. Der Nervenarzt, 81(7), 823-826. doi:10.1007/s00115-010-3001-0
  • Wernher, I., & Hüll, M. (2010). [Continuing Medical Education CME: Behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia. A focus on depression, anxiety, apathy, and irritability.] CME: Psychische und Verhaltenssymptome bei Demenz. Depression, Ängstlichkeit, Apathie und Reizbarkeit im Fokus. Der Neurologe & Psychiater, 11(9), 37-43.  
  • Wernher, I., Metternich, B., & Hüll, M. (2009). [Psychological and behavioral dysfunctions in dementia.] Störungen des Erlebens und Verhaltens bei Demenzen. Psychiatrie und Psychotherapie, up2date, 3(3), 149-164.
  • Wernher, I., & Nerb, J. (2007). [Internet and self-concept. A comparison of self- and group-oriented cultures.] Internet und Selbstkonzept. Ein Vergleich zwischen Ich- und Wir-orientierten Kulturkreisen. Saarbrücken: VDM.