Our Graduate Students

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

Iris Wernher



University diploma in Psychology (Dipl.-Psych., 2004, equivalent to MS), Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg, Germany

Research Interests

Global aging; age-friendly and dementia-friendly 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 PhD in Urban Studies, with a special interest in gerontology and community health planning. She works as a graduate research 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. For example, she recently worked 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 interested in ecological approaches to making cities and communities more “dementia friendly.”


  • Neal, M. B., Cannon, M., DeLaTorre, A., Bolkan, C. R., Wernher, I., Nolan, E., & ... Brown Wilson, K. (2017). Addressing the needs of Nicaraguan older adults living on the edge: A university–community partnership in international service-learning. Gerontology & Geriatrics Education, 38(1), 119-138. doi:10.1080/02701960.2016.1259161
  • Wernher, I., & Lipsky, M. S. (2015). Psychological theories of aging. Disease-A-Month, 61(11), 480-488. doi:10.1016/j.disamonth.2015.09.004 
  • 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.


Serena Hasworth




Community and public health, global aging, international collaboration, healthy aging, social determinants of health and aging, person-centered planning and support, dementia capability, program evaluation, intergenerational relationships and programming, and community capacity building.


As an undergraduate, Serena worked as a research assistant on a number of projects with IOA faculty while earning a double major in Spanish and Health Studies with a focus in Aging Services. Dr. Margaret Neal served as her mentor in the Ronald E. McNair Scholars Program for research on perceptions of aging among college students in Nicaragua. Serena has helped with evaluation research for Multnomah County adult care homes, Lift Urban Portland, the Aging and Disability Resource Connections of Oregon, and congregate meal sites in Multnomah County. She was involved in the development of a collaborative initiative with the Oregon Health authority and Addictions and Mental Health to improve mental health services and coordination for older Oregonians. Serena also participated in the creation of a person-centered dementia care training program for the ADRCs of Oregon. Additional training modules on dementia with intellectual and developmental disabilities for this program are forthcoming. She is also assisting Dr. White in the initial stages of development of the Person-Directed Are Instrument for Residents (PDCIR). Most recently, she is working as a graduate research assistant with Dr. Diana White on a project evaluating mental health interventions, specifically depression and anxiety programs, at the ADRCs of Oregon.


  • Worthington, S., McQueen, A., Mead, J. (2014) "Tier 1 companion Guide: Discussion Questions & Resources " ADRC Dementia Care Training: Aging Services and Supports for People Living with Dementia.  State of Oregon.
  • Worthington, S., White, D., Mead, J. (2014) "Tier 2 companion Guide: Discussion Questions & Resources" ADRC   Dementia Care Training: Aging Services and Supports for People Living with Dementia. State of Oregon.
  • White, D., Worthington, S. (2013) "Consumer Satisfaction with Aging and Disability Resource Connection: Round 3" Oregon State Unit on Aging, Department of Human Services.


Sarah Dys



BA Psychology (2015) and MPA (2016), Clark University Worcester, Massachusetts

Research Interests

Polypharmacy, drug administration for older adults, behavioral health interventions, demographic shifts in health communication, health promotion, falls prevention, health systems management, health policy, empowerment, improving health literacy, physician quality assurance, prescription drug interactions in long term care, person-centered care.

Current Projects

Sarah is pursuing her PhD in Community Health with a focus on gerontology and health outcomes. She serves as a graduate research assistant on the Oregon Community Based Care Project analyzing resident research with Dr. Paula Carder, exploring risk factors and behavioral interventions that affect health outcomes of residents that live in long term settings.