Graduate Students

Muna Akhtar

Muna Akhtar

Advisor: Jessica Remedios, PhD
Background: Muna graduated with a BS in Psychology from Loyola University Chicago and then spent the next year working as a research assistant and lab manager at Loyola studying stereotypes and their role in juror decision-making as well as studying motivation gains in small groups.
Current Research: Interested in studying stigma, discrimination, and stereotypes. More specifically, Muna wants to know how context and having multiple identities affect the process of attributing an outcome to discrimination.
Future Plans: Teach and conduct research Muna loves. Learn how to fly a plane.

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Edward Alexander

Edward Alexander

Advisor: Gina Kuperberg, PhD
Background: Edward graduated from Hampshire College with a Concentration in Cognitive Science, and before Tufts worked as a research assistant at Rutgers.
Current Research: Edward's research interests include the development of effective reading strategies, violations of expectations, and multimodal perception.
Future Plans: Research and Teaching

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Benjamin Bernard

Benjamin Bernard

Advisor: Holly A. Taylor, PhD
Background: Ben graduated with a BS in Economics from Macalester College and then spent several years working in product management and user research in the tech sector in LA. He also holds a MS in Human-Computer Interaction from Bentley University.
Current Research: Currently studying hemifield differences in individuals to help with potential menu design in AR/VR.
Future Plans: Interested in studying navigation, predictive coding, and language interfaces, and especially interested in the intersection between these three areas.

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Julie Cantelon

Julie Cantelon

Research Area: Cognitive Psychology
Advisor: Nathan Ward, PhD and Robin Kanarek, PhD (Emeritus)
Background: Julie graduated from Denison University in 2013, with a BS in Psychology and a concentration in Neuroscience. Prior to graduate school, she held a joint position as a senior research coordinator at the Center for Applied Brain and Cognitive Sciences and U.S. Army DEVCOM Soldier Center where she studied the impacts of varying types of physical and emotional stress on cognition. Julie holds a Science, Mathematics, and Research for Transformation (SMART) scholarship. 
Research Interest: Interested in understanding how cognitive performance is affected during physical exercise. Additionally, how physical and emotional stress interact to influence cognitive control and decision-making.
Future Plans: Continue research on exercise, stress and cognitive function with the Army.

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David DiStefano

David DiStefano

Advisor: Elizabeth Race, PhD
Background: David graduated from WPI in 2015 having double-majored in Electrical & Computer Engineering and Biomedical Engineering, and spent the past few years as a research coordinator in the ICoN Lab.
Current Research: States of attention, memory, and neurofeedback for use in enhancing cognitive state
Future Plans: Consulting in industry for cognitive science and software.

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Julia Felicione

Julia Felicione

Advisor: Lisa Shin, PhD
Background: Julia received a BA in both Psychology and Cognitive Science from Johns Hopkins University in 2016, and then worked at the Massachusetts General Hospital for two years with Drs. Dougherty, Widge and Deckersbach studying fMRI methods and analysis as applied to a variety of psychiatric illnesses. Julia also spent a year and a half working with Dr. Carl Schwartz at MGH in his Developmental Neuroimaging and Psychopathology Laboratory, studying the neurobiological development of mood and anxiety disorders, beginning as early as four months of age.
Current Research: Here at Tufts, Julia is using a multimodal neuroimaging approach to study the neurochemistry and circuitry of the amygdala and hippocampus in individuals with PTSD. Julia is also interested in continuing work in developmental neurobiology to work towards the understanding and prediction of risk and resilience in anxiety disorders and following early-life trauma.

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Maria Garay

Maria Garay

Advisor: Jessica Remedios, PhD
Area of study: Social Psychology
Background: Maria received her Liberal Arts Degree from Kapiʻolani Community College, a B.S. in Psychology, and a minor in English from the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa. During this time, she worked as a Research Assistant in the Intergroup Social Perception Lab with Dr. Kristin Pauker, which is where Maria developed her current research interest.
Research Interest: Interested in perceptions of various multiracial groups and their positionality in society. Specifically, how are multiracial groups viewed as different or similar, and how does that affect their navigation through a diversifying world.
Future Plans: Aside from various career-driven plans, I would like to own a miniature farm. 

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Paige Hickey

Paige Hickey

Area of Study: Cognitive Neuroscience
Advisor: Liz Race, PhD
Background: Paige received a BS in Neuroscience from Furman University in 2015. During time at Furman, Paige worked in a sleep and EEG lab studying the effects of waking rest on memory consolidation. After graduation, Paige worked as a research assistant for the Human Neurobehavioral Core at Boston Children's Hospital with children with Autism Spectrum Disorders and a variety of other rare genetic disorders.
Research Interest: Broadly, I am interested in how brain oscillations influence behavior. Specifically, my work looks at how brain oscillations can be entrained by rhythms in our environment and impact how we attend to and remember information.
Future plans: Research and teaching

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Cecilia Hinojosa

Cecilia Hinojosa

Area of Study: Experimental Clinical, Neuroimaging PTSD
Advisor: Lisa Shin, PhD
Background: Cecilia graduated with a BA in psychology from the University of Texas at El Paso. During time there, Cecilia was working in a behavioral neuroscience laboratory for three years under the guidance of Dr. Laura O'Dell focusing on nicotine addiction in a rat model of diabetes. Cecilia worked in Dr. Michael Zarate's Social/Cognitive Laboratory for two and a half years and focused on understanding negativity bias in models of PTSD.
Current Research: Interested in using neuroimaging techniques to identify predictors of treatment response in patients with PTSD.
Future Plans: Continue a career in research as well as teach.

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Sanjana Kadirvel

Sanjana Kadirvel

Area of Study: Social Psychology
Advisor: Keith Maddox, PhD
Background: Sanjana received a BS in Psychology from University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2018. During her time at UMass, Sanjana worked in a social cognition lab studying discrimination based on nonnative accents. After graduation, Sanjana worked at a lab manager at UMass for a social/health psychology lab studying how social connections affect health behaviors. 
Research Interests: Sanjana is interested in the prejudice and discrimination of minority populations and using humor to promote prosocial behavior and positive interactions. Sanjana is interested in identifying humor-based strategies to encourage activism in young adult populations. 
Future Plans: Research and eat ice cream (often simultaneously) 

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Ashlynn Keller

Ashlynn Keller

Area of Study: Spatial Cognition, Navigation, Cognition
Advisor: Holly A. Taylor, PhD
Background: Ashlynn graduated with a B.S. in Psychology and Biomedical Sciences from Rochester Institute of Technology. As an undergraduate, she examined differences between children, orangutans, and raccoons in a problem-solving task. Additionally, she studied object and numerosity discrimination in goldfish while serving as the lab manager of the Comparative Cognition and Perception Lab. At Tufts, Ashlynn has studied cognition in adults, pigeons, starlings, and zebra finches. She completed her M.S. in Experimental Psychology from Tufts University in 2018 in a thesis titled "Auditory object perception in pigeons (Columba livia)." 
Current Research: Her current research examines what information people seek when they face uncertainty while navigating an environment. 
Future Plans:
Continue learning new skills and become a better scientist and educator. 

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Ann Kochupurackal

Ann Kochupurackal

Area of Study: Psycholinguistics
Advisor: Ariel Goldberg, PhD
Background: Ann graduated with a BA in Linguistics from the Macaulay Honors College at Brooklyn College in 2019. Ann was an NSF-sponsored research fellow studying the effects of age, cognitive decline, and hearing impairments on bilingualism in Dr. Katrien Vermeire's lab. 
Research Interest: Investigating spoken production in the context of cognitive decline; more recently, comparing how we process typed/handwritten language production and spoken language production
Future Plans: My Magic-8 Ball says 'yes' (but also teaching and research)!

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Michael Leonard

Michael Leonard

Advisor: Klaus Miczek, PhD
Area of Study: Behavioral Pharmacology
Background: Michael graduated from Stonehill College with a BS in Neuroscience. After graduating Michael spent three years working as a research technician in the Preclinical Pharmacology Program at McLean Hospital studying the behavioral and cognitive consequences of drugs of abuse, as well as basic cannabinoid pharmacology.
Current Research: Investigating the role of corticotropin releasing factor (CRF) in mediating the stress-induced emergence of addictive-like behaviors.
Future Plans: Research

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Kimberly Louis Jean

Kimberly Louis-Jean

Advisor: Ariel Goldberg, PhD
Background: Kimberly graduated from Salem State University with a BFA in 2009, and then worked in the web industry for close to ten years. In 2019 Kimberly received a Master's in linguistics from UNH.
Current Research: The production of words both in spoken and written language; also interested in ASL and the semantic relationship between words.
Future Plans: Continuing research

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Lauren Mason

Lauren Mason

Advisor: Holly Taylor, PhD and Ayanna Thomas, PhD
Background: Lauren graduated from San Francisco State University with a BA in both Psychology and Holistic Health, and worked with Dr. Kenneth Paap in a Language Attention and Cognitive Engineering lab conducting an honors thesis on autism traits, executive functions, and exercise. Lauren also conducted research with Dr. Erik Peper and Dr. Richard Harvey in a lab for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback, and studied the relationship between physiology and cognitive functioning, broadly.
Current Research: Interested in the intersection between spatial cognition, metacognitive and self-regulatory strategies, and performance optimization.
Future Plans: Looking forward to conducting research which advances the field and concurrently provides positive impacts for society; hoping to become a professor in the future!

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Thomas McWilliams

Thomas McWilliams

Advisor: Nathan Ward, PhD
Background: Nathan received a BA in Psychology focusing in Cognitive Neuroscience from the George Washington University, and graduating spent 3 years at the MIT AgeLab researching aging, attention, and human machine interactions in driving environments.
Current Research: Interested in how multiple streams of information are handled in both lab and applied scenarios. Also, how tools like low current brain stimulation and virtual environments can be used to understand multitasking.

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Julia Mertens

Julia Mertens (she/her)

Area of Study: Miscommunication 
Advisor:
JP de Ruiter, PhD
Background: Julia majored in Psychology and Cognitive Science at the University of Connecticut. For two years afterwards, Julia worked as a research assistant at the FACE Lab at Emerson college, where she studied verbal and non-verbal social behaviors of children on the autism spectrum. There, she realized the magnitude of the role of miscommunication, leading her to study miscommunication going forward. 
Research Interest: Julia studies how people miscommunicate in conversation. This includes how people deal with "non-communications," or how people signal communication problems (e.g., "What did you say?"), and how people do not notice communication problems (e.g., interpreting a sarcastic remark as serious). Other research interests include political speech and conversational AI. For more, see juliamertens.net 
Future plans: Julia enjoys mentoring, modeling real human behaviors, and studying communication. No matter where she ends up, she hopes to do all three.

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Samer Nour Eddine, M.D.

Samer Nour Eddine, MD

Area of Study: Computational cognitive science
Advisor: Gina Kuperberg, MD, PhD
Background: Samer graduated from the American University of Beirut in Lebanon, completing undergraduate (BS, Biology, 2014) and medical studies (MD, 2018). During his medical studies, Samer completed a research internship at Dr. David Caplan's Neuropsychology Lab at Massachusetts General Hospital studying behavioral aspects of language processing.
Research Interest: Using a predictive coding framework to model a range of neural phenomena in language comprehension.
Future plans: Exploring the potential of predictive coding as a unifying principle in cognitive science more generally.

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Jeremy Pagan

Jeremy Pagan

Advisor: Sam Sommers, PhD
Background: Jeremy graduated with a BA in Psychology with a minor in Cultural Studies in Religion - European & Middle Eastern Religions, from DePaul University in Chicago, IL. Jeremy worked with Dr. Christine Reyna exploring stereotype threat of police and demonstrators during group encounters (demonstrations).
Current Research: Interested in exploring the perceptions of authority, stereotype threat in intergroup and interracial contexts, and race and discrimination.
Future Plans: Become the next Steve Jobs...somehow!

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Prsni Patel

Prsni Patel

Area of Study: Affective Science
Advisor: Heather Urry, PhD
Background: Prsni graduated with a BA in Psychology from Franklin and Marshall College, where she worked in the Emotion Lab for two years studying individual differences in various emotion and emotion regulation processes. She completed an undergraduate honors thesis studying the influence of personality on affective forecasting errors and their temporally-organized affective consequences.
Current Research: Interested in the emotion regulation strategies that serve as reliable predictors of performance in stressful contexts.
Future Plans: Conduct research that has real-world implications. Explore the best scuba diving sites along the way.

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Giulia I. Pintea

Giulia Isabella Pintea

Area of Study: Memory
Advisor: Richard Chechile, PhD
Background: Giulia Isabella graduated summa cum laude with a B.S. in Psychology and Biostatistics and a minor in Mathematics from Simmons University in 2019. During her undergraduate career, Giulia Isabella conducted research in various fields, some of which include nutritional neuroscience, mathematics, artificial intelligence, and medicine. She has worked alongside research teams outside of Simmons, one of them being at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) through their Institute for Pure and Applied Mathematics (IPAM). She had the opportunity to present at over 10 research conferences during her undergraduate career alone, with most of them being invited talks. She is currently published in Nutritional Neuroscience, Computers in Biology and Medicine, the Journal of Mathematical Psychology, and the World Academy of Science, Engineering and Technology (WASET)'s International Journal of Social, Behavioral, Educational, Economic, Business, and Industrial Engineering. Giulia Isabella is also a member of the Psychonomic Society, the Psi Chi International Honor Society in Psychology, the Pi Mu Epsilon National Honorary Mathematics Society, the Sigma Xi Scientific Research Honor Society, and the Simmons University Academy Honor Society.
Research Interest: Exploring memory processes through Bayesian statistics and mathematical modeling techniques, including multinomial processing tree (MPT) models and Markovian processes. 
Future Plans:
Working as a data analyst to aid company marketing strategies while simultaneously working as a successful entrepreneur growing her own brand. 

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Paul E. Plonski

Paul E. Plonski

Area of Study: Experimental Psychology and Cognitive Science
Advisor: Heather Urry, PhD
Background: Paul earned a BS in Psychology from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2012 and as a postbaccalaureate, helped to study whether a brief mindfulness practice would increase prosocial behavior toward an ostracized other. He earned an MA in Psychological Sciences from Northern Arizona University in 2018, where he studied egalitarian attitudes and pilot tested specific mindfulness training processes which may affect disgust regulation and memory. He has also worked in underserved communities and healthcare settings, studying behavioral health and decision making with distinct groups, including youth, people with spinal cord injuries, and Veterans.
Current Research: Paul is part of a team (with Prsni Patel, Katie Ossenfort, and Heather Urry) studying reliable emotional predictors of performance under stress. Paul is currently learning about performance metrics, such as spatial navigation, that could be influenced by emotion and stress.
Future Plans: Paul aims for at least one pre-registration on the OSF by summer 2021.

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Raea Rasmussen

Raea Rasmussen

Area of Study: Social
Advisor: Sam Sommers, PhD
Background: Raea received a BA in Psychology at Williams College in 2015 and worked with Dr. Steven Fein studying the effects of self-affirmation on participants' willingness to discuss race-related issues. Before coming to Tufts, Raea worked for a year as a lab manager with Dr. Nate Kornell at Williams College studying how people learn most efficiently and their metacognitive beliefs about learning.
Current Research: Interested in understanding the psychological perspective on stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination. Currently Raea is focused on studying interracial interactions and how we can promote productive interracial dialogue about race-related issues.
Future Plans: Put out research that helps us tackle issues of racism and discrimination. Play semi-professional volleyball for extra cash along the way.

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Kayla Sansevere

Kayla Sansevere

Advisor: Nathan Ward, PhD
Area of study: Cognition
Background: Kayla earned a BA in Psychology from Arcadia University in 2020. As an undergraduate, Kayla was a NSF-sponsored research fellow at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, where she researched how executive functions are implicated in young drivers’ engagement in risky driving behaviors. At Arcadia, she was also a research assistant in the Attention, Memory, and Cognition Lab, where she mainly collaborated on a project that investigated how perceived context change can alter memory representations of visual search templates. In 2019, Kayla was named a Barry Goldwater Scholar for her research efforts as an undergraduate.
Current research: The ways that task performance is influenced by complex situations that require divided attention and promote multitasking, especially as it involves technology and occurs in applied contexts like driving.
Future plans: Grow my research. Explore teaching as well as non-academic opportunities (e.g., healthcare, industry). Develop as a mentor to junior scholars. Maintain healthy work-life synergy.

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Victoria Sharpe

Victoria Sharpe

Background: Victoria graduated in 2015 from the University of South Carolina Honors College, and spent 3 1/2 years in Dr. Dirk den Ouden's Neurolinguistics Lab, working on behavioral and fMRI studies of language processing. After graduation, Victoria spent 2 years as a full-time research assistant at the NYU Neuroscience of Language Lab, using MEG to investigate aspects of form typicality and syntactic prediction in English. In Dr. Kuperberg's lab, Victoria plans to continue research on neurolinguistic processing, with emphasis on interactions with emotion and neuropsychiatric disorders.

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Christopher Thomas

Christopher Thomas

Advisor: Holly Taylor, PhD
Background: Christopher received a BA in Psychology with a minor in Philosophy from San Francisco State University, and an MSc in Cognitive Science from University of Edinburgh. Christopher's master's thesis was on peripersonal space plasticity in human-computer interaction, and spent a year working at the Brain Imaging and EEG Lab at University of California, San Francisco--a lab that studies brain functioning in schizophrenia.
Current Research: Studying the way people navigate and build spatial representations via a wearable compass. Also, the way interactive technology mediates people's engagement with the world.

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McKinzey Torrance

McKinzey Torrance

Advisor: Ayanna K. Thomas, PhD
Area of Study: Cognitive Science
Background: McKinzey graduated from Tufts University in 2019 with a BS in Cognitive Brain Science and studied misinformation and metacognitive capabilities in the context of eyewitness memory.
Current Research: metacognitive capabilities for memory encoding and retrieval, and misinformation in the contexts of eyewitness and earwitness memory.
Future Plans: Continuing research and exploring research application in policy

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Chyei Vinluan

Chyei Vinluan

Advisor: Jessica Remedios, PhD
Background: Chyei received a BS from the University of Illinois-Chicago and double majored in biology and psychology, and received a teaching fellowship from the psychology department at UIC working as Dr. Courtney Bonam's lab manager.
Current Research: Interested in the effects of stereotypes, discrimination, and prejudice on interracial interactions, specifically for multiracial individuals.
Future Plans: Research, Teach, and Bake

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Lena Warnke

Lena Warnke

Advisor: J.P. de Ruiter, PhD and Gina Kuperberg, MD, PhD
Area of Study: Cognitive Science
Background: Lena graduated from New York University with a BA in Linguistics and a minor in Psychology, and spent two years as a full-time research assistant in the NeuroCognition of Language Lab here at Tufts, working on several projects examining the role of prediction in language comprehension.
Current research: Interested in the cognitive and neural basis of predictive mechanisms in conversational turn-taking.
Future plans: TBD

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Julia Wefferling

Julia Wefferling

Advisor: Paul Muentener, PhD
Background: Julia graduated from Montclair State University with both her BA and MA in Psychology. During her time at Montclair, she worked in the Cognitive and Language Development Lab studying infant and young children's perceptions of spatial configurations, as well as the Perceiving People Lab. There, the research focused on studying people’s perceptions of others based on traits like size, race, and gender. Working in both labs shaped her current research interests combining Social, Cognitive, and Developmental Psychology.
Current research: Broadly interested in studying Social Psychology through the lens of cognitive development. More specifically, she is interested in how social context, and context in general, shapes memories, as well as how/when certain stereotypes and biases form in children, including the implications of these early biases.
Future plans: To continue answering interesting questions in research and becoming a full-time faculty member at a research focused institution.

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Thomas Wooten

Thomas Wooten

Area of Study: Health Sciences and Applied Cognition
Advisor: Nathan Ward, PhD
Background: Tom graduated from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2016 with a B.S. in psychology and studied the relationship between sleep and cognition. After graduation, Tom spent three years as a research assistant at the Boston VA Hospital studying genetic and environmental interactions associated with premature neurocognitive aging.
Current Research: Interested in better characterizing the relationship between physiological functioning and cognition.
Future Plans: Continue in research and explore both academic and non-academic opportunities.

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Alia Wulff

Alia Wulff

Area of Study: Cognitive
Advisor: Ayanna Thomas, PhD
Background: Alia graduated from Western Washington University in 2015 with a BS in Psychology, and spent three years as a research assistant studying various cognitive processes, such as involuntary and intrusive thoughts, source monitoring errors, and inattentional blindness.
Current Research: Applied applications of and theoretical mechanisms for eyewitness memory and attention
Future Plans: Continuing to teach the next generation of scientists while attempting to reduce society's and the legal field's reliance on eyewitness testimony

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