Former Research Staff


Lana Nye, BS

Study Coordinator: 2015-2018
Contributing Studies: Social Cognition Psychometric Evaluation (SCOPE) & Integrative Coping Awareness Therapy (I-CAT)

Lana worked in the Penn lab as an undergraduate assistant for two years before graduating in 2015 with her Bachelors of Science in Psychology from UNC. After graduating, she was hired on full-time and worked on two Penn lab studies: the Social Cognition Psychometric Evaluation (SCOPE) Study and the Integrated Coping Awareness Therapy (I-CAT) Study from 2015-2018. Lana is currently working towards becoming at licensed clinical social worker at The University of Utah with the hopes of working with individuals with schizophrenia again in the future.


Grace Lee Simmons, BS

Study Coordinator: 2015-2017
Contributing Studies: Social Cognition Psychometric Evaluation (SCOPE)

Grace Lee hails from the Queen City in North Carolina. She graduated from Davidson College with a B.S. in psychology and a minor in music. Before joining the Penn Lab as a study coordinator for SCOPE, she worked both as a student researcher and a lab manager on the Resiliency Project at Davidson. In her free time, she enjoys reading Stephen King novels, playing the piano, running, and baking chocolate chip cookies.


meyer_piperPiper Meyer, PhD

Penn Lab Consulting Research Assistant Professor:
Contributing Studies: RAISE-IRT

Piper Meyer is the director for the Minnesota Center for Mental Health. Dr. Meyer graduated from Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis with a doctorate in Clinical Rehabilitation Psychology.  She previously served as a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and an Assistant Adjunct Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at UNC.  Currently, she is co-leading the individual therapy component (Individual Resiliency Training) for the Recovery After Initial Schizophrenia Episode (RAISE) project.  Dr. Meyer is an international trainer and consultant for Illness Management and Recovery (IMR) for the last eight years. She has trained clinicians working in outpatient, inpatient, forensic, residential, and crisis settings.  She has specialized in psychiatric rehabilitation with interests in recovery, positive psychology, first episode psychosis, and psychosocial treatment for people with severe mental illness.


tonya Tonya Elliot, MS

Study Coordinator
Contributing Studies: Oxytocin Treatment of Social Cognitive and Functional Deficits in Schizophrenia

Tonya worked as the Penn Lab a study coordinator assisting with the coordination and testing of the Oxytocin Treatment of Social Cognitive and Functional Deficits in Schizophrenia research study. She is also a research coordinator at the Schizophrenia Treatment and Evaluation Program (STEP) Research Clinic at the North Carolina Psychiatric Research Center (NCPRC) in Raleigh. At the NCPRC, she coordinates multiple studies with Dr. Fred Jarskog. She received both her bachelor’s degree in psychology and her master’s degree in lifespan developmental psychology at North Carolina State University where her research focus was on aging and memory. Prior to graduate school, she worked in multiple research settings in the triangle area with groups of psychometricians, child clinical psychologists and social workers.


Colin Iwanski, MAColin Iwanski

Study Coordinator: 2012-2014
Contributing Studies: Social Cognition and Functioning Study (SCAF)

Colin Iwanski is a doctoral student in the Clinical Psychology program at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) with an expected graduation date of May 2021.  Colin graduated from the University of National Champions in 2011, and worked as the study coordinator for the Social Cognition and Functioning (SCAF) study from 2012 to 2014.  He currently studies the social cognition and social functioning of individuals with schizophrenia spectrum disorders in Chicago, working with Ellen Herbener (UIC) and Christine Hooker (Rush University Medical Center).  Colin spends most of his limited free time adventuring with his fiancée and his pitbull puppy.


Charles Olbert, BS

Study Coordinator: 2010-2012
Contributing Studies: Social Cognition and Functioning Study (SCAF)

Charles Olbert is the former Project Coordinator for the Social Cognition And Functioning Study (SCAF) and has provided research assistance for the SCIT and RAISE projects. In a former life he did astrophysics research. He received his B.A. in philosophy from UNC Chapel Hill in 2005, focusing on philosophy of mind. In fleeting  glimpses of spare time he reads fiction, writes poetry, and stares at walls (i.e., practices Zen meditation). Charles is currently a doctoral student in Fordham University’s clinical psychology program; in addition to schizophrenia, Charles also has clinical interests in psychoanalysis and research interests in psychiatric nosology and theoretical psychology. His dissertation research concerns the psychological meanings and functions of the spiritual-cultural practice of divination. In the 2017-2018 year he will be on clinical internship at the University of Virginia’s Counseling and Psychological Services.


Betty Rupp, MPH

Research Assistant: 2009-2011
Contributing Studies: Social Cognition and Functioning Study (SCAF) & Social Cognition and Interaction Training (SCIT)

Betty Rupp is the former Project Manager for the Social Cognition And Functioning Study (SCAF), Social Cognition and Interaction Training (SCIT) study, and the Social Cognition & Interaction Training study for adolescents and young adults with High Functioning Autism (SCIT-A). She obtained her Bachelor’s in Psychology from the University of Alabama in Birmingham and has over 8 years of experience working with adults with schizophrenia. Betty completed her MPH at UNC Chapel Hill in Health Behavior in 2013 and currently works in OB-GYN at UNC as a Research Manager. Her areas of interest are women’s health, global health, HIV/HPV prevention, reproductive health, and outreach education and advocacy.


Kelly Smedley, RN, MSN, CNS

Research Assistant/Penn Lab Consulting Research Staff

Ms. Smedley currently is in private practice at Bull City Counseling in Durham, NC providing individual therapy services. Previously she served as clinical director of outpatient services at the Carr Mill clinic. She is a board certified clinical nurse specialist in adult psychiatry and mental health. Her extensive management and clinical experience includes being nursing supervisor of a child/adolescent inpatient psychiatric unit, charge nurse at the Diagnostic Evaluation Center at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic (WPIC), and a nurse therapist in the early psychosis program at WPIC. At the UNC Department of Psychiatry, she managed and assisted in the development of the Center of Excellence in the Research and Treatment of Bipolar Disorder, as well as served as a crisis clinician, therapist, and coordinator for several research studies. She received a bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of Delaware and her master’s in nursing from the University of Pittsburgh.


Andrea Pelletier-Baldelli, MA

Research Assistant: 2008-2011
Contributing Studies: North American Prodromal Longitudinal Study (NAPLS 2), Ziprasidone in the Psychosis Prodrome (ZIP), Enhancing the Prospective Prediction of Psychosis (PREDICT)

Andrea graduated from UNC Chapel Hill in 2007 after receiving bachelor degrees in English and Psychology. After spending one year at Duke University working with children and adolescents suffering from trauma and substance abuse, she made her way back to UNC to work with individuals at high-risk for the development of psychosis. Under the mentorship of Dr. Diana Perkins and Dr. David Penn, Andrea spent three years coordinating and being involved in multiple research projects investigating the etiology and treatment of schizophrenia. Andrea is currently pursuing a dual PhD in Clinical Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of Colorado Boulder under the mentorship of Dr. Vijay Mittal. This year, Andrea will finish her Clinical Psychology internship with a joint appointment at Harvard Medical School/Massachusetts General Hospital. Andrea’s research interests include the study of social processes in serious mental illness using fMRI and MRI.


Elizabeth Cook Thomas, PhD

Study Coordinator: 2006- 2008
Contributing Studies: Graduated Recovery Intervention Program (GRIP)

Dr. Thomas is the former study coordinator for the Graduated Recovery Intervention Program (GRIP) randomized trial for young adults with first episode psychosis. She obtained her B.A. in psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and her MA and PhD in clinical psychology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She is currently employed as a Research Scientist in the Department of Rehabilitation Sciences at Temple University in Philadelphia, PA. Her clinical and research interests include early intervention in psychosis and peer delivered services.


Elizabeth Evans, MDElizabeth Evans

Research Assistant: 2004-2005
Contributing Studies: Investigation of Group CBT for Medication-Resistant Auditory Hallucinations

Dr. Evans graduated with a BA in Psychology from UNC-CH in 2002. Following a year at UCSD doing research in the Department of Psychiatry, Division of Geriatric Psychiatry, she went on to complete a Post baccalaureate Premedical Program at Bryn Mawr College. While applying to medical school, Liz worked in Dr. Penn’s lab as the project coordinator for the Investigation of Group CBT for Medication-Resistant Auditory Hallucinations study, from August 2004 to June 2005. She then went on to receive her MD degree at the University of Pennsylvania, School of Medicine, completed her psychiatry residency at Columbia University, and rounded off her education career with a fellowship in addiction psychiatry at Columbia in July 2013. She is currently employed as an Assistant Professor in Medical Psychology in Psychiatry at Columbia University Medical College, where she spends time doing both clinical work and clinical research. Her research interest is in opiate dependence in women.