Former Undergraduate Research Assistants

Sydra Siddiqui, BS

UNC Class of 2018

Sydra will be working as a medical assistant to gain clinical exposure before applying to medical school. As far as participation in the lab, Sydra was responsible for data entry for ICAT and the ICAT Control Study.



Sofia Edelman, BA

UNC Class of 2018
El Futuro, North Carolina

Sofia Edelman is the communications specialist and project coordinator for El Futuro — a nonprofit in Durham that serves as a mental health and substance use clinic for Latinx families. In her time off, she enjoys hiking, baking, playing with her cat, and drawing.


carolineCaroline Jennings, BS

UNC Class of 2017
Director of Product at Cadre Health, South Carolina

Caroline is the Director of Product at Cadre Health, a healthcare technology company that strives to optimize hospital operations and improve care outcomes. She is also Owner/Designer at Word of Web, LLC, which builds affordable websites for small businesses, non-profits, and other low-budget groups. Although Caroline is no longer studying Psychology, she is continuing her passion for mental health by serving on the board of Mental Health of America of Greenville County. She hopes to use her passion for psychology and neuroscience to improve public outreach programs, spearhead creative educational campaigns, and bring awareness of mental health to local schools.


untitledAustin Gragson, BS

UNC Class of 2017
Peace Corps Volunteer, Liberia
Austin graduated from UNC in the spring of 2017 with a degree in Psychology and Anthropology and minor in Chemistry.  Just four short weeks later he left to serve as a high school science teacher through the Peace Corps in Liberia, West Africa.  During his time in the Penn lab he worked on several projects including independent research into the relationship between socioeconomic status, social cognition, and schizophrenia.  He plans to continue his studies in psychology after the Peace Corps to continue learning about the mind and how to use this knowledge to serve others.


hasanHasan Mustafic, BA

UNC Class of 2017
Research Assistant at Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, IL

Hasan graduated from UNC in 2017 with a BA in psychology and a minor in film. He spent three years in the lab, and worked on a variety of studies that helped him achieve a better understanding of research. He is broadly interested in trauma and resiliency, but is also more specifically interested in cognitive biases and how they relate the the etiology and maintenance of anxiety disorders. Hasan is currently working as a research assistant at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, and plans to attend graduate school in the future.



Emily Bass, BA

UNC Class of 2017
Research Assistant at The University of Texas at Dallas

Emily Bass graduated from UNC in 2017 with a BA in Psychology and a minor in General Anthropology. She volunteered in the Penn Lab for 3 years as a undergraduate research assistant. In the lab, she completed SCOPE transcriptions, data entry for SCOPE, Horyzons, and ICAT, RAISE-ETP therapeutic alliance ratings, and volunteered at the OASIS clinic helping with social skills group therapy sessions. During her senior year, she successfully defended her honors thesis on predictors of the RAISE-ETP therapeutic alliance ratings for Individual Resiliency Training. She is now working at UT-Dallas as a research assistant under Dr. Amy Pinkham continuing her passion for schizophrenia research. In her free time she likes to write, go on hikes, spend time with the abundance of pets her family owns (7 dogs total and 1 cat), watch Netflix, exercise occasionally, and try new recipes and restaurants.


isabelleIsabelle Lanser, BA

UNC Class of 2016
Clinical Psychology Doctoral Candidate at the University of California, Los Angeles

Isabelle is currently a graduate student at the University of California, Los Angeles. Broadly, she is interested in the physiology of stress response systems in schizophrenia as they relate to cognitive and social cognitive deficits in this population. During her time in the Penn Lab, Isabelle worked on several projects studying social cognition in schizophrenia, including her honors thesis, which examined the structure of a novel measure to assess social cognition and functioning in schizophrenia.


benBen Twery, BS

UNC Class of 2016
M.D. Candidate, University of Maryland School of Medicine

Ben graduated from UNC in 2016 with a B.S. in biology and minors in chemistry and cognitive science. For two years he worked under Arun Nagendra in the Penn Lab studying how race-related factors impact social cognition in African Americans. The knowledge, experience, and mentorship he gained from Arun, Dr. Penn, and the whole Penn Lab are already proving valuable in many aspects of his career. Ben is an M.D. candidate in the class of 2022 at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and is currently conducting his own research examining the impact of patient-provider race concordance on patient’s willingness to achieve management goals.


Paul Julian, BSBlurbPic

UNC Class of 2015
JD Candidate at University of Colorado Law School

Paul graduated from UNC-CH in the Spring of 2015 with a B.S. in Psychology and a minor in Creative Writing. After working in the Penn Lab for all four years of his undergraduate career, changed directions to attend law school at the University of Colorado in the Fall of 2015. In his first and second years in law school, Paul clerked for judges in the 20th Judicial District and County Courts. Combining his interests in writing, movies, psychology, and contracts, Paul hopes to specialize in Media and Intellectual Property Law after law school.


Kagan GriffinKagan Griffin, BS

UNC Class of 2015
Data Technician, Durham, NC

Kagan graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2015 with a B.S. in Psychology and a minor in Chemistry. After working as a data technician for a Prostate Cancer research lab in Durham for a year, she was promoted to Lab Manager. During her free time from work, she rekindled her passion for running and cooking, completing a marathon and volunteering with Inter-Faith Food shuttle. She has decided to pursue these interests towards a career as a sports dietitian, and will be attending UNC again in the fall, this time as a graduate student in the Master of Public Health/ Registered Dietitian program. Her hobbies include reading, loving her cat, and watching horror movies.


Alex Edwards, BS

UNC Class of 2015
MSW Candidate at the University of Denver, Colorado

Alex graduated from UNC in 2015 with a BA in psychology and minors in the PPE (Philosophy Politics and Economics) program, and in Art History. She worked with the Penn lab for all four years of her undergraduate career, and completed her Senior Honors Thesis under the mentorship of Dr. Penn. The experience Alex gained as an undergraduate research assistant for the Penn Lab inspired her to pursue a career with a mental health focus. She is currently starting her first year as a Masters of Social Work student at the University of Denver, and hopes to receive licensure as a Clinical Social Worker in order to conduct therapy in a medical or mental health setting.


Emily Lucas, BAEmily Lucas

UNC Class of 2014

Emily graduated from UNC in the Spring of 2014 with a double major in Psychology and Communication Studies. She is currently living in Charlottesville, Virginia, nannying for her nephew while her sister begins a career as a dermatologist in the area.  Emily plans to continue working for her sister through the fall and enjoying the scenery, excitement, and opportunities that Charlottesville and UVA have to offer.


Yusra Iftikhar, BS, M. PhysiologyYusra Iftikhar

UNC Class of 2014
Doctor of Physical Therapy Student at Duke University

Yusra graduated from UNC-CH with a B.S. in Psychology and a minor in Religious Studies in May 2014.  She went on to complete her 2-year Masters of Physiology program at NC State University during which time she also completed an intensive research internship at Deaconess Clinic in Evansville, Indiana. Yusra’s research interests include the connections between psychological and physiological health and she credits her time in the Penn Lab for her now fierce and unrelenting approach towards mental health advocacy and efforts for inclusive healthcare. Yusra currently leads 4 clubs and holds 2 other leadership positions at the program level, is editor for the NCPTA student blog, serves as Director of Communications for the NCPTA Student Special Interest Group, and writes for her own blog, The DPT Diaries. She has been awarded the North Carolina Physical Therapy Association’s “Outstanding PT Student Award” and Duke School of Medicine’s “2019 Michelle P. Winn Inclusive Excellence Award” in the past year. Although Yusra will complete her “Triangle Hat Trick” in May 2020 when she will graduate from Duke’s Doctor of Physical Therapy Program, having by then received degrees from UNC-CH, NCSU, and Duke, she remains a Tar Heel through and through.


Morgan Alexander, BSMorgan Alexander

UNC Class of 2012
Research Coordinator, Frolich Lab, UNC Chapel Hill Medical School

After graduating with a double-major in Psychology and Mathematics from UNC in December 2012, Morgan Alexander spent 6 months in limbo before securing a job in Durham, NC as a Data Monitor at NeuroCog Trials.  Morgan examined the data for some of the largest clinical trials in the world, some of which are testing the safety and efficacy of pharmaceutical therapies for the treatment of the negative symptoms of schizophrenia. Additionally, she is trained to certify raters to administer certain cognitive batteries, such as the MCCB, and will have the opportunity to certify raters across the globe.  In 2016 Morgan joined the Frolich Lab at UNC Chapel Hill Medical School as a Research Coordinator.  She is interested in how novel treatments, such as brain stimulation, can alleviate symptoms for individuals suffering from severe mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and PTSD. In her free time she obsesses over photography, trains her pet rats, and daydreams about graduate school in clinical psychology.


Janitra Venkatesan Shah, MD

UNC Class of 2012
Family Medicine Resident Physician, Pennsylvania

Janitra graduated from UNC in 2012 with a B.S. in Psychology and minors in Biology and Chemistry. She worked with the Penn Lab for three years and worked under the mentorship of Dr. Penn to complete her senior thesis in Psychology. Following graduation, she worked as an 8th grade Science teacher at KIPP Charlotte during her time with Teach for America in Charlotte, NC. She received her M.D. from UNC SOM in 2018 and is currently a family medicine resident physician at Forbes Family Medicine in Pennsylvania.


Kristen Coconis, BA

UNC Class of 2012
Freelance Designer and Art Director, Chicago, IL

Kristen Coconis is proud to be the only native North Carolinian in her family! She graduated with honors from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in May of 2012 with a B.A. in Psychology, and minors in Spanish for the Professions and Dramatic Art. She worked in the Penn Lab as an undergraduate assistant for two years. Prior to that, she worked in a child development lab, but she realized her passion lied in schizophrenia research. After graduation she moved to Chicago to teach 2nd grade as a Teach For America corps member. She attended Second City for improv, and—after 2 years of teaching—Chicago Portfolio School for design. She currently works in advertising as a freelance designer and art director. She enjoys visiting museums, learning about architecture, and traveling.


Alexis Georgeson, BAAlexis Georgeson

UNC Class of 2012
Quantitative Psychology Doctoral Candidate at UNC Chapel Hill

Alexis worked in the Penn lab from 2010-2012 and graduated in 2012 with a BA in psychology and linguistics.  She now works as a data analyst at SouthLight, inc., a non-profit mental health and substance abuse agency in Raleigh, NC.  SouthLight provides outpatient and residential MH and substance abuse treatment for adolescents and adults and mainly serves clients receiving Medicaid or state funds.  Alexis is currently pursuing her PhD in quantitative psychology at UNC Chapel Hill; her research interests include item-level data analysis, longitudinal modeling, and measurement.


Adrienne Albano, BA

Years in Penn Lab: 2009-2011

Adrienne graduated from the University of Maryland Baltimore County(UMBC) in 2007 with a BA in psychology. She worked two years at the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center(MPRC) as a Study Coordinator for multiple genetic and clinical research studies on schizophrenia and related disorders. She then worked at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill(UNC) as a Regulatory/Clinical Research Coordinator for an adolescent autism research group and later as a Clinical Research Associate for the AIDS Clinical Trials Group(ACTG). Her ongoing interest in schizophrenia led her to volunteer as a research assistant in Dr. Penn’s lab. She spent about two years assisting with ratings for the RAISE project and other miscellaneous tasks. She continues to work part time remotely for UNC’s ACTG while her husband serves in the United States Airforce.  They have two daughters, Aria and Kaiya.


Lauren Catalano, MS

UNC Class of 2010
Clinical Psychology Doctoral Candidate at the University of Maryland, College Park

Lauren worked in the Penn Lab from 2008-2010 and graduated from UNC in 2010 with a B.A. in Psychology. She subsequently worked as a research assistant at the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center on various schizophrenia research projects with Dr. Gunvant Thaker and Dr. Gregory Strauss. Lauren is currently a Ph.D. student in the Clinical Psychology program at the University of Maryland, College Park under the mentorship of Dr. Jack Blanchard and Dr. Jim Gold. Her dissertation research focuses on the time course of social reward processing in schizophrenia using EEG/ERP methodology. She will complete her internship at the VA Maryland Health Care System/University of Maryland School of Medicine Consortium in the Serious Mental Illness track during the 2017-2018 training year.


sierra%20carterSierra Carter, PhD

UNC Class of 2010
Postdoctoral Fellow, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA

Sierra graduated from UNC in 2010 with a B.S. in Psychology and minor in Social and Economic Justice. She worked as an undergraduate research assistant in the Penn lab for two years. She graduated with a PhD in Clinical Psychology from the University of Georgia in 2016. She is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Emory University School of Medicine. Her research interests include using both psychological and physiological measures within underrepresented populations and families to assess how different racial and cultural factors can affect stress levels and subsequent health outcomes.


Bianca Brooks, PhDbianca

UNC Class of 2010
Postdoctoral Fellow, Marcus Autism Center, Atlanta, GA

Bianca graduated from UNC in 2010 with a B.A. in Psychology and a double minor in Social and Economic Justice and Spanish for the Professions. During her time at UNC, she worked as an undergraduate research assistant in the Penn lab for two years.  Bianca recently completed her doctorate in clinical psychology at Georgia State University in a developmental neuropsychology lab focusing on the early detection of autism in toddlers. As a graduate student, she received a fellowship designed to promote research on individuals with developmental disabilities in underrepresented populations.  Bianca is currently employed at the Marcus Autism Center in Atlanta, GA as a postdoctoral fellow. Her interests include helping families of low socioeconomic status to navigate early intervention services after receiving a diagnosis of a developmental delay.


Caroline Oates Leonczyk, MA

UNC Class of 2010
Medical/Clinical Psychology Doctoral Candidate at the University of Alabama at Birmingham

Caroline graduated with a B.S. in Psychology from UNC-CH in 2010. She was an undergraduate research assistant in the Penn lab for three years as well as the Clinical Affective Neuroscience (CAN) lab in her senior year. In her time with the Penn and CAN labs she assisted various studies on schizophrenia and autism. Following graduation, Caroline worked as a research analyst at Vanderbilt University in Elizabeth Dykens’ Prader-Willi and Williams syndromes research lab. Currently, Caroline is a doctoral student in the Medical/Clinical Psychology program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her primary interest is in neurodevelopmental disabilities. Caroline continues to be involved in research on Autism Spectrum Disorders and is embarking on a new project on neurodevelopmental outcomes of children born extremely prematurely.


Kate McIntyre, BA

UNC Class of 2009
Program Manager, Cascadia Behavioral Health, Portland Oregon

After graduating from UNC, Kate moved to Oregon to begin her work in community mental health. She currently works as a Program Manager for Cascadia Behavioral Healthcare, a non-profit mental health agency in Portland, Oregon. The program is a large residential setting that focuses on assisting clients who are recently discharged from the state hospital to transition to more independent housing. Kate is also working on her Masters in Public Health and her Masters in Social Work at Portland State University.


Katherine Brewer, BA

UNC Class of 2008


Mary Keeley Plisco, PhD

Assistant Professor of Counseling at Richmont Graduate University, Atlanta, GA; Staff Psychologist, Hope Counseling Atlanta, Atlanta, GA

Dr. Plisco earned her B.A. degree in Psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Both her M.S. and Ph.D. degrees are from the University of Florida’s Clinical and Health Psychology Graduate Program. She completed her internship and post-doctoral fellowship at Emory University’s School of Medicine and Training Program in Professional Psychology. Dr. Plisco then joined the faculty of Richmont Graduate University in Atlanta, GA as an Assistant Professor of Counseling. Her specializations include anxiety, depression, and child and adolescent counseling. Dr. Plisco is also employed as a licensed clinical psychologist for Hope Counseling Atlanta in Atlanta, Georgia where she works with children, adolescents, and adults.


Felice Reddy, PhDFelice Reddy

UNC Class of 2006
Assistant Research Psychologist at the University of California at Los Angeles

Felice worked in the Penn lab from 2004-2006 and graduated from UNC in 2006 with a B.S. in Psychology. She received her Master’s and Doctorate degrees in psychology from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln under Dr. Spaulding and completed her clinical internship at the West Haven VA Connecticut Healthcare System. Her doctoral research focused on social cognitive and neurocognitive treatments for schizophrenia. In 2012, Felice accepted a position as a post-doctoral fellow at UCLA and the Greater Los Angeles VA MIRECC where she works in Dr. Michael Green’s lab with the support of the VA’s Advanced Fellowship in Mental Illness Research and Treatment. Since joining the Green Lab, she has continued to be involved in treatment outcome research for social cognitive interventions and is also investigating motivation and effort in the context of negative symptoms. Felice is also interested in rehabilitation and recovery-oriented approaches to serious mental illness and has published program evaluation and outcome data on peer-run services and holistic interventions.


Candice Creasman Mowrey, LPC, NCC, PhD

UNC Class of 2005
Licensed Professional Counselor, Creasman Counseling, PLLC, Raleigh, NC

Dr. Mowrey received her BA in Psychology in 2005 from UNC-Chapel Hill.  She participated in the Psychology Honors program under Dr. Penn, completing her thesis on sub-clinical autistic traits and social cognition.  After graduating, she worked for the Autism Society of NC for a year before returning to UNC for a Masters in Rehabilitation Counseling and Psychology.  Candice was lucky enough to work with Dr. Penn again as a graduate intern at OASIS, where she provided individual and group counseling for young adults with psychotic disorders.  She is now a Licensed Professional Counselor and completed her doctorate in Counseling and Counselor Education at North Carolina State University. As a doctoral candidate, her research examined the impact of mindfulness training for individuals experiencing disenfranchised grief. Dr. Mowrey currently has a private practice in Raleigh, NC. When she’s not working, Candice enjoys cooking, kayaking, running, and basically any activity that gets her outside.  She has tried to shift her Tarheel loyalties to the Wolfpack, but has had little success.


Casey Calhoun, MA

UNC Class of 2005
Clinical Psychology Doctoral Candidate at UNC Chapel Hill

Casey worked in the Penn lab during the spring of 2005, and he graduated from UNC the same year with a B.A. in psychology. In his post-baccalaureate years, Casey worked in several full-time research assistant positions at different universities, including UNC, SUNY Buffalo, and the University of Virginia. He obtained a master’s degree in Clinical Psychology from the University of South Florida, and is currently a doctoral candidate in the clinical psychology program at UNC Chapel Hill. His research broadly considers the effects of peer relations and social cognition on adjustment in childhood and adolescence. Casey’s most recent work examines the effects of negative peer experiences on adolescents’ biological stress regulation. He also maintains a continued interest in exploring the conceptual and methodological issues regarding inter-rater discrepancy scores.


Sana Sheikh, PhD
Sana Sheikh


UNC Class of 2004
Clinical Fellow, Bipolar Clinic and Research Program, Massachusetts General Hospital

Dr. Sheikh graduated with honors from UNC Chapel Hill in 2004. She went on to complete her PhD in social psychology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and then took an assistant professor of psychology position at the University of St Andrews, Scotland, UK. To better incorporate her research with the practice of psychology, she left St Andrews to pursue respecialization in clinical psychology at Suffolk University. In 2014, Dr. Sheikh accepted a position as a Clinical Fellow at the Bipolar Clinic and Research Program at Massachusetts General Hospital. Her scholarly interests span social and clinical psychological perspectives on emotion and morality.  Her main line of research concerns the nature of emotion as they arise in social and cultural contexts as well as the etiology, manifestation, and remediation of disorders in which the two are often prevalent, such as depressive and bipolar disorders.  Her interests also include gender and identity formation and conflicts among Muslim British and American youth. During her free time, she enjoys working as a radio jockey in India.


Bethany Wangelin, PhDBethany_Wangelin

UNC Class of 2004
Assistant Professor, Medical University of South Carolina; Staff Psychologist, VA Medical Center, Charleston, SC

Dr. Bethany Wangelin received her BS in Psychology in 2004, where she completed her Undergraduate Honors Thesis under Dr. Penn, examining the relationship between fusiform gyrus volume and emotion perception in first-episode schizophrenia. Her work with Dr. Penn was a major catalyst for her interest in studying emotion and the brain in psychological disorders. After graduating from UNC, Bethany completed a research assistantship at the Center for the Study of Emotion and Attention at the University of Florida. She also received her MS and PhD from the University of Florida, specializing in emotion neuroscience and anxiety disorders. She completed her clinical internship and postdoctoral fellowship in traumatic stress studies at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) and the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Charleston, SC. Bethany is now a staff psychologist on the PTSD Clinical Team at the Charleston VA Medical Center, and a clinical assistant professor at MUSC. Her clinical work involves delivering evidence-based exposure therapy for PTSD, and her research involves applying psychophysiology and neuroscience methods to evaluating and enhancing PTSD treatment outcomes.


Clifton Chamberlin, PhD

UNC Class of 2000
Licensed Psychologist, Psychological Solutions, LLC, Bethesda, MD

Dr. Chamberlin worked in the Penn lab during some of his junior and all of his senior year (1999-2000) at UNC, where he earned his BA in psychology.  After returning to Washington, DC, he earned an MA in Clinical Psychology from the University of Maryland – College Park and a doctorate in Clinical Psychology from Fielding Graduate University. He completed his internship at The Women’s Center in Vienna, VA and has held several research and consulting positions.  More recently, Dr. Chamberlin joined a private practice of psychotherapists in Bethesda, MD (Psychological Solutions, LLC)  as a clinical psychologist. Since his time with Dr. Penn, Clifton has gravitated toward clinical work with those experiencing psychotic symptoms.  Most recently, Clifton has expanded his clinical work to include more Sports Psychology focused on performance and achievement. Instead of lacrosse, he now competes seriously in both road-bike racing and triathlons where half-Ironman events are capturing his attention. He misses Carolina, a lot.