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Martina Racioppi, MHS

Martina grew up in Naples, Italy and moved to North Carolina in 2009. She graduated from Elon University in 2019 with a B.A. in Sociology and French. She then pursued a MHS in Mental Health at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. During her time at the Bloomberg school, she worked with Dr. Diana Clarke on her master thesis focusing on suicide prevention in the BIPOC population. In addition, she worked as a Research Assistant in the Department of Health Policy and Management, reading, and analyzing cases of police shootings in the United States. Martina’s research interests are focused on suicide prevention, treatments for individuals with severe mental illnesses, and the intersection of physical and mental health. She is excited to contribute to the Penn Lab and participate in research aiming to improve current treatments for individuals experiencing first episode psychosis. In her free time, Martina enjoys photography, creative writing, working out and hiking with friends.



carringtonmerritt_picCarrington Merritt, MA

Research Assistant on RAPID

Carrington was born and raised in Charlotte, NC. She graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a major in psychology and minors in neuroscience and social and economic justice. As an undergraduate, she served as an RA in the Penn Lab while also working in the Social Neuroscience and Health Lab of Dr. Keely Muscatell. As an RA in the Penn Lab, Carrington assisted with projects investigating how contextual factors such as experimenter race interact with physiological mechanisms to contribute to racial disparities in performance on neuro- and social cognitive batteries that are highly predictive of functional outcomes in schizophrenia. She also worked on a study designed to improve physical health and fitness among individuals with schizophrenia by leading weekly walking groups with study participants. Carrington’s research interests are focused on how social conditions influence neural, physiological, and psychological functioning, and thus contribute to the onset, course, and treatment of severe mental illness, specifically schizophrenia.  For fun, Carrington enjoys running, teaching group fitness classes at UNC Campus Rec, and having movie nights with her roommates.


Elena Pokowitz, M.Ed.

Research Coordinator on Horyzons USA and PACE-Life RCT

Elena grew up right down the road from UNC in Raleigh, North Carolina. She graduated from Vanderbilt University in both 2019 and 2020, earning a B.S. in cognitive studies and child development and an M.Ed. in clinical and developmental research. Throughout her time at Vanderbilt, Elena worked with Dr. Jeannette Mancilla-Martinez in studying the language development and self-efficacy of Spanish-English elementary-aged dual language learners. After years of working with children across the spectrum of ability, Elena has decided to pursue a career in clinical psychology. With a strong interest in early intervention and lifetime care, Elena is excited to be a part of the Penn lab in order to work with patients who have experienced their first episode of psychosis. In the Penn Lab, Elena coordinated the Horyzons open trial in the spring of 2021 and Cohort 3 of the PACE-Life RCT in 2021-22. In her free time, she likes to experiment with new recipes, play the violin, and volunteer at the local food bank. Elena is now a clinical psychology Ph.D. student under Dr. Patricia Deldin at the University of Michigan.



Nicole Daniels

Nicole Daniels, MS

Research Assistant on RAPID

Nicole is a Chapel Hill native, spending most of her childhood just blocks away from UNC. She graduated from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro 2006 with dual degrees in Sociology w/Criminology concentration and Psychology, in addition to double minors in African American Studies and English. Her primary interests were in interpersonal violence, deviant behavior, and the factors that contributed to engagement in deviant activity. She completed her graduate studies at East Carolina University, earning three M.S. degrees in Substance Abuse and Clinical Counseling, Vocational Evaluation, and Rehabilitation Counseling, again focusing her interests in interpersonal violence and how substance use, employment, and disability intersect within this specific population. Since completing her studies, Nicole has worked with a variety of populations across various settings, including domestic violence survivors, persons with physical/cognitive/emotional impairments, general pediatrics, and persons with undiagnosed diseases. She is currently a Research Assistant in the Penn Lab as a part of the Horyzons and RAPID studies. In her free time, she enjoys reading, listening to music, attempting to dance, and learning about homesteading and home improvement.



Gabby Lowenthal, MS

Research Assistant on PACE-Life

Gabby grew up in West Bloomfield, MI. She graduated from the University of Michigan earning a B.A in Psychology with a minor in Criminal Justice in 2019, and a M.S. in Psychology in 2020. At the University of Michigan, Gabby worked with the Michigan Psychoneuroendocrinology Affective Laboratory studying early predictors of the first depressive episode in adolescents with a history of familial depression. Following graduation, Gabby spent the summer volunteering with a local nonprofit providing housing and mental health services to previously incarcerated men. Now, she is excited to be joining the Penn Lab to further pursue her passion with research. Outside of the lab, Gabby enjoys hanging with her pets, running, and camping. Gabby is now pursuing her Ph.D. in clinical psychology at Penn State University.



Kyle Ross, BS

Study Coordinator on PACE-Life

Kyle is a New York native. He earned his BA in English, minoring in Health & Wellness Studies at SUNY Binghamton in upstate New York. After working in a New Jersey school district for two years promoting health and wellness, he decided to head back to school and pursue his passion in psychology and mental health. He completed a Psychology Post-Bac at Columbia University where he studied relationships and social support in the CU Couples Lab. He worked as a full-time Research Assistant in the Penn Lab for the PACE-Life and Horyzons studies. He is currently attending Hofstra University pursuing his Ph.D. in clinical psychology. When he isn’t working he enjoys walking his pup, golfing, hiking, and writing.



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-Kalos, PhD

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

Piper Meyer-Kalos is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Minnesota Medical School. 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 a co-principal investigator on the EPINET (Early Psychosis Intervention Network) project at the University of Minnesota.  Dr. Meyer is an international trainer and consultant for Individual Resiliency Training (IRT) and Illness Management and Recovery (IMR). 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, PhD

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 and received his Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Fordham University in 2018. He completed his pre-doctoral internship at the University of Virginia’s Counseling and Psychological Services and is currently a Fellow in Psychology at The Austen Riggs Center.


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 Biostatistics at UNC as a researcher at the Collaborative Studies Coordinating Center. Her areas of interest are global health, reproductive health, HIV/STI prevention, and outreach education and advocacy for health equity and social justice.


Kelly Smedley, RN, MSN, CNS

Research Assistant/Penn Lab Consulting Research Staff

Ms. Smedley currently is the owner and founder of Waypoint Counseling and Maternal Wellness, where she works with women to navigate pregnancy, postpartum, infertility, loss, and life of children at all ages. She previously served in private practice at Bull City Counseling in Durham, NC providing individual therapy services, and before that 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, PhD

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)

Dr. Pelletier-Baldelli is the former study coordinator for the PREDICT, NAPLS, and ZIP studies, which investigate populations at clinical high-risk for psychosis. She received her BA in psychology and english from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and her PhD in clinical psychology and neuroscience from the University of Colorado Boulder. She is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the Department of Psychiatry. Her research interests include the study of social processes and risk for 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 an Assistant Professor in the College of Public Health 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.