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Post-Doctoral Fellows and Graduate Students

Katharine Donelly-Adams, Ph.D.

Katharine started as a postdoctoral fellow at the Department of Psychology and the Center for Language Science in July 2011. She graduated from Tufts University, and before joining us she taught at Juniata College in Huntingdon, PA. Katharine is interested in reading development and disability in first and second language learning, reading fluency, and teaching practices and reading interventions.

Pan Liu, Ph.D.

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Pan received her PhD in social neuroscience from McGill University in Canada in 2015, and is currently working as a post-doc scholar with Dr. Pamela Cole and Dr. Koraly Perez-Edgar. Her broad research interest lies in social and affective neuroscience, and has been working on cross-sensory emotion processing during her PhD. For her post-doc research, she is interested in expanding her work on emotion processing to the population of school-aged children by means of fMRI and exploring this issue from a developmental and clinical perspective. 

Jin Qu, Ph.D.

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Jin Qu is currently working as a post-doc scholar with Dr. Koraly Pérez-Edgar and Dr. Kristin Buss.  Her main research interests lie in infant social and emotional development (e.g., infant emotion regulation) in relation to children’s subsequent behavior problems.  She is also interested in how caregiving environment and parent–child attachment influence infant development. She has used multiple levels of analysis (i.e., psychophysiological and behavioral) to examine these research questions.

Bradley Taber-Thomas, Ph.D.


Brad is a postdoc with Dr. Perez-Edgar. He studies the role of the frontolimbic neural system in socio-emotional functioning and development, working to understand neural bases of core psychological processes implicated in social development (e.g., attention biases).

Lisa Whyte, Ph.D.


Lisa is currently working as a postdoctoral scholar with Dr. Scherf. She is interested in studying language development in typical and atypical development, including specific language impairment and autism. For example, she is interested in how deficits in language development relates to deficits in other abilities such as Theory of Mind, emotion recognition, and working memory.

Graduate Students

Berenice Anaya

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I received a B.A. in Psychology (2014) and a M.S. in Psychology (2016) from Western Kentucky University. For my Master’s thesis, I examined the validity of “hot” and “cool” tasks as measures of self-regulation, and how these tasks predicted future academic performance and socio-emotional competence, which play a crucial role in school readiness. I currently work in the Cognition, Affect & Temperament Lab, under the mentorship of Dr. Koraly Pérez-Edgar, studying how affect, temperament, and attention interact to shape social processes.

Saskia Boggs


Saskia received her B.A. in Psychology, English, and African Studies from Kalamazoo College in 2012. She is currently in her fifth year of the developmental psychology PhD program at Penn State University, and works with Dr. Dawn Witherspoon in the Context and Development lab. Her research interests include the effects of acculturation on identity development and academic and health outcomes among immigrant adolescents and children, and the way that these effects operate in specific neighborhood and school contexts.

Giulia Borriello



Giulia is a sixth year graduate student originally from Queens, New York. She received her BA in Psychology and Italian from Penn State in 2011. She is interested in how children develop spatial thinking skills, what factors may influence the development of those skills, and how to intervene on spatial skills, particularly in early childhood. Current work examines how caregivers may help children to increase their cognitive skills through guided-play experiences. Outside of the lab, Giulia enjoys gymnastics, cooking, and spending time with friends and family, especially her niece!

Kayla Brown


Kayla Brown

Kayla Brown is a second year graduate student in the Developmental Psychology program working with Dr. Erika Lunkenheimer. She received her B.S. degree in General Science from They Pennsylvania State University in 2014. She then spent two years studying temperament and attentional bias in children and adolescents with Dr. Koraly Perez-Edgar and Dr. Kristin Buss. Her research interests focus on how parent-child dyadic interactions act as risk or resilience factors for child maltreatment. In particular, she wants to focus on how individual differences in temperament, visual attention patterns, and neurobiology that both the parent and child bring to the table affect different patterns of interactions in the parent-child dyad. 

Daphney Chancy

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Daphney is a first-year graduate student from Orlando, FL. She received her BA in psychology from American University in May of 2017. Daphney is interested in community-level risk and protective factors for adolescent development. She is particularly interested in how contextual factors related to violence and access to resources such as healthcare, food, and education, are associated with adolescent psychological and behavioral outcomes. Daphney currently works with Dr. Dawn Witherspoon.

Junqiang Dai

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Junqiang joined PSU in 2015 and works with Dr. Suzy Scherf in the Lab of Developmental Neuroscience. During his master stage, he focused on the neural mechanism of maternal face recognition, the correlation between parental face processing and parental attachment, and the mirror neuron system underlying self-recognition in preschool children. Currently, he’s primarily interested in the neurodevelopment and neuroplasticity of face recognition in typically developing group and atypically developing group (mainly autism), as well as the correlation between various brain indices and different aspects of face processing in these groups. Under the guidance of Dr. Scherf, he will continue to learn and use multimodal neuroimaging methods like functional, resting, and structural MRI in future.

Jessie Xiaoxue Fu

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Jessie received her BSc in Psychology from Bristol University and MSc in Psychological Research from Oxford University. For her master’s thesis, she examined the acquisition of fear and anxiety in anxious adults. Since graduation, she has been working on projects assessing the effectiveness of cognitive bias modification of interpretations training in ameliorating interpretation bias and negative mood in Chinese adolescents. For her Ph.D., she is broadly interested in studying the roles of biological, cognitive, and environmental factors in influencing the link between early fearful temperament and later anxiety. She would like to continue in the endeavor of identifying biobehavioral markers of anxiety vulnerability through adopting multiple levels of analysis. She is currently working with Dr. Pérez-Edgar and Dr. Buss.

Kelley Gunther

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Kelley is a first-year graduate student under the mentorship of Dr. Koraly Pérez-Edgar. She received her B.S. in Psychology with a minor in Neuroscience from the University of Maryland in 2015, where she worked primarily on a project examining the role of emotion priming on visual search in the lab of Dr. Nathan Fox. After graduation, she spent the following two years working as a lab manager with Dr. Dima Amso at Brown University. She is interested in the interaction of maternal care and maternal buffering with temperamental and attentional risk factors for anxiety disorders, and neural correlates of these relationships.

Catherine Hamby

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Catherine is a first year graduate student working with Dr. Erika Lunkenheimer in the Parent-Child Dynamics Lab. She completed her B.S. in Psychology in 2015 from the University of Oregon, where she spent the following two years investigating the effectiveness of preventive parenting interventions with Dr. Philip Fisher and exploring the everyday audio/visual landscape of infants with Dr. Caitlin Fausey. In pursuing her Ph.D., Catherine hopes to further understand aspects of everyday family interactions that serve as protective factors against maltreatment in the parent-child dyad.

Chang Liu

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Chang received her B.S. in Psychology from Beijing Normal University, China, in 2013. She is currently a fifth year graduate student in Developmental Psychology working with Dr. Neiderhiser and Dr. Moore. As an undergraduate research assistant, she worked with Dr. Chen studying genetic variations in the serotoninergic system and environmental factors contributing to aggressive behavior in Chinese adolescents. Currently, Chang mainly focuses on the gene-environment interplay (gene-environment interaction and gene-environment correlation) in child anger and aggressive behavior development using EGDS dataset. She is also interested in dynamic interactions between parents and children using observational data. 

Yushuang Liu

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Yushuang comes from Taiwan and it is her second year at PSU. She received her BA degree in psychology from Wuhan University in China. Additionally, during her MA education in San Diego State University, her thesis project focused on the effect of early bilingualism on young children's cognitive development. She continues working on early language acquisition and bilingualism with Dr. Janet van Hell during her PhD training at PSU. In her free time, Yushuang enjoys cooking traditional Taiwanese food, video-chatting with her 12-year-old little sister, and she would love to adopt a cat!

Frances Lobo

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Frances Lobo is a second year graduate student in the Developmental Psychology program working with Dr. Erika Lunkenheimer. She received her B. S. degree in Neuroscience and Psychology from Duke University in 2013 and spent the following three years studying self-regulation in adolescents and college students with Dr. Rick Hoyle. Her research interests include understanding how family systems promote or inhibit child health, well-being, achievement, and resilience. Specifically, she would like to investigate how parental attitudes, beliefs, and discipline style can impact co-regulation within the parent-child dyad and mold the child’s goals and self-regulation skills.

Meghan McDoniel

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McDoniel_Meghan (1)

Meghan received her B.A. in Psychology from Grinnell College and her M.Ed. in Elementary Education with an emphasis on Early Childhood from the University of Missouri-St. Louis while teaching preschool with Teach For America.  Meghan is currently a fourth year graduate student in the Developmental Psychology program at Penn State University and works with Dr. Kristin Buss in the Emotion Development Lab.  Her research interests focus on multiple factors that influence social-emotional development and risks for psychopathology in children including temperament, parenting, and environmental contexts.  

Leigha MacNeill

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Leigha is a fifth-year graduate student working toward her Ph.D. under the mentorship of Dr. Koraly Pérez-Edgar.  She received her B.A. in psychology and English from the University of Rochester in 2012.  Leigha's research interests bridge family systems and neuroscience perspectives to examine the biological underpinnings of the family's emotional climate.  Her master's thesis examined whether the influences of both mothers' and fathers' emotional expressiveness on young children's prosocial behavior were contingent upon children's physiological regulation, and whether the effects differed for older and younger siblings within the family.  Additionally, Leigha investigates how changes in infants' brain activity may indicate shifts in cognitive skill across early development.

Giorgia Picci

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I am a sixth year Ph.D. student in the developmental area at PSU. Prior to joining Suzy Scherf's lab, I received a B.A. in Psychology and Women’s Studies from George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. Currently, I am pursuing two lines of research that both uniquely interrogate the developmental processes underlying face recognition behaviors and social information processing more broadly. First, I am investigating the role developmental tasks and processes (e.g., pubertal development) play in the development and emergence of biases in face recognition in children, adolescents, and adults. In parallel, I am examining differences in the neural circuitry supporting face and object processing in individuals with autism and typically developing individuals (TD) during adolescence.

Amanda Ramos

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Amanda is a fourth year graduate student in the developmental psychology area working with Dr. Jenae Neiderhiser. She received her B.A. in Psychology from Humboldt State University in 2010 and her M.A. in Psychological Research from California State University, Long Beach in 2015. Her research interests include gene-environment interplay in the development of child social competency and psychological adjustment. She is also interested in how the prenatal environment plays a role in development. 

Catherine Schaefer


Catherine works with Dr. Lynn Liben.  Having spent the previous six years working in executive function research with Dr. Stephanie Carlson at the Institute of Child Development at the University of Minnesota, Catherine will be changing tracks to investigate sex differences and hormonal influences on sex typed behavior.  Her undergraduate work involved research on mood disorders with Dr. Robert DeRubeis at the University of Pennsylvania, where she earned her BA in Psychology.  

Kingsley Schroeder

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Kingsley is a fourth year graduate student originally from Dayton, Ohio. She received her B.A. in Psychology from Washington and Lee University in 2014. Kingsley currently works with Dr. Lynn Liben in the Developmental area. Her research interests center on gender development, with a specific emphasis on children’s gendered interactions with parents, teachers, and peers. One of her recent projects examines the conception of gender across the lifespan and the mechanisms through which children come to understand the meaning of gender. Recently, Kingsley has begun to apply concepts to immigrant youth, an understudied population in the field of gender development, to examine the balance between home and host countries' gender roles across adolescence.

Elizabeth Shewark

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Elizabeth is in her sixth year of the Developmental Psychology area Ph.D. program. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in psychology, summa cum laude, from the University of Mary Washington and attained her Masters of Arts in Applied Developmental Psychology from George Mason University (GMU) under the mentorship of Dr. Susanne Denham. Elizabeth is currently working with Drs. Jenae Neiderhiser and Kristin Buss examining the development of children’s social and emotional competency, within the context of the family and schools using a behavioral genetics framework. More specifically, she is interested in the role of the child in the family and classroom contexts, and the mechanisms by which children impact and are impacted by their relationships via gene-environment interplay. Her dissertation work will examine genetic influences on the child and how that association may evoke different or similar responses across the family and school contexts and subsequently impact later adjustment.

Amanda Skoranski

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Mandy is originally from Newark, Delaware. She recently earned her Master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from Colorado State University and is excited to begin the PhD program in Developmental Psychology at Penn State in fall of 2017. Mandy is passionate about improving the lives of youth and families. Her research interests involve investigating how parent-child biobehavioral dynamics measured over small time scales (i.e. second-to-second) relate to and predict differences in longer-term developmental outcomes for children. She is particularly interested in how parents’ internal qualities (e.g. mental health, stress reactivity, mindfulness) shape moment-to-moment physiological and behavioral patterns during parent-child interactions, and in turn influence children’s socioemotional development. Mandy’s hobbies include hiking, yoga, weight lifting, running, and spending time with her two German Shepherds, Sedona and Marisol.

Nhi Thai

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Thai, Nhi

Nhi is currently a sixth year graduate student pursuing her PhD in Developmental Psychology under the mentorship of Dr. Perez-Edgar. She received her bachelors in Child Psychology and Biology from the University of Minnesota, where she conducted research with Dr. Philip Zelazo on the development and neural bases of executive function throughout the lifespan. Her Master's work looked at the neural underpinnings of attention bias to threat and attention training. For her doctoral work, she would like to investigate the neurocognitive processes involved in emotion regulation and explore effective emotion regulation strategies toward adaptive behavior, particularly in the context of psychopathology.

Alicia Vallorani

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Alicia Vallorani is a second-year student in the Developmental Psychology Program specializing in Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience. She graduated from Knox College in 2011 with a B.A. in Psychology emphasizing in Behavioral Neuroscience. She then worked in the Neurology Department at the Washington University School of Medicine where she aided in the study of social-emotional delays in children with NF1. Alicia works with both Dr. Koraly Pérez-Edgar and Dr. Kristin Buss and is interested in understanding the developmental trajectories of infants and children at risk for struggling with social engagement. Specifically, she focuses on how temperamental, biological, and cognitive risk markers relate to social behaviors in these at risk populations.

Wei Wei

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Wei Wei is a third year graduate student in the developmental area. She received her master degree in developmental and educational psychology from Beijing Normal University in 2015. During her master study, she was mainly focused on measuring the quantity and quality of parental involvement and examining the effects of parental involvement on children’s cognitive and social development. At Penn State, she works with Dr. Dawn Witherspoon in the Context and Development Lab and examines the effects of contextual support (e.g., neighborhood and parental involvement) on students’ achievement and social development in diverse family backgrounds. She is also interested in using observational techniques to assess parent-child interaction across settings.

Anna Zhou

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Anna Zhou is a first-year graduate student in the Developmental Psychology Program under the mentorship of Dr. Kristin Buss. She graduated from Tufts University in 2015 with a B.S. in Cognitive Brain Science and Child Development. After graduating, Anna spent two years working in the Labs of Cognitive Neuroscience at Boston Children’s Hospital with Dr. Charles Nelson on a longitudinal project examining the neural bases of emotion processing in infants and toddlers. Her main research interest involves understanding how early environmental factors may interact with the development of neurobiological and physiological mechanisms underlying emotion processing and regulation, especially in populations that are at risk for developing later psychopathology.

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