Meet the Lab!

Principal Investigator

Deena Skolnick Weisberg, Ph.D.

Lab Director

Deena Skolnick Weisberg is Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Villanova University, where she directs the Scientific Thinking and Representation (STAR) Laboratory. She is also the co-director of the Pennsylvania Laboratory for Understanding Science (PLUS). She earned her Ph.D. in Psychology from Yale University and received postdoctoral training at Rutgers University and at Temple University. Her research interests include scientific thinking and reasoning in children and adults, the development of imaginative cognition, and the roles that the imagination plays in learning. Her work has been published in a variety of scholarly journals, including Science and Cognition, and has received funding from the Templeton Foundation and the National Science Foundation. Learn more about Dr. Weisberg here.

Staff

Marta Biarnes

Director of Community Outreach

Marta Biarnes is the Director of Community Outreach for the STAR Lab. She comes to the lab with 13 years of experience at the Museum of Science in Boston where she led community outreach efforts for Greater Boston families, developed engaging early childhood exhibits and programming, and created quality professional development experiences for informal science educators and university researchers. Marta co-founded Living Laboratory — a framework for museum-university collaborations that aims to communicate on-going research to the public through fun, hands-on research experiences — and served as PI and co-PI of various National Science Foundation grants, including the broadly implemented National Living Laboratory initiative. She received her Ed. M. in Human Development and Psychology at Harvard University.

Natasha Chlebuch

Lab Coordinator

Natasha Chlebuch is the Lab Coordinator for the STAR Lab. She also manages the Pennsylvania Lab for Understanding Science. She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology. She spent three years working with at-risk and adjudicated youths at the Montgomery County Youth Center. Her research interests include the effect of personality on felt and expressed emotions, and she hopes to pursue a Ph.D. in forensic psychology. She has a white german shepherd, named Ana, that takes up all of her free time.

 

 

 

Graduate Students

Aarti Bodas

Masters Student

Aarti Bodas graduated from the University of Washington in June 2019 with a B.S. in Psychology with Honors and a minor in Global Health. After studying infants’ moral development in her undergrad, Aarti is excited to learn about children’s learning as a first-year Master’s student. She is particularly interested in how children’s own motivation and creativity (i..e, imagination and creative problem-solving), as well as how their external environment (i.e., culture and context) can influence their learning. Outside of the lab and class, she is an avid writer and knitter, loves binging on Netflix shows, finding new places to grab coffee, cooking and baking, hanging out with friends, traveling and photography.

Arundhati Debnath

Masters Student

Arundhati Debnath graduated from St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology. She went on to complete her M.A. in Applied Psychology from the University of Mumbai. She is broadly interested in developmental psychopathology and more specifically the relation between parenting and the development of mood disorders in adolescents, and risk and resilience. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, playing the guitar and hanging out with friends.

 

 

 

Undergraduate Research Assistants

Marcella Parisi

Research Assistant

 Marcella Parisi is a sophomore psychology major from Mendham, NJ. She hopes to earn her master’s degree in clinical psychology and eventually her Ph.D. She hopes to do research and therapy with developmentally delayed children. In her free time, Marcella enjoys recreational running, music festivals, and laying on the beach. At Villanova, she is involved in Rays of Sunshine, Yearbook, and Relay for Life.

 

Tori Muller

Research Assistant

Tori Muller is a sophomore Psychology major and is minoring in English as well as Classical Studies. She is from Wyckoff, New Jersey and hopes to earn a master’s degree in Applied Psychology and eventually her Ph.D. At Villanova, she is a member of the Women’s Soccer team and volunteers with Rays of Sunshine. In her free time, she enjoys listening to music, spending time with friends, and going down the Jersey Shore.

 

Grace Gentle

Research Assistant

Grace Gentle is a freshman Psychology major with an intended Business minor from Succasunna, NJ. She hopes to earn her master’s degree in Human Resource Development or Management and eventually her Ph.D. In her free time, Grace enjoys teaching karate classes, cooking, and taking day trips down the Jersey Shore. At Villanova, she is involved in NOVAdance and Greek Life.

 

 

Ashley Bernard

Research Assistant

Ashley Bernard is a Junior Psychology major with intended minors in Communication and Biology. She is from Newark, NJ and she hopes to become a Doctor of Physical Therapy. At Villanova, she is involved with the Latin American Student Organization, Community Outreach of Villanova, and the Athletic Department. In her free time, Ashley enjoys listening to music, reading, and all types of art.           

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Research Assistant Alumni

Bella Stern

Research Assistant

Olivia Choi

Research Assistant

Sammantha Chiu

Research Assistant

Julia Reidy

Research Assistant

Irini Economos

Research Assistant

Keren Mir-Almaguer

Research Assistant

Olivia Dutton

Research Assistant

Sarah Wiik

Research Assistant

Giselle Striedinger

Research Assistant

Kayleigh Purcell

RESEARCH ASSISTANT​

Izzy Stone

Research Assistant

Helen Yu

Masters Student

Carolyn McWhirter​

RESEARCH ASSISTANT​