Meet the Lab!

Deena Skolnick Weisberg, Ph.D.

Lab Director

Deena Skolnick Weisberg is Associate Professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Villanova University. In addition to directing the STAR Lab, she is a co-founder and senior advisor of the Galapagos Education and Research Alliance (GERA). 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 imaginative cognition, scientific reasoning, and the intersection between them. 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.

Graduate Students

Rebecca Mason

Masters Student

Rebecca Mason graduated with honors from Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana in 2021, earning her B.A. in Psychology and Spanish. She is broadly interested in studying prejudice, with past research focusing more specifically on race and gender. Her current interest is the effect of gender prejudice on children’s media. Outside of work and class, she finds joy by playing video games, singing, and spending quality time with her cat Marigold.

Sophie Althaus

Masters STudent

Sophie Althaus graduated with honors from Rosemont College in 2023 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and theology. She aspires to become a school psychologist, hoping to make a positive impact on students’ lives by supporting their mental health and academic success. She is broadly interested in childhood development, interpersonal interactions, and a strong desire to support children from every background. Currently, she is investigating the relationship between basic psychological needs being met in lactation care and maternal well-being. In her free time, she enjoys spending time in nature, hiking, traveling, listening to music, and volunteering.

Natalie Kita

Masters Student

Natalie Kita graduated from Saint Peter’s University in 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and English. She is broadly interested in the aspects of media that are most impactful to information processing and decision making. Currently, she is working to identify factors in climate literature that motivate readers to observe environmentally conscious behaviors. In her free time, she enjoys spending time in nature, experiencing new cultures, and cooking for her loved ones. 

Saadet Ceynek

Masters STudent

Saadet Ceynek graduated with honors from Seton Hall University in 2022 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and philosophy. She is broadly interested in psychosocial relationships with media, specifically cartoons, anime, and video games. Currently, she is investigating self-identification and escapism in fandom culture. In her free time, she enjoys reading, writing, drawing, playing video games, eating dessert, and traveling.

Sydney Sears

Masters STudent

Sydney Sears was a psychology major and Spanish minor at Villanova before joining the 5-year master’s program. She is from Oceanport, New Jersey. As an undergraduate, she was on the Women’s Club Soccer team and was also a part of Special Olympics and POWER. She is interested in child or school psychology as a future career path. In her free time, she enjoys reading, going to the beach, and listening to country music.

Undergraduate Research Assistants

Ashlyn Latham

Research Assistant

Ashlyn Latham is a Chemical Engineering major with an intended minor in psychology. She is from Easton, MA. At Villanova, she is involved with Special Olympics and is a member of the Honors Program. In her free time, Ashlyn enjoys spending time with friends and family, going on sunset drives, listening to country music, and volunteering. 

Emma Stecher

Research Assistant

Emma Stecher is a Psychology major with minors in Latin American Studies and Political Science, from San Francisco, California. She hopes to pursue graduate work in clinical or counseling psychology to one day become a licensed family therapist, connecting more people with mental health resources. At Villanova she is a member of the Honors program and is involved with groups such as POWER, the Latin American Student Organization, the McNulty Institute, and Greek life. In her free time, she enjoys watching movies, designing Pinterest boards, and following her local sports teams. 

Pepper Ritchey

Research Assistant

Pepper Ritchey is a psychology major with minors in sociology and counseling, from Bethlehem, PA. At Villanova she is a Division 1 swimmer and has interest in becoming a child or sports psychologist. In her spare time she enjoys reading, traveling, volunteering with animals and spending time with friends. 

Lexie Reidinger

Research Assistant

Lexie Reidinger is a Psychology major from West Chester, PA. Her academic interests lie in the humanities, with a particular focus on the intersection between psychology and philosophy. At Villanova, she is involved with the campus radio station (WXVU), as well as Villanova’s own comedy club. When she’s not at school, she can be found at a local concert, doing stand-up, or huddled on her couch watching 1980’s B-movies.

STAR Lab 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​

Tori Muller

Research Assistant

Ashley Bernard

Research Assistant

Marcella Parisi

Research Assistant

Grace Gentle

Research Assistant

Aarti Bodas

Masters Student

Arundhati Debnath

Masters Student

Natasha Chlebuch

LAB COORDINATOR

Amelia Robinson

Research Assistant

Laura Hardner

Masters Student

Sarah Bazata

Research assistant

Casey Smith

Research assistant

Alexis Ulmanis

Masters Student

Sarah Krull

Masters Student

Gabriel Nguyentran

Masters Student

Lu Dunlap

Masters Student

Kojo Yankah

Research Assistant

Tara Krishnan

Research Assistant

Ethan Anabel

Masters Student

Lauren Polito

Research Assistant

Brooke Gonzalez

Research Assistant

Katie Van Dusen

Research assistant

Josh Coogle

Research Assistant

Golibe Okoli

Research Assistant

Ryan Krieger

Masters Student