Meet the Lab!

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.

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.

Gabriel Nguyentran

Masters Student

Gabriel Nguyentran graduated with High Honors from the University of California, Merced in 2020, where he earned a B.S. in Cognitive Science and a minor in Psychology. He is broadly interested in the importance of reading and story content on early development. Outside of lab and class, he enjoys watching movies, playing video games, and hanging out with friends.

Laura Hardner

Masters Student

Laura Hardner graduated with honors from Thiel College in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in Counseling, Social, and Cognitive Developmental Psychology, with a minor in English and a certificate in Theology. She is broadly interested in the scholarship of teaching and learning and hopes to one day teach psychology at the undergraduate level. In her free time, she loves to read, play video games, and practice the ukulele.

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.

Alexis Ulmanis

Masters Student

Alexis Ulmanis earned her bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Wake Forest University in May 2018. She lived in Boone, North Carolina for two years working in a psychiatric treatment facility for youth with trauma before seeking a graduate degree in Psychology at Villanova University. She is interested in understanding the circumstances for healthy child development as well as how adversity can lead to abnormal development in otherwise healthy individuals. In her free time, she enjoys painting, snow skiing, and home improvement projects.

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.

Sarah Bazata

Research Assistant

Sarah Bazata is a junior Psychology and Sociology double major from New Canaan, CT. She hopes to ultimately earn her PhD in Child Psychology. In her free time, Sarah enjoys spending time with her friends and family (especially her three-year-old labradoodle!), exercising, and listening to music. At Villanova, she is a member of Community Outreach of Villanova (COV) and Greek life. 

Amelia Robinson

Research Assistant

Amelia Robinson is a senior psychology major with a math minor from Northern California. She plans to earn a Ph.D. in clinical psychology. At Villanova, Amelia is involved in Phi Sigma Pi National Honors Fraternity, the Student Sustainability Committee and is a facilitator for the Service Learning Community. She spends the rest of her time cooking, reading, and spending time with friends and family. “
 

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

Tara Krishnan

Research Assistant

Tara Krishnan is a freshman nursing major from Issaquah,Washington. She hopes to receive further training and become a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner. At Villanova University, she is a member of the Blue Key Society, Nursing Without Borders and the South Asian Multicultural Organized Student Association. In her free time, Tara enjoys listening to music, dancing, painting and volunteering.

Lauren Polito

Research Assistant

Lauren Polito is a freshman Nursing student with an intended minor in Global Health. She is from Basking Ridge, New Jersey and hopes to become a Nurse Practitioner. At Villanova, she is involved with SNAP and Special Olympics. In her free time, Lauren enjoys crocheting, sewing, and spending time with friends.

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​

Tori Muller

Research Assistant

Ashley Bernard

Research Assistant