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.

Ryan Krieger

Masters STudent

Ryan Krieger graduated summa cum laude from Rochester Institute of Technology in 2022 with a bachelor’s degree in biology and a minor in psychology. He got his start in psychology research by joining a comparative cognitive and perception lab. Currently, he is investigating counterfactual curiosity and problem-solving. Ryan is broadly interested in applied psychology to the business and corporate landscape. He enjoys cooking, photography, reading Reacher, and working out in his free time.

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. 

Ethan Anabel

Masters STudent

Ethan Anabel graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in Sociology. He aspires to become a clinical psychologist working with children and young adults. He is interested in the role of social connections as they relate to the development of anxiety and depression.  Currently, he is investigating how transportability and identification with characters in literature, TV, and movies relates to differences in personality, beliefs, values, and other characteristics. In his free time, he enjoys traveling, playing soccer, and reading fantasy and science fiction.   

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.

Undergraduate Research Assistants

Lauren Polito

Research Assistant

Lauren Polito is a Nursing student with an intended minor in Global Health. She is from Basking Ridge, NJ, and she 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.

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. 

Brooke Gonzalez

Research Assistant

Brooke Gonzalez is a psychology major and education minor from Maryland. She is involved with RUIBAL, a tutoring club at Villanova, and is interested in working with children within the educational field in the future. In her free time, she enjoys listening to country music and playing with her two dogs. 

Katie Van Dusen

Research Assistant

Katie Van Dusen is a Neuroscience major concentrating in Cognitive Science, with minors in Psychology and Business, from Highland Park, IL. She plans to attend graduate school to become a child development researcher and influence education policies. At Villanova, she is involved with Special Olympics and GreeklLife. In her free time, Katie loves reading, volunteering, hanging out with her dog, and spending time at the beach with friends.

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. 

Golibe Okoli

Research Assistant

Golibe Okoli is a psychology major on the pre-med track. She hopes to become a gynecologist or pediatrician. At Villanova, she is a member of the Villanova International Students Organization, the African and Carribean Villanovans, and the Campus Activities Team. In her free time, she enjoys going out to eat with friends, a good nap and watching TV shows.

Joshua Coogle

Research Assistant

Joshua Coogle is a Psychology major from Ocala, FL. He plans to be able to go on to law school to study to become an attorney. At Villanova, he is involved with VUTC and RA. In his free time, Joshua enjoys spending time with friends, going on adventures, and playing video games.

Sydney Sears

Research Assistant

Sydney Sears is a psychology major and Spanish minor from Oceanport, New Jersey. She is on the Women’s Club Soccer team and is 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.

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