Meet the Lab!
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
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 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.
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 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.
Keren Mir-Almaguer a Cognitive and Behavioral Neuroscience Major and Spanish minor on the pre-med track. She is from Silver Spring, MD. She hopes to go to medical school and become a physician. At Villanova, Keren is part of Blue Key Society, giving tours to prospective students and families. She is also an Interpreter at the Villanova Law School Immigration Clinic and an Ambassador for the Office of Intercultural Affairs. In her free time, Keren likes to play the piano and spend time with her friends.
Irini Economos is a senior double major studying Psychology and Spanish. Hoping to pursue a career as a Child Life Specialist, she plans to get a Master’s degree in Child Development after leaving Villanova. At Villanova, Irini is involved in Greek Life, putting time towards philanthropic efforts, and is also a member of Nothing But Treble, an all-female a cappella group on campus. Outside of school, Irini loves exploring and discovering new places, foods, and music.
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.
Kayleigh Purcell is a junior Psychology major with minors in Education and Spanish. She is from a suburb outside of Chicago. She is hoping to one day become a teacher, so she is really excited to be a part of this lab and explore kids’ learning processes. At Villanova, she is a part of NOVAdance committee and works in Campus Ministry a lot. In her free time, she likes to hang out with friends, watch some of her Netflix favorites (New Girl and Friends), and go for runs.
Carolyn McWhirter is an Economics major with an intended minor in Psychology at Villanova University from Pennington New Jersey. At Villanova, she works in the business office of the Theater Department and she hopes to continue to work in the arts in the future. She is also involved in other organizations on campus such as Student Government and Greek Life.
Research Assistant Alumni
Olivia Junghyun Choi