Psychology PHD Student Profiles

Psychology PHD Student Profiles

Tirza Ben Ari, 2023 (Psychology & Law)

Tirza Ben Ari comes to the Psych & Law program straight from her OPT year with the Queens District Attorney's Conviction Integrity Unit, where she worked directly with ADAs, analyzing claims of wrongful conviction. Tirza graduated with an M.A. in Forensic Psychology from John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Her Master's thesis, guided by Dr. Louis Schlesinger, was done in collaboration with the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit Lab and focused on the crime scene behaviors of sexual murderers. During her Master's, Tirza served as a committee member of the Master's Students Research Group, for which she received a peer mentoring award. Among other scholarships, she completed the OSRC Research/Creativity scholarship program, in which she conducted a study of public perceptions of confession under the mentorship of Dr. Saul Kassin. She presented her findings at AP-LS 2022. She is excited to pursue her Ph.D. with Dr. Kassin and continue her work as a member of his Lab.

Sean Bennett, 2023 (Psychology & Law)

Sean Bennett received his BA in psychology with honors from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He is interested in individual differences such as Adverse Childhood Experiences, Social Dominance Orientation, Right Wing Authoritarianism, and Moral Disengagement and how they may be related to how people perceive police behavior. Sean’s honors thesis, Exploring the Relationship Between Childhood Maltreatment, Social Dominance Orientation, Moral Disengagement, and the Support for Controversial Police Tactics, will be presented at the American Society of Criminology national conference in November. Sean is currently exploring cluster samples of Adverse Childhood Experiences and how they might explain differences in legal system outcomes in adulthood with data from his thesis research. Additionally, Sean developed some materials for, and authored a section of, his thesis advisor’s research, Examining the Consequences of Dehumanization and Adultification in Justification of Police Use of Force Against Black Girls and Boys. Sean presented a paper on this published study at the AP-LS national conference in Philadelphia last March.

Stephany Betances, 2023 (Clinical)

Stephany is an alum of John Jay’s Forensic Psychology MA program following the completion of her bachelor’s degree from Syracuse University. During her master’s program, Stephany was placed at Brooklyn Defender Services through the Pinkerton Graduate Fellowship program where she began her work and advocacy for justice involved youth. Shortly after graduating, Stephany returned to BDS as a mitigation specialist and then mitigation supervisor on the Adolescent Representation Team. Stephany’s clinical and research interest include justice-involved youth and forensic assessments. Stephany wants to use her research to pave the path forward for juvenile justice reform and ameliorate the punitive practices of the juvenile legal system. 

Jaleel King, 2023 (Psychology & Law)

Jaleel King recently graduated from John Jay College of Criminal Justice with a BA in Forensic Psychology and a minor in Africana Studies. During his undergraduate years, Jaleel has taken advantage of the wide range of opportunities involving himself in programs such as the Pinkerton Fellowship and the Ronald E. McNair program. Jaleel’s interest in research began after working with at-risk youth during his time as a Pinkerton fellow, where he witnessed the inequality of the justice system. As a McNair scholar, Jaleel worked closely with Margaret Kovera and Jacqueline Katzman on a project focused on evidence-based suspicion. Jaleel’s research interests include reasonable suspicion, jury decision-making, and eyewitness testimony. This upcoming Fall Jaleel plans to continue working with Margaret Kovera and Jacqueline Katzman on the effects of evidence-based suspicion.  

Alex O’Neal, 2023 (Clinical)

Alex received her BA from Washington University in St. Louis in 2020, with a major in Psychology and a minor in Marketing. During this time, Alex worked in the Cognition and Development Lab contributing to a study on optimism in preschool-aged children. After completing her undergraduate studies, Alex spent two years working on the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study under Drs. Deanna Barch and Pamela Madden. Her research interests broadly involve the mental health trajectories of racial and ethnic minority youth, and she hopes to contribute to evidence-based interventions at the community level in the future. At John Jay, Alex is working in the Child and Adolescent Stress and Trauma Lab under the mentorship of Dr. Maureen Allwood.

Lillian Philips, 2023 (Psychology & Law)

Lillian is a doctoral student in The Graduate Center’s Psychology and Law track for the Psychology Ph.D. program at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. She received her bachelor’s in psychology and criminology at the University of Florida where she primarily researched how prosecutorial misconduct can lead to wrongful conviction. Her research interests are primarily concerned with wrongful convictions, including how our understanding of forensic and eyewitness evidence can affect the chances of a wrongful conviction, as well as how testimony about that evidence can affect legal outcomes. Broadly she is interested in how decision-making by criminal justice professionals, such as prosecutors and defense attorneys, can affect case outcomes.

Amanda Siriram, 2023 (Clinical)

Amanda Siriram is a doctoral student in The Graduate Center’s Clinical track for the Psychology Ph.D. program at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. She earned a B.A. in Psychology from Rutgers University in 2020, and a M.S. in Rehabilitation Counseling, with a concentration in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Rutgers University in 2022. For the past two years, she has conducted clinical research with Dr. Weili Lu at Rutgers University, where she has been involved in NIDILRR-funded projects and has studied trauma, PTSD assessment, cognitive behavioral therapy, and serious mental illness. Additionally, she has clinical experience working at a partial care program, which has fueled her interest in recovery and stigma. She is excited to further study these topics with Dr. Philip Yanos as a member of the Mental Health Recovery Research Lab.

Bibi Aneesa Subhan, 2023 (Clinical)

Bibi Aneesa Subhan holds a Master of Arts (M.A.) and Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Forensic Psychology from John Jay College of Criminal Justice. She has worked as a Senior Research Associate at the Columbia University Department of Psychiatry and the New York State Psychiatric Institute and has been involved in research projects funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and the OPAL Center. Her work primarily focuses on the complexities of psychological well-being, with an emphasis on the influence of cultural values and their implications for therapeutic interventions. Bibi has conducted clinical interviews, neurocognitive testing, and audiometry for patients diagnosed with schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder. She has also provided training to clinicians on cognitive remediation as well as facilitated these groups. As a Clinical Psychology Ph.D. student, Bibi aspires to further deepen her knowledge and expertise in the field of psychology, with a particular focus on developing effective interventions for individuals affected by trauma and promoting mental health equity within underserved populations.

Janelle N. Robinson, 2022 (Clinical)

Janelle N. Robinson holds an M.A. in Forensic Psychology and another in Forensic Mental Health Counselling; both obtained at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, New York, NY, USA. While at John Jay, Ms. Robinson received the Pinkerton Community Graduate Fellowship and several Merit Scholarship awards. Post her graduate studies, Ms. Robinson practiced privately as an Associate Clinical Psychologist and a Researcher at the Caribbean Institute for Health Research (CAIHR), University of the West Indies, Mona Campus, Kingston, Jamaica. Her research interests center around psychological trauma, the psychological impact of violence exposure, and integrating culturally- and conceptually-valid assessment tools and interventions into mental health and psychosocial services. She has worked with at-risk youths, their families, and caregivers of persons with neurocognitive disorders. She has co-authored several academic papers and reports on topics such as domestic violence and its psychological consequences, barriers to addressing mental health challenges across Caribbean nations, and workplace wellness during COVID-19. Ms. Robinson also raises mental health awareness via media appearances and corporate lectures within the English-speaking Caribbean. She enjoys the performing arts, visiting the beach, listening to reggae music, and is a dog lover.

Gilberto Torres, 2022 (Clinical)

Giberto Torres is a doctoral student in The Graduate Center’s Clinical track for the Psychology Ph.D. program at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. He graduated with his Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the University of California Santa Cruz in 2016. Since graduating, he has been involved in NSF- and NIH-funded research projects at the University of California Riverside broadly examining adversity and adaptation, disparities in access to mental health resources for communities of color, and the effects of incarceration and the justice system on youth. Additionally, he has experience working for a community-based reentry housing program and various youth educational programs. Gilberto’s research interests center on identifying and modifying risk and protective factors that affect communities of color. He is particularly interested in refining and implementing culturally-sensitive trauma and community violence interventions. Gilberto’s goal is to create equity in access to effective mental health resources through his research.

Dashawn Ealey, 2022 (Clinical)

Dashawn Ealey is a doctoral student in The Graduate Center’s Clinical track for the Psychology Ph.D. program at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. In 2007, he was selected as a Posse Scholar through the Posse Foundation to receive a full-tuition leadership scholarship to Wheaton College, MA. He earned a BA in African, African American Diaspora Studies from Wheaton College, MA in 2011, an M.S.Ed in Higher Education from the University of Pennsylvania in 2015, and an MA in Psychology from The New School for Social Research in 2022. His research is guided by the following questions: What are the psychosocial mediators and moderators of the association between intersectional stigma and psychopathology among BIPOC LGBTQ+ people? How do evidence-based and culturally tailored interventions promote positive mental health outcomes and protect BIPOC LGBTQ+ people from the adverse effects of intersectional stigma? Dashawn is a proud native New Yorker, Brooklynite, first-generation Blackademic, and gay Black man. He is an avid documentary watcher, animated series and movie lover, dedicated Pokémon Go player, and philosophical conversation seeker.

Lakshmi Gopalakrishnan, 2022 (Clinical)

Lakshmi Gopalakrishnan is a doctoral student in The Graduate Center’s Clinical track for the Psychology Ph.D. program at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. She earned a B.S. in Public Health from the University of Texas at Austin in 2015 and a MSc in Global Mental Health from King’s College London and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in 2016. For the past few years, Lakshmi has worked as a Clinical Research Coordinator and a Research Supervisor at the Juvenile Justice Behavioral Health Lab at the University of California, San Francisco. At UCSF she worked on numerous studies focused on improving behavioral health outcomes for systems-involved youths and caregivers, co-developed family-focused dyadic interventions with child-welfare partners, and was part of the team that was evaluating a domestic violence homicide prevention initiative. She has also collaborated with partners in the UK and India on projects examining health disparities and gender-based violence. Lakshmi is passionate about community-based participatory research and believes that it is imperative to creating culturally-sensitive, sustainable, and scalable interventions. At John Jay, Lakshmi hopes to study the long-term impacts of violence exposure, specifically childhood abuse, neglect, and domestic violence.  

Stacie Keck, 2022 (Psychology & Law)

Stacie is a 2nd year PhD student at John Jay. Graduating with honors, she earned her B.A in Psychology and Criminology from the University of Alabama in 2022 (Roll Tide!). During her undergraduate experience, she completed an honors thesis on the topic of stand your ground laws and race with the help of her advisor, Dr. Jennifer Cox, who helped introduce her to the field of psychology and law. Currently, Stacie is working with Dr. Margaret Kovera and Dr. Steve Penrod in the field of eyewitness misidentification. Her current research proposes an intervention to improve the utility of pre-identification confidence statements. Additionally, she is working on an archival analysis project in conjunction with the Midwestern Innocence Project. Other research interests include policing, plea bargaining, and judicial decision-making. In the future, Stacie is looking to stay in academia and conduct meaningful research. Formally from the Seattle, WA area, Stacie also enjoys strength-training, sports, and expressing herself through her artwork.

Kris-Ann Anderson, 2022 (Psychology & Law)

Kris-Ann Anderson completed her B.A. in Psychology and Behavioral Healthcare at the University of South Florida. Kris-Ann developed a passion for Psychology & the Law while completing her M.S. in Psychology at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Her thesis explored the impacts of post-identification feedback on people's susceptibility to misinformation under the supervision of Dr. Robert Michael. Kris-Ann's current research uses cognitive and social methods to examine justice-related topics. Her work with Dr. Deryn Strange has recently focused on areas like eyewitness memory distortions, police body-worn cameras, and secondary trauma and memory beliefs. She has presented her work at several international conferences– for example, the Society for Applied Research in Memory and Cognition (SARMAC) and the Psychonomic Society. 

Natalie Tesfamicael, 2022 (Psychology & Law)

Natalie Tesfamicael is a second-year doctoral student dual-specializing in Psychology & Law and Basic & Applied Social Psychology (BASP). She is advised by Dr. Margaret Bull Kovera and Dr. Deryn Strange. Natalie attended Santa Monica College (2019) before transferring to UCLA as an undergraduate, where she worked on projects, and her honors thesis, with Dr. Jaana Juvonen and Dr. Alan Castel. She earned her BA from UCLA (2022) in psychology with departmental and college honors. At John Jay, Natalie’s first doctoral project together with Dr. Kovera focuses on assessing the reliability of eyewitness identification judgments when the suspect is a familiar other. Furthermore, she is also currently working on a project with Dr. Steven Penrod exploring the issue of joinder cases on jury comprehension and decision-making. Lastly, Natalie is working on an NSF-funded collaboration with Arizona State University to explore social influence in double-blind lineup administrations. Natalie’s research interests broadly include eyewitness identifications, jury decision-making, and the applications to the legal system.

Kabrianna Tamura, 2021 (Clinical)

Kabrianna Tamura is a doctoral student in The Graduate Center’s Clinical track for the Psychology Ph.D. program at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Kabrianna is a Graduate Assistant in the Brain Health Lab. She graduated summa cum laude in 2019 with a Master’s in Criminal Justice/Investigative Criminology and in 2016 with a Bachelors in Criminal Justice/Forensic Psychology from Seattle University. Over the past two years, Kabrianna has been providing outreach-based psychotherapy to individuals experiencing first episode psychosis and to members of the Deaf community. Prior to that, she worked for 5 years in a forensic psychiatric clinic transversing a variety of roles including psychometrician, research assistant, and practice manager. She was the Managing Editor for The Journal of Criminology, Criminal Justice, Law & Society from 2017-2019. Her research interests involve the intersection of neuropsychology, cultural competency, and the law.

Shanique Y. Meyler, 2021 (Clinical)

Shanique Y. Meyler graduated with a bachelor’s degree and Master's degree from Brooklyn College and John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York. As an undergraduate student the seed of intellectual activism and increasing marginalized group representation in higher education was planted which blossomed during her time at John Jay. Post-graduation she worked as a research assistant, then was promoted to a senior research scientist at Columbia University, Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons. Her research interests include culturally responsive cognitive assessment battery, global mental health, disparity in access to mental health care and making treatment more accessible and personalized in public mental health facilities among patients on the schizophrenia spectrum. For self-care she enjoys hiking, painting and learning kanji.

Alexander Legg, 2021 (Clinical)

Alexander Legg is a doctoral student in The Graduate Center’s Clinical track for the Psychology Ph.D. program at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Gender Studies from the Macaulay Honors College at CUNY Baccalaureate for Unique and Interdisciplinary Studies. His undergraduate thesis, under the supervision of Dr. Chitra Raghavan, examined the extent, type, and severity of violence experienced by a sample of male sex workers. Prior to joining the doctoral program, Alexander completed his master’s in clinical psychology from the American University of Beirut in Lebanon. His master’s thesis, supervised by Dr. Fatimah el-Jamil, examined predictors of coercive-controlling behavior among university students in Lebanon. He additionally completed a clinical internship at the Embrace Mental Health Center in Beirut. At John Jay, Alexander works under the supervision of Dr. Chitra Raghavan. He is currently working on projects that examine the mind-body relationship and consent within the context of commercial sex and sex trafficking, and intimate partner violence in the LGBTQ+ community.

Brandon Brown, 2021 (Clinical)

Brandon Ellis Brown, MA, is a graduate of Baruch’s Mental Health Counseling master’s program. Born in the Bronx, his experiences as a Black gay male have fostered an interest in understanding the nuances of intersectionality and health equity. His research interests include stigma and discrimination within LGBTQA+ groups and People of Color. He has also published and presented research on stereotyping of Black and Latinx men and women as well as texting similarity between young adults in romantic relationships. He has aspirations to continue his research and create easier access for mental health services for the aforementioned populations. Lastly, he is an avid fan of Pokemon, anime, and Rina Sawayama.

Ellie Aronson, 2021 (Psychology & Law)

Ellie is a doctoral student in The Graduate Center’s Psychology and Law track for Psychology Ph.D. program at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. She is currently working with Dr. Margaret Kovera to research legal decision-making. Broadly, she is interested in how legal actors engage in motivated reasoning processes which allow them to justify ethically dubious behaviors, and how these behaviors collectively produce unjust outcomes.  Ellie’s main research projects include a collaboration with the Midwest Innocence Project to investigate racial disparities in cases involving eyewitness misidentifications, and a collaboration with Arizona State to investigate social influence in eyewitness identification procedures. In the future, she hopes to research prosecutorial decision-making and Brady violations. Prior to graduate school, Ellie attended New York University, where she obtained a B.A. in Psychology and Criminal Justice. Ellie spent four years working with Dr. Tessa West at NYU on a series of studies related to interpersonal perception, stereotype threat, and physiological stress contagion. She also worked as a lab manager for Dr. Kelly McWilliams at John Jay College, exploring topics related to child forensic interviewing and attorney decision-making. In addition to her academic work, Ellie has served as a peer mentor-for justice involved youth (NYU R.O.S.E.S. Program) and a crisis counselor (Crisis Text Line).

Liliam Castillo, 2020 (Clinical)

Liliam Castillo is a doctoral student in The Graduate Center’s Clinical track for the Psychology Ph.D. program at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. She graduated from Northeastern Illinois University with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and thereafter worked as the lead psychometrician and office coordinator in the Neuropsychology Department at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her areas of interest broadly include neuropsychological assessment and the clinical utility of performance validity tests (PVTs) and symptom validity tests (SVTs) in linguistically and culturally diverse populations. In her free time, she enjoys traveling the world, trying new restaurants in NYC, and watching psychological thrillers and documentaries.

Sheharyar Hussain, 2020 (Clinical)

Sheharyar (pronounced as Sherry-Yaar) graduated magna cum laude from John Jay College with a BA in Forensic Psychology in 2017, and earned his MA in Clinical Psychology from Teachers College, Columbia University in 2019. His master’s thesis focused on investigating the relationship between self-criticism and non-suicidal self-injury in individuals diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. After graduating from Teachers College, Sheharyar worked as a psychology extern in a low-income charter school in Washington, D.C., where he conducted psychological assessment with middle school children and advocated for them to receive adequate mental health services. Additionally, he also worked as a Registered Behavior Therapist with children with autism in the Northern Virginia area. At John Jay, Sheharyar is working with Dr. Philip Yanos in the Mental Health Recovery Research Lab to assess stigma-related barriers to mental health treatment in Pakistani individuals living in Pakistan and the US.

Jennifer M. Jones, 2020 (Psychology & Law)

Jen graduated from California State University, Los Angeles with her B.A. in Psychology and a minor in Criminal Justice (2018) and her M.S. in Psychology (Forensic Option, 2020). During her time in Los Angeles, Jen worked with Dr. Mitch Eisen, investigating eyewitness identification procedures, jury biases, and interrogation methods that produce false confessions. She has collaborated with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department to elucidate the dangers of showups and improve their eyewitness identification procedures, as well as with the Los Angeles Probation Department to evaluate their Juvenile Competency Remediation Program. Jen also has applied experience interning for a trial and jury consulting firm. She is passionate about disseminating research to those in the field, having co-authored papers published in the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers’ journal, The Champion, and IACP’s Police Chief Magazine, in addition to psychology journals (e.g. Law & Human Behavior; Applied Cognitive Psychology). Under the guidance of Margaret Bull Kovera and Steve Penrod, Jen intends to continue conducting research that will allow for empirically-driven policy and procedural change within police departments, courts, and correctional facilities.

Radha Kanchana Karthik, 2020 (Clinical)

Radha received her B.S. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2018 with majors in Psychology and Neurobiology. Post-graduation, she worked as a Clinical Research Coordinator in a joint-appointment with the Kiehl Lab at the Mind Research Network and the Koenigs Lab at the Wisconsin Psychiatric Institute and Clinics on several NIH- and NIMH-funded studies investigating trauma and psychopathology, psychopathy, sexual sadism, and PTSD interventions with forensic populations. At John Jay, Radha is working under the mentorship of Dr. Maureen Allwood in the Child and Adolescent Stress and Trauma Lab. One branch of her research interests is in the relationships between trauma exposure, emotional dysregulation, and externalizing behaviors in youth, particularly within a juvenile justice lens. Radha is also interested in investigating post-traumatic outcomes within marginalized communities, in particular, South Asian Americans and immigrants. Radha is passionate about translational research and, in the future, hopes to aid in the evaluation, development, and implementation of equitable, culturally sensitive treatments for people with trauma histories. Relatedly, Radha is interested in working clinically with children and adolescents, particularly youth from underserved communities and young people who have experienced trauma.

Stacey Morales, 2020 (Clinical)

Stacey is a doctoral student in The Graduate Center’s Clinical track for the Psychology Ph.D. program at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. They graduated summa cum laude from John Jay College with a BA in Forensic Psychology and an honors minor in Latin American studies in 2020. As an undergraduate, Stacey worked in Dr. Chitra Raghavan’s sex trafficking and domestic violence lab where they developed an interest in sexual coercion within interpersonal relationships. They also completed a McNair thesis examining sexual coercion experiences of college-age Latinx women. Stacey’s clinical experiences includes crisis counseling work through the RAINN National Sexual Assault Hotline and working as a clinical extern conducting intakes, individual, and group therapy. Stacey currently works with Dr. Silvia Mazzula in the Racial and Cultural Inclusion and Social Change lab. They are interested in examining sexual victimization in Latinx communities and the influence of cultural norms on disclosure, coping, and help-seeking behaviors. 

Lili Ramos, 2020 (Clinical)

Lili Ramos is a doctoral student in The Graduate Center’s Clinical track for the Psychology Ph.D. program at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Lili received her BA from Bowdoin College in 2018, with a major in Psychology and a minor in Hispanic Studies. Before starting at John Jay, Lili spent two years as a Clinical Research Coordinator in the Juvenile Justice Behavioral Health Lab at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). At UCSF, Lili worked on multiple studies aimed at improving behavioral health outcomes for systems-involved youth, with a specific focus on evaluating a gender-responsive behavioral health intervention. At John Jay, Lili works with Dr. Emily Haney-Caron in the Youth Law & Psychology Lab, conducting research that aims to inform juvenile legal system policy and practice reforms, and ultimately promote positive outcomes for youth. In 2022, Lili was selected for the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program. Lili’s current research focuses on examining factors that contribute to adolescents’ experiences on probation and applying an ecological approach to better understand probation success. 

T'awna Williams, 2020 (Psychology & Law)

T’awna received her B.A. in Psychology (2018) and M.S. in Forensic Psychology (2020) at California State University, Los Angeles. While an undergraduate, she was a member of the Honors College and a research fellow for the NIH-funded RISE program, which extended into her master’s program. Throughout her academic career, she studied under Dr. Mitchell Eisen as a research assistant, from which she gained an extensive experimental background in eyewitness memory and identification. Her experience also extended into other areas where psychology and law intersect, including jury decision-making, child suggestibility, and false confessions. Outside of the research lab, she has also interned with the Los Angeles dependency court as well as a trial consulting firm. As a first-year doctoral student entering Dr. Saul Kassin’s lab, she hopes to further explore her interests in false confessions and plea bargaining as well as explore and gain experience from organizations that provide assistance to the wrongfully convicted.

Amanda Benjamin, 2019 (Psychology & Law)

Amanda graduated from Elon University in 2017 with a BA in Psychology and Public Health. Amanda spent the past two years working at UNC Chapel Hill as a Research Coordinator for the Developmental Social Neuroscience Lab (PI: Dr. Eva Telzer). While at UNC, Amanda led a longitudinal NIDA neuroimaging study exploring adolescent development, family relationships, and substance use. She has worked on a paper exploring alibi believability and juror decision-making, as well as a paper that delved into the relationship between deviant behavior and parent-child relationship quality. While at John Jay, she is interested studying juvenile law and evidence-based policy reform. 

Gayathri Cheran, 2019 (Clinical)

Gayathri graduated cum laude from Virginia Tech with a B.S. in Psychology and a B.S. in Human Development, and recently received her M.S. in Neuroscience & Education from Teachers College at Columbia University. Prior to coming to John Jay, Gayathri worked at the Taub Institute at the Columbia University Medical Center in a lab studying familial frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD), where as research coordinator, she oversaw and managed operations for a longitudinal multi-site international R01-funded study investigating biomarkers and the clinical prodrome of FTLD in families carrying pathogenic gene mutations.  Gayathri's clinical experience includes her time answering crisis calls through the RAFT Crisis hotline of the New River Valley in Virginia, and the Victims Assistance Services helpline in Westchester County, NY. She has also served as a certified Rape Crisis Hospital Advocate, providing in-person advocacy and support at emergency rooms for sexual assault survivors undergoing forensic examination. Gayathri is thrilled to be joining Dr. Widom's lab, studying long-term outcomes associated with childhood abuse and neglect.

Alexis Hardy, 2019 (Psychology & Law)

Alexisis a doctoral student in The Graduate Center’s Psycholohy and Law track for the Psychology Ph.D. program at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. She received her bachelor's degree in Psychology with a minor in Criminal Justice from Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona. Prior to John Jay, she served as a research assistant for Dr. Miller and Dr. Busath at Northern Arizona University. With Dr. Miller, she aided in research studying the relationship between spatial rotation skills and success in tasks given in a virtual reality setting. She served as lab manager and head research assistant, running daily lab operations and serving as a liaison between primary investigators and other research assistants. With Dr. Busath, she aided in research investigating the relationship between sexual harassment and eating disorders. Currently, her research interests are centered around jury decision-making and coerced eyewitness accusations with Dr. Leippe and Dr. Kovera as her mentors.    

Catherine Harris, 2019 (Clinical)

Catherine Harris is a doctoral student in The Graduate Center’s Clinical track for the Psychology Ph.D. program at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. She received her B.S. in Psychology from Tulane University and has several years of experience working with highly traumatized and underserved populations through both research and clinical work. After completing her undergraduate studies, Catherine remained in New Orleans and worked at an inpatient psychiatric hospital for adults, an inpatient psychiatric hospital for children, and a law firm that represents plaintiffs in cases of Title VII civil rights violations. Catherine has also worked in a variety of capacities at Emory University in Atlanta and has contributed to several grant-funded research projects based at Grady Health System that focused on improving outcomes for individuals affected by trauma, PTSD, HIV, and/or substance use. Since joining the program at John Jay, Catherine has worked under the mentorship of Dr. Peggilee Wupperman and Dr. Cathy Widom. Her research interests are focused on the long-term consequences of complex trauma and trauma-related factors (e.g., PTSD symptoms) that may influence the development and maintenance of externalizing behaviors over the lifespan.

Kristin Lynch, 2019 (Clinical)

Kristin is a fifth-year doctoral student in The Graduate Center’s Clinical track for the Psychology Ph.D. program at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Kristin earned her B.A. in Psychology from College of the Holy Cross in 2015 and her M.A. in Psychology from Brandeis University in 2018. Her Master’s thesis explored the long-term effects of trauma exposure and resilience on cognitive functioning in adulthood. After graduating, Kristin joined the Memory Disorders Research Center at the Boston VA, where she worked on several research studies examining memory in individuals with hippocampal amnesia and individuals with PTSD. In her graduate studies at John Jay, Kristin continues to explore the lasting effects of trauma exposure, under the mentorship and supervision of Dr. Cathy Spatz Widom. Her research projects have examined the effect of childhood abuse and neglect experiences on cognitive functioning and dementia in middle adulthood. Recently, Kristin successfully defended her dissertation proposal, which examines several theories for why some individuals with histories of childhood maltreatment do not retrospectively self-report in adulthood.

Ella Merriwether, 2019 (Psychology & Law)

Ella graduated from Macaulay Honors College at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in 2019 with a BA in Forensic Psychology and a minor in Gender Studies. Her thesis, under the supervision of Dr. Deryn Strange, focused on how people remember and make judgements about ambiguous body-worn camera footage. Ella’s current research is focused on the intersection of cognitive and developmental psychological processes in the legal setting. Recently, her work with Dr. Kelly McWilliams’ Children and the Law Lab has focused on how children and adults make relative temporal judgments and how adults interpret the relative temporal judgments of children. Ella also serves as Social Chair for SARMAC’s Student Board, in which she aims to increase and diversify student and young professional involvement. While she loves research, Ella is equally passionate about equitable teaching and mentoring, and uses her teaching assistantship at City College and her senior position in the Children and the Law Lab to make the changes she wants to see in the higher education space. 

Daniel Samost, 2019 (Clinical)

Dan is a doctoral student in The Graduate Center’s Clinical track at the Psychology Ph.D. program at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, who works in the Mental Health Recovery Research lab under the tutelage of Dr. Philip Yanos. Dan earned his BA in English and Theater from Dartmouth College in 2014, and earned his MA in Clinical Psychology from Teachers College, Columbia University in 2017. Dan’s MA thesis focused on the phenomena of concealment and disclosure in therapeutic settings among court-involved adolescents. Dan's First Doc focused on the influence of Right Wing Authoritarian beliefs on the development of mental health stigma. Currently, Dan is in the preparation stages of his dissertation, which will focus on recipient perceptions of the B-HEARD mental health emergency alternative-to-police program. In conjunction with his graduate research and studies, Dan has spent almost a decade working in various clinical roles with justice-involved populations at different non-profits throughout the Bronx. Currently, Dan works at the Mount Sinai Morningside CARES program, a unique program that integrates intensive outpatient treatment and high school education into a single experience.  His clinical research interests include forensic psychotherapy, community mental health, substance abuse disorders, trauma and emotional dysregulation, and the stigmatization mental health and substance abuse treatment.

Miriam Woodruff, 2019 (Clinical)

Miriam received her B.S. in Criminal Justice from Seattle University in 2017 and her M.A. in Forensic Psychology from the George Washington University in 2018. Before joining the doctoral program, she assisted on empirical research projects related to guilty-plea sentencing in rural Virginia, juvenile understanding of rights in plea-proceedings, and labor-trafficking in nail salons. Miriam has prior experience working in leadership roles at non-profit organizations and collaborating with government agencies to provide training and technical assistance to forensic mental health practitioners. Her passion lies in using research to inform policy and system change that benefits marginalized communities. Miriam’s research with Dr. Rebecca Weiss as John Jay seeks to: (1) understand how culture and language impact the reporting and treatment of trauma; (2) examine the effects of culture and language proficiency on the assessment of Spanish-English bilinguals; and (3) explore inequities in the provision of school-based mental health care to minority youth in New York City.

Ava Zwolinski, 2019 (Psychology & Law)

Ava completed her undergraduate degree at McGill University where she studied cognitive science. Her undergraduate thesis was on novel applications of neuroimaging technology to study memory and cognition in rodents. Ava developed a passion for psychology and law while volunteering in Dr. Victoria Talwar’s lab at McGill University investigating lie-telling behaviors in children. Ava’s first doctoral project involved analyzing assessments of eyewitness reliability when testimonies vary in level of detail, time lapsed since the event in question, and context (podcast or courtroom). She has previously worked as an intern at the Department of Homeland Security where she aided in research surrounding information dissemination and trusted messengers. Ava’s current research focuses on misinformation, conspiratorial beliefs, and memory. Her dissertation investigates responses to misinformation corrections. She is an adjunct professor at John Jay College where she teaches several psychology courses including her own designed senior seminar on conspiracy theories and fringe beliefs.


Sydney Baker, 2018 (Clinical)

Sydney graduated from The University of Maryland, College Park in 2015 with degrees in Psychology and Criminology/Criminal Justice. Then, she worked as a Social/Clinical Research Assistant at the Biobehavioral Research on Addiction and Emotion Lab at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where her main duty was coordinating an NIH-funded study examining the effectiveness of technology-enhanced behavioral activation treatment for substance use. Now, at John Jay, Sydney works with Dr. Emily Haney-Caron in the Youth Law & Psychology Lab, where she conducts translational research that has direct implications for public policy reform. Her research is aimed at making juvenile justice system procedures, such as the Miranda warning and plea bargaining processes, more equitable and bringing them in line with adolescent development science.

Alexandra Bonagura, 2018 (Clinical)

Alex is originally from Philadelphia, PA but has also lived in D.C., Rochester, and New York City. She graduated from the George Washington University as a Dean's Scholar in Shakespeare and Globalization with a BA degree in psychology. She then earned her Master's in Clinical Psychological Science from the University of Maryland. Prior to entering the John Jay program, she participated on research studies centered around gay, Black men's health and mindfulness. She also gained clinical experience working with autism populations, child victims of abuse, and victims of domestic violence. Currently, she attends the John Jay Clinical Psychology Ph.D program, where she has worked in the Sex Offender Research Lab and the Development Through the Life Cycle Lab on issues related to sexual violence. Her clinical interest lies broadly in forensic assessment and treatment with specific sub-interests in criminal sexual behavior and forensic issues related to autism. Complementing her clinical interests, Alex's current research interests include inappropriate online sexual behaviors, the intersection of OCD/ASD with sex offending behavior, and sociopolitical and cultural conceptualizations of consent. Building on these research interests, Alex's current dissertation investigates the relationship between age and consent from a critical sexuality perspective.

Gina Sissoko, 2018 (Clinical)

Gina (Diagou) Sissoko is a doctoral student in The Graduate Center’s Clinical track for the Psychology Ph.D. program at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.. She earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and women, gender, and sexuality studies at Hunter College in 2016. Gina works under the advisement of Dr. Kevin Nadal, and her research focuses on the impact of colorism, gendered racism, and trauma on Black women and girls’ mental health and criminal legal involvement. Her dissertation is a critical participatory action research project focused on the impact and manifestation of colorism among Black adolescent girls. Gina is an NSF Graduate Research Fellow and a NASEM Ford Foundation Pre-doctoral Fellow. At CUNY, Gina served as the diversity chair in the clinical program at John Jay from 2019-2021, founded the CUNY Diversity Science Initiative, and currently serves as a diversity student representative to the Graduate Center psychology department. As part of her clinical training, Gina has worked in forensic assessment, substance use, child and adolescent psychiatry, and most recently, child welfare and assessment settings. Gina was born and raised in Hamburg, Germany and is the daughter of Malian immigrants. Since 2012, she has been a proud resident of the Bronx, New York. 

Elise Juraschek, 2017 (Clinical)

Elise is a doctoral student in The Graduate Center’s Clinical track for the Psychology Ph.D. program at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. She moved from Missoula, Montana where she had attended the University of Montana. She graduated with a second BA in psychology with high honors. She also received a BA in political science from the University of North Carolina at Asheville. While at the University of Montana she worked as research assistant in the sexual violence lab that was involved in the University’s Safe Campus Survey, which was designed to gather information on the status of the campus related to sexual assault. As part of this lab, she presented numerous posters and presentations. Elise also has worked in several clinical settings. She worked in a therapeutic youth home for teenage boys, worked with parents doing supervised visitation, and a wilderness therapy program. She was also involved with the local domestic violence shelter doing support groups, in person crisis counseling and answering the 24 hour crisis line.  

Justin Balash, 2014 (Clinical)

Justin Balash

Justin is a doctoral student in The Graduate Center’s Clinical track for the Psychology Ph.D. program at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Justin graduated summa cum laude with his B.A. in Psychology from the University at Buffalo , where he also minored in Philosophy. He received his M.A. in Forensic Psychology from John Jay College, where he received the Robert S. Morrow Prize. He currently works with Dr. Diana Falkenbach, researching “successful” psychopathy in various non-forensic populations. Justin’s research interests include psychopathy, behavioral ethics, and the relationship between personality and morality. 

Alexa Hiley, 2014 (Psychology & Law)

Alexa Hiley


Alexa is a doctoral student in The Graduate Center’s Psychology and Law track for the Psychology Ph.D. program at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. She graduated in 2012 with a BA in psychology from Bates College, where she did research on how the dynamics of an interview affects the quality of witness's accounts of an event. After college, she spent two years working at the BIDMC Transplant Institute as a clinical RA with the Surgical Outcomes Analysis & Research team. At John Jay, Alexa primarily works with Dr. Steve Penrod, doing research on factors that affect defense attorney decision-making during plea bargaining. She also works with Dr. Margaret Bull Kovera and Dr. Saul Kassin on issues relating to alibi witnesses and forensic confirmation bias, respectively.