2021 Psychological and Brain Sciences Newsletter

Message from the Chair
Department Spotlights

Alumni Class Notes
Faculty Kudos

Message from the Chair

Sarah Shomstein

Greetings to all our alumni from the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences! I am pleased to report that after an unusual year of remote teaching and learning, we are back on campus and once again enjoying the benefits of in-person engagement and collaboration.

Over this past year, our department has made tremendous strides and had many accomplishments. We are excited to now offer three undergraduate degrees: a BA in psychological and brain sciences, a BS in psychological and brain sciences and a BS in cognitive neuroscience. I am also proud to share that two of GW’s three top faculty honors for the last academic year went to faculty in our department. Additionally, since last year’s newsletter, our faculty have been awarded 11 new grants totaling $2.5 million and have published 72 peer-reviewed journal articles.

This spring, we held a virtual gathering to honor donors and friends of the Richard David Walk Scholar’s Fund and to celebrate the graduate students who received dissertation support from the fund. The Psi Chi National Psychology Honor Society also flourished virtually last year, and inducted the most members ever in its history.

As our proud alumni, thank you so much for your support and involvement. Please stay in touch and I hope you enjoy reading about some of the exciting things happening in the department.

Professor Sarah Shomstein
Department Chair, Hunt Professor of Psychology

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Department Spotlights

Collaborating to End HIV Epidemic in D.C.

Faculty in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences have been instrumental in the District of Columbia Center for AIDS Research (CFAR). This multi-institutional effort, funded by the National Institutes of Health, promotes and supports research that contributes to ending the HIV epidemic in D.C. and beyond. The work of this partnership of academic, governmental and community organizations includes significant efforts by 11 of our professors: Lisa BowlegSarah CalabreseAna María del Río-GonzálezStephen ForssellSharon LambertSherry MolockPaul PoppenCarol SigelmanMichelle StockEllen Yeung and Maria Cecilia Zea.

Research Addresses Maternal Distress

Clinical Psychology Professor Huynh-Nhu (Mimi) Le received a $4.2 million grant from Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) to conduct a maternal mental health research program in collaboration with local colleagues. Dr. Le is the co-principal investigator on the grant with Dr. Catherine Limperopoulos, director of The Developing Brain Institute at Children’s National Hospital. Their “Mothers and Babies: Mood and Health” research program is a three-year project that addresses maternal mental health disparities through integrated screening, prevention and treatment of maternal distress for African American perinatal women in the Washington, D.C., area. 

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Alumni Class Notes

  • Brian Abel, BA ’98, lives in Scottsdale, Az., and is an ER nurse. He is also a clinical instructor at The University of Arizona College of Nursing and is entering the Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner doctoral program at GW's School of Nursing this fall.
  • Dara Albright, BA ’91, is a FinTech pundit and host of the DWealthMuse podcast.
  • Emily Alexander, BA ’16, is completing her master's in education in prevention science at Harvard's Graduate School of Education.
  • Angelica Alston, BA ’10, will be celebrating 10 years this fall of working as a scholar advocate with Interfolio, Inc., a higher education technology company.
  • Kazi Arif Anwar, BA ’00, MS ’02, wrote the novel The Storm, published by Simon and Schuster in 2018. It was translated into multiple languages.
  • Madison Awalt, BA ’15, is the director of admissions for Dwight Global Online School. She lives in New York City.
  • Jill Awbrey, BA ’02, is the star and writer of HELD, a horror/thriller feature film distributed by Magnolia Pictures/Magnet Releasing. The film played in theaters nationwide in April, and is now available on demand and streaming on Hulu.
  • Peter Berman, BA ’68, MA ’70, PhD ’75, is now almost fully retired from his work at the VA, Stanford, and his private practice.
  • Alexis Blickman, BA ’20, is currently entering her 2L year at Boston College Law School in pursuit of a JD degree. She is also working at Prince Lobel Tye in the heart of Boston.
  • Madison Brown, BBA ’20, currently resides in Manhattan, N.Y., and works at Bloomberg L.P. She focuses on trade compliance in the bond market.
  • Eliannah De Carlo, BA ’17, recently obtained her Doctor of Psychology focused in school psychology, and is pursuing Board Certification in behavior analysis. She is currently a pediatric psychology postdoctoral fellow at Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital.
  • Brice Carr, BBA ’12, believes that his minor in psychology shaped the way he thinks about business, which is invaluable and has helped his career immensely.
  • Sandra Lubowitz Cohen, BA ’76, MS ‘80, received a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling from The State University of NY at Albany. Sandra retired after 30+ years in vocational rehabilitation in Albany, N.Y.
  • Jason Comer, BA ’94, completed medical school and training in the field of medical oncology. He is now an assistant professor at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle and serves as the medical director of the Cancer Center at Overlake Hospital.
  • Frances Cooke, BA ’19, is a clinical research coordinator at Children's National Hospital in D.C. She works on projects on the psychosocial impact of food allergy, mindfulness and Type 1 diabetes and care coordination for the psychiatric unit. 
  • John Davis, BA ’75, pursued a PhD at Wayne State University after becoming enthused about neuropsychology in Professor Lawrence Rothblat's class. He is now retiring from work as a clinical neuropsychologist and professor at McMaster University.
  • Paulina Diaz, BA ’15, MA ’18, is a fourth-year medical student at Universidad Central del Caribe in Puerto Rico and is planning to apply for residency in neurology.
  • Amir Faghfoory, BA ’02, MS ’04, works as a correctional psychiatrist with the California courts in matters related to competency and treatment of incarcerated individuals. 
  • Monica Fleischmann, BA ’70, went on to a master’s in education and worked with adolescents and children in school and with a counseling project. She is now retired after working in sales at FedEx for 27 years.
  • Fabiana Franco, MPhil ’00, PhD ’03, has a successful private practice in New York City. She is also licensed in Maryland, D.C. and Virginia, and is doing research, publishing, training and presenting at conferences both nationally and internationally.
  • Sarah Friedman, PhD ’75, is a research professor at GW, the 2021 president of Division 1 of the American Psychological Association (APA) and a 2021 APA council representative. She recently completed a chapter about theories of human development.
  • Vincent Gallub, BA ’18, is a medical student at the Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine.
  • Joseph Gasper, BA ’02, is an associate director at Westat, a statistical and survey research company located in Rockville, Md.
  • Jennifer Gittleman, BA ’17, is a fourth-year PhD candidate at Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology. She is currently completing her doctoral training at NYU School of Medicine's World Trade Center clinic.
  • Leslie Grossman, BA ’69, trains women leaders and coaches in a transformational leadership program at Circle Leadership and at GW-CEPL. Her life's purpose is gender equity, discovered after a career in PR and marketing, including her own business.
  • Alisa Hoffman, BA ’88, MD ’93, went into a pediatric residency after graduating from the GW School of Medicine.
  • Jose Rey Antonio Lesaca, BA ’15, began a new career with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as an attorney in the agency's Office of the Chief Counsel after a successful stint in private practice.
  • Cori Mazzeo, BA ’04, is the program director for USAID's MOMENTUM Country and Global Leadership project at Save the Children. She and her husband, Mike, recently welcomed their second child, Luca, who joins big brother, Leo.
  • Erin McCormack, BA ’14, MD ’18, is now a neurosurgical resident in New Orleans, La.
  • Samuel Mohebban, BA ’20, is currently a senior machine-learning engineer writing ZeroEyes Inc., a company that strives to prevent mass shootings. He is a part of the team that develops a computer vision model.
  • Randy Nolte, BA ’06, MA ’12, PhD ’14, established The Center for Progressive Psychotherapy (CPP) in New York City in 2021. CPP employs five full-time clinical psychologists who provide outpatient therapy to individual adult patients and couples in New York.
  • Caitlyn O'Conor, BA ’16, is a full-time physician assistant in an urgent care clinic outside of Boston.
  • Jill Plevinsky, BA ’10, recently started her faculty position at the University of Pennsylvania as an assistant professor of clinical psychiatry and is a psychologist in the Pediatric Transplant Center at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
  • Stefanie Reeves, BA ’95, is the executive director of the Maryland Psychological Association. In 2020, she became a Fellow of the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), an honor bestowed upon less than 1 percent of the ASAE membership.
  • Roy Relph, BA ’71, received an MBA in real estate and urban development and spent 42 years appraising commercial real estate, primarily in Northern Virginia. He is now retired.
  • Rachel Rutfield, BA ’13, received her MS and CAGS in applied educational psychology from Northeastern University. She is a practicing school psychologist at a K-8 school outside of Boston. She is also a Board Certified Behavior Analyst in a private clinic.
  • Kara Sidener, BA ’95, MFS ’97, recently celebrated 23 years with the FBI where she is a special agent and a senior member of the Behavioral Analysis Program, providing behavioral-based strategies for counterintelligence investigations.
  • Jillian Singer, BBA ’07, earned her Master of Social Work from Columbia University and is now a practicing psychotherapist in Manhattan. She specializes in treating adults living with anxiety, depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
  • Anna Skillings, BA ’19, lives in Washington, D.C., and works in healthcare survey research at the Center for the Study of Services.
  • Paul Sochaczewski, BA ’69, lives in Geneva, Switzerland, where he writes full time. His most recent novel is an eco-black comedy set in Borneo, titled EarthLove, and his new book, Searching for Ganesha, will be published in September.
  • Ajay Wadgaonkar, BA ’06, BS ’06, MD ’10, completed his residency and fellowship training in radiology at The Johns Hopkins Hospital and is now a staff neuroradiologist at SimonMed Imaging in Orlando, Fla.
  • Michael Winick, BA ’91, believes that psychology has come a long way since he graduated. He thinks that much of behavioral and psychoanalytic processes now have been proven incorrect in favor of evolutionary and cost benefit explanations.
  • Ariel Zeigler, BA ’11, received her PhD in clinical psychology from Yeshiva University in 2020 and is now a licensed clinical psychologist in New York.


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Faculty Kudos

Ana Maria del Rio Gonzalez received a $1,049,087 grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for Juntas Adelante, a peer-coaching intervention program to promote the HIV-prevention drug chemoprophylaxis among Latina transgender women in the D.C. area. Her work was featured in the CCAS Spotlight news magazine. 

Other new and noteworthy achievements by our faculty include:

  • Katarina Aubuchon received a $1,500 grant from Psi Chi for the project “I Don't "Like" Your Politics: The Impacts of Political Exclusion on Group Attitudes and Voting.”
  • Lisa Bowleg received a $78,222 grant from the National Institutes of Health to study adolescent health at the intersections of sexual, gender, racial/ethnic, immigrant identities and native language. Her research focusing on socio-structural inequalities such as racism, police brutality and health inequities was also recognized with the 2021 Trachtenberg Prize for Faculty Scholarship (Research).
  • Patrick Cox was awarded a $59,446 grant from the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command for a project on quantifying how eyesight is distracted by similar-seeming objects during complex visual searches.
  • Clinical alumnus Dr. Devin English, MPhil ’15, PhD ’17; GW faculty members Sharon LambertLisa BowlegMaria Cecilia Zea and Lionel Howard; and University of Southern California Professor Brendesha Tynes published a paper in the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology: "Daily multidimensional racial discrimination among Black U.S. American adolescents." This paper was covered in Time Magazine and The New York Times.
  • The department’s incoming class of doctoral students includes two additional students supported as prestigious Columbian Fellows: Luke Herchenroeder, who will explore social influences on substance use, and Rebekah Hardy, who will address questions in language and neuroscience.
  • Professor Dwight Jacob Kravitz was awarded a $723,275 grant from the National Science Foundation to study the neural dynamics of memory maintenance. He along with Steve Mitroff also published an editorial with Emory Professor Patricia Bauer in Psychological Science about doing science right even in times of a pandemic.
  • Huynh-Nhu Le received a $114,636 grant from MedStar Georgetown Hospital and the Clark Foundation for integrating mental health care in centering pregnancy.
  • Chang Liu received a $135,276 grant from the National Institutes of Health to identify dynamic change processes in growth trajectories from infancy to early adolescence.
  • Current doctoral student Mary Mbaba was inducted into the national Edward Alexander Bouchet Honor Society, which recognizes diversity and excellence in doctoral education.
  • Stephen Mitroff received a $449,690 cooperative agreement from the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command to use big data for evaluating and predicting human variability.
  • Clinical psychology doctoral student Ben Parchem, MA ’20, wrote his first-authored publication, "Perceptions of power and sexual pleasure associated with sexual behaviour profiles among Latino sexual minority men.” Ben also wrote an article, alongside Sherry Molock, examining the impact of COVID on college students from communities of color, which was featured in the Journal of American College Health.
  • With guidance from Psi Chi psychology honor society advisor Professor Dennis Schell, the Psi Chi group provided virtual information sessions on careers and graduate school for our undergraduates.
  • Sarah Shomstein was named the next editor of Attention Perception & Psychophysics (AP&P) on January 1, 2021. AP&P is an official journal of the Psychonomic Society and spans all areas of research in sensory processes, perception, attention and psychophysics.
  • Professor Carol Sigelman received the 2021 Trachtenberg Service Award for her excellent service to the Psychological and Brain Sciences Department, Office of the Provost and the university.
  • Michelle Stock received a GW COVID-19 Research Fund award to explore how the mental and physical health of young Black adults in Washington, D.C., is impacted by coronavirus-related stressors.
  • The paper, "Abstaining College Students' Motives to Use E-Cigarettes,” written by applied social psychology graduate students Kate AuBuchon, MA ’21, and Jonah Kracke-Bock, MA ’28, has been accepted for publication by the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. Applied social psychology faculty members Tonya Dodge and Michelle Stock were co-authors of the paper.

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