Current Fellows

 Gaby Alarcon

Gaby Alarcón, PhD

Dr. Alarcón’s research interests include examining the motivations behind prosocial behavior using questionnaire, behavioral and functional magnetic resonance imaging methods in adolescents at risk for and diagnosed with major depressive disorder. She is currently working on the following projects: 1) examination of functional connectivity during rest and social reward in relation to gender and depressive symptoms in healthy adolescents; 2) examination of the longitudinal trajectories of peer relationship processes predicting reward-related brain response and depressive symptomology in girl at high risk for depression; and 3) analysis of gender differences in facial emotion processing of friends and strangers. During the course of training, Dr. Alarcón has received the following awards: 1) Best Poster Presentation Travel Award ($750) from the University of Pittsburgh Postdoctoral Association during the Postdoctoral Data & Dine Symposium; 2) Modeling Developmental Change Flux Pre-Meeting Workshop Travel Award ($800) from the Society for Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience; and 3) acceptance into the Career Developmental Institute for Psychiatry directed by the University of Pittsburgh and Stanford University. Dr. Alarcón submitted a K01 application entitled, "Adolescent gender differences in prosocial decision-making strategies, neural network operational costs and depressive symptoms," in October 2017; she is currently working on a resubmission.


 Olga Berkout

Olga Berkout, PhD

Mentor: Dr. David Kolko

Dr. Berkout’s research focuses on identifying and modifying mechanisms of dysfunction underlying aggressive behavior. Dr. Berkout is currently examining the contribution of psychosocial and affective variables to aggression and neural correlates of emotion regulation and anger. She plans to extend her work by examining the impact of explicit and implicit cognitive intervention probes on neural target engagement among individuals engaging in impulsive aggression. Dr. Berkout received her doctorate in clinical psychology from the University of Mississippi and completed her clinical internship at the University of Vermont. 

 Adam Grabell

Adam Grabell, PhD

Mentor: Dr. Susan Perlman

Dr. Grabell received his PhD in clinical psychology at the University of Michigan in 2014. While at the University of Michigan, he completed his dissertation focused on disruptive behavior in preschool-aged children. He also received several awards throughout his doctoral education, including: the Institute for Human Adjustment Fellowship Award, the Naomi Lohr Award for Excellence in Clinical Psychology, a Psychology Dissertation Research Grant, and the Edward S. Bordin Award. As a postdoctoral fellow, his research focuses on the neural correlates of emotion regulation and early onset psychopathology during the preschool years. Specifically, he uses techniques such as Event Related Potential (ERP) and functional Near Infrared Spectroscopy (fNIRS) to better understand how emotion regulation strategies develop, or fail to develop, in children at risk for chronic disruptive behavior problems. Dr. Grabell is currently working with Dr. Susan Perlman on projects further examining self-regulation deficit in early childhood, including a study investigating regional prefrontal cortex activation during effortful, deliberate emotion regulation in preschool children. 


 Heather Joseph

Heather M. Joseph, DO

Dr. Joseph graduated from Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine. She completed her general psychiatry residents and child and adolescent psychiatry fellowship at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, where she was a member and chief of the Psychiatry Research Pathway. Her research interest is in the early identification of risk and resilience factors for the development of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. She was awarded the Klingenstein Third Generation Foundation Fellowship in ADHD to study reaction time variability in infants 8-10 months old at low or high familial risk for ADHD. This project is under primary mentorship from Brooke Molina, Ph.D. and secondary mentorship from Erik Thiessen, PhD at CMU. She plans to extend this work to the neonatal period and by examining parental behaviors that might influence the development of attention. 

 Caroline Oppenheimer

Caroline Oppenheimer, PhD

Mentor: Dr. Jennifer Silk

Caroline Oppenheimer completed her PhD in child clinical psychology at the University of Denver in 2014, after completing a pre-doctoral fellowship under Dr. Silk at the University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Oppenheimer has maintained a clear and direct focus throughout her dissertation, work done under a National Research Service Award (NRSA), and her pre-doctoral fellowship. Now as a post-doctoral fellow, she intends to continue her research questions with a focus on interpersonal risk for depression and suicide, including how youth vulnerability (e.g., genetic, cognitive, affective) moderates interpersonal risk, as well as mechanisms through which interpersonal factors influence developmental pathways. 


 Lindsey Beth Stone

Lindsey Beth Stone, PhD 

Mentor: Dr. Jennifer Silk

Dr. Stone's research examines the role of peer friendships in fostering vulnerability to depression in adolescence and, in particular, targets the interpersonal tendency to co-ruminate. She examines this interpersonal pathway on multiple levels of analysis:  testing the effects of co-rumination within friendship dyads and larger networks, and further exploring intrapersonal processes by which risk develops, including cognitive, genetic, and affective factors. She plans to extend this work by training in affective neuroscience and the application of neurobiological indices to capture the socialization of emotion regulatory processes that contribute to depression risk. Dr. Stone received her doctorate in clinical psychology from Binghamton University and completed her clinical internship at Alpert Medical School, Brown University.



Brian Thomas, PhD

Dr. Thomas studies LGBT health with a focus on factors which promote or degrade health among LGBT adolescents. He has expertise in HIV-related sexual risk behaviors among young gay and bisexual males, including multiple first-authored manuscripts examining how parent-adolescent relationship factors influence sexual risk behaviors in this population. As a postdoctoral fellow, he has engaged in research collaborations with his mentors, Michael Marshal and Nadine Melhem. He is currently collaborating on multiple manuscripts, including a meta-analysis of the influence of gender nonconformity on minority stress experiences for LGB individuals and a manuscript describing innovative recruitment strategies for use with sexual minority and non-sexual minority adolescents. He is currently submitting a K01 grant application to the National Institute of Mental Health to examine biological mechanisms of suicidal behavior among sexual minority adolescents. Finally, along with two of his colleagues, he recently received a diversity grant from the University of Pittsburgh to examine eating and weight-related behaviors among transgender adolescents, and data collection for this project is ongoing.



Jamie Zelazny, PhD

Dr. Zelazny is currently an Assistant Professor of Nursing at the University of Pittsburgh.  As a postdoctoral fellow, Dr. Zelazny's mentoring team consisted of David Brent, MD (primary mentor), Louis-Phillipe Morency, PhD, and Tina Goldstein, PhD.  Her research focused on the use of technology to identify risk factors for suicidal behavior in adolescents. She worked with each of her mentors to gain training experience to this end. She worked with her primary mentor, Dr. Brent, on a next version of a suicide prevention phone application, Brite. Furthermore, Dr. Zelazny is a co-author to the primary outcome paper of the trial that tested Brite in conjunction with a brief inpatient therapeutic intervention, which is currently in press in the American Journal of Psychiatry. She also collaborated as a Co-Investigator on a proposal to a private foundation with Drs. Brent (PI) and Goldstein (Co-I) which focused on the collection of social media data from suicidal adolescents’ phones toward the development of risk algorithms that would be communicated with clinicians. This involved co-leading focus groups of adolescents, parents, and clinicians to assess the feasibility and acceptability of this work. Her work with co-mentor, Tina Goldstein, included contributing clinically to a study that uses text messaging to assess and monitor sleep and its impact on suicidal outcomes. Furthermore, she collaborated with co-mentor, Louis-Phillipe Morency, who is the Director of Carnegie Mellon University’s Multimodal Communication and Machine Learning Laboratory (MultiComp Lab), where he and his colleagues use probabilistic modeling of acoustic, visual, and verbal modalities in the understanding of health outcomes. On the basis of this partnership and the guidance of her mentorship team, Dr. Zelazny submitted a Young Investigator Award proposal to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, titled a "Longitudinal Study of Voice and Facial Profiles of Suicidal Adolescents" on 11/15/2017. This grant is currently under review. Through this project, Dr. Zelazny will aim to extend the technology built within Dr. Morency's lab to a prospective study of within-subject variations in voice and facial profiles and changes in the severity of their suicidal ideation over the course of treatment among suicidal adolescents in an intensive outpatient program. She further intends to develop this work into a larger grant NIH application.


Thomas Zimmer, PhD

Dr. Zimmer began working with his primary mentor, Lisa Pan, as a Predoctoral fellow in 2014, at which time he focused on inborn errors of metabolism among individuals with treatment refractory depression. Following his graduation from medical school, he has continued this research work with Dr. Pan, being appointed as a postdoctoral fellow as of July 1, 2017. As a postdoctoral fellow, he is collaborating with Dr. Pan in her current study which aims to identify and correct metabolic deficiencies in 140 patients with both severe and chronic treatment refractory major depressive disorder. He is working with Dr. Pan to treat participants with metabolite replacement and is engaged in longitudinal data collection to assess central folate or biopterin deficiencies. Further, he has an abstract accepted to the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and he has presented a poster at the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry’s annual meeting.


 Vera Vine

Vera Vine, PhD

Vera Vine is a T32 Postdoctoral Scholar in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic (WPIC). Before this, she earned her A. B. in psychology from Harvard University and her M.S., M.Phil., and Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Yale University. During her graduate training, she developed a line of research on the role of emotional awareness in emotion dysregulation and mood-related psychopathology in adults. As a postdoctoral scholar, she is investigating the role of physiological arousal in the experience and regulation of emotion among youth at risk for mood disorders. She is particularly interested in characterizing the discrepancies between bodily and subjective aspects of emotion responses among high-risk children and adolescents, and evaluating the potential implications of these discrepancies in the pathophysiology of mood disorders.


Past Fellows 

Ben Allen

Ben Allen, PhD

Mentor: Dr. Marika Kovacs

Dr. Allen received a PhD in biological psychology at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in 2012. His doctoral dissertation focused on the physiology of stereotypes, which led to a post-doctoral appointment within the Department of Psychiatry’s Cardiovascular and Behavioral Medicine Program at the University of Pittsburgh. In this program, he expanded his methodological skills to include neuroimaging methods and applied these techniques to the study of the neural correlates of autonomic control of the heart. Alongside his mentor, Dr. J. Richard Jennings, he tested the notion that brain regions involved in the regulation of cardiovascular reactivity to emotion overlap with brain regions involved in autonomic control at rest. Now as a post-doctoral fellow of the IMPACT program, he aims to build on his prior work to examine how neural networks involved in autonomic regulation of the heart are associated with risk for psychopathology, specifically depression. He has based his work on atypical patterns of autonomic and central nervous system dysfunction commonly associated with already depressed populations and has applied these findings to people at high risk for depression.


Lauren Bylsma

Lauren Bylsma, PhD

Dr. Bylsma is currently an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh.  She has received a K01 award from the National Institute of Mental Health titled "Neurobehavioral Predictors of Emotional Deficits in Youth at Risk for Depression." For her K01, she is examining emotional functioning in youth at high risk for depression using a combination of neural and daily life measures.  As a postdoctoral scholar, Dr. Bylsma's work has utilized a multi-method approach, including cardiovascular psychophysiology, event related potentials, behavioral measures, and experience sampling methodology. In her work with Dr. Kovacs, she has examined physiological, behavioral, neuropsychological, and familial factors that predict the course of juvenile onset depression, as well as factors related to utilization of adaptive emotion regulation strategies (mood repair) in at-risk youth. Dr. Bylsma received her doctorate in clinical psychology from the University of South Florida where she worked with Jonathan Rottenberg, and she completed her clinical internship at the VA Puget Sound in Seattle.

Sam Hawes

Sam Hawes, PhD

Mentor: Dr. Dustin Pardini

Dr. Hawes is interested in the etiology and development of callous-unemotional (CU) features throughout adolescence and early adulthood. His work focuses on the relationship between aspects of negative emotionality and CU features as well as the relationship between CU features and adulthood outcomes.  Dr. Hawes is currently working with Dr. Dustin Pardini to examine the stability of callous-unemotional features across developmental periods and their relationship to adulthood psychopathy as well as violence and aggression. Dr. Hawes received his doctorate in clinical psychology from Sam Houston State University and he completed his clinical internship at Yale University.


Lovie Jackson, PhD

Dr. Jackson is an assistant professor at the School of Social Work at the University of Pittsburgh. Her research interests include the multidisciplinary study of health and health care disparities, collaborative care models to address the health and mental health of traumatized underserved youth and families in diverse settings, and health services research using community-based participatory research and health information technology. Populations of interest are primarily African American youth and families, and other marginalized and traumatized populations such as youth in foster care and low-income families. Her teaching interests include health services research, health disparities, childhood and intergenerational/lifespan trauma, and diverse populations. Dr. Jackson received her doctorate in social work from the University of Washington, Seattle.


Oliver Lindhiem

Oliver Lindhiem, PhD

Dr. Lindhiem is an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. His research focus is on developing innovative ways to optimize treatment delivery for childhood disruptive behavior disorders with an emphasis on methodology and developing assessment tools for measuring and promoting the utilization of cognitive behavioral therapy skills. Dr. Lindhiem obtained funding for an Early Career Research Scientist Development Award (K01) application to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) titled "Skill Acquisition/Utilization During Treatment for Childhood Behavior Problems." Dr. Lindhiem received his doctorate in clinical psychology from the University of Delaware. 

Dana McMakin, PhD

Dr. McMakin is an assistant professor of psychiatry at the Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. Her research aims to bridge developmental affective neuroscience and treatment innovation to improve long-term outcomes associated with affective disorders in adolescence. Dr. McMakin is particularly interested in whether therapeutic strategies can help to shape the brain circuits that underlie emotional and motivational functioning during the period of enhanced brain plasticity experienced during adolescence, with the goal of altering the short and long-term course of affective disorders. To this end, her current research focuses on developing novel therapy strategies to alter features of positive emotional and motivational functioning (and underlying fronto-mesolimbic brain circuits) that: 1) are taking shape during adolescence and 2) appear disrupted in several affective disorders, including depression. Dr. McMakin received her doctorate in child clinical psychology from the University of Denver.

Judith Morgan

Judith Morgan, PhD

Dr. Morgan is an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. She has obtained funding as the primary investigator for a National Institute of Health K01 award. With this grant, Dr. Morgan is pursuing a line of study into the neural and social processes of positive affect in children at risk for depression. This research represents the next phase of Dr. Morgan's studies focusing on early differences in positive affect and reward processing in young children at biological risk for depression, and how various socialization influences interact with these neurobehavioral differences in high-risk young children. Dr. Morgan received her doctorate in psychology from the University of Delaware.


Sarah Romens

Sarah Romens, PhD

Dr. Romens completed a one-year fellowship, during which she focused on identifying novel approaches to prevention and intervention. She believes depression is likely the result of a complex interplay among cognitive, social/environmental, and biological factors. Therefore, her research cut across these perspectives to examine individual differences in cognitive, physiological, and epigenetic components of responses to stress and uncover etiological mechanisms of depression. Dr. Romens received her doctorate in clinical psychology from the University of Wisconsin and currently works in clinical practice in Wisconsin.


Patricia Tan, PhD

Patricia Tan, PhD

Dr. Tan is currently a research assistant professor at the University of California at Los Angeles. She has received funding for her K01 submission titled "Early Neurobehavioral Marker of Anxiety: Linking Threat Bias & Real-World Emotion."  As a fellow, Dr. Tan's research focused on the role of emotional and cognitive control in childhood anxiety and adolescent depression. During her time in the program, Dr. Tan developed methodological skills in the analysis of treatment outcome and time-series data (primarily experience sampling), as well as the integration of psychophysiology and behavioral measures of emotion. In addition to her methodological interests in developing ecologically valid methods for assessing child emotional reactivity and parental emotion socialization, she has focused on learning cognitive electrophysiology and pupillometery as measures of emotional information processing. As part of her training, she has also participated in a course on using Mplus for latent variable modeling as well as courses in structural equation modeling and cognitive neuroscience. Finally, Dr. Tan has been collaborating with Drs. Silk, Siegle, and Ladouceur on a pilot study examining the use of ambulatory methods for physiologically-triggered ecological momentary assessments of young children's real-world emotion regulation.


 Ilya Yaroslavsky

Ilya Yaroslavsky, PhD

Dr. Yaroslavsky is currently an assistant professor with Cleveland State University's clinical psychology master's program. As a postdoctoral fellow, Dr. Yaroslavsky's interests were in studying how physiological, psychosocial, and familial factors contribute to the course and outcome of juvenile onset depression. In particular, he was interested in studying the link between depression and ways that youth attempt to attenuate dysphoric emotions (mood repair). Further, he sought to understand the roles that the autonomic nervous system and familial factors play in mood repair development and deployment. Dr. Yaroslavsky received his doctorate in clinical psychology from the University of Houston.