Lab Members


Dr. Nichole Lighthall is an Assistant Professor of Psychology in the Human Factors and Cognitive Psychology Ph.D. program. She holds a B.A. in psychology from the UC Berkeley and a Ph.D. in gerontology from the University of Southern California. Before coming to UCF, Dr. Lighthall completed her postdoctoral training at Duke University in the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, with a postdoctoral fellowship from the Duke Center for the Study of Aging and Human Development. The goal of her research program is to develop a neural model of decision processing that can be used to identify age-related vulnerabilities and pathways to compensation. She is particularly interested in how age-related changes to cognitive and affective components of decision making impact decision processing and quality. Dr. Lighthall is also a Co-Director of the Scientific Research Network on Decision Neuroscience & Aging and director of the UCF Learning & Longevity Research Network participant registry for Orlando-area older adults.

Courses Taught:

  • Cognitive Psychology (undergraduate): EXP 3604
  • Motivation & Emotion (undergraduate): EXP 3304
  • Neuroanatomical Basis of Psychological Function (graduate): PSB 6348
  • Neuroimaging Design and Analysis Methods (graduate): PSB 6352

phone: 407-823-2216

email: nichole.lighthall[at]ucf[dot]edu


Lindsay Conner is a sixth-year Ph.D. student in the Cognitive Neuroscience track of the Human Factors and Cognitive Psychology program. Originally from Florida, she studied neuroscience at University of Miami, followed by a Master’s program in Biomedical Imaging at University of California, San Francisco. Her research delves into mapping the influence of age-related changes in functional recruitment and structural integrity on episodic memory and value processing across adulthood. In particular, Lindsay is interested in applying neuroimaging methods (e.g., task fMRI, rs-fMRI, MRI, DTI, PET) toward identifying biomarkers of cognitive decline and potential compensatory mechanisms across healthy aging relative to the early development of Alzheimer’s disease. Lindsay’s ORCiD Lindsay’s ResearchGate


Jordan Schotz is a third-year Ph.D. student in the Human Factors and Cognitive Psychology program on the Cognitive Neuroscience Track. Originally from Wisconsin, he holds a B.A. in Psychology from Webster Vienna Private University in Vienna, Austria. He is currently pursuing two main lines of research; the first involves trust-related learning in contexts where visual cues are along the social-nonsocial spectrum and the represented agent is also somewhere along the social-nonsocial spectrum. Second, his dissertation work will address biased belief by applying satisfaction of search to various contexts of misinformation. After graduation, his plans are to conduct research and teach in academia at a liberal arts institution. Jordan’s LinkedIn

Maggie Doheny is a first year Ph.D. student in the Human Factors and Cognitive Psychology program at UCF. In 2021, she graduated from the University of Alabama with a B.S. in Psychology and Neuroscience, and worked in Dr. Laura Morett’s N.E.R.D. Lab as an undergraduate research assistant. She then worked as a post-baccalaureate research assistant in Dr. Heather Risser’s Family CARE and Parenting Lab in the Psychiatry Department at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. Here at the Adult Development and Decision Lab, her interests include applications of brain mapping and social cognitive neuroscience on trust and empathy in the context of decision making. Maggie’s LinkedIn Maggie’s ORCID


Zounaira Shahzad is a senior majoring in Biomedical Sciences. She is currently working on her honors thesis exploring how pesticides like Paraquat affect kidney injury biomarkers. Additionally, her research interests also include healthcare disparities, and clinical psychology. She plans on pursuing an M.D. after graduation.


Haily Follese is a junior at UCF majoring in Experimental Psychology with a minor in cognitive sciences. Her areas of academic interest include cognitive and social psychology. Her research interests include: decision-making, eyewitness testimony, and the use of virtual avatars in these areas. She plans on pursuing a Ph.D. after graduation. Currently, Haily is heading a project titled “Trust Learning and Disposition Inference for Social Partners, Nonsocial Partners, and Computerized Virtual Agents”. For this project, Haily and fellow lab members are examining the impact of virtual avatars on trust in an economic investment game. This research has been funded by both the UCF Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR) and the UCF Learning Institute for Elders (LIFE). Haily’s LinkedIn


Amber Blount recently graduated from UCF with a Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience Psychology, with a minor in Medical Sociology. She is current post-baccalaureate research assistant with Dr. Lighthall and Dr. Ladda Thiamwong (UCF Nursing) on a collaborative NIH-funded intervention to reduce fall risk in older adults. Amber’s research interests include cognitive reframing and investigating the disparities between perception and behavior. Amber’s LinkedIn


Trenton Lam  is a senior at UCF majoring in Clinical Psychology and Biomedical sciences. He is currently working on his honors thesis exploring how experiencing interpersonal trust violations influences trust-related learning in new social partners. He plans on attending medical school after graduation.


Aidan Ray is a senior at UCF majoring in Clinical Psychology. His areas of interest include counseling and cognitive psychology. He plans to pursue a PsyD after graduation.


Katina Chris is a senior Honors Thesis student at UCF majoring in Clinical Psychology. Her research interests include clinical, cognitive, and neuropsychology and she plans to go to graduate school for clinical psychology after completing her undergrad.


Yogita Venkata is a sophomore majoring in Neuropsychology and Accounting. Her research focuses on neurological aging and development. She plans on pursuing a Ph.D. after graduation.


Alyssa Hayes is a second-year psychology major on the neuroscience track. Her research interests include neuropsychology, social learning and decision-making, and cognitive psychology. After graduation, Alyssa plans on pursuing a Ph.D. in neuropsychology. Alyssa’s LinkedIn


Andrei Nesterenko is an honors freshman at UCF studying biomedical sciences on the Neuroscience track. His interest is in cognitive neuroscience in both the clinical and legal fields, he plans to pursue a Ph.D. after graduating.


Grace Casanova is a third-year Burnett Honors student at UCF majoring in Clinical Psychology with minors in Theatre and Aging Studies. Her interests include cognitive and neuropsychology related to older adults.


Parker Sawyer is a junior at UCF majoring in psychology on the neuroscience track. Her areas of interest include neuropsychology, cognitive neuroscience, behavioral neuroscience, and clinical psychology. Parker plans on pursuing a Ph.D. in Clinical Neuropsychology after graduation. She is currently conducting research that investigates the relationship between trust learning and social vs. nonsocial partners.


Doctoral Students

  1. Xiaoqing Wan (graduated 2022, Human Factors & Cognitive Psychology PhD; Data Scientist, )
  2. Kylie Fernandez (graduated 2021, Human Factors & Cognitive Psychology PhD; Engineering Psychologist, Naval Air Warfare Center Training Simulation Division)

Graduate Certificate Students

  1. Christina Griep (completed 2020, Cognitive Science Certificate Program; PhD Student, Developmental Cognitive Behavioral Neuroscience PhD Program, University of Houston)
  2. Ian Dalton (completed 2016, Cognitive Science Certificate Program;

Undergraduate Honors Thesis Advisees

  1. Krupali Patel (graduated 2021, Psychology; Research Psychology Technician, Stress and Neuroimaging Lab, VA San Diego Healthcare System)
  2. Melissa Merz (graduated 2017, Psychology; Senior Manager, Educational Development, HMP Education)

Undergraduate Honors Thesis Committee

  1. Dalia El-Shafie (graduated 2020, Psychology; Lab Manager, Social-Cognitive and Affective Development Lab, University of Florida)
  2. Yerika Germosen (graduated 2019, Psychology; Quality Improvement Specialist, Vibrant Emotional Health)

Undergraduate Research Assistants

  1. Sadie Hughey 04/22-07/22
  2. Adriana Seda 01/21-12/21
  3. Ishara Jean-Francois 01/20-05/21
  4. Yolirys Aponte-Lopez 01/20-05/21
  5. Dalia El-Shafie (Honors Thesis Student) 01/20-12/20
  6. Alexander Avdellas 01/20-08/21
  7. Krupali Patel (Honors Thesis Student) 06/19-08/21
  8. Ramis Mukhtar 06/19-11/19
  9. Breanna Thomas 06/19-04/20
  10. Salim Mouloua 02/19-06/19
  11. Samuel Naranjo (NSF GRFP Honorable Mention) 01/19-04/20
  12. Natalie Verdiguel (NSF GRFP Awardee) 01/19-12/19
  13. Breanna Davey 06/18-07/19
  14. Michael Gordon 05/18-12/18
  15. Lara Suarez 01/18-08/19
  16. Kipras Varkala 01/18-08/19
  17. Deborah Amburgey 01/18-08/19
  18. Yerika Germosen (Honors Thesis Student) 01/18-05/19
  19. Madelaine Guernsey 01/18-06/18
  20. Melissa Vargas 05/17-08/17
  21. Jessalyn Landeta 05/17-12/17
  22. Karina Garcia  06/16-04/17
  23. Isabella Tripoli 06/16-12/16
  24. Adrian Torres 06/16-12/16
  25. Erin Doucet 06/16-12/17
  26. Amber Goerner 06/16-12/17
  27. Richard Bowen 01/16-12/16
  28. Alison Bell 01/16-05/16
  29. Andressa Faria 01/16-05/16
  30. Alexa Abitabilo 01/16-12/16
  31. James Ross 08/15-12/16
  32. Melissa Merz (Honors Thesis Student) 08/15-05/17
  33. Drew Doyle 08/15-12/15