Lab Members

AD&D Lab 2023 Summer Social



Dr. Nichole Lighthall is an Associate 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.

**Dr. Lighthall will be considering PhD student applicants during the 2023-2024 admission cycle. Applicants must apply to the UCF Human Factors & Cognitive Psychology PhD Program.

Courses Taught:

  • Cognitive Psychology (undergraduate): EXP 3604 (formats: F2F, MM, W)
  • Motivation & Emotion (undergraduate): EXP 3304 (formats: MM, W)
  • Neuroanatomical Basis of Psychological Function (graduate): PSB 6348 (formats: F2F)
  • Neuroimaging Design and Analysis Methods (graduate): PSB 6352 (formats: F2F)

phone: 407-823-2216

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


Shensheng Wang is a postdoc in the Adult Development and Decision Lab. Born and raised in Tianjin, China, Shensheng received his B.S. from Nankai University and his Ph.D. from Emory University, where he worked with Dr. Philippe Rochat on infant perceptual development. Shensheng’s research interests broadly lie in humanness perception, which encompasses both attributing human characteristics to nonhuman agents (e.g., anthropomorphism) and denying human traits to others (e.g., dehumanization). In collaboration with Dr. Nichole Lighthall, Shensheng is interested in examining neurocognitive processes that might underpin trust-related decision-making in aging and the extent to which these processes manifest differently in social and nonsocial contexts. Shensheng’s ResearchGate



Lindsay Conner is completing her Ph.D. 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 fourth-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


Shayna Soares is a fourth-year Ph.D. student in the Human Factors and Cognitive Psychology program. She obtained her B.S. in Psychology on the Neuroscience track from UCF in 2019 while working with Dr. Corey Bohil in the Classification and Decision Laboratory. Her primary research interests are in applying decision making and categorization theories to topics of a more political nature to provide a deeper understanding of political cognition issues (i.e., misinformation spread, increased polarization, and party label bias) as well as involving the use of neuroimaging techniques (fNIRS) to better understand the underlying neural correlates associated. Shayna’s LinkedInShayna’s ORCID


Maggie Doheny is a second-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 LinkedInMaggie’s ORCID


Zounaira Shahzad recently graduated summa cum laude from UCF with a Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Sciences. She is currently working on the Florida consortium to reduce misinformation and exploitation in Alzheimer’s Disease project. Additionally, her research interests also include healthcare disparities, and clinical psychology. She plans on attending medical school after graduation.


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



Samantha Tun is a first-year medical student at the University of Central Florida College of Medicine. In 2021, she graduated from Columbia University with a B.A. in Neuroscience and Behavior and a minor in East Asian Languages and Culture. Before matriculating to med school, she worked as a research associate in the Fredericks Lab at Yale University for two years, investigating how advanced neuroimaging techniques can be used to understand how Alzheimer’s disease spreads across brain networks. Her interests at the Adult Developmental and Decision Lab include utilizing multimodal neuroimaging to better understand brain networks and understanding the neurological basis of executive function and emotional modulation.


Carla Leinbach holds a B.S. from Illinois State University and an M.B.A. from Wake Forest University. Volunteering as Community Outreach Coordinator, she enjoys connecting with participants and communicating her love of life-long learning. Currently a student at UCF, she plans to pursue a Ph.D. in Cognitive Psychology, Neuroscience track. Carla’s research interests include motivation and how neural-net-based Artificial Intelligence adoption impacts intrinsic motivation.


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



Alyssa Hayes is a senior at UCF majoring in Psychology on the neuroscience track. Her research interests include memory, decision-making, Locus of Control, and cognitive neuroscience. She is currently working on her Honors Undergraduate Thesis, which explores the role of Locus of Control in trust-learning behavior and social media. After graduation, she plans to enter a post-baccalaureate position before pursing a master’s degree.Alyssa’s LinkedIn



Grace Casanova is a Senior in the Burnett Honors College at UCF, majoring in Clinical Psychology and double minoring in Theatre and Aging Studies. Her interests include cognitive psychology and neuropsychology related to older adults. She is currently conducting research related to trust, language, and cultural orientation in an older adult population. After graduation, Grace plans to pursue an MBA prior to a Ph.D.



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.



Isabella Louza Soffa Lima is a junior at UCF. She is currently pursuing a double major in Biomedical Sciences and Psychology with a focus on Neuroscience. Her interests within the lab are cognitive neuroscience and emotion. She plans on pursuing medical school, with the goal of specializing in Neurology.



Bhargav Vyas is a second-year majoring in Biomedical Sciences and a student in the Burnett Honors College. His research interests are in human behaviors and human decision making. He is currently conducting research involving the use of Functional Near-Infrared Spectroscopy Systems (fNIRS) and ambiguous decision making.



Christopher Zizzo is a first-year psychology major on the clinical psychology track. He is interested in the area of neuropsychology and hopes to specialize in that field during grad school to earn a Ph.D in Clinical Neuropsychology. His other interests include cognitive and behavioral psychology.



Sarah Velez-Osorio is a first-year transfer student at UCF in the Burnett Honors College. She is a McNair Scholar and is pursuing a degree in the Clinical Psychology track with a minor in Entrepreneurship. She has past research experience from Valencia College, where she conducted a systematic review called “Exploring the Relationship between Bilingualism and Emotional Intelligence.” Her current research interests are in behavioral treatments, anxiety disorders, and cognitive neuroscience. Sarah plans on pursuing a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology.


Lake Miller is a third-year psychology major on the neuropsychology track with a minor in computer science. His interests include neuroscience, neuropsychology, cognitive and behavioral psychology. He plans on pursuing a PhD in Neuroscience to explore the long-term effects of trauma and its influence on brain development.



Justin Barolette is a fourth-year undergraduate Psychology major at UCF. He is interested in Clinical Psychology and hopes to pursue his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and work with children with Autism. His other areas of interest include Behavioral Psychology and Psychopathology.


Milena Alvarado Giler is a fourth-year student majoring in psychology on the neuroscience track. Her research interest includes behavioral neuroscience, imaging cognitive psychology and neuropsychology related to children. She plans to obtain a post-baccalaureate position before pursuing a PhD program.


Ailliy Garcia is a third-year transfer student at UCF pursuing a degree in Biomedical Science with a certificate in Anthropology Global Health. Her research interests include cognitive neuroscience & neurocognitive disorders. She is currently working as a research assistant on the Florida consortium to reduce misinformation and exploitation in Alzheimer’s Disease project. Ailliy has plans on attending medical school to become a neurosurgeon.


Sydney Gillis is a senior at UCF majoring in Clinical Psychology with a minor in Statistics. Her academic interests include developmental psychology, clinical psychology, forensic psychology, and psychopathology. Her research interests including how external factors influence our behavior over time. Sydney is currently working as a research assistant on the NIH project which will study trust-based decision making as we age. After graduating, she plans on pursing a Master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling.


Juweyriyah Khurshid is a freshman in the Burnett Honors College majoring in Biomedical Sciences and minoring in Psychology. Her research interests are developmental, and clinical and cognitive psychology. Juweyriyah plans to go medical school after graduating and eventually work in pediatric neurology.

Samantha Tyler is a Senior in the Burnett Honors College at UCF. She is majoring in Psychology on the General Track, with a minor in Music. Her interests include social, developmental, personality, and physiological psychology. After graduation, she hopes to pursue graduate school to further her understanding of the field of psychology and get more hands-on experience.


Jasmine Dave is a junior at UCF. She is currently pursuing a double major in Biology and Psychology. Her research interests include neuropsychology and cognitive neuroscience. She plans on attending medical school after graduation to specialize in Neurology.



Nicolette Pelchat is a third-year student majoring in Clinical Psychology and minoring in Early Childhood Development and Education and Human Services. Her research interests include developmental psychology, personality, cognitive psychology, learning, memory, and aging. After graduating, she plans on pursuing a Master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling or School Psychology.



Miranda Kraenzlin is a second-year student majoring in Psychology on the Neuroscience track and minoring in Cognitive Sciences. She works as a registered behavior technician providing therapy to children with autism and has a research interest in behavioral, developmental, and cognitive psychology. After graduation, she plans to work professionally before pursuing a PhD program.




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