David Penn, Ph.D.
Linda Wagner-Martin Distinguished Professor of Psychology



Lab Members

Resource Links

Department of Psychology
250 Davie Hall
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3270

Phone: 919-843-7514
Fax: 919--962-2537
e-mail: dpenn@email.unc.edu

Penn Lab 2013-2014


DP's Birthday October, 2013


Graduate Students

Research Coordinators

Undergraduate Research Assistants

Recent Lab Graduates

Former Research Staff


Graduate Students

Kristin Healey, MAKristin Healey, BS
Kristin hails from East Windsor, NJ. She simply couldn’t leave the lovely garden state and consequently attended The College of New Jersey (TCNJ), where she studied psychology. After graduating in 2007, she worked as a research assistant at the University of Pennsylvania’s Schizophrenia Research Center with Dr. Christian Kohler and Raquel Gur, coordinating various projects involving emotion perception/expression and negative symptoms. Her current research interests include, but are not limited to: the development of paranoia across the course of illness, measurement of social cognitive domains, and general early illness detection/investigation of predictive factors of disease onset. The bulk of her free time is spent running, watching Netflix, finding new music and dining locales in the triangle, and thinking about adopting even more dogs.

Benjamin Buck, MA Benjamin Buck, BS
Ben was raised just north of Indianapolis, Indiana in a small town called Westfield. He attended UNC as an undergrad, majoring in philosophy and psychology. While attending UNC, Ben started work in the Penn Lab, helping to spearhead the creation and use of a measure of emotional knowledge in first-person narratives, used as one of many outcome measures for participants in SCIT. Ben has also worked as a research assistant at the Roudebush VA Hospital in Indianapolis with Dr. Paul Lysaker, researching metacognition in schizophrenia through the use of a semi-structured life story interview. Broadly, Ben's research interests fall within the category of psychosocial treatments for schizophrenia, but more specifically include social cognition in schizophrenia, first-episode psychosis intervention, metacognition, and the use of first-person narrative as a research tool. Outside of Davie Hall, Ben enjoys finding and listening to live jazz, reading fiction, and avidly following a number of sports teams, most notably and proudly Carolina basketball.

Emily GagenEmily Gagen, BA
Emily grew up in upstate New York, just south of Albany in Columbia County. She attendedConnecticut College in New London, CT, majoring in psychology and minoring in US History. After graduating in 2007, and against her better judgment and love of the Northeast, she moved to Chicago and began work at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine. As it turns out, the Midwest isn't so bad, and she stayed there for 5 years. She first worked in the department of preventivemedicine, on a study regarding phone-delivered CBT for depression. She later transferred to the department of psychiatry, and coordinated several clinical trials of pharmacological treatment for schizophrenia. Her research interests include psychosocial treatment for schizophrenia and empathy deficits and their impact on social cognition. When not in Davie Hall, she enjoys dance, live music, working out, baking, and spending time her boyfriend Mike and their cat, Lily.

Julia Browne, BAJulia Browne
Julia was born in New York City and raised in Old Brookville, New York. She attended Tufts University majoring in clinical psychology and minoring in child development. At Tufts, she worked as a research assistant in Dr. Nalini Ambady’s Interpersonal Perception and Communications Lab. She has clinical experience having worked at The Albert Einstein College of Medicine Division of Substance Abuse in Bronx, NY where she co-led several group therapy sessions, most notably the dual-diagnosis groups.Additionally, she interned at Conexions Day Treatment Center in East Boston, MA where she led and co-led various group therapies for adults with schizophrenia, personality disorders, and mood disorders. After graduating from Tufts in 2011, Julia played 2 years on the International Tennis Federation (ITF) Professional Circuit where she competed in pro level tournaments in over 10 countries. Her research interests include social cognition in schizophrenia, psychosocial treatment of schizophrenia, comorbid substance abuse, mindfulness-based therapies, and stigma. With two years of constant travel behind her, she is excited to settle down in the Penn Lab at UNC. In her free time, she enjoys tennis (of course), ping-pong, squash, running, reading, and playing words with friends.

Arundati Nagendra, BS Ed.
Arun grew up in Hong Kong then moved in 2006 to Illinois, where she majored in psychology at Northwestern University. After graduation she worked for two years at her alma mater, coordinating psychophysiological studies of human sexuality with Dr. Michael Bailey. While Arun loved her job, she cared much more about research on schizophrenia - a passion she'd developed after interning as a caseworker for people with serious mental illnesses. From 2009-2012 she volunteered with Dr. Dror Ben-Zeev, first at the Illinois Institute of Technology and then at the Thresholds-Dartmouth Research Center. At both these places, she learned about psychosocial treatments and technological interventions for people with schizophrenia. These interests have stayed with her, and are now accompanied by a curiosity about how urbanicity, self-stigma, and social cognition affect functional outcomes. Outside of psychology, Arun eats (and sometimes cooks) vegan food, tries to please her two cats, and attends a beginners Brazilian jiu-jitsu class.

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Research Coordinators

Tonya Elliot, MSTonya
Tonya is a study coordinator who assists with the coordination and testing of the oxytocin treatment on social cognitive and functional deficits in schizophrenia research study. She is also a research coordinator at the Schizophrenia Treatment and Evaluation Program (STEP) Research Clinic at the North Carolina Psychiatric Research Center (NCPRC) in Raleigh. At the NCPRC, she coordinates the UNC Center for Excellence in Community Mental Health Consultation Outcomes Project (COPE) as well as helps to manage the STEP database. She received both her bachelor’s degree in psychology and her master’s degree in lifespan developmental psychology at North Carolina State University where her research focus was on aging and memory. Prior to graduate school, she worked in multiple research settings in the triangle area with groups of psychometricians, child clinical psychologists and social workers

BossColin Iwanski, BA
Colin was born to humble beginnings in Stokesdale, North Carolina. He attended TheUniversity ofNorth Carolina at Chapel Hill where he worked as an undergraduate assistant in the Penn Lab. In2011, Colin graduated with a B.A. in psychology and a minor in cognitive science. After globetrotting for several months and investigating the impact of culture on mental health in India, he eventually returned to Chapel Hill, where he is currently the Study Coordinator for the SCAF study. Colin is particularly fascinated by alternativetreatments and recovery for individuals with SMI, specifically schizophrenia. Outside of the boundaries of Davie Hall, Colin listens to an absurd amount of music, occasionally singing a tune or two with his band Star Studies.

Kelsey Ludwig, BS
Kelsey Ludwig is originally from the midwest, but has officially adopted North Carolina as her home. She graduated from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in May of 2012 with a B.S. in Psychology, a B.A. in Spanish and a minor in Medical Anthropology. She worked in the Penn Lab as an undergraduate assistant for three years and is currently the Study Coordinator for ESCAEP. Between graduation and employment, Kelsey enjoyed 4 months in South America interviewing Latina women about parenting, breastfeeding and childbirthing practices. She is fascinated by the origins and treatment of mental illness, particularly schizophrenia. In general, she loves people, traveling, cooking, languages and any/all things related to other cultures.

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Undergraduate Research Assistants

Morgan Alexander
Emily Lucas
Kendall Nicosia-Rusin
Yusra Iftikhar
Alex Edwards
Jacquee Genzlinger
Paul Julian
Lana Nye
Tammy Dragich

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Recent Lab Graduates

Katy Harper Romeo, PhD Katy Harper
Katy was born and raised outside of Vancouver, Canada. Katy earned a B.A. from McGill University in Psychology before moving to New York City to pursue a M.A. in Counselling Psychology from Columbia University. After completing her Masters she worked for two years as a Research Coordinator at the New York State Psychiatric Institute, working on several projects including a study of treatment refractory schizophrenia and a study of hypochondriasis. Her current interests involve working with people suffering from medication resistent psychotic illnesses, chronically ill inpatient populations and the therapeutic factors that may influence treatment outcome in group CBT. Outside of school she spends a great deal of time collecting records and vintage metal band shirts.

In 2012, Katy successfully completed her dissertation on an Internet Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Program for individuals experiencing auidtory hallucinations. Katy left UNC to return to her native land, where she will be a Psychological Resident at Vancouver Coastal Health, in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Tim Perry, MA Tim
A UNC alumnus, Tim spent several years working in the autism and developmental disabilities fields before returning for graduate school in the fall of 2005.  He is currently involved in a pilot study which seeks to adapt the manualized Social Cognition and Interaction Training (SCIT) for use with adults and adolescents with high-functioning autism.  This intervention was originally developed by Dr. Penn and Dave Roberts for use with individuals with schizophrenia.  Tim hopes to extend this intervention by examining the relationship between social impairment and psychological distress in individuals with autism and whether improvements in social functioning result in lower rates of reported distress.  He is working on this project under the guidance of Dr. Penn and Dr. Gary Mesibov at Division TEACCH.  In his spare time Tim may be found checking out the local music scene (at record stores or concerts), playing guitar, exercising or watching college athletics and rooting for his UNC Tarheels.

Clare Marks Gibson, Ph.D.
Staff Psychologist, Veterans Affairs Maryland Health Care System (VAMHCS)

Dr. Clare Gibson graduated from the UNC clinical program in 2012. She completed her pre-doctoral clinical internship at the VAMHCS/University of Maryland Internship Consortium in the severe mental illness track. Dr. Gibson then went on to complete a one year postdoctoral fellowship in the VA's Interprofessional Fellowship Program in Psychosocial Rehabilitation and Recovery (PSR) at VA Connecticut Health Care System (the Paul Errera Community Care Center) & Yale School of Medicine. Dr. Gibson is now a staff psychologist in the Psychsocial Rehabiliation & Recovery Center at the VAMHCS, Perry Point campus. Dr. Gibson’s interests are in psychosocial treatments for SMI and factors related to recovery particularly internalized stigma. Her professional interests include integrating recovery into mental health systems and self-care for mental health professionals.

Allison Bassett Ratto
AllisonAllison was born and raised in Houston, Texas. She completed her BA in Psychology and Education Studies at the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC, during which time she also worked as a research assistant at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Following her graduation, Allison was accepted as a graduate student in the UNC Clinical Psychology Program. Her current research interests are in the assessment of autism spectrum disorders, specifically in improved methods for assessing social skills treatment effects and in early identification and diagnosis. Allison has collaborated with Dr. David Penn and Dr. Gary Mesibov of Division TEACCH to develop the Contextual Assessment of Social Skills (CASS), a peer-based role play measure of social skills for adolescents and young adults with autism spectrum disorders. The CASS is currently being used in treatment outcome studies at several institutions, including UCLA, Virginia Tech, and Marquette.  Allison is also pursuing research with Dr. Mesibov and Dr. Steven Reznick on the screening and diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders among Latino infants and children, and she has spoken on this topic for several agencies in North Carolina.

Allison is currently on internship at Children's National Medical Center in Washington, DC.

Sarah Uzenoff Mintz, PhD
Psychologist, The Wake-Kendall Group, PLLC, Washington, DC

Dr. Sarah Uzenoff Mintz graduated from UNC in 2011 and completed a postdoctoral residency at Saint Elizabeths Hospital (DC Department of Mental Health) in August, 2012. Dr. Mintz is currently in practice in Washington, DC with the Wake-Kendall Group, PLLC, where she sees adult and adolescent psychotherapy patients and is a member of the group's Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) team

David Johnson, PhD
Staff Psychologist, Guam Department of Mental Health & Substance Abuse

Dr. Johnson is a clinical psychologist working in the area of rural mental health on the Pacific Island territory of Guam. He works primarily with individuals with severe mental illness and developmental disabilities. He maintains an interest in multicultural psychology, trauma, and group therapy as well as training of students and other mental health care staff.

Abigail Judge, PhD Abigail Judge, PhD
Private Psychotherapy and Forensic Practice, Cambridge, MA

Dr. Abigail Judge graduated from UNC-CH’s clinical program in 2009. She completed her predoctoral and post-doctoral training at Harvard Medical School, including two post-doctoral fellowships in child forensic psychology at Massachusetts General Hospital. Dr. Judge presently maintains a full-time private psychotherapy and forensic practice in Cambridge, MA and she is also on the clinical faculty at Harvard Medical School. In addition, Dr. Judge writes and presents widely about the commercial sexual exploitation of adolescent girls in the United States and the effects of digital technology and social media on psychotherapy with adolescents. Recent writing projects include, for example, an edited book under contract with Oxford University Press about the interface among digital technology, adolescent sexual behavior and the law. More information about Dr. Judge’s practice can be found at www.abigailjudge.com.

Evan Waldheter, PhD Evan Waldheter, PhD
Staff Psychologist, MIT Mental Health and Counseling Service

Evan graduated from the UNC Clinical Ph.D. Program in 2008, and completed a post-doctoral fellowship in clinical psychology at the Cambridge Health Alliance/Harvard Medical School in August, 2009. Currently, he is a staff psychologist at the MIT Mental Health and Counseling Service, teaches part-time at Boston College, and supervises psychiatry residents at the Harvard Med School Longwood Psychiatry Residency Program.

David Roberts, PhD David Roberts, PhD
Staff Psychologist, University of Texas Health Science Center

Dr. Roberts is a clinical psychologist studying psychosocial treatment and social cognition in psychosis. He is interested in using normative models of social judgment and decision-making to understand and enhance abnormal social cognition. For the past eight years, he has focused largely on the development and testing of Social Cognition and Interaction Training (SCIT), an intervention that he developed with David Penn and Dennis Combs. Dr. Roberts also studies paranoia, delusion, and treatment of early psychosis.

Amy Pinkham, PhD Amy Pinkham, PhD
Assistant Professor, Southern Methodist University

After finishing a postdoctoral fellowship at the Brain Behavior Laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania in 2009, Amy joined the psychology faculty of Southern Methodist University where she is Director of the Social Cognition and Schizophrenia Research Lab. Her research program links the fields of clinical psychology and neuroscience in an effort to address fundamental questions regarding the behavioral characteristics and neural basis of social cognitive dysfunction in schizophrenia. Her current work utilizes both BOLD and ASL imaging methods to examine amygdala functioning in individuals with schizophrenia, and she is particularly interested in understanding how amygdala function may differ between paranoid and non-paranoid patients. In addition to her work specifically examining schizophrenia, Amy is also involved in several collaborations that aim to shed light on the developmental pathogenesis of social cognitive impairments by comparing social cognitive abilities in individuals with schizophrenia and individuals with autism.

Shannon Couture, PhD
Assistant Professor, University of Southern California

Shannon graduated from UNC-CH in 2007.  Since then, she joined the faculty at the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom from 2007-2008, then the faculty at the University of Maryland College Park in 2008.  While there, she worked with Dr. Jack Blanchard and his lab, investigating cognitions associated with negative symptoms in schizophrenia, and social factors important for individuals with elevated rates of social anhedonia.  Recently, Shannon has joined the faculty at the University of Southern California as Assistant Professor of the Practice of Psychology and Director of the Psychology Services Center.  She is actively involved in improving clinical training for students earning their doctoral degree in clinical science at USC, teaching at the graduate and undergraduate levels, and supervising therapy and assessment cases. 

Dennis Combs, PhD
Associate Professor, University of Texas at Tyler

Denis Combs, PhD

Dennis Combs is currently an associate  professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Tyler.  Prior to moving back home to Texas, he  worked at the University of Tulsa for 5 years in the Ph.D. Clinical psychology program.  Dennis was a student of Dr. Penn's at LSU.  He received the 2009 Early Career Award from the National Register of Health Service Psychologist.  Dennis spends his time researching paranoia, social cognition, and methods to improve these areas.  He has published over 45 papers since finishing grad school in 2002. 

James Martin, PhD
Forensic Psychologist, Gainesville, GA

James had the opportunity to work with Dr. Penn in his labs at IIT and LSU. He interned at the William S. Hall Psychiatric Institute in South Carolina and completed his doctorate from LSU in 2002. This was followed by a one year temporary appointment as an assistant professor at the North Georgia College & State University, after which he settled into private practice in Gainesville, Georgia. Now, his practice predominately involves conducting forensic/court-ordered assessments for various juvenile and superior courts and the Department of Juvenile Justice. When not working he prefers to spend his free time with his 12-year old daughter and digging through the dirt in various locales in search of semi-precious gemstones and minerals. David has had a deep impact on my professional career, and was a great mentor to work with./p>

J. Meg Racenstein, PhD
Clinical Neuropsychologist, Chicago, IL

J. Meg Racenstein, Ph.D., is a licensed Clinical Neuropsychologist in private practice. She has two offices located in the northern suburbs of Chicago. Dr. Racenstein has extensive experience conducting neuropsychological assessments of school age children, adolescents and young adults with known or suspected attentional, psychological, learning or substance-induced disorders, as well as intellectually gifted individuals. Dr. Racenstein focused her research on patients with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and the dual diagnosis of substance abuse. She studied the diagnosis and assessment of psychiatric symptomatology as well as cognitive and psychosocial functioning in these population subsets.

Dr. Racenstein received her B.S. degree in Psychology at the University of Illinois, Champaign, followed by her M.A., in Community Counseling at Loyola University, Chicago. She earned her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology at the Illinois Institute of Technology, Institute of Psychology. She completed her internship and post-doctoral fellowship training in Neuropsychology at the University of Illinois Medical Center in Chicago.

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Former Research Staff

Piper MeyerPiper Meyer, PhD, PhD
Piper Meyer is the director for the Minnesota Center for Mental Health. Dr. Meyer graduated from Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis with a doctorate in Clinical Rehabilitation Psychology.  She previously served as a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and an Assistant Adjunct Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at UNC.  Currently, she is co-leading the individual therapy component (Individual Resiliency Training) for the Recovery After Initial Schizophrenia Episode (RAISE) project.  Dr. Meyer is an international trainer and consultant for Illness Management and Recovery (IMR) for the last eight years. She has trained clinicians working in outpatient, inpatient, forensic, residential, and crisis settings.  She has specialized in psychiatric rehabilitation with interests in recovery, positive psychology, first episode psychosis, and psychosocial treatment for people with severe mental illness.

Charles Olbert, BS
Charles Olbert is the former Project Coordinator for the Social Cognition And Functioning Study (SCAF) and has provided research assistance for the SCIT and RAISE projects. In a former life he did astrophysics research. When neither working nor spending time with his wife and dogs, Charles reads a lot of books, plays the bass guitar, and sits and stares at walls (i.e. practices Zen meditation). He received his B.A. in philosophy from UNC Chapel Hill in 2005, focusing on philosophy of mind and the epistemology of self-knowledge. Charles is currently a doctoral student in Fordham University's clinical psychology program, where he is doing qualitative research into recovery in schizophrenia and developing mathematical methods for investigating the coherence of psychiatric diagnostic categories.

Betty Rupp, BS
Betty Rupp, BSBetty Rupp is the former Project Coordinator for the Social Cognition And Functioning Study (SCAF), Social Cognition and Interaction Training (SCIT) study, and the Social Cognition & Interaction Training study for adolescents and young adults with High Functioning Autism (SCIT-A). She obtained her Bachelor's in Psychology from the University of Alabama in Birmingham and has over 6 years of field experience working with people with schizophrenia. Betty will be completing the second year of her MPH program at UNC Chapel Hill in Health Behavior. Her main areas of interest are the effects of stigma on HIV prevention, and the effects of gender inequality on reproductive health. She currently works as an RA on a project at UNC which is investigating using social media to increase HPV vaccination uptake among young teens in NC.

Kelly Smedley, RN, MSN, CNS
Ms. Smedley serves as clinical director of outpatient services at the Carr Mill clinic. She is a board certified clinical nurse specialist in adult psychiatry and mental health. Her extensive management and clinical experience includes being nursing supervisor of a child/adolescent inpatient psychiatric unit, charge nurse at the Diagnostic Evaluation Center at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic (WPIC), and a nurse therapist in the early psychosis program at WPIC. At the UNC Department of Psychiatry, she managed and assisted in the development of the Center of Excellence in the Research and Treatment of Bipolar Disorder, as well as served as a crisis clinician, therapist, and coordinator for several research studies. She received a bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of Delaware and her master’s in nursing from the University of Pittsburgh.

Elizabeth Evans, MD
Liz graduated with a BA in Psychology from UNC-CH in 2002. Following a year at UCSD doing research in the Department of Psychiatry, Division of Geriatric Psychiatry, she went on to complete a Post baccalaureate Premedical Program at Bryn Mawr College. While applying to medical school, Liz worked in Dr. Penn’s lab as the project coordinator for the Investigation of Group CBT for Medication-Resistant Auditory Hallucinations study, from August 2004 to June 2005. She then went on to receive her MD degree at the University of Pennsylvania, School of Medicine. She is currently completing her psychiatry residency at Columbia University, and will begin a fellowship in addiction psychiatry at Columbia in July 2013, where she will spend half of her time with clinical work and half of her time doing clinical research. Her research interest is in opiate dependence in women.

Elizabeth Cook, MA
Liz is the former study coordinator for the Graduated Recovery Intervention Program (GRIP) randomized trial for young adults with first episode psychosis. She obtained her B.A. in psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and is currently pursuing her doctorate in clinical psychology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. This year, she is completing her internship at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore, Maryland. Her clinical and research interests include the interrelationships between various domains of functioning (e.g., cognitive, living skills) in people with serious mental illness, first episode psychosis, and consumer-provided services.

Andrea Pelletier-Baldelli, BA
Andrea was born in Anchorage, Alaska and, after having moved around when she was young to Guam and Maine, Andrea's family settled in eastern North Carolina.  Andrea graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2007 after receiving bachelor degrees in English and Psychology.  After spending one year at Duke University working with children and adolescents suffering from trauma and substance abuse, she made her way back to UNC to work with individuals at high-risk for the development of psychosis.  Under the mentorship of Dr. Diana Perkins and Dr. Penn, Andrea spent three years coordinating and being involved in multiple research projects investigating the etiology and treatment of the prodromal period of schizophrenia.  In 2011, Andrea left North Carolina to attend the University of Colorado Boulder to work with Dr. Vijay Mittal and pursue a dual Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and Neuroscience.  Currently, Andrea's interests focus on understanding social processes in individuals at risk for psychosis, with a particular emphasis on using neuroimaging modalities.  In her free time, Andrea likes to read, go wine tasting, and take full advantage of sunny Colorado through hiking, running, and camping. 


Former Undergraduate Research Assistants

Felice Reddy, PhD
Felice worked in the Penn lab from 2004-2006 and graduated from UNC in 2006 with a B.S. in Psychology. She received her PhD at the University of Nebraska under Dr. Spaulding. Felice is currently a post-doctoral fellow at UCLA and the Greater Los Angeles VA MIRECC where she works in Dr. Michael Green's lab. Her research interests include social cognition, negative symptoms and motivation, and recovery. In addition to research, she runs social cognition treatment groups and does diagnostic interviews and neuropsychological evaluations.

Lauren Catalano, BS
Lauren's interest in schizophrenia research began as an undergraduate Research Assistant in the Penn Lab at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. After graduation in 2010, Lauren worked at the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center, a branch of University of Maryland's School of Medicine, with Drs. Gregory Strauss and Jim Gold in the Cognitive Affective Neuroscience in Schizophrenia lab on various projects related to negative symptoms in schizophrenia. Currently, Lauren is a doctoral student in the Clinical Psychology program at the University of Maryland, College Park under the direction of Dr. Jack Blanchard in the Laboratory of Emotion and Psychopathology. She is currently interested in exploring the underlying brain mechanisms driving social affiliative deficits in schizophrenia using resting-state fMRI.

Sierra Carter, M.S.
University of Georgia Clinical Psychology Program

Sierra graduated from UNC in 2010 with a B.S. in Psychology and minor in Social and Economic Justice. She worked as an undergraduate research assistant in the Penn lab for two years. Sierra is pursuing her doctorate degree in clinical psychology at the University of Georgia and currently serves as the Associate Director of the UGA Psychology Clinic. Her current research interests include using both psychological and physiological measures within underrepresented populations and families to assess how different racial and cultural factors can affect stress levels and subsequent health outcomes.

Kate McIntyre, BA
After graduating from UNC, Kate moved to Oregon to begin her work in community mental health. She currently works as a Program Manager for Cascadia Behavioral Healthcare, a non-profit mental health agency in Portland, Oregon. The program is a large residential setting that focuses on assisting clients who are recently discharged from the state hospital to transition to more independent housing. Kate is also working on her Masters in Public Health and her Masters in Social Work at Portland State University.

Mary Keeley Plisco, PhD
Dr. Mary Keeley Plisco is a licensed clinical psychologist in the state of Georgia. She is an assistant professor at Richmont Graduate University in Atlanta, GA and has a small private practice where she specializes in treating obsessive compulsive disorder and other anxiety disorders. Dr. Penn’s Abnormal Psychology class was the primary reason that Mary became interested in pursuing psychology as a career, and she is thankful for his wisdom, guidance, and encouragement while at UNC. Mary earned her B.A. degree in Psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Both her M.S. and Ph.D. degrees are from the University of Florida. She completed her internship and post-doctoral fellowship at Emory University.

Candice Creasman, MS, LPC, NCC
Candice received her BA in Psychology in 2005 from UNC-Chapel Hill.  She participated in the Psychology Honors program under Dr. Penn, completing her thesis on sub-clinical autistic traits and social cognition.  After graduating, she worked for the Autism Society of NC for a year before returning to UNC for a Masters in Rehabilitation Counseling and Psychology.  Candice was lucky enough to work with Dr. Penn again as a graduate intern at OASIS, where she provided individual and group counseling for young adults with psychotic disorders.  Since graduating, Candice has become a Licensed Professional Counselor and worked in fields of psychosocial rehabilitation, disability services, substance abuse, and pain management.  She currently has a private practice in Raleigh, NC and is in her second year of the Counselor Education Doctoral Program at North Carolina State University where she is pursuing research on the impact of mindfulness training for individuals experiencing disenfranchised grief.  She also leads support groups for young adults with muscular dystrophy and is a consultant to the Muscular Dystrophy Association.  When she's not working or reading for school, Candice enjoys cooking, kayaking, running, and basically any activity that gets her outside.  She has tried to shift her Tarheel loyalties to the Wolfpack, but has had little success.  

Bianca Brooks, M.A.
Georgia State University Clinical Psychology Program.

Bianca graduated from UNC in 2010 with a B.A. in Psychology and a double minor in Social and Economic Justice and Spanish for the Professions. She worked as an undergraduate research assistant in the Penn lab for two years.  Bianca is currently in her fourth year of the doctoral clinical psychology program at Georgia State University in a developmental neuropsychology lab focusing on the early detection of autism in toddlers. She received a fellowship designed to promote research on individuals with developmental disabilities in underrepresented populations.  Her future projects will explore ways to help families of low socioeconomic status to navigate early intervention services after receiving a diagnosis of a developmental delay.

Casey Calhoun, MA
Casey worked in the Penn lab during the spring of 2005, and he graduated from UNC the same year with a B.A. in psychology. In his post-baccalaureate years, Casey worked in several full-time research assistant positions at different universities, including UNC, SUNY Buffalo, and the University of Virginia. He obtained a master’s degree in Clinical Psychology from the University of South Florida, before continuing his graduate education at UNC. Casey is currently a fifth-year graduate student in the Clinical Psychology doctoral program at UNC. His research broadly considers the effects of peer relations and social cognition on adjustment in childhood and adolescence. Casey's most recent work examines the effects of negative peer experiences on adolescents' biological stress regulation. He also maintains a continued interest in exploring the conceptual and methodological issues regarding inter-rater discrepancy scores.

Janitra Venkatesan, BS
Janitra graduated from UNC in 2012 with a B.S. in Psychology and minors in Biology and Chemistry. She worked with the Penn Lab for three years and worked under the mentorship of Dr. Penn to complete her senior thesis in Psychology. Currently she is a 2012 Teach for America corps member in Charlotte, NC. Specifically, she works as an 8th grade Science teacher for KIPP Charlotte, a tuition-free open enrollment college preparatory middle school that serves those who are traditionally underserved or marginalized in education. She eventually plans to go to medical school and become a primary care physician to serve indigent populations.

Adrienne Albano, BA
Adrienne graduated from the University of Maryland Baltimore County in 2007 with a BA in psychology. She worked two years at the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center as a Study Coordinator for multiple genetic and clinical research studies on schizophrenia and related disorders. She then ended up at UNC as a Regulatory/Clinical Research Coordinator for an adolescent autism research group and later as a Clinical Research Associate for the AIDS Clinical Trials Group. Her ongoing interest in schizophrenia led her to volunteer as a research assistant in Dr. Penn's lab. She spent about two years assisting with ratings for the RAISE project and other miscellaneous tasks. She is currently residing in Okinawa, Japan with her husband as he serves his 4 year tour overseas with the Air Force. They are now expecting their first child in August 2013.

Kristen Coconis, BA
Kristen Coconis is proud to be the only native North Carolinian in her family! She graduated from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in May of 2012 with a B.A. in Psychology, and minors in Spanish for the Professions and Dramatic Art. She worked in the Penn Lab as an undergraduate assistant for two years. Prior to that, she worked in a child development lab, but she realized her passion lies in schizophrenia research. She currently teaches 2nd grade in Chicago as a Teach For America corps member. Outside of psychology and teaching, she loves reading, riding her bike, going to museums, playing with her pets, and making others laugh.

Alexis Georgeson-B.A.
Alexis worked in the Penn lab from 2010-2012 and graduated in 2012 with a BA in psychology and linguistics.  She now works as a data analyst at SouthLight, inc., a non-profit mental health and substance abuse agency in Raleigh, NC.  SouthLight provides outpatient and residential MH and substance abuse treatment for adolescents and adults and mainly serves clients receiving Medicaid or state funds.  Alexis has a strong interest in quantitative psychology and has plans to pursue a PhD in this area. 

Caroline Oates, BS
Caroline graduated with a B.S. in Psychology from UNC-CH in 2010. She was an undergraduate research assistant in the Penn lab for three years as well as the Clinical Affective Neuroscience (CAN) lab in her senior year. In her time with the Penn and CAN labs she assisted various studies on schizophrenia and autism. Following graduation, Caroline worked as a research analyst at Vanderbilt University in Elizabeth Dykens’ Prader-Willi and Williams syndromes research lab. Currently, Caroline is a doctoral student in the Medical/Clinical Psychology program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her primary interest is in neurodevelopmental disabilities. Caroline continues to be involved in research on Autism Spectrum Disorders and is embarking on a new project on neurodevelopmental outcomes of children born extremely prematurely.

Clifton Chamberlin, MA
Clifton worked in the Penn lab during some of his junior and all of his senior year (1999-2000) at UNC.  After returning to Washington, DC, he earned an MA in Clinical Psychology and joined a small private practice of psychotherapists in Bethesda, MD in the summer of 2006.  He has been working there as a clinician (Psychology Associate) while undertaking several other challenges.  Specifically, he has worked in the applied research field in program evaluation, human capital analytics, and healthcare contracting.  Since his time with Dr. Penn, Clifton has gravitated toward clinical work with those experiencing psychotic symptoms.  While earning his MA, he was able to be part of research projects into Severe Mental Illness and Schizophrenia.  Instead of lacrosse, he now competes seriously in both road-bike racing and triathlons where half-Ironman events are capturing his attention.  He misses Carolina, a lot.

Morgan Alexander, BS
After graduating with a double-major in Psychology and Mathematics from UNC in December 2012, Morgan Alexander spent 6 months in limbo before securing a job in Durham, NC as a Data Monitor at NeuroCog Trials.  She currently reviews the data for some of the largest clinical trials in the world, some of which are testing the safety and efficacy of pharmaceutical therapies for the treatment of the negative symptoms of schizophrenia.  Additionally, she is trained to certify raters to administer certain cognitive batteries, such as the MCCB, and will have the opportunity to certify raters across the world.  Despite graduating, Morgan can't stay away from the Penn Lab and will continue to assist in research.  In her free time she obsesses over photography, trains her pet rats, and daydreams about graduate school in clinical psychology. 

Jennifer Francis, PhD
Jennifer is currently an assistant professor of clinical psychiatry at the University of Illinois at Chicago.  She specializes in cognitive behavioral treatment (CBT) of mood and anxiety disorders and provides training and supervision in CBT for psychiatry residents and psychology interns and externs.  Jennifer is also a study therapist on a NIMH RDoC grant examining the impact of CBT and SSRIs on brain function, physiology and behavior among individuals with anxiety and depressive symptoms. Prior to moving to Chicago, Jennifer spent 4 years treating active duty military at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.  She provided CBT for service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan who were diagnosed with PTSD, panic disorder, and other post-deployment health issues.  Jennifer was the lead psychologist on a grant funded PTSD treatment intervention comparing prolonged exposure to virtual reality exposure for soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Jennifer received her PhD in Clinical Psychology from Louisiana State University in 2003 and completed her pre-doctoral internship at the West Virginia University School of Medicine in Morgantown, WV.  She completed a post-doctoral research fellowship in anxiety disorders with the Clinical Psychology Training Consortium at Brown University Medical School. She was an NHLBI T32 fellow on a behavioral medicine cardiovascular training grant at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, MD where she studied the impact of anxiety on cardiovascular disease.


Previous Lab Photos

Penn Lab 2012-2013



Penn Lab 2011-2012

Penn Lab 2011-2012

Penn Lab 2008

Penn Lab 2007

Penn Lab 2006