Our Team

Bridget Callaghan, Ph.D.
Principle Investigator

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Bridget is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and is the director of the Brain and Body Lab (BABLab), which opened in 2019. Before starting at UCLA, Bridget was a postdoctoral research fellow at Columbia University in New York, and completed her doctorate in Psychology and her training as a clinical psychologist at the University of New South Wales in Australia. Bridget has experience working with animal models of early adversity, as well as in behavioral, fMRI, and biological research within human populations. Born in Sydney, Bridget is a lover of the sun and beaches. When she is not in the lab, she likes to spend time with her husband Beau, and dog Vinnie, hanging out, hiking (i.e., doing bush walks) and eating great food.


Jessica Uy
Post-Doctoral Researcher

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Jessica is a Postdoctoral Researcher in the BABLab. She earned her PhD in Developmental Psychology at UCLA. Her research interest is in investigating how early experiences become biologically embedded in the developing brain to influence psychological and physical well-being across development, and how these effects might be transmitted across generations. She has used behavioral and neuroimaging techniques to characterize the neural circuits that link normative experiences, such as stress, sleep, and social interactions, to psychological and physical health during adolescence. During her time in the BABLab, she plans to integrate indicators of peripheral biology (e.g., microbiome, inflammation) into her psychology and neuroscience research to examine how these processes interact to influence health across development. Outside of the BABLab, Jessica enjoys spending time with her family and friends, running, reading, and playing board games.


Jennifer Somers, Ph.D.
Post-Doctoral Fellow

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Jenn is a Postdoctoral Fellow on UCLA’s T32 Program on Biobehavioral Issues in Mental and Physical Health. Before starting at UCLA, Jenn earned her doctorate in clinical psychology at Arizona State University. Her research interest is in biobehavioral processes through which close relationships support mental and physical wellbeing, especially among families facing socioeconomic disadvantage and contextual adversities. By evaluating bidirectional influences between children and their caregivers across multiple timescales (e.g., second-by-second processes that occur during social interactions, longer-term adaptation that unfolds across development), this research provides a framework for characterizing the effects of early social experiences on children’s development, which bears implications for both children and their caregiver’s wellbeing. During her time in the BABLab, she plans to study the effects of adverse early social experiences on parent-child biobehavioral synchrony and developing socioemotional and biological systems. Outside of the lab, Jenn enjoys spending time with friends and family, trying new recipes, and going to the beach with her rescue dog Rosie.


Fran Querdasi
Graduate Student

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Fran is a Graduate Student in the Brain and Body Lab (BABLab) in the Psychology Department at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Fran is broadly interested in how experiences during childhood affect long-term health and resilience. In the BABlab, her research focuses on the development of social processes (e.g., cognitions, memory, reactivity to social stress) and interconnected biological systems (e.g., the gut-microbiome, HPA-axis, and brain). Fran also studies factors that foster well-being for children who have been exposed to early adversity, such as positive relationships. She graduated from Pomona College (1 hour east of Los Angeles!) with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology in 2018. Before joining the BABLab, Fran was a research coordinator at Stanford University, where she worked on projects investigating neurobiological development in infancy and the influences of early life experiences. Outside of the lab, Fran likes to spend time running, hiking, cooking, and traveling with family and friends.


Katelyn Phillips
Graduate Student

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Katelyn is a Scientia PhD Candidate at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. She is working on a project about the psychological impact of congenital heart disease at the Heart Centre for Children at the Children’s Hospital at Westmead. She is excited to be collaborating with the Brain and Body Lab at UCLA during her studies. Prior to commencing her PhD, Katelyn worked as a Research Assistant at Monash University on a study about adult outcomes in autism. She has also completed a Masters of Clinical Psychology at the University of Technology Sydney, where in addition to her clinical training, she completed a thesis focusing on schema therapy in older adults. In her spare time, Katelyn enjoys performing in musical theatre, listening to podcasts, and running her moderately successful Dungeons & Dragons campaign for her friends!


Naomi Gancz
Graduate Student

Naomi is interested in the physiological mechanisms by which early adversity affects self-regulation and health across the lifespan. Specifically, she studies how stressful experiences at different points in the lifespan interact to produce a more vulnerable or resilient phenotype. Her research focuses on interactions between the brain and peripheral systems like the immune system, HPA axis, and microbiome. Naomi graduated from the University of Chicago in 2019 and worked as a study coordinator at the Pittsburgh VA before joining the BAB lab. Outside of the lab, she enjoys baking, walking dogs at the animal shelter, and exploring L.A. on her bike.


Zhidi (Judy) Zhang
Visiting Graduate Researcher

Judy is a Visiting Graduate Researcher in the Brain and Body Lab (BABLab) in the Psychology Department at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). She is interested in developmental psychology, particularly the investigation of adversity early life and its impacts on mental health development in survivor’s adult life. Judy is a fifth-year PhD Candidate at Zhejiang University in China, majoring in Agricultural Economics. In her free time, Judy loves traveling to new places, playing tennis, and dancing Jazz.


Kristen Chu
Lab Manager / Research Associate

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Kristen is a Lab Manager in the Brain and Body Lab (BABLab) at UCLA. Kristen is interested in developmental psychopathology, particularly the investigation of early life stress and its impacts on emotion regulation and emotional development in children and adolescents. She graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) with a Bachelors Degree in Psychology and Communication, and a minor in Applied Psychology in 2019. During her time as an undergraduate, Kristen worked as a peer counselor at the UCSB Counseling and Psychological Services providing sessions to students seeking support and developing mental health outreach programs across communities on campus. These experiences led her to become a research assistant in several labs at UCSB studying topics of stress, resilience, and multicultural competency, before joining the UCLA Anxiety and Depression Research Center where she assisted in research focused on Anxiety and employment success. Outside of the BABLab, Kristen loves to dance, discover new music, and travel to new places, but can most often be found cuddling up with a good book and her dog, Scooter!

Kristen is a validated behavioral coder using the Family Interaction Macro-Coding System (FIMS) in the lab. 


Andrew Hanna
Senior Research Assistant

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Andrew is a Senior Research Assistant in the Brain and Body Lab (BABLab) in the Psychology Department at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Andrew is currently a fourth year transfer student pursuing a Bachelors of Science in Psychobiology and minoring in Biomedical Research with aspirations to become an emergency room doctor. Outside of BABlab, Andrew is conducting research that focuses on improving health disparities among populations at risk for HIV infection including gender and sexual minorities. This research includes testing interventions to decrease sexual risk in HIV primary and secondary prevention and biobehavioral interventions to enhance antiretroviral medication uptake and adherence for both HIV treatment (ART) and prevention (PrEP and PEP). Additionally, under the direction of the dean of UCLA Division of Life Sciences, Dr. Johnson, Andrew aims to decipher gene regulatory mechanisms, assess the role of noncoding regions (introns) in protein function, and understand how the regulation of RNA splicing and other RNA processing reactions allows the cell to respond to its environment. In his free time, Andrew enjoys spending time with his friends and family, playing basketball, and traveling.


Lorena Gonzalez
Senior Research Assistant

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Lorena is a Research Assistant in the Brain and Body Lab (BABLab) in the Psychology Department at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). She is a rising third-year student at UCLA majoring in Psychobiology and hopes to pursue a career as a physician or clinical psychologist. More specifically, Lorena is interested in researching a wide variety of mental illnesses and neurological disorders in individuals who can potentially be treated via the gut-brain axis. Outside of BABLab, she is a pre-med mentor for students in the UCLA Pre-Med Community, an advocate for acid attack survivors through RISE UCLA, and a leader for students in grades K-12 attending Title I schools that are underfunded in STEM, as part of InterAxon at UCLA. In her free time, Lorena enjoys being creative through art, graphic design, photography, and writing, and loves spending time with her family and cat, Kiku!

Lorena G. is also a member of the Social Media team at the Brain and Body Lab.


Madelyn Robinson
Senior Research Assistant

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Madelyn is a Research Assistant in the Brain and Body Lab (BABLab) in the Psychology Department at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). She is a third-year undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in Psychobiology, and she hopes to attend medical school to become a physician. She is particularly interested in how mental health affects physical health. In her free time, Madelyn enjoys running, solving puzzles, and spending time with friends and family.


Yash Mehta
Senior Research Assistant

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Yash is a Senior Research Assistant in the Brain and Body Lab (BABLab) in the Psychology Department at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Yash transferred to UCLA and is currently a third-year student pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Psychobiology. Upon graduating from UCLA, he hopes to attend medical school and become a physician. During his time at BABLab, he is hoping to research and investigate how adverse early-life experiences impact one’s development and what therapies and tools can be provided to effectively overcome such challenges. He is also interested to learn more about how one’s mental health and diet can impact interconnected biological systems and overall health and quality of life in the long-run. Outside of BABLab, Yash is a tutor for K-12th students, a mentor with The Bruin Experiment for middle school students from underserved communities, a volunteer with Music & Memory UCLA to provide personalized music therapy to patients with Alzheimer’s and dementia, and a clinical research assistant at the American Institute of Research. In his free time, Yash loves spending time with his family and friends, playing basketball, watching movies, going to concerts, and working out.


Alice Deng
Research Assistant

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Alice is an undergraduate researcher volunteering at the Brain and Body Lab in the Psychology Department at UCLA. She is a third-year undergraduate student majoring in Psychology and Economics, and minoring in Asian Languages. She moved to the United States from China at the age of 15, and developed her interest in Psychology in High School. Prior to volunteering at the BABLab, Alice worked as a research assistant at UCLA Marriage and Family Lab, and Stanford Cohen Lab to explore multiple topics in Psychology. She is also working as a mental health coach under UCLA STAND program to provide free mental health services to the LA community. Alice is working on data analysis on identifying components in parent-children interaction among adversity-exposed children under the BAB Lab. Outside of Research, Alice enjoys playing instruments, cooking breakfasts, and exploring the best food in LA.


Alyssa Ortega
Research Assistant

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Alyssa graduated from UCLA in Spring 2020 with a bachelors in Communications and Psychology. She is currently working on a research project about student experiences and mental health with guidance from Dr. Callaghan. Specifically, she is interested in the transfer student population and discovering what risk and protective factors shape their mental health outcomes. Currently, Alyssa is pursuing various mentoring opportunities with organizations that aid at risk youth. In the future, Alyssa wants to pursue a Clinical Psychology PhD program to set the foundation for her own practice as a clinical psychologist. In her free time, Alyssa loves traveling to new places and binge watching Breaking Bad on Netflix.

Alyssa O. was previously a PROPS scholar and BABLAB Research Intern. Alyssa O. is also a member of the Social Media team at the Brain and Body Lab.


Daniel Huang
Research Assistant

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Daniel is a Research Assistant in the Brain and Body Lab (BABLab) in the Psychology Department at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). He is a transfer student from the Bay Area and a third-year at UCLA majoring in Psychology and minoring in Cognitive Science. After UCLA, he is looking to obtain a graduate degree within the field of Psychology. Additionally, he is also a Research Assistant in the Brain, Education, Affect, & Regulation lab (BEAR Lab) at UCLA and an intern at Neuroscience Associates Incorporated under the direction of UCLA professor Dr. Lori Holt. Outside of the lab, he is an active member of UCLA Rec Esports as the Event Coordinator as well as a player on the Valorant Varsity team. In his free time, he enjoys spending time with his friends and family, exploring the outdoors, and playing various sports. Likewise, he loves to play with his cat, Oreo, while drinking coffee and reading.


Genesis Flores
Research Assistant

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Genesis is a Research Assistant in the Brain and Body Lab (BABLab) in the Psychology Department at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). She is currently completing her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (CPP) and plans to pursue a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology soon after. Broadly, Genesis is interested in understanding how environmental, neurobiological, and behavioral factors influence the social cognitive and emotional development of both clinical and typical pediatric populations. During her free time, Genesis enjoys visiting plant nurseries, getting boba, and spending time with friends and family!


Liz Harty
Research Assistant

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Liz is a Research Assistant in the Brain and Body Lab (BABLab) in the Psychology Department at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). She is a rising third-year student at UCLA studying neuroscience and interested in attending medical school to become a physician. She is from San Francisco, California but currently lives in Los Angeles. Her clinical research interests lie within neuropsychology, physiology, and psychosocial/cognitive science. In her free time, she loves to play tennis, go surfing, spend time with friends and family, work out, and watch movies.


Megan Ngai
Research Assistant

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Megan is an Undergraduate Research Assistant in the Brian and Body Lab (BABLab) in the Psychology Department at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). She is a rising third-year Psychobiology student with aspirations to become a physician and work with Doctors Without Borders. She is particularly interested in childhood adversity and how it contributes to mental health and overall wellness. Outside of BABLab, she spends her time as the Co-Director of Communications for GlobeMed UCLA and works with their partners in Central Uganda. In her free time, she enjoys graphic design, film, and weightlifting!

Megan N. is also a member of the Social Media team at the Brain and Body Lab.


Rory Simpson
Research Assistant

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Rory is a Research Assistant in the Brain and Body Lab (BABLab) in the Psychology Department at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). He is a rising third year student at UCLA from Los Angeles majoring in Neuroscience, and he is interested in pursuing a graduate degree in developmental psychology. Outside of the lab, he is one of the volunteer coordinators for UNICEF at UCLA and spends time working with kids and families transitioning out of homelessness. During Rory’s free time, he enjoys playing guitar and listening to music, drawing, and petting random cats he finds in his neighborhood.


Maggie Yu
Research Assistant 

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Maggie is a 4th year undergraduate student majoring in MCDB, to which she likes to say she majors in McDonalds Double Burger. She is fascinated by the correlations between the gut microbiome and pathogenesis of neurological disorders, and its mechanisms with CNS homeostasis. Maggie is currently a medic in the U.S. Air Force. After receiving top honor medic graduate during the pandemic, she eagerly volunteered with other military medics to support hospitals, clinics, and other medical facilities overburdened with positive coronavirus patients. The impacts from the pandemic and caring for very sick patients in the ICU and ER led her to pursue a Public Health minor, in addition to a Biomedical Research minor. After graduating as a super senior in the upcoming fall, she plans to continue working in research and work at the VA hospital while studying for the MCAT. After medical school, Maggie will continue to serve as an Air Force physician. Maggie’s ultimate career goal is to provide humanitarian aid to marginalized communities in developing countries with the Peace Corps. She would also love to open up a Chinese bakery with her dream dog, a golden retriever named Peach, as the mascot. In her free time, Maggie loves going on foodie adventures with her partner, walking dogs, walking around Trader Joe’s and checking for new yummy snacks, and working out at the John Wooden rec.


Michael To
Research Intern

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Michael is an Undergraduate Research Assistant in the Brain and Body Lab (BABLab) in the Psychology Department at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Hailing from sunny Southern California, he is a 4th year transfer student pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, as well as a minor and thesis in Biomedical Research. Prior to his involvement at the BABLab, he developed his interest in neuroscience through research on BCI (Brain-Computer Interfaced) systems and prosthetics conducted with the Department of Engineering and Computer Science at California State University, Fullerton. He is a bold advocate for socioeconomically disadvantaged and early adversity youth, as well as a passionate believer in the transformative power of growth mindset toward actualizing their success. Michael is leveraging his time at the BABlab to understand, investigate, and eventually integrate better outcomes for these vulnerable populations. When he has a spare moment, Michael loves training others in his capacity as a National Strength and Conditioning Association-PT, competing in USA Powerlifting at the Collegiate National level, practicing classical compositions as a cellist, and backpacking in the Sierra Nevada with his tail-wagging companion, Cookie.


Sapir Yona
Research Intern

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Sapir is an Undergraduate Research Intern in the Brain and Body Lab (BABLab) in the Psychology Department at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). She is currently a 4th year Undergraduate student pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology with a minor on Applied Developmental Psychology. Sapir is working on an independent research, examining sense of calling as a promotive factor of post-traumatic growth, with Dr. Callaghan as a mentor. After UCLA, she aspires to attend medical school to become a pediatric psychiatrist. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, playing the guitar, and drawing.


Shir Atias
Research Intern

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Shir is a fourth year undergraduate student majoring in Psychology at UCLA. Shir is an international student, born in Israel and raised in Nigeria. She is currently working with Sapir on a research project about Sense of Calling as a Promotive Factor of Post-Traumatic Growth, with Dr. Callaghan as a mentor. She also volunteers as a mental health coach at the STAND Program. She devotes her time volunteering in a developmental clinic called Center for the Developing Mind, and works closely with children with cognitive disorders. After UCLA, Shir wants to continue to Graduate school, either in the medical or psychological field. In her free time, Shir loves traveling to new places and being with family and friends.


Alumni

Nicole Fonacier, Research Intern November 2019 – August 2021

Anna Bretz, Senior Research Assistant November 2021 – June 2022

Andre Chan, Research Assistant March 2021 – May 2022

Deborah Banner, Senior Research Assistant May 2021 – April 2022 

Sienna Osadon, Senior Research Assistant March 2021 – April 2022

Keegan Buch, Research Assistant August 2020 – March 2022

Tiffany Nassirian, Senior Research Assistant September 2020 – October 2021

Grant Grech, Research Assistant March 2020 – July 2021

Maria Calderon, Research Assistant July 2020 – June 2021

Leticia Herrera, Senior Research Assistant August 2020 – June 2021

Daisy Ramirez, Research Assistant May 2020 – June 2021

Charis StanekSenior Research Assistant August 2020 – April 2021

Reese Wix, Research Assistant November 2019 – November 2020, UCLA Hammer Museum

Danielle LadensackSenior Research Assistant/ Co-Project Coordinator for the EGG & Emotionality Study October 2019 – October 2020

Emily Towner,  Lab Manager / Research Associate July 2019 – September 2020, Gates-Cambridge Scholar and Ph.D. student at Cambridge University

Alyssa Wieand, PROPS Scholar & Research Assistant November 2019 – September 2020, USC Imaging Genetics

Chloe Schwartz, Senior Research Assistant March 2020 – July 2020
UCLA Semel Institute, Jeste Lab

Aileen Gozali, Senior Research Assistant October 2019 – June 2020
University of California, San Fransisco (UCSF) Medical School

Ananya Eeraveni, Research Assistant November 2019 – May 2020
University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)

Eason Taylor, Lab Manager July 2019 – January 2020
Loyola Marymount University (LMU), HeadsUP! Labs


Collaborators

Nim Tottenham, Ph.D.
Columbia University, New York, United States

Lila Davachi, Ph.D.
Columbia University, New York, United States

Paul Bloom
Columbia University, New York, United States

Camille Gasser
Columbia University, New York, United States

Natalie Brito, Ph.D.
New York University, New York, United States

Nadine Kasparian, Ph.D.
The University of New South Wales, New South Wales, Australia

Akemi Tomoda, Ph.D.
University of Fukui, Fukui Prefecture, Japan

Shota Nishitani, Ph.D.
University of Fukui, Fukui Prefecture, Japan

Catherine Monk, Ph.D.
Columbia University, New York, United States

Clare McCormack, Ph.D.
Columbia University, New York, United States

Sarah Whittle, Ph.D.
University of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Julian Simmons, Ph.D.
University of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Tovah Klein, Ph.D.
Barnard College, Columbia University, New York, United States