Our interdisciplinary team brings expertise from a range of settings and disciplines such as special education, neuroscience, healthcare, psychology, occupational therapy, and social work. Our diverse perspectives and shared values drive our integrated research, practice, and policy approach to better care for our youngest and most vulnerable children.
Michael S. Gaffrey, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor at Duke University in the Department of Psychology & Neuroscience. He is also Director of Duke’s Early Experience and the Developing Brain (DEED) lab. He received his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee and completed a postdoctoral fellowship in developmental clinical and affective neuroscience at the Washington University School of Medicine. Dr. Gaffrey has also completed advanced training in infant mental health practice and policy through the ZERO-TO-THREE Leadership Development Institute.
Dr. Gaffrey is firmly committed to studying, treating, and advocating for the health and well-being of vulnerable infants and young children. To this end, his research endeavors include the use of behavioral and neuroimaging methodologies to better understand biological pathways underlying risk and resilience to early life stress and related environmental challenges. He is also actively involved in using the tools of developmental neuroscience to better understand how preventive intervention programs targeting infants at risk for negative socioemotional outcomes, including depression and autism spectrum disorder, can be used more effectively. Through the integration of clinical practice and innovative research, Dr. Gaffrey hopes to reduce the impact of risk factors that contribute to unfavorable health outcomes for vulnerable infants and families. Furthermore, Dr. Gaffrey believes we can better foster healthy environments for growing children and ensure the well-being of all infants and families by bringing objective research and practice-based knowledge to policy and public arenas.
Yu Sun Chung, Ph.D. received her Ph.D. in Behavior, Brain and Cognition program from Washington University in St. Louis under the supervisions of Drs. Deanna Barch and Todd Braver, along with Cognitive, Computational and Systems Neuroscience training. Her overall research program has focused on understanding normal and abnormal behaviors supported by frontal-limbic circuitry. Specifically, during her graduate years, her work focused on cognitive control of reward processing and anhedonia in schizophrenia and healthy adults using fMRI and behavioral paradigms. To fully understand the onset of psychopathology that typically develops in adolescence, she completed her first postdoctoral training in developmental cognitive neuroscience at Olin Neuropsychiatry Research Center, Hartford, CT. During the time, she investigated sex-specific adolescent developments of response inhibition and emotion regulation using various functional connectivity methods and salivary hormone assessments. In the DEED lab, she primarily works on the Neurodevelopmental Trajectories of Reward Processing in Very Early Emerging Risk for Depression study. She is extending her skillsets to use the combination of fMRI and ERP to better delineate early developments of self-regulation and emotion in preschoolers in a sex-specific way. Her research program’s ultimate goal is to understand sex-specific neural developments of emotion, cognition, and reward processing from children through adolescence to young adults in order to develop individualized treatments for dysfunctions in emotion and cognition at the early developmental stages of psychopathology.
Carina Fowler, B.A. is a second-year Ph.D. student in Duke’s clinical psychology program. A Washington University in St. Louis graduate, she comes to the DEED Lab after working as a Project Coordinator at neighboring UNC-Chapel Hill. Carina is interested in exploring how early experiences may become “biologically embedded” in brain structure and influence risk for psychopathology. In her free time, Carina likes to read–especially a good mystery!
Sarah Markert, B.S. is a first-year Ph.D. student in Duke’s Clinical Psychology Program. She graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 2017, where she completed an Honors Thesis that investigated mechanisms of language development within the caregiver-infant dyad in infants at high and low risk for ASD. After graduation, she spent two years researching early social visual engagement in infants with and without ASD as a Donald J. Cohen Fellow in Developmental Social Neuroscience at Emory University’s Marcus Autism Center. Now in the DEED lab, she is excited to continue to research the dynamic and mutually-reinforcing nature of the caregiver-infant dyad, targeting shifts in social visual attention using dyadic head-mounted eye tracking technology. She plans to involve her clinical and scientific work in facilitating and researching the MC2 intervention to help promote healthy foundations for vulnerable infants and families in the community and at large. In her free time, Sarah loves seeing live music and de-stressing with her cat Gouda.
Ellen Gaffrey, M.S. received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Education/Special Education from Cardinal Stritch University and her Masters of Science degree in Administrative Leadership from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She has worked extensively in the fields of special education and early intervention occupying a range of roles in service of supporting families. Her career trajectory includes experience as a lead therapist for an in-home autism spectrum disorder (ASD) behavioral service provider, ASD special education consultant, special education classroom teacher, program support/development staff member, IEP evaluation team member, and as a school administrator in the public-school setting. Within DEED, Ellen facilitates the implementation of the infant-toddler autism program, MC2 (motivation, connection, and communication) providing a brief, parent-mediated naturalistic developmental behavioral intervention for infants/toddlers with ASD and helping to research its effectiveness and dissemination. Ellen is passionate about finding innovative ways to support a strong start for infants with ASD and their families.
Margaret O’Brien, M.S. is a Durham native, who received her BS in Psychology from the University of North Carolina (UNC) in 2013 and her MS in Psychology from the University of Illinois in 2018. She has worked for many years in the fields of Developmental Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience, and has a particular interest in emotion-cognition interactions throughout the life span. Margaret’s Honor’s Thesis at UNC investigated age- and gender-related differences in attentional and perceptual patterns in 9 and 12 month old infants using an infant-controlled habituation paradigm. Her Master’s Thesis at the University of Illinois used Eye Tracking to investigate attentional shifts in emotion regulation, and subsequent item and relational memory for emotional images. Within the DEED lab, Margaret works most closely with the Eye Tracking components of the Dyadic Head-Mounted Eye Tracking (DH-MET) study, investigating social and attentional changes in children with (or at risk for) Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Summer Lawrence, B.S. received her Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology with a minor in Sociology from Virginia Tech in 2018. During her time at Virginia Tech, Summer worked as an undergraduate researcher for three years in the Social Development Lab under the supervision of Dr. Julie Dunsmore. She was involved in multiple aspects of research relating to emotion regulation, coaching, and intelligence. She also worked on projects that looked at the effects a person’s family and peer groups have on their emotional development. Within the DEED lab, Summer primarily works on the Neurodevelopmental Trajectories of Reward Processing in Very Early Emerging Risk for Depression study. This study investigates development and risk for depression. She also assists with collecting EEG data and coordinating fMRI scans with preschoolers and their parents.
Catherine Maloney, M.S. received her Bachelor of Science degree in Behavioral Neuroscience from St. Edward’s University and her Masters of Science degree in Global Mental Health from the University of Glasgow. Her academic interests focus on further understanding the intersection of neurological and psychosocial mechanisms of mental illness in vulnerable youth populations and the subsequent development of effective, culturally-relevant interventions. Catherine volunteered with a variety of marginalized populations throughout her time at St. Edward’s University, and completed a qualitative study identifying barriers to healthcare faced by individuals experiencing homelessness. Subsequent to graduation, Catherine spent five months volunteering in Jamaica, where she organized therapeutic activities at a boys’ home and assisted in a rural health clinic. She later returned to Jamaica to collect data for her Masters dissertation, which evaluated Jamaican adolescents’ receptiveness to digital mental health services and treatment seeking preferences. Within DEED, Catherine will assist with the Neurodevelopmental Trajectories of Reward Processing in Very Early Emerging Risk for Depression study, investigating brain development and risk for depression in preschool-aged children. Catherine hopes by further understanding the biopsychosocial factors associated with depressive symptoms in early life, we may provide support and enhance well-being for young children and their families.
Jason Lu, B.S. graduated from Duke University in 2013 with a degree in Psychology and Computer Science. Originally from New York City, he came back to Durham to work with the DEED lab because of his interest in psychology. He is excited to utilize his background in computer science to complement the needs of the lab.
Rebekah Myers, M.S.W. received her Bachelor of Science degree in Applied Psychology from New York University and her Masters of Social Work from the University of South Carolina. During her time at NYU, Rebekah worked with the Latino Family Engagement and Language Development research team to collaborate extensively with teachers and children in low-income preschool classrooms. She also completed an honor’s thesis exploring the impact of teachers’ perceptions on preschoolers’ self-competence. Rebekah furthered her research at USC through analyzing qualitative interviews with adults at-risk for food insecurity in South Carolina. She also completed two internships, which included program development at Gamecock Recovery and conducting supportive therapy with active-duty soldiers and veterans at Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center. Rebekah’s areas of interest expanded throughout graduate school; however, her current academic interests include exploring the effects of early life experiences on children’s mental health, particularly amongst military children. Rebekah will primarily assist with DEED’s Neurodevelopmental Trajectories of Reward Processing in Very Early Emerging Risk for Depression study, and she is excited to see how her efforts will contribute to the larger research and policy conversations on mental health and child well-being.
Amanda Neal, B.A. received her Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies with a Neuroscience concentration from the University of Tennessee – Knoxville in 2019. While at the University of Tennessee, she worked with the Infant Language and Perceptual Learning Lab under Dr. Jessica Hay. While there, Amanda helped with projects related to pitch and tone perception in 15-month-old infants. She is interested in one day pursuing a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and wants to focus on childhood neuropsychology. Amanda is excited to work with the DEED Lab as she is interested in how early experiences affect social development and potential for later life psychopathology.
Lubna Barakat, B.S. received her dual Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Maryland, College Park in Physiology & Neurobiology and Psychology. During her sophomore and junior year, Lubna worked as a research assistant in the Identity Management Lab led by Dr. Jennifer Wessel, where she helped design a study on confronting prejudice and the effects of bias in the workplace. Afterwards, Lubna became a research assistant in the Child Development Lab led by Dr. Nathan Fox. There, she was responsible for coding and analyzing data for the Temperament Over Time Study, a longitudinal research project that focuses on exploring individual differences in social development and personality. For her senior project, Lubna designed and presented a partnered project on “How Do Children’s Hobbies Relate to Temperament & Behavior Problems: The Role of Gender”. Throughout her undergraduate career, Lubna volunteered as a Residential/Rehabilitation Counselor at Cornerstone Montgomery, where she assisted clients in developing social and interpersonal skills through community activities. In addition, Lubna was a medical scribe for the hospitalist/internal medicine team at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland. Overall, Lubna’s research interests include early intervention for mental health disorders, child psychology/psychiatry, and the effects of trauma on child development. Here at DEED, Lubna is ambitious to learn more about developmental psychology while assisting on the Neurodevelopmental Trajectories of Reward Processing in Very Early Emerging Risk for Depression study.
Undergraduate Research Assistants
Kiera Little is currently a junior planning on double majoring in Psychology and Evolutionary Anthropology. She has many years of experience working with youth, as both a camp counselor and a gymnastics coach in her home state of New Jersey. She is also involved with an after-school program that brings dance and gymnastics to elementary school students in Durham. Kiera is excited to contribute to the DEED lab, and utilize her interest in psychology and her experience working with children to support the development of a solid foundation for success in toddlers and preschoolers.
Kyle Shutkind is a Duke University undergraduate pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in Neuroscience and a minor in Chemistry. Previously, he worked as an undergraduate research assistant in the Duke Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences department under the supervision of Dr. Jonathan Young. His research involved writing case reports and compiling data of published work in the field of noninvasive brain stimulation and its efficacy in the treatment of depression. He is excited to continue studying depression through the DEED lab where his focus will shift to the biological pathways and risk factors underlying depression in infants and young children. Kyle is looking forward to gaining clinical research experience as he plans to attend medical school after graduation.
Sena Park is a senior at Duke University, double majoring in Global Health and Psychology, and is originally from Cary, North Carolina. She has had many years of experience working with children inside the classroom across a wide range of ages, developing her interest in youth education. She previously worked in the Moffitt-Caspi Lab at Duke University, focusing on financial literacy and well-being in the Dunedin Longitudinal Study. She is mainly interested in addressing mental health disorders through community-based interventions in the US, especially for children. Sena is looking forward to joining the DEED lab to learn more about developmental psychology and its future implications for mental health interventions and policy-making.
Abby Nimetz is a senior at Duke University from Chappaqua, NY. She is majoring in Psychology with plans to pursue a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology after graduation. Previously, she has worked in the Asher Lab studying friendship quality, and at the Duke Center for Child and Family Policy researching different parenting practices across the world. Abby also volunteers with third grade students at the Emily K Center in Durham and has a passion for working with children. She is interested in studying ways to improve socioemotional functioning in children, and is excited to contribute to the DEED Lab’s research on autism spectrum disorder and depressive symptoms in early childhood.
Hailey Reisert is a current sophomore from Long Island, New York. At Duke, she is planning on majoring in Neuroscience and minoring in Psychology and Chemistry. After graduating, she hopes to attend medical school and pursue a career in pediatric neurosurgery. She loves being around young children, and has experience working with ages 2-10 as a dance instructor. She continues to embrace this passion at Duke as she leads the dance program for youth residents at a homeless shelter in Durham. Hailey loves brains, and is interested in child development and the intersection of psychology and neuroscience. She enjoys studying the development of autism spectrum disorders and depression, and how altering one’s environment can provoke brain plasticity and change. Therefore, she is grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the DEED lab’s work.
Sydney Albert is a sophomore at Duke University and originally from Bethesda, Maryland. She is planning to pursue a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and a minor in Education. Sydney has many years of experience working with children of all ages, from a classroom or camp setting to a sports training setting. She is passionate about ensuring that young children are provided the best possible foundation to succeed later in life, and is excited to become involved in research focused on underlying biological correlates for risk and behavioral intervention for children with ASD.
Justin Kim is a sophomore at Duke University planning to major in Neuroscience. Originally from Raleigh, North Carolina, he came to Duke with an aspiration to enter the medical field as a pediatrician. Previously, he worked in the Tobin Lab, researching the interaction between mycobacteria and their hosts, specifically with tuberculosis and Zebrafish. He also has experience working with children through Duke Hospital’s Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplant Unit and an autism camp in his local community. Justin is interested in learning more about developmental psychology, particularly in its applications for young patients with autism and the crucial role that parents and caregivers play at an early stage in the lives of their children. He hopes that the DEED Lab will further his understanding of psychology’s extensive influence and potential to help families with at-risk children.
Emily Raich is a sophomore at Duke University planning on pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Psychology with a minor in Neuroscience and/or a certificate in Child Policy Research. Emily has always been passionate about working with children, with a specific interest in behavior and development. At home in Los Angeles, she has worked as a volunteer at the UCLA Intervention Program at the Mattel Children’s Hospital, which provides play-based educational and therapeutic services for vulnerable children and their families. After this hands-on experience, she has developed a further interest in the impacts of early intervention programs. On campus, Emily is a member of the Duke Children’s Ambassadors Program, a project-based group that strives to bridge the gap between campus and the Duke Children’s Hospital. She is looking forward to exploring the effect of early intervention programs on the development of childhood mental health and social delays to influence future policy and change.
Kathryn Silberstein is currently a junior pursuing a B.S. in Neuroscience with minors in Biology and Global Health. She is originally from Delray Beach, Florida. She is one of the managing editors for The Chronicle and a peer responder for Peer for You, a student-run peer support program. Her interest in neuroscience began in an introductory psychology course, and she became focused on the study of psychopathology on the neurological level through later courses. She is looking forward to working in the DEED Lab and having the opportunity to delve into researching the premature manifestations and neural correlates of mood disorders that are currently under study, and is excited by how those findings could be applied to preventative treatments.
Sonia He is a sophomore at Duke University originally from Ellicott City, MD. She is currently majoring in Psychology and minoring in Education, and she plans on pursuing a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology in graduate school. She adores kids and has enjoyed working with them as a tutor, camp counselor, and daycare teaching assistant. She is also passionate about promoting mental health, and thus, is excited to join the DEED to discover ways to support and improve the well being of young children. In the future, her dream is to become a clinical child psychologist or teacher. At Duke, she also works at Durham Early Schools and is a Senator for Duke Student Government. In her free time, she enjoys being artsy through crochet and DIY projects!
Michael Greenstein is a sophomore at Duke University from Summit, New Jersey pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience with a minor in Italian. Michael has always been passionate about working with children, specifically volunteering with children with special needs. Throughout high school, he was involved with Friendship Circle: a volunteer-based organization that facilitates events, home-visits, and camps with special needs children. After this hands-on experience, Michael has furthered his volunteer interest here on Duke’s campus assuming the role of Director of Community Engagement for Duke Special Olympics. Through this role, he helps facilitate personal relationships and further interactions between the students and Special Olympics athletes. Michael is excited to be working in the DEED lab, combining his volunteer passion with academic interests, researching early-onset mental health disorders and autism through the lens of neuroimaging and neurological pathways. Michael’s long-term goal is to attend medical school and enter the field of pediatrics.
Sean Woytowitz is a sophomore at Duke University pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology with minors in Biology and Chemistry. He is from San Diego, CA and has had many years of experience working with and teaching young children in a classroom setting. He also volunteers as a Crisis Counselor for Crisis Text Line, a Counselor for Camp Kesem, and is the founder of Piece of Mind, a mental health organization that serves high school students in Durham, NC. Sean is excited to continue studying developmental psychopathology through the DEED Lab and ultimately hopes to attend medical school and pursue a career as a child psychiatrist.
Maya Parker is a junior at Duke University, pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and minoring in Neuroscience. She is originally from Eastern North Carolina. Maya has many years of experience working with children of all ages ranging from working at a daycare facility with newborns and toddlers to mentoring middle and high school aged adolescents in a community youth group. After completing introductory psychology and neuroscience courses here at Duke, her passion for young people began to overlap with an interest in how experience and environment can alter brain mechanisms related to behavior and development. She is looking forward to the opportunity of consolidating these two interests while being a part of the team here at DEED. Maya hopes to one day further her studies by pursuing a MD/Ph.D., and eventually becoming a pediatrician who examines the correlation between ACEs, development, and behavior in order to adequately treat vulnerable youth populations.
Ainsley Buck is a sophomore at Duke University from Connecticut. She is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience and a minor in Psychology. Ainsley loves being involved in research and has previously worked under Dr. Michael Tomasello, studying joint attention and social communication in typically developing children, as well as under Dr. Paul Bloom, where she focused on cognitive social development and children’s understanding of the social world. She is also involved in a Bass Connections team working with the state of North Carolina to implement evidence-based policies better suited to meet children’s needs. Ainsley’s primary interest is in the intersection of the brain and behavior, particularly in early mood and developmental disorders. Ultimately, she would love to work in pediatric neuropsychology as a practicing researcher. Ainsley hopes to help families identify these disorders early on to provide the best possible outcome for the child and their family members.
Jenny Liu is a sophomore at Duke University planning to major in Neuroscience. She is originally from College Station, Texas, where she discovered her love for children through babysitting her younger brother and volunteering in elementary schools and church. At Duke, she continues her passion of working with kids through Duke Devilthon and Duke Children’s Ambassadors, which work closely with the Duke Children’s hospital. She is also involved in Sophomore Class Council, and volunteers at the Durham VA hospital. After working over the summer in a neuroscience lab at Texas A&M University looking at fear and memory systems in rats, she became more fascinated by research and the field of neuroscience. She is excited to work in the DEED Lab and gain experience in working with human subjects and is particularly interested in the mental health and development of children. In the future, she plans to go to medical school and work in pediatrics or neurology.
Nishad Karediya graduated from Duke University in 2019 with a Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience. He is originally from San Antonio, Texas. His interest in developmental neuroscience stems from the plasticity of the brain in response to changes in the environment, especially in infancy and early childhood. He joined the DEED lab to discover how this plasticity can be leveraged to counter risk factors that exacerbate abnormal brain development. He conducted an independent study that examined the relationships between error-related negativity and early emerging symptoms of dysregulated emotion in preschoolers. He is currently conducting research on auditory decision-making in the Department of Neuroscience at Baylor College of Medicine for his gap year. He hopes to attend medical school after his gap year.
Bonnie Lerman graduated from Duke University with a Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience and a minor in Psychology. From Long Island, New York, Bonnie has taken an interest in child development, working closely with children as a sleep-away camp counselor for many summers. She is also passionate about mental health, working on the Mental Health Advisory Council with CAPS here at Duke. Bonnie has a particular interest in the neural correlates of psychopathology, and here at the Deed lab, she helped out with the NTREC study in order to explore emotional regulation in young children. Bonnie is currently preparing to apply to medical school in the pursuit of a career in psychiatry.