The Laboratory on Social & Affective Neuroscience is located in the Department of Psychology at Georgetown University. We conduct research aimed at understanding the social, cognitive, and neural basis of social processes that include empathy, altruism, and aggression.

We will be considering admitting new Ph.D. applicants to the lab this year. If you are interested in applying this fall, information about applying to the department’s Ph.D. program can be found here

If you’re interested in a research assistant position, the online application can be found here.

Current lab members

Hannah Savitz, Laboratory manager

headshotHannah Savitz received her degree with a major in Psychology and minors in Anthropology and Gender & Sexuality Studies from Northwestern University in 2018. Her most recent research experience includes working as a research assistant at the Northwestern Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health and Wellbeing, as well as completing an honors thesis in Social Psychology during her senior year. She has also worked as a classroom literacy mentor to preschoolers through AmeriCorps’ Jumpstart program. For all research-related inquiries, please contact Hannah at 

KathrynAdams.jpgKathryn Adams, PhD student (Psychology)

Katie is a graduate student in the Lifespan Cognitive Neuroscience concentration. She graduated from The Pennsylvania State University in 2016, where she majored in Psychology, with a focus in Neuroscience. She then worked as a research assistant at the Center for Neurobehavioral Research with Dr. James Blair where she studied the neural correlates of aggression and callous-unemotional traits. She currently studies dysfunction in empathy and emotion processing circuitries in clinical populations. 

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Katherine O’Connell, PhD student (Neuroscience)

Katie is a graduate student in Georgetown’s Interdisciplinary Program in Neuroscience (IPN). She received her Bachelors of Science degree in Biology-Neuroscience from The Pennsylvania State University in 2013. She then completed a post-baccalaureate research fellowship with Drs. Christian Grillon and Monique Ernst at the NIMH in which her focus was using fMRI and psychophysiological techniques to investigate neural mechanisms underlying anxiety. She joined LSAN in the spring of 2016 and is working towards her PhD investigating the subcortical substrates of altruism and affective empathy.

Publications include:

Cardinale, E. M., O’Connell, K., Robertson, E. L., Meena, L. B., Breeden, A. L., Lozier, L. M., VanMeter, J. W. & Marsh, A. A. (2018). Callous and uncaring traits are associated with reductions in amygdala volume among youths with varying levels of conduct problems. In press, Psychological Medicine.

Brethel-Haurwitz, K. M., O’Connell, K., Cardinale, E. M., Stoianova, M., Stoycos, S. A., Leah Lozier, L. M., VanMeter, J. W., & Marsh, A. A. (2017). Amygdala-midbrain connectivity indicates a role for the mammalian parental care system in human altruism. Proceedings of the Royal Society B – Biological Sciences, 284: 20171731. 

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAS3AAAAJGNiMWM0OTUwLTIwMTAtNGI1Mi1iZmJkLTczYzdiZjQ2Mzg0NwShawn Rhoads, PhD student (Psychology)

Shawn is a graduate student in the Lifespan Cognitive Neuroscience concentration. He graduated from the University of Southern California in 2016, where he doubled majored in Physics and Psychology. He joined the lab in 2017 after working as a laboratory manager in the Human Experiences & Affective Development Lab with Drs. Amanda E. Guyer and Paul D. Hastings at the University of California Davis. He studies how the neural mechanisms that sub-serve social and emotional functioning can be leveraged across the lifespan to help both the self and others.

Publications include:

Marsh, A. A., Rhoads, S. A., & Ryan, R. M. (2018). A multi-semester classroom demonstration yields evidence in support of the facial feedback effect. In press, Emotion.

Kruti_VekariaKruti Vekaria, PhD student (Psychology)

Kruti is a graduate student in the Lifespan Cognitive Neuroscience concentration. She graduated from the University of Southern California in 2012, where she double majored in Neuroscience and Economics. She joined the lab in 2014 after working as a research analyst at Vanderbilt University. She studies how decision-making and emotion regulation affect the subjective valuation of monetary, social, and health choices.

Publications include: 

Vekaria, K. M., Brethel-Haurwitz, K. M., Cardinale, E. M., Stoycos, S. A., Marsh, A. A. (2017). Social discounting and distance perceptions in costly altruism. Nature Human Behavior 1, 0100.

Brethel-Haurwitz, K. M., Cardinale, E. M., Vekaria, K. M., Robertson, E. L., Walitt, B., VanMeter, J. W., & Marsh, A. A. (2018). Extraordinary altruists exhibit enhanced self-other overlap in neural responses to distress. In press, Psychological Science

Nicole Conrad, Research assistant

Shivani Goyal, Research assistant

Brandon Padgett, Research assistant

Madeleine Quinn, Honors student

Stella Ryou, Research assistant

Marissa Walsh, Research assistant

Matthew Williams, Research assistant

Locating us

The lab is located on the 3rd floor of White-Gravenor Hall, at the intersection of 37th and P Streets NW in Washington DC. To reach our lab, use the staircase or elevator located at the East end of the building:


Google Profile PicKristin Brethel-Haurwitz, PhD (Psychology, Georgetown University)

Kristin completed her dissertation research in the lab and received her PhD in 2017. She was awarded a post-doctoral fellowship to conduct research in Joe Kable’s lab at the University of Pennsylvania.

1gQzjt8iElise Cardinale, PhD (Psychology, Georgetown University)

Elise completed her dissertation and received her PhD in 2017. She is now a post-doctoral researcher with Danny Pine and Ellen Liebenluft at the NIMH.

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Abbey Hammel, PhD student (Psychology, University of Minnesota)

Following a year in the lab as a full-time research assistant, Abbey is now a Psychology PhD student in the laboratory of Shmuel Lissek at the University of Minnesota. 

LeahLLeah Lozier, PhD (Neuroscience, Georgetown University)

Leah received her PhD in 2014. She was awarded a Presidential Management Fellowship–she was among the first Fellows to be selected for the PMF STEM track–and is now working as a Social Science Analyst at the Department of Housing and Urban Development. 

lbmeena_1337066734_140Lydia Meena

Lydia served as LSAN laboratory manager from 2016 to 2018 after receiving her degree with majors in Psychology and Spanish from Georgetown University in 2016. 

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAIBAAAAJGU2Yjk2ZjI3LTBjMjItNDYwNi1iOTNkLTc2MmQxMTdhODMyZAEmily Robertson, PhD student (Clinical Psychology, Louisiana State University)

Emily served as LSAN laboratory manager from 2014 to 2016, and is now a Clinical Psychology PhD student with Paul Frick at LSU.

photoSarah Stoycos, PhD student (Clinical Psychology, University of Southern California)

Sarah served as LSAN laboratory manager from 2012 to 2014, and is now a Clinical Psychology PhD student with Darby Saxbe at USC.

vieiraapsaward-1Joana Vieira, PhD (Neuroscience, University of Porto)

Joana completed her dissertation research in the lab and received her PhD from the University of Porto in 2014. She is now completing her post-doctoral work with Andreas Olsson at the Karolinska Institutet.

Undergraduate alumni

Hae Min Byeon* COL ’11 (PhD student, Comparative Human Development, University of Chicago)
Jessica Chaffkin*, COL ’13, MD (University of Maryland)
Kelly Church COL ’13
Keri Church COL ’13
Keri Church COL ’13
Miriam Crinion* COL ’18
Lauren Davis
Michael Didow III
Yean Do* COL ’13
Zoë Epstein COL ’17
Mollie Grossman COL ’12 (PhD student, Gerontology, USC)
Mike Hall
Jennifer Hammer* COL ’14
Alexandra Hashemi COL ’11, MD (Tulane University)
Arianna Hughes COL ’17
Sarah Khorasani, COL ’16 (MD/MA student, Tufts University)
Kalli Krumpos, COL ’12
Kyla Machell* COL ’10 (PhD student, Clinical Psychology, George Mason University)
Diana McCue, COL ’11, MSSW (University of Texas at Austin)
Alissa Mrazek, PhD (Northwestern University)
Esha Nagpal* COL ’12
Madeleine Quinn* COL ’18
Nilesh Seshadri COL ’15 (MD student, Georgetown University)
Kelsey Smith COL ’10
Madeline Smith COL ’15 (MD student, Emory University)
Maria Stoianova, COL ’16
Michaela Tracy* COL ’12, MD (University of Massachusetts)
Megan Weber* COL ’17

* Honors Student