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.

Interested in joining the lab? We are seeking new graduate students for 2017. Information about applying to the 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

Lydia Meena, Laboratory manager.

lbmeena_1337066734_140Lydia Meena received her degree with majors in Psychology and Spanish from Georgetown University in 2016. Her prior research experience includes working in the Laboratory on Social & Affective Neuroscience since 2014, as well as working as a research assistant in the Infant Cognition Lab at the University of Louisville. She has also worked as a youth mentor and tutor through Georgetown’s DC Reads literacy program. For all research-related inquiries, please contact Lydia at

1gQzjt8iElise Cardinale, Ph.D. (Psychology)

Elise received her B.A. from Georgetown University in 2010, and has been part of the laboratory since 2008, first as a research assistant, then as laboratory manager, and received her Ph.D. in 2017. Her work focuses on how emotional processes affect behavior and moral decision making.

Publications include:

Marsh, A. A., & Cardinale, E. M. (2014). When psychopathy impairs moral judgments: Neural responses during judgments about causing fear. Social Cognitive & Affective Neuroscience, 9, 3-11.

Cardinale, E. M. & Marsh, A. A. (2015). Impact of psychopathy on moral judgments about causing fear and physical harm. PLoS ONE, 10, e0125708.

Cardinale, E. M., Breeden, A. L., Robertson, E. L., Lozier, L. M., VanMeter, J. W., & Marsh, A. A. (in press). Externalizing behavior severity in youths with callous-unemotional traits corresponds to patterns of amygdala activity and connectivity during judgments of causing fear. Development & Psychopathology.

Kruti_VekariaKruti Vekaria, Graduate 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. In press, Nature Human Behavior

2015-06-12 20.14.55Katherine O’Connell, Graduate student (Neuroscience)

Katie is a graduate student in Georgetown’s Interdisciplinary Program in Neuroscience (IPN). She graduated with a Bachelors of Science degree in Biology-Neuroscience from The Pennsylvania State University in 2013. After receiving her undergraduate degree, she completed a post-baccalaureate research fellowship with Drs. Christian Grillon and Monique Ernst at the National Institute of Mental Health 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.

Miriam Crinion, Research assistant

Shivani Goyal, Research assistant

Madeleine Quinn, Research assistant

Megan Weber, Honors student

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:


Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 4.02.23 PMAbbey Hammel, PhD student (University of Minnesota, Psychology)

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 (Georgetown University, Interdisciplinary Program in Neuroscience)

Following completion of her degree in 2014, Leah was awarded a Presidential Management Fellowship and is now working at the Department of Housing and Urban Development. She was among the first Fellows to be selected for the PMF STEM track.

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

Sarah completed a two-year term as LSAN laboratory manager in 2014, and is now a Clinical Psychology PhD student in the laboratory of Darby Saxbe at USC.

vieiraapsawardJoana Vieira, PhD (University of Porto, Neuroscience)

Joana completed her dissertation research in the lab and received her PhD from the University of Porto in 2014. Following completion of her degree, Joana won a post-doctoral research fellowship at the University of Western Ontario, where she is now working with Derek Mitchell.

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

Emily completed a two-year term as LSAN laboratory manager in 2016, and is now a Clinical Psychology PhD student in the laboratory of Paul Frick at LSU.

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

Kristin completed her dissertation research in the lab and received her PhD in 2016. She was awarded a post-doctoral fellowship to conduct research in Joe Kable’s lab at the University of Pennsylvania.

Undergraduate alumni

Hae Min Byeon* COL ’11 (PhD student, Comparative Human Development, University of Chicago)
Jessica Chaffkin* COL ’13 (MD student, University of Maryland)
Kelly Church COL ’13
Keri Church COL ’13
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 student, Tulane University)
Arianna Hughes COL ’17
Sarah Khorasani
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
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