Eva Telzer is a Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at UNC Chapel Hill. She is an Associate Editor at Child Development and Social Cognitive Affective Neuroscience, and the co-director of the Winston National Center on Technology Use, Brain and Psychological Development. Her research examines how social and cultural processes shape adolescent brain development, with a focus on both prosocial and risk-taking behaviors, family and peer relationships, and the role of social media in youth’s lives. She has authored nearly 200 publications and has received numerous awards for her work including an Association for Psychological Science Rising Star Award, an early career award from the Society of Research on Adolescence, a Young Investigator Award from the Flux Congress Society for Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, and the American Psychological Association Distinguished Scientific Award for Early Career Contribution to Psychology. She is regularly featured as an expert in psychological science in consultation to government agencies and non-profit associations as well as media appearances in The New York Times, NPR, CNN, ABC, CBS, and NBC. In her free time she enjoys drawing biological illustrations, cooking and baking, reading novels, and playing with her toddler
Kaitlyn Burnell, Ph.D.
Kaitlyn Burnell is a Research Assistant Professor with the Winston National Center on Technology Use, Brain and Psychological Development. She received her Ph.D. in Psychological Sciences at the University of Texas at Dallas, with a concentration in developmental psychology. Her research adapts a developmental focus to study how adolescents and emerging adults use digital technologies, including social media and smartphones. Kaitlyn’s research examines the associations between digital technology use and a wide array of psychosocial outcomes, including well-being and mental health, body image, and risky behavior such as substance use. She has a special interest in applying cutting edge methodological approaches to study these linkages, such as the use of passive sensing, eye-tracking, and observational coding. In her free time, she enjoys biking, paddle boarding, reading, and hanging out with her husband, Jake, and dog, JP.
Jessica S. Flannery, Ph.D.
Jessica Flannery is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Psychology a
nd Neuroscience at the University of North Carolina. She received her Ph.D. in cognitive neuroscience from Florida International University under the mentorship of Dr. Matthew Sutherland. Jessica is interested in studying individual differences in social and affective neurocognitive mechanisms during the critical developmental period of adolescence. She aims to leverage longitudinal neuroimaging data to identify antecedences and consequences of substance use. Jessica enjoys painting, running, and conversing.
Junqiang Dai, Ph.D.
Junqiang (Jacob) Dai is a postdoctoral researcher at UNC, Chapel Hill. He received his Ph.D. in developmental psychology from Penn State University under the mentorship of Dr. Suzy Scherf, he also worked with Dr. Dawn Witherspoon at Penn State for his dissertation. Jacob is broadly interested in the behavioral and neural signatures of social information processing, and what the developmental determinants, trajectories, and implications of these signatures are, especially in adolescents and emerging adults. To continue his dissertation work, he’s also interested in whether social development varies across ethnic/racial groups and how social behaviors might manifest differently in interracial contexts in adolescents. Working with Dr. Eva Telzer in DSNL, he aims to use longitudinal methods and computational neuroscience to investigate adolescents’ brain development and how it relates to substance use. In his free time he enjoys traveling, movies, Quora, swimming, and PC games.
Jolien Trekels, Ph.D.
Jolien Trekels is a postdoctoral scholar associated with the DSN lab at the University of North Carolina. She received her Ph.D. in Social Sciences from the University of Leuven (Belgium) under the mentorship of Dr. Steven Eggermont. Jolien is broadly interested in (early) adolescents’ development in a digitalized society that is dominated by normative ideals. In her research, Jolien investigates which cognitive processes and individual difference factors underlie the effects of media use on well-being and self-image. To that end, she applies a multidisciplinary approach in which crucial concepts from communication sciences are integrated with psychological and sociological insights. In her free time, Jolien enjoys crafting and spending time with her husband, two children and two cats.
Maria Maza, M.A.
Maria Maza is a fourth-year graduate student in the Developmental Psychology program. She received her B.S. is Neuroscience and Education from Bates College in 2018. Following graduation, she worked as a research assistant and imaging coordinator with Dr. BJ Casey at Yale University. Her research combines neuroimaging, self-report, and community-based participatory research to explore how digital media contexts impact and are impacted by adolescents’ social, emotional, and neural development. In her free time, Maria enjoys dancing, hiking, and baking.
Jimmy Capella, M.A.
Jimmy Capella is a fourth-year graduate student in the Developmental Psychology program. He received his B.S. in Neuroscience and Behavior from the University of Notre Dame in 2018. Following graduation, Jimmy worked as a Technical Associate for John Gabrieli at MIT. His research examines how family and peer relationships impact adolescent neurodevelopment. He’s particularly interested in how these interactions impact affective processes and behavior. In his free time, Jimmy enjoys hiking, trying new board games, and playing trombone.
Shedrick Garrett, B.S.
Shedrick Garrett is a third-year graduate student in the Developmental Psychology program. He received his B.S. in Psychology and Neuroscience with an area of emphasis in Behavioral Neuroscience from West Virginia University in 2021. As an undergrad, he also worked as a summer research assistant at the University of Virginia. His research interests explore the role of social and digital domains on marginalized youths’ socialization experiences and development. In his free time, Garrett enjoys reading, watching movies, and swimming.
Ryan Tsai, M.S.
Ryan Tsai is a first-year graduate student in the Developmental Psychology program. He received his B.S. and M.S. in Psychology from National Taiwan University. He is interested in how adolescents understands themselves in the social world. In his free time, Ryan loves playing video games and cooking.
Jack David, B.S.
David Jack is a first-year graduate student in the Developmental Psychology program. He received his BS.c. in Psychology from the University of Jos, Nigeria, in 2019. Following graduation, he worked as a research assistant with the Culture and Mental Health Research Group, supervised by Dr. Dung Jidong at Nottingham Trent University. His research aims to explore social media use and adolescent development from cross-cultural perspectives with a specific focus on adolescents from low-and-middle-income-countries. In his free time, he enjoys photography and spending time with family.
Elizabeth Escalante, B.S
Elizabeth Escalante is a first-year graduate student in the Developmental Psychology program. She received her B.S. in Cognitive and Brain Science from Tufts University in 2021. Following graduation, she worked as a research assistant for Dr. Nadine Gaab at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, looking into the development of reading and math difficulties. In graduate school, Elizabeth is interested in the impact of environmental factors on adolescent neurodevelopment and risk-taking behaviors. She enjoys reading, baking, and hiking in her free time.
Juan Bellassai, M.A.
Juan Bellassai (he/him) is a Project Coordinator for the DSN lab and CASL lab. He is from Asuncion, Paraguay and graduated from Brown University with a B.A in Biology in 2019 and a Masters in Psychology from the The New School for Social Research in 2022. Juan is interested in studying how social media plays a role in the development of psychopathology in teens and young adults with the goal of developing preventative and intervention methods. He plans on pursuing these interests through a PhD in Clinical Psychology. In his free time, he enjoys reading, and running.
Mary Cox, B.A.
Mary Cox (she/her) is a Project Coordinator for the Wifi Initiative. She is from Alabama and graduated from The University of Alabama (Roll Tide!) with a B.A. in Psychology and a minor in Neuroscience in 2022. Mary plans on pursuing a PhD in Clinical Psychology or Clinical Neuroscience. She’s interested in body image, social media and development, affect recognition, callous-unemotional traits, and psychopathy. In her spare time, she enjoys photography, reading, fashion, and spending time outdoors.
Sarah Albani, B.S.
Sarah Albani (she/her) is a Project Coordinator for the Wifi Initiative. She graduated from Michigan State University in 2022 with a B.S. in Neuroscience and a minor in Leadership of Organizations. Sarah is interested in learning how social and environmental stressors affect emotional regulation, resilience and mental well-being. She plans on pursuing these interests through a PhD in Clinical Psychology. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with friends, being outdoors, and getting a good cup of coffee.
Ashley Slocum, B.S.
Ashley Slocum (she/her) is a Project Coordinator at both the DSN Lab and CASL Lab. She graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2022 with a B.S. in Psychology and a minor in English. She previously worked as a research intern for the Triangle Center for Behavioral Health investigating neurodevelopmental disorders in adolescents. She is interested in learning how youth experience with children’s literature affects emotional socialization and neurodevelopment. She plans on pursuing a PhD in Clinical Psychology and working with children. In her free time, she is illustrating a children’s book and enjoys reading, cooking, and running with her dog, Amber.
Undergraduate Research Assistants
Mariela Vargas Torres
To see where our lab alumni are now, please visit our DSNLab Alumni page!