Carnegie Mellon University

Grad News

As the new Grad PR, my mission will be to update the department on recent news & events that happened to graduate students. I will thus be providing information on the latest research milestones and achievements of Psychology graduate students, and will keep everyone posted throughout the year.

May & June | July & August | September & October

September & October 2020

I hope that everyone is doing well after a historic start of the month! It is my pleasure to introduce to you the latest grad news from the months of September & October 2020.

New published papers

  • Yue, X., Robert, S., & Ungerleider, L. G. (2020). Curvature processing in human visual cortical areas.NeuroImage, 222, 117295.
  • Yetter, M., Robert, S., Mammarella, G., Richmond, B., Eldridge, M. A., Ungerleider, L. G., & Yue, X. (2020). Curvilinear features are important for animate/inanimate categorization in macaques. BioRxiv.

Grant submissions & Awards

  • Robert Vargas was awarded a CMU-PITT BRIDGE Center Development Fund Seed Grant ($20,000 of scanning funds). This grant will be used to fund his dissertation work. Robert's goal is to use fMRI to investigate racial differences in the semantic organization and emotional composition of concepts central to societal structures.
  • A number of first-year graduate students have submitted their National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship applications. We wish them the best of luck!

Paper submissions

  • Anita Delahay has recently submitted a research article to Learning and Instruction.

Research progress

  • A number of fourth year students had their third year review paper approved by their committee.
  • Pierre Gianferrara was interviewed (in French) by Radio Canada to talk about the results from a recent study on rhythm complexity & auditory-motor synchronization, which he co-authored.


  • Chris Hepner gave a talk on his project "A model of noun pluralization: Evidence from four types of pluralization deficit in aphasia" at the Academy of Aphasia 58th Annual Meeting.
  • Patience Stevens gave a ten-minute talk entitled "Neural-network modeling of morphological processing dynamics in visual word recognition" at the Words in the World conference.

Dissertation proposals

  • Jeanean Naqvi proposed her dissertation on October 27. Proposal title: "Racial/ethnic differences in social support and health among individuals with type 2 diabetes."


  • Psychology graduate students in the outreach program designed and led a Zoom session for 9th graders through the Pitt's Investing Now program on how to be healthy and successful in high school. The workshop was fun and informative for both contributors and attendees - Many thanks to all who made this event possible!
  • Cassie Eng & Robert Vargas organized CMU's inaugural presence at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS) to promote diverse recruitment at all levels within the department of Psychology. This initiative has grown to include the Neuroscience Institute, Social and Decision Sciences, and Biological sciences programs. The conference has recently been held on November 9 - 13.


  • Phoebe Dinh, Jeanean Naqvi, and Patience Stevens have entered a micro-fiction writing competition which will begin on November 20. Send them your most poetic thoughts and character ideas by the end of today!
  • Patience Stevens has been making her own masks from brain-pattern material (see picture). Feel free to contact her directly to learn more on how she did it!


Congratulations to all the grad students for their outstanding accomplishments and research progress! We wish you all a very pleasant Thanksgiving and a healthy end of the Fall semester.

Stay tuned for the next research updates!

July & August 2020

Happy September to everyone! It is my pleasure to introduce to you the latest grad news from the months of July & August.

New published papers

  • Hepner, C. R., & Nozari, N. (2020). The Dual Origin of Lexical Perseverations in Aphasia: Residual Activation and Incremental Learning. Neuropsychologia, 147, 107603.
  • Coffman, B. A., Murphy, T. K., Haas, G., Olson, C., Cho, R., Ghuman, A. S., & Salisbury, D. F. (2020). Lateralized Evoked Responses in Parietal Cortex Demonstrate Visual Short-Term Memory Deficits in First-Episode Schizophrenia. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 130, 292-299.
  • Eng, C., Godwin, K., & Fisher, A. (in press). Keep It Simple: Streamlining Book Illustrations Improves Attention and Comprehension in Beginning Readers. Nature Science of Learning.


  • Michael Granovetter was awarded the American Psychological Foundation’s 2020-2021 COGDOP Scholarship.
  • Cassie Eng was awarded the Student and Early Career Council SRCD Dissertation Research Funding Award.
  • Michael Granovetter was the recipient of the 2020 CNBC Outstanding Paper Award and McClelland Prize for his recent paper on uncharacteristic task-evoked pupillary responses in autism published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

Research progress

  • Phoebe Dinh is finalizing their third-year review in the hopes of submitting it for publication. The review has been written under the supervision of David Rakison, David Danks, and David Plaut (informally referred to as David Cube).
  • Tim Murphy was featured in the CMU news for his research on second language acquisition and incidental learning, which you can find here.


  • Cassie Eng presented her research at CogSci 2020 and was invited to speak at two global virtual reality seminars on education and career professional development (see pictures below) via the AltspaceVR and ENGAGE Platform, Virtual Reality.
  • Pierre Gianferrara presented his research project on “Time-related Effects of Speed on Motor Skill Acquisition” at the 18th Annual Meeting of the International Conference on Cognitive Modelling (ICCM).

Dissertation defenses

  • Melissa Zajdel completed her Ph.D. defense and successfully became Dr. Zajdel!
    Thesis title: "A Communal Coping Intervention for Couples with Type 2 Diabetes."
  • Brian Chin completed his Ph.D. defense and successfully became Dr. Chin!
    Thesis title: "Cardiovascular Challenge Reactivity Facilitates Support Provision and Promotes Well-Being: Evidence from a Three-Year Study of Married Older Adults."
  • Charles Wu completed his Ph.D. defense and successfully became Dr. Wu!
    Thesis title: "Behavioral, Computational, and Electrophysiological Investigations of Adaptive Plasticity Mechanisms in Speech Perception."


  • Robert Vargas & Cassie Eng were involved in recruitment at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS), the largest conference in the world for students from underrepresented minorities and disadvantaged backgrounds.


Big congratulations to all the graduate students for their outstanding accomplishments and research progress! Best of luck to the three Psychology Drs for the next step of their career.

Stay tuned for the next research updates!

May & June 2020

New published papers

  • Murphy, T. K., Haigh, S. M., Coffman, B. A., & Salisbury, D. F. (2020). Mismatch Negativity and Impaired Social Functioning in Long-Term and in First Episode Schizophrenia Spectrum Psychosis. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 11, 544.
  • Vales, C., Stevens, P., & Fisher, A.V. (in press). Lumping and Splitting: Developmental changes in the structure of children’s semantic networks. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology.
  • Mathias, B., Zamm, A., Gianferrara, P. G., Ross, B., & Palmer, C. (in press). Rhythm Complexity Modulates Behavioral and Neural Dynamics During Auditory–Motor Synchronization. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience.

Grant submissions

  • Robert Vargas submitted a grant proposal to the CMU-Pitt Brain Imaging Data Generation & Education (BRIDGE) center. We will keep you posted.
  • Jeanean Naqvi submitted an F31 in March and received the great score of 17 in July.  Stay tuned for a funding decision.

Paper submissions

  • Jeanean Naqvi submitted a paper to Psychological Science. The title of the paper co-authored with Vicki Helgeson is "Harmonious Relations: Interdependence Moderates Affective Reactivity to Interpersonal Stressors". Good luck Jeanean!
  • Cassie Eng has revised and resubmitted her paper to Nature Partner Journal: Science of Learning. You can do it, Cassie!

Research progress

  • Psychological Science elected not to publish Keela Thompson's paper but instead provided her with useful feedback.


  • Patience Stevens submitted a conference paper for a poster presentation at the CogSci 2020 conference. Good luck with the presentation Patience!
  • Cassie Eng presented a (virtual) talk and got her paper published in the proceedings of the International Conference on Immersive Learning (iLRN 2020).

Dissertation proposals & defenses

  • Cari Skrzynski had her Ph.D. defense and successfully became Dr. Skrzynski! Thesis title: "The Influence of Mood on Solitary Drinking Preference". Big congrats!
  • Ven Popov defended as well and successfully became Dr. Popov! Thesis title: "Resource Depletion and Recovery in Human Memory". Big congrats!
  • Anita Delahay proposed in June. Proposal title: "Paths to Domain Learning for Novices". Good job Anita!
  • Keela Thomson's proposal was recommended for NSF DRMS (Decision, Risk, and Management Sciences) dissertation funding. Congratulations Keela!


  • Tim Murphy's full experiment has been moved online to the Gorilla platform. A broader range of participants can now be recruited.
  • A number of grad students are making progress with their research, and wrapping everything up to meet the August 15 deadline (First-year paper, Second-year paper, Third-year review).

 Thanks to everyone who shared some research news!