Carnegie Mellon University

Grad News

As the Grad PR, my mission is to update the department on recent news & events that happen 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.

January & February | March, April & Early MayArchive of 2021 News | Archive of 2020 News

March, April & Early May 2022

As the 2021-2022 academic year is coming to an end, I am thrilled to share the most recent grad news from March, April, and early May 2022. Once again, graduate students have maintained a remarkably high level of productivity over the past academic year, as is evidenced by the following accomplishments. 

New published papers

  • Vargas, R., & Just, M. A. (2022). Similarities and differences in the neural representations of abstract concepts across English and Mandarin. Human Brain Mapping. doi:
    Also see CMU's news article on the paper.
  • Kumar, L., Skrzynski, C.J., & Creswell, K.G. (in press). A meta-analysis on the associations between empathy and alcohol use and problems in clinical and non-clinical samples. Addiction.

Grant submissions

  • Kim Nestor submitted a fellowship application  to CMU's Center for Machine Learning and Health. The project is entitled "Cortical modularization under stress: Reconfiguration of network connectivity with increasing cognitive complexity."

Awards & Fellowships

  • Sophie Robert was awarded a Networking and Travel Award from Females of Vision et al (FoVea) to attend the Annual Vision Sciences Society meeting on May 13-18.
  • Sophie Robert was awarded the 2022-2023 Carnegie Prize Graduate Student Fellowship to work with prize recipient Dr. Marisa Carrasco. The fellowship provides mentorship, stipend support for an academic year, and a trip to Dr. Carrasco's lab at NYU.
  • Asal Yunusova received a graduate student research award from the Society for Health Psychology for her project entitled "An attachment security writing intervention for adolescents with irritable bowel syndrome."
  • Cassie Eng received the National Science Foundation (NSF)-sponsored Cognitive Development Society Diversity Travel Award.
  • Cassie Eng obtained Graduate Student Assembly/Provost Conference Funding for the Cognitive Development Society conference.
  • Robert Vargas received the CMU Presidential Postdoctoral Fellowship, working with Tim Verstynen and Kevin Jarbo, to investigate the way in which representations and attitudes of social identity affect decision making, and to determine how experience influences our representations of various institutions of our society (e.g., healthcare or police).

Paper submissions & Preprints

  • Yuxi Xie revised and resubmitted her manuscript entitled "Mechanisms linking attachment orientation to sleep quality in married couples" to Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.
  • Sophie Robert uploaded a pre-print of her first-authored manuscript entitled "Disentangling object category representations driven by dynamic and static visual input." The paper was co-authored by Leslie Ungerleider and Maryam Vaziri-Pashkam. Read the preprint.

Conferences & Talks

  • Austin Luor's abstract was accepted for presentation at the Cognitive Science Society annual meeting in Toronto (Canada) in late July. The name of the project is "Statistical learning in guiding auditory attention."
  • Megan Waller's project entitled "Of mouses and mans: the role of production and feedback in language learning" was accepted as a talk at the Cognitive Science Society annual meeting, and as a poster at the International Workshop on Language Production (June 9-11).
  • Yuxi Xie will be giving a full-length talk at the International Association for Relationship Research (IARR) 2022 conference. The talk is entitled "Mechanisms linking attachment orientation to sleep quality in married couples."
  • Cassie Eng co-authored a conference paper entitled "Low spatial proximity between text and illustrations improves children’s comprehension and attention: An eye-tracking study" which will be presented at the upcoming Cognitive Science Society annual conference.
  • Cassie Eng gave a talk entitled "Fostering executive function and prefrontal cortex development through combined cognitive-exercise contexts in preschool-aged children: an fNIRS study" and presented the results from an eye-tracking study on the attentional improvements of decreased spatial proximity between text and illustrations at the Cognitive Developmental Society Conference in Madison, WI.
  • Cassie Eng gave talks at the University of Massachusetts Boston, Developmental & Brain Sciences Laboratories and to CMU's Children School 3-K Educators on the role of combined exercise with cognitive training on brain development and executive function.
  • Fiona  Horner presented a poster on her project entitled "Positive affect prospectively predicts HbA1c among people with Type 2 diabetes" at the annual meeting of the Society of Behavioral Medicine in Baltimore, MD.
  • Jeanean Naqvi presented a poster on her project entitled "Trajectories of mental health during the COVID-19 crisis: Differences by race/ethnicity, gender, income, and sexual identity" at the  the annual meeting of the Society of Behavioral Medicine in Baltimore, MD.
  • Pierre Gianferrara presented a poster on his project entitled "Electrophysiological characterization of sensorimotor learning and skill acquisition in a finger tapping task" at the Cognitive Neuroscience Society annual meeting in San Francisco, CA.

Dissertation proposals

  • Emily Keebler successfully proposed her dissertation entitled "Advancing the measurement of sustained attention in young children" on May 2nd.

Dissertation defenses

  • Cassie Eng completed her Ph.D. defense on  March 25 and successfully became Dr. Eng (see picture below)! Thesis title: "Fostering executive function and prefrontal cortex development in young children by combining physical exercise with simultaneous cognitive training"
  • Michael Granovetter completed his Ph.D. defense on May 10 and successfully became Dr. Granovetter! Thesis title: "Characterization of visual system neuroplasticity with pediatric cortical resection"
  • Krista Bond completed her Ph.D. defense on May 11 and successfully became Dr. Bond! Thesis title: "Adaptive decision policy dynamics"


  • Kim Nestor earned her Master's degree in Applied Data Analytics from Boston University.
  • Cassie Eng was asked to be the commencement speaker to represent the Class of 2022 at the Psychology department diploma ceremony.
  • Jeanean Naqvi accepted a postdoctoral position at UC San Diego as part of their T32 Integrated cardiovascular epidemiology fellowship program.

Departmental awards

 The department of Psychology has granted annual awards to the following students. Please see below for pictures featuring the awardees.

  • Cassie Eng and Robert Vargas have received the Dick Hayes Service Award.
  • Jeanean Naqvi and Pierre Gianferrara have received the Bobby Klatzky Publication Award
  • Tim Murphy and Pierre Gianferrara have received the Herb Simon Teaching Award 

Congratulations to all the grad students for their sustained efforts and outstanding accomplishments over the past academic year!

This is the last newsletter that I will be sending out to the department. It was my pleasure to serve the community by sharing graduate news with you all for the past two years. Thank you for your feedback and sustained support. I wish you all an amazing start of the summer!

January & February 2022

I hope that many of you were able to rest during the Spring Break, and on Staff Appreciation Day! I am excited to share the most recent grad news from January & February 2022.

Papers accepted for publication

  • Stevens, P., & Plaut, D. C. (in press). From decomposition to distributed theories of morphological processing in reading. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review.

Grants & Awards

  • Trent Cash's research group recently applied for the Esther Katz Rosen Fund Grant. The grant supports work related to the psychological understanding of gifted children and youth.
  • Patience Stevens received a grant from the Center for Behavioral and Decision Research at CMU to support her research.
  • Jenah Black was awarded the 2021 Ingeborg L. and O. Byron Ward Outstanding Thesis Award for her M.S. thesis at Villanova University. The award is annually presented to an exceptional Psychology M.S. thesis.
  • Asal Yunusova applied for a graduate student research award at theSociety for Health Psychology. The name of the submitted proposal is "An attachment security writing intervention for adolescents with irritable bowel syndrome."

Paper submissions & preprints

  • Fiona Horner submitted a first-authored paper entitled "Positive affect prospectively predicts HbA1c among adults recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes" to Diabetes Care.

Conferences & Talks

  • Trent Cash presented his research at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Judgment and Decision Making (SJDM). The name of the project is "How well do parents know their own preferences when making school choice decisions?" 
  • Phoebe Dinh submitted an abstract on one of their infant studies to the Cognitive Development Society conference. The abstract was accepted in February. The name of the project is "Young infants can learn physical causation-at-a-distance with light switch events."
  • Asal Yunusova will be presenting her research at the American Psychosomatic Society conference and at the Society for Behavioral Medicine conference. The first project focuses on depression trajectories among first-year college students, and the second project investigates mindfulness meditation in irritable bowel syndrome.
  • Cassie Eng gave a talk at the Cognitive Developmental Society's pre-conference workshop symposium, which focused on digital media and cognitive development leveraging. The name of the talk was "Cognitive principles in multimedia learning to optimize e-books for children's attention and comprehension: Evidence from eye tracking."

Dissertation proposals

  • Robert Vargas successfully proposed his dissertation entitled "Examining the representational structure of socioenvironmental concepts across black and white Americans" on January 5.
  • Krista Bond successfully proposed her dissertation entitled "Adaptive decision policy dynamics" on January 18.


  • The Psychology Graduate Outreach Program led an engaging workshop focused on growth mindset for 9 to 12 year olds at the YMCA during the last week of February. Special thanks to Chisom Obasih, Krista Bond, and Trent Cash for leading this session, and to Stephanie Permut for contributing to content development.
  • Jeanean Naqvi, Julia Conti, and Patience Stevens have been mentoring high school students participating in the Pittsburgh Regional Science and Engineering Fair. They've assisted students with their research questions and experiment designs, and will assist with the interpretation and presentation of the results.
  • Cassie Eng created and filmed the Virtual Tour of the Psychology Department, which enabled prospective graduate students to get a sense of our community on Visiting Day even though they were unable to visit campus in-person due to COVID-19. Check out the above link to watch Cassie's excellent introduction to the Psych department!

Missed News

  • Abhishek Dedhe engaged in a COVID crisis data project whose goal was to collect and analyze data pertaining to the knowledge, beliefs, and behaviors of Indian residents of the city of Pune in the hopes of informing governmental policy changes and alleviating Indians' hardships in the face of COVID-19. Please read this interview conducted by CMU's public relations team to learn more about the project.


  • Roderick Seow will be interning at Educational Testing Services (ETS) for two months (June & July) during the Summer 2022.

Congratulations to all the grad students for their outstanding accomplishments and research progress! We wish you all the best for the second part of the Spring semester. 

Stay tuned for the next research updates!