Associated Researchers






2018-2019: (From left) Alana Peng, Briana Sprague, Joanne Tian, Sara Troutman, Sara Bickhart, Amber Hurlock, Dr. Lesley Ross, Michelle Huerbin, Sara Freed, Nathanael Jiya

Sara B. W. Troutman, PhD

After graduating from the University of Pittsburgh with my B.S. in Psychology in December 2015, Sara decided to pursue her PhD in Cognitive Psychology at Penn State. Broadly, her research interests focus on how language ability changes as we age. Under the guidance of her advisor, Michele Diaz, PhD, her work in the Language and Aging Lab explored the role of white matter in language production ability in both older and younger adults. She also worked with her secondary mentor, Lesley Ross, PhD, in the SHAARP Lab to understand how physical and cognitive intervention programs could be leveraged to improve older adults' cognitive functioning.

Cassidy Doyle

Cassidy graduated in May 2021 with a Bachelor's degree in Human Development and Family Studies with two minor concentrations in Psychology and Gerontology. Aside from the SHAARP Lab, Cassidy was a Media Writer for Age-Friendly Care, PA. Cassidy also held the position as Wellness Chair for my sorority to help improve mental health resources for college-aged women. She is attending the University of South Florida to pursue a PhD in Aging Studies in Fall 2021.

Erica O'Brien, PhD

Dr. O'Brien is a postdoctoral fellow at the Pennslvania State University's Center for Healthy aging. Her research focuses on how we can facilitate improvements in health-related outcomes, such as well-being as well as cognitive and physical functioning in older adults. 

Annabella Raika

Annabella graduated in May 2020 with a Bachelor's degree in Biobehavioral Health and a minor in Psychology. Annabella plans to attend graduate school to study Public Health. Aside from the SHAARP Lab, Annabella was involved in Penn State's CrosssFit Club, an HHD Ambassador and a volunteer with LifeLink.

Sara Bickhart

Sara graduated in May 2020 with a Bachelor's degree in Human Development and Family Studies and a minor in Sociology. Sara presented a posted at Penn State's 2020 Undergraduate Research Exhibition and placed third among 200 students. At Penn State, she was a member of the Penn State Equestrian Team, a

sister of Omega Phi Alpha, and the Vice President of Wellness on Penn State's Panhellenic Council. 

Nathanael Jiya

Nathanael graduated in May 2020 with a Bachelor's degree in General Science with minors both in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. Nathanael presented a poster of his research on sleep duration, physical fitness, and BMI in older adults at Penn State's 2020 Undergraduate Research Exhibition. 


Dr. Briana Sprague

Briana N. Sprague graduated from The Pennsylvania State University with a PhD in Human Development and Family Studies in May 2019. Briana is now a T32 Population Neuroscience of Aging and Alzheimer's Disease postdoctoral fellow in the department of Epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh. Briana is interested in the complex, dynamic relationships between physical, cognitive, and everyday function in older adults as well as ways to intervene to promote health in these domains. She is also a self-described statistics "power user" interested in implementing innovative statistical and methodological approaches to answer substantively interesting questions in gerontology.

Alana Peng

Alana graduated in May 2019 with a Bachelor's degree in Biology and minors in Psychology and Human Development and Family Studies. Alana will be attending medical school at Nova Southeastern College of Osteopathic Medicine in Clearwater, Florida. Alana's long-term goal is to pursue a career as a Pediatrician. At

Penn State, she was involved as President of Global Medical Brigades, Best Buddies, giving tours of campus through Lion Scouts, and volunteering at the Pregnancy Resource Clinic.

Amber Hurlock

Amber graduated from the Pennsylvania State University with a BS in Human Development and Family Studies with a minor in Gerontology. She hopes to have a career in Occupational Therapy focusing on older adults.

Dr. Chongming Wang

I received my Ph.D. degree in Geography from the Pennsylvania State University. My research interest revolves around the themes of vulnerability and resilience to natural hazards – with a focus on the understudied older populations. To consider my issues of interest, I draw on threads of research from multiple disciplines and utilize qualitative and quantitative methods as well as GIS techniques in my hazard and vulnerability research. Currently I’m working with Dr. Ross for a GPS-enabled travel study of older drivers to understand the temporal and spatial characteristics of trips and further the driving mobility and patterns of older adults.

Julia Arsenis

I am a freshman at Pennsylvania State University studying neuropsychology. I plan on attending medical school after college and working with Alzheimer's patients in my practice.  I am also involved in OCF (Orthodox Christian Fellowship) and plan on bringing Gilda's Club (a foundation to those touched by cancer) to this university.

Elaina Lioudis

I am a senior at the Pennsylvania State University majoring in Toxicology. After graduation, I plan on attending Pharmacy school. At Penn State, I am also involved in Orthodox Christian Fellowship (OCF), serving as the treasurer.


2016-2017: (Clockwise from top left) Charles Myers, Dr. Lesley Ross, Alana Peng, Kirsten Wojacek, Briana Sprague, Sara Freed, Amber Hurlock, Elaina Lioudis, Dr. Chongming Wang

Dr. Christina Webb

I am a postdoc at the Center for Vital Longevity at the University of Texas as Dallas working with Drs. Kristen Kennedy and Karen Rodrigue. I received my PhD in cognitive psychology from Penn State, where I studied the neural correlates of memory in both younger adults and healthy aging. I also conducted research in the SHAARP Lab focusing on both the functional and structural neural changes that result from speed of processing training in older adults. In my current work at UT Dallas, I am interested in investigating neural structure-function relationships in healthy aging, and identifying factors that influence cognitive performance in aging.

Erica Schmidt


Erica Schmidt graduated from The University of Alabama Birmingham with a Ph.D. in Medical/Clinical Psychology in August 2017. Erica is now a postdoctoral fellow in Neuropsychology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Prior to graduation, Erica completed her clinical internship at the Memphis VA Medical Center. Broadly speaking, she is interested in adult/geriatric neuropsychology. More specifically, her research interests focus on the measurement and prediction of cognitive and everyday functioning in older adults. Her dissertation, completed in 2016, examined the impact of computer training, aerobic exercise, and Xbox video-game interventions on executive function in community-dwelling older adults.

Jinshil Hyun

I am a graduate student in the Human Development and Family Studies program at Penn State University working primarily with Dr. Sliwinski. I have a master's degree in cognitive psychology, and I am pursuing my research goal investigating cognitive aging for a doctorate degree. Specifically, my research interest in the SHAARP lab is to examine the effects of diverse behavioral interventions (e.g., cognitive, exercise, exergaming, mindfulness) on objective and subjective cognitive function among healthy older adults.

Dr. Christy Phillips

Prior to and while pursuing my doctorate, I worked in professional positions developing, organizing and faciltating wellness programs intended to preserve or improve the health and well-being of adults across the developmental continuum. Many of the knowledge gaps and practical challenges I encountered motivated a desire to learn more about factors that modify health and well-being, as well as influences affecting engagement in behaviors known to improve outcomes. I am now working as Vice President, Resident Engagement at Atria Senior Living. Atria Senior Living operates more than 225 communities offering independent living, assisted and supportive living and memory care living options in 27 states and 7 Canadian provinces. In my role, I am responsible for overseeing Engage Life events programming, which promotes active, healthy and engaged lifestyles for Atria's 23,000-plus residents.

Charles Myers, lab member 2016-2017

Charles was deployed with the U.S. Army. During his time at The Pennsylvania State University, Charles was majoring in BioBehavioral Health with intentions on pursing Physician Assistant school. His goal after graduation is to become an Osteopathic Surgeon Physician Assistant. Charles' research focus is to look at how physical activities creates a positive impact on the lives of the older population. Charles hopes that this research topic pushes him in the correct direction to help him pursue the career he is interested in.

Kirsten Wojacek, lab member 2016-2017

Kirsten graduated in Spring 2017 with a bachelor's degree in Biology. During undergrad, she was involved in THON, Latino Caucus, and the Student Red Cross Club. She plans to pursue a degree in medicine.

Suzanne Hamilton, lab member 2015-2017

Suzanne is a senior graduating in Spring 2017 with a major in Psychology and minor in Deafness and Hearing Studies. During her time as an undergraduate, she was involved in Penn State Blue Band as Vice President. Following graduation, Suzanne is attending  The University of Pennsylvania's Graduate School of Education to pursue a M.S.Ed in Higher Education. 

Thomas Drago, lab member 2015-2016

Tom graduated with a major in Psychology in 2016. He was an active enthusiast for the Penn State Dance Marathon, raising money to support the cause as a THON committee member as well as Philanthropy Chairman of his fraternity. He was on the Interfraternity Council Programming Committee as the Director of

Philanthropic Affairs. Tom is currently attending medical school in Dublin, Ireland at Trinity College. He has obtained a position in a research lab in neuroplasticity at Cornell for Summer 2018 and will continue to do research at Trinity College in the fall. 


Dan van Florcke, lab member 2015-2016

Dan graduated in Spring 2016 with a major in Kinesiology Movement Science with a Health Sciences option. During undergrad, he was involved in THON, volunteered for Medlife Club, and worked as a physical therapists' aide. Dan will be attending NYIT College of Osteopathic Medicine in Old Westbury, Long Island in Fall 2017 to pursue his dream of becoming a physician. 

Guiliana Latella, lab member 2015

Guiliana graduated in Spring 2016 with a major in Biobehavioral Health. She was involved in many organizations on campus including THON, Student National Medical Association, Alpha Epsilon Delta Health: the Pre-Professional Honor Society, MedLife, and Pink Zone. She is looking into physician assistant school or medical school. 

Janice Banom, lab member 2015

Janice is graduating in Spring 2016 with a major in Biobehavioral Health and a minor in Neuroscience, Biology, and Human Development and Family Studies. She also spends her time volunteering for the Mid-State Literacy Council. 


Kathryn Earls, lab member 2015

Kathryn graduated in December 2015 with a major in Communication Sciences and Disorders. She is attending graduate school for speech language pathology in the fall.


Terresa Adams, lab member 2015

Terresa plans to graduate in 2016 with a degree in Political Science and Economics. She plans to pursue a law degree.


Shanna Sivakumar, lab member 2015

Shanna is planning to graduate with a Biology major and a minor in Psychology. She is part of the Student National Medical Association-MAPS and volunteers at a hospital. She made a medical trip to Ecuador and plans to attend medical school.







                                  2015-2016: (Beginning top left) Tom Drago, Dan van Florcke, Dr. Ross,

                                 Terresa Adams, Suzanne Hamilton, Giuliana Latella,  Shanna Sivakumar,

                                  Briana Sprague, Janice Banom, and Sara Freed


Lana Taylor, lab member 2014-2015

Lana is attending the University of Illinois-Chicago to pursue a degree in Occupational Therapy. She was the marketing director for the Multicultural Women’s Forum and the Course Assistant for Sam Richards and the Sociology 119 course. While in Chicago (my beloved home town), she spent breaks as a non- clinical volunteer at Rush University Medical Center, and as a mentor/tutor to elementary and high school aged students. She plans to have a career as a licensed occupational therapist.


Annmarie Tucker, lab member 2014-2015

Annmarie is attending Southern Connecticut State university in the fall to pursue a degree in Speech Langauge Pathology. She worked at a nursing home and was involved with THON as well as the National Student Speech Language Hearing Association on campus. She also volunteered for the TIDES program in State College. She plans to have a career as a Speech Pathologist.


Lindsay Johnson, lab member 2014-2015

Lindsay is attending Thomas Jefferson University in the fall to pursue a degree in occupational therapy. On campus she was involved in THON  through the Hospitality Committee, secretary of the HDFS Undergraduate Student Organization, and the Occupational Therapy club. She spent a lot of my time volunteering, such as at Easter Seals Disability Center, a pediatric rehab center, and an acute rehab center. She plans to have a career as a an occupational therapist.


















                          2014-2015: (Beginning left) Dr. Christy Phillips, Lana Taylor, Giuliana Latella,

                          Dr. Ross, Sara Freed, Lindsay Johnson, Annmarie Tucker, Jinshil Hyun, and

                          Christina (Johnson) Webb



Harsh Patel, lab member 2013-2014

I grew up in North Stonington, CT and graduated from Wheeler High School in June of 2013. I am currently a student at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and am majoring in Neuroscience. Currently, I volunteer at hospitals and research labs to allow myself to get the experience I need to continue onto medical school. 


Alice Speake, lab member 2013-2014

I am an artist and am currently earning my Bachelor degree in Biomedical Science at UAB. I’m interested in clinical courses and plan to have a future in research-based studies in biology.

Dr. Erick Caamano, lab member 2013-2014

I obtained my doctorate in Biology from the University of Alabama at Birmingham with an emphasis on models related to human disease. In conjunction with this program, I also pursued a Master in Public Health in Epidemiology. During this period, my research was focused in infectious diseases and the impact and implementation of coummunity outreach projects in order to reduce the incidence of these diseases, especially in at-risk populations. My other educational background included a Master in Science in Natural Resources, a Bachelor in Agribusiness with a minor in Natural Resources and Rural Development. Throughout this time I devoted my research in working with growers and their families from the US and Central America in developing strategies to improve qualit of life, including post-natural disaster response. I am focused on economically and environmentally-cautious ways to control and/or intervene to decrease prevalence of mobidity, taking into account social reality.


Wesley Burge, lab member 2012-2014

I am a graduate student in the Behavioral Neuroscience program in the Department of Psychology at UAB. I spend my time studying the plastic, or changing, brain. The idea of the plastic brain, and exploring the possibilities that arise from that, are fascinating to me. I currently use functional and anatomical MRI data to investigate the plastic brain. I am further interested in intervention research and what we can learn about the plastic brain through this. I am passionate about my research and look forward to making a career out of it. 


Joan Dodson, lab member 2010-2012

I earned my PhD in Psychology working with Dr. Ross in 2012. I investigated the impact of cognitive training on future physical functioning in older adults. I am now a Research Scientist working in private industry in Huntsville Alabama. 


Laura Mayhal, lab member 2014

I will begin earning my Ph.D. in clinical psychology in Fall 2016 at Michigan State University, where I intend to research the interaction of genetics and environment in the development of disordered eating. I graduated Summa Cum Laude from Auburn University as a University Honors Scholar with a dual degree in Psychology and Spanish in May 2015. During my undergraduate career, I worked as a research assistant in both Dr. Jeffrey Katz's Comparative Cognition lab at Auburn University and the SHAARP lab with Dr. Lesley Ross at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). I am currently employed as a full-time Research Technician in the Office of Psychiatric Clinical Research at UAB.


Benjamin McManus, lab member 2012-2014

I am a graduate student in the Lifespan Developmental Psychology graduate program at UAB. I previously obtained a BS in psychology and BS in biology also at UAB. My research interests are primarily in human factors (the application of psychology principles in designing products and work environments that increase productivity), cognitive engineering, and researching and designing ergonomic interventions, as well as statistical analyses. My specialty area is currently focused in transportation and mobility in older adults.


Alyssa Mineo, lab member 2013

I completed my undergraduate in Psychology at UAB and am now earning my doctorate in Clinical Psychology with a focus on neuropsychology. My research interests include cognitive impairments in older adults due to stroke, injury, and disease. I’m also interested in mapping brain functional changes during the aging process as well as clinical interventions for those with neuropsychological deficits. I plan to join the US Army as a licensed Clinical Psychologist in 2019.


Kaspreet Kaur, lab member 2010-2014

I earned my Master of Psychology working with Dr. Ross in 2014.  I investigated the prospective predictors of self-reported falls across a two year period in a sample of older community-dwelling adults in the PACES (Physical And Cognitive Exercise Study) project. I am now using the skills I’ve learned during as a program director at a local physical health center.


Jose Hasbun, lab member 2013-2014

I am a civil engineer from Tegucigalpa, Honduras; currently pursuing a Master of Science in Civil Engineering at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. I am a member of the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) student chapter and previously served as vice-president. 


Elizabeth Odom, lab member 2013

I have a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology with a minor in Chemistry from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and am now attending nursing school. My research interests include behavioral intervention studies, as well as, studies that are working toward better understanding of brain functions in order to improve quality of life for people who have been diagnosed with schizophrenia, autism, Alzheimer's, and brain injury. 


Lakesha Underwood, lab member 2012-2012

I earned my Bachelor’s degree in Biology and Psychology at UAB. I am now earning my Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology. My research interests include developmental, cognitive, and abnormal disorders in children (prenatal-adolescence). I spend most of my free time volunteering in mental health settings.















                             2013-2014: (Beginning top left) Sunil Terdalkar, Dr. Ross, Ben McManus,

                             Erica Schmidt, Wesley Burge, Reena Patel, Lakesha Underwood, Elizabeth

                            Odom, and Alyssa Mineo


2015-2016: (Beginning top left) Tom Drago, Dan van Florcke, Dr. Ross,                       Terresa Adams, Suzanne Hamilton, Giuliana Latella,  Shanna Sivakumar,                        Briana Sprague, Janice Banom, and Sara Freed
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