Spring 2018 Newsletter


Welcome from the Chair

caren rotello

Dear Friends,

Spring has finally sprung in Amherst, and graduation is now just days away.  I am excited to celebrate with our new graduates and their families, and I can’t wait to learn where their psychology degrees will take them.

We have so many things to tell you. Our annual undergraduate research symposium drew a large audience, and the projects were truly impressive. We hired three new faculty whose research focuses on ethno-racial disparities in mental or physical health outcomes, expanding our contributions to diversity science. We also hired a new faculty member who will focus on student success.  Read on to “meet” them all.  Of course, our wonderful faculty and students continue to win awards (Manning Prize for Excellence in Teaching!) and grants, and to share the results of their research through community events (science night!) and the media. I hope you enjoy reading about them. There’s one more story I don’t want you to miss: thanks to your generosity, UMassGives was a huge success for Psychological & Brain Sciences this year. THANK YOU for helping us support our undergraduates’ many successes.

Before you head off to your summer activities, please take a moment to send us your news. Alumni, #MeetMeInTobin to tell us what you’re up to, or stop by our Alumni pages to tell us your stories and share your favorite UMass memories. (Class of 2018, you’re now eligible! Congratulations!)


Caren Rotello



Award Highlights

Senior Psychological and Brain Sciences majors were honored at the Senior Award Celebration held on April 28th at the University Club. Award recipients and their faculty sponsors, Department Chair Caren Rotello, and members of the Advising office were in attendance. These students were honored for their academic excellence, contributions to research, and scholarship.

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Presented by the UMass Amherst Institute for Teaching Excellence and Faculty Development, this award honors one outstanding faculty member from each of the five campuses of the University of Massachusetts. This competitive prize is presented to faculty members who demonstrate sustained evidence of excellence in teaching along with exemplary dedication to students and the campus community.

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Blaustein has achieved “a career of eminent scholarship in behavioral neuroendocrinology and a record of outstanding mentorship of future scientists.” His career as a professor, mentor, and senior researcher in our Behavioral Neuroscience Program has also included membership in the Center for Neuroendocrine Studies, and the Neuroscience and Behavior Program at UMass Amherst.

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Undergraduate Research Symposium

The Undergraduate Research Symposium was held on April 26 in Tobin Hall. This event gives undergraduates the opportunity to share their excellent research with faculty, graduate students, and peers. It’s a celebration of our students’ honors theses, their hard work, and the valuable outcomes of their research. Many students present at the Massachusetts Statewide Undergraduate Research Conference the following day.

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umass givesUMass Amherst’s sixth annual 2-day on-line giving campaign, UMassGives, was a huge success! On April 26 and 27 the University came together to raise funds for schools, colleges, departments, and student organizations. The Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences participated in a fundraising Power Hour on the 27th, a chance to win a $2,000 bonus for the most individual donations. We had some tough competitors during our Power Hour, but we still came through with $2,394 from 56 gifts! This is double the funds we raised last year!

We want to sincerely thank all of our donors for your support. Your gifts to the PBS Strategic Initiatives Fund will be used towards undergraduate supports and events that are vital to their professional development. Check out our fund page to learn more about the valuable supports and experiences we provide to our students. #GetPSYCHED to #MeetMeInTobin!




 The Rudd Adoption Research Program is very proud to announce the formation of the Adopted Student Advisory Panel (ASAP). This official Registered Student Organization (RSO) is made up of adopted students who wish to be a resource to professionals in the field and their peers on campus. Their mission is to advocate, educate and advise the greater community about the lived experience of being adopted. 

The organization's collective knowledge is helpful to adoptive parents as well. They can offer insights about what adopted children are going through at different stages of life.  Many of ASAP's members have international origins as well. They are active advocates for adopted people encountering language-barriers, also seeking to reverse negative stereotypes and stigma surrounding adoption. 

Recently, a sub-group of five ASAP members presented at the Rudd Adoption Research Conference on "The Future of Adoption as Seen by UMass Students who are Adopted." 

Several PBS faculty, graduate student and staff members of the developmental science program have been working with UMass Extension 4-H to deliver “STEAM” (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) hands-on educational and research participation activities on healthy behavior and brain development to Springfield youth. The work this year has been at the Chestnut Accelerated Middle School Talented and Gifted and in the Healthy Development Initiative lab at the UMass Center at Springfield, led by graduate students Sarah McCormick and Xingjie Chen, and staff members Lizmarie Lopez-Ortiz, Brynn Boutin and Erik Arnold. A pilot project is currently underway to expand and include more students. The work is supported, in part, by UMass CAFÉ field station support to Professors Youngbin Kwak and Kirby Deater-Deckard.

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The Language, Intersensory Perception, and Speech (LIPS) Lab, directed by Alexandra Jesse, and the Cognitive and Developmental Neuroscience (CoDeNeuro) Lab, directed by Joonkoo Park, participated in the Jackson Street School’s annual Science Night. The labs facilitated interactive exercises exploring psycholinguistics, and the co-evolution of mathematics and linguistics thinking.

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New Faces


Data Manager, Rudd Adoption Research Program

The Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences welcomes Dongwei Wang in the position of Data Manager for the Rudd Adoption Research Program. Dongwei will be handling data analysis for the program and helping the Center for Research on Families performing methodology consultation.

Read more about Dongwei

Faculty Arriving Fall 2018

Lecturer, Behavioral Neuroscience

Amanda Hamel is absolutely thrilled to be joining the PBS faculty next Fall to teach Behavioral Neuroscience and to coordinate the Junior Writing program. Amanda is a UMass alumna whose research focused on the effects of early experience on the development of different components of the stress response. She has previously taught Behavioral Neuroscience through Continuing and Professional Education and sections of Junior Writing at UMass and looks forward to continuing to work with the amazing students in PBS. 

Assistant Professor, Developmental Science

Tara Mandalaywala runs the Cognition Across Development (CAD) Laboratory, which explores the development of social cognition across human and nonhuman primates. Her research examines how young individuals make sense of and cope with the complex social world around them. The lab uses methods from developmental and social psychology, behavioral endocrinology, and behavioral ecology to examine how the environment that an individual grows up in shapes their perceptions, beliefs, and biases about the world around them. 

Assistant Professor, Clinical Psychology

Bruna Martins researches how emotion and cognition interact in the brain to manage distress. Her work focuses on how adapting thoughts/beliefs, attention, awareness of physical sensations, and recalling life experiences (autobiographical memory) can help regulate emotions and build resilience. She is especially interested in neural mechanisms that older adults use to regulate emotion, given age-related decline in cognitive brain structures.

Assistant Professor, Social Psychology

Evelyn Mercado explores the physiological consequences of stressful family relationships, and how individuals may or may not be subject to adverse health outcomes as a result. She also investigates how intergenerational transmission of emotion regulation acts as a mechanism of susceptibility to internalizing symptoms across development. Her research seeks to understand these biobehavioral processes in the Latino community, with the hope of identifying protective and risk factors for mental health.

Assistant Professor, Social Psychology

Allecia Reid's research aims to both understand the psychological, social, and environmental factors that relate to health behaviors and to improve the design of health promotion interventions. These aims are exemplified in three current lines of research: influences of peers on health, influences of stigma and other community features on health, and improving interventions to reduce alcohol use.



In the Media

Linda TroppLinda Tropp co-authors an op-ed concerning the alteration of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services' mission statement. Tropp discusses the current state of immigration in the U.S. and how many states and communities are voicing the positive effect that immigrants have had. The Guardian

A paper co-authored by Linda Tropp on the resistance of white Americans to accepting racial minorities, is cited in a column in The New York Times about the appeal President Donald Trump has to this group of voters. New York Times

Robert FeldmanRobert Feldman comments in a news story about lying and how to detect it in the news media. Feldman says most people assume others aren’t lying to them and he says most lies are told to smooth out social interactions. “Lying is an effective social strategy because we are almost never called on the lies that we tell, so they become ingrained,” Feldman says. Poynter.org


Marcela Fernandez-PetersErvin Staub comments in a news story on the Ethical Policing Is Courageous program, designed by the New Orleans police to help officers intervene when colleagues are involved in improper or illegal conduct. Staub says if people see something wrong, they are responsible for speaking up about it. If people do nothing, he says, it is a signal that nothing wrong is taking place. The Advocate

Nilanjana Dasgupta describes her research on psychological and learning environmental characteristics that influence young women to enter the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics in college. She says having women models and mentors are key elements in getting young women into the STEM fields. National Science Foundation


Marcela Fernandez-PetersMarcela Fernandez-Peters is coauthor of the paper "Black Jacobin hummingbirds vocalize above the known hearing range of birds," featured in the NY Times




Conference and Publication Highlights

The Rudd Adoption Research New Worlds of Adoption ConferenceThe Future of Adoption: Beyond Safety to Well-Being, was held on April 13th. This year's conference marked the Rudd Adoption Research Program's 10th anniversary, featuring Dr. Gary Mallon as keynote speaker. Dr. Mallon is the Julia Lathrop Professor of Child Welfare and Executive Director of the National Center for Child Welfare Excellence at the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College in New York City. His keynote address was titled "Truth, Consequences and Reform: Rethinking Adoption in the 21st Century". The address was followed by a discussion led by Panel Chair April Dinwoodie, Creator, Adoptment and the Born in June, Raised in April Podcast. In addition to the morning keynote address and panel discussion, the conference held research poster presentations, breakout sessions and a special celebration of the program's 10th anniversary.

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point-light display on faceFindings from a new study by cognitive psychologist and speech scientist Alexandra Jesse and her linguistics undergraduate student Michael Bartoli found that adults can recognize unfamiliar people by not only their static facial features but by the dynamic ways they move their mouth and facial muscles while speaking. Read News Office Release


Ashley Woodman, psychological and brain sciences, Hannah Wisniewski '18, neuroscience, and Emily Breviglia '17, developmental disabilities and human services, have published a new article in the Journal of Clinical Medicine entitled "The Effect of Music on Exercise Intensity among Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Pilot Study". The researchers examined the effects of music and tempo on 13 elementary school students with autism spectrum disorder during structured and unstructured exercise periods. http://www.mdpi.com/2077-0383/7/3/38

On March 29, 2018, Harold Grotevant presented the annual Watson Lecture at the University of New Hampshire, Department of Psychology. The title of his talk was "Coming of Age in Open Adoption: Navigating Complex Family Relationships." The lecture is held annually in memory of their former faculty Robert J. Watson, who joined the new Ph.D. program at UNH in 1967, which contained a strong emphasis on the history of psychology. Previous Watson Lecturers have included B. F. Skinner, Robert Sternberg, Elizabeth Loftus, Jerome Kagan, and Susan Fiske.

Michael Constantino ​and Alice Coyne completed two meta-analyses, which will be published as chapters in the forthcoming book:
J. C. Norcross & M. J. Lambert (Eds.), Psychotherapy Relationships That Work: Volume 1. Evidence-based Therapist Contributions (3rd ed.). New York: Oxford University Press.
​These ​meta-analyses were also adapted for publication in the journal, Psychotherapy, and Dr. Constantino was interviewed for a companion training series based on these works. The video interview will be published on the website of the Society for the Advancement of Psychotherapy (Division 29 of the American Psychological Association).

Did you know that 13% of the world’s 0-15yr olds, live in mainland China—with most of them living in dense, large cities? With financial support from the Shandong provincial government in Jinan, China, Prof. Kirby Deater-Deckard is studying child and adolescent development in urban settings, in collaboration with Prof. Wenxin Zhang in Jinan. Prof. Deater-Deckard has contributed to longitudinal statistical modeling of cognitive, social-emotional and academic strengths and problems, across childhood and adolescence. The projects span several large survey and laboratory experiment studies that include salivary cortisol and genotyping assessments. Findings are now in press at the journals Child Development, Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, and Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. The research team is also collaborating with the nine-country NICHD-funded Parents and Adolescents Across Cultures project led by Dr. Jennifer Lansford at Duke University (http://parentingacrosscultures.org/pac-overview/).

Jeffrey Blaustein has published an article for the public in the Albright Institute’s online magazine “Spoke” entitled “Inhibitors of estrogens may influence cognitive function in postmenopausal breast cancer survivors.” Spoke



Upcoming Events

Seminar Dates: Saturday, June 30 through Friday, August 10

Now entering its fifty-first year, the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Summer Seminar at Trinity College, Oxford is one of the oldest American summer programs at Oxford University. It is still guided by its original intention: to introduce a wide range of students to the best of Oxford University's academic and social traditions. Participants also have the opportunity to explore England and Europe, both on their own and on Friday field trips.

PBS is offering our first ever course The Psychology of Sherlock Holmes taught by Tamara Rahhal. This course explores the research and theories behind Sherlock's famous abilities as a detective. It will examine the psychology behind Sherlock's use of observation, deduction, and memory. A large body of research in social cognition, decision making, and memory has addressed these questions, and this course will examine the evidence that has emerged so far. Class meetings will include discussion, debates, exercises and presentations. It satisfies an upper division Psychology major requirement (either advanced seminar or small course).

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We're Hiring

Temporary Part-Time Lecturer Pool