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January 9, 2015

Seth Pollak, PhD
Current ResearchTeaching & EducationPeopleLab DirectorStaffCollaboratorsCommunity OutreachFor Parents Publications

Laboratory Members

Anna Bechner
  Anna Bechner, Research Laboratory Manager
B.S. Ed., 1997, Marian College (Early Childhood Education)

My background includes over ten years of teaching and research experience with families and young children in childcare, preschool, and the elementary school level. As a classroom teacher I became very interested in understanding how children's emotional experiences affect learning, behavior, and socio-emotional development. I very much enjoy being involved with this research where I have the opportunity to work on projects examining the effects of early emotional experiences as well as interact with children and their families.



Brian Leitzke   Brian Leitzke, Graduate Student, Clinical Psychology
B.S., 2007, University of Wisconsin - Madison (Elementary Education)
M.S., 2012, University of Wisconsin - Madison (Psychology) 

My research focuses on the development of emotion processing and perception throughout childhood and adolescence and into adulthood. I am particularly interested in how early life experiences influence emotion processing later in life and what role these changes play in the development of psychopathology. Of key importance to my research is how individuals perceive emotional facial expressions and how they integrate contextual information into their perception of emotional scenes. Utilizing eye tracking and analyzing psychophysiological correlates, I hope to elucidate the role of emotion perception in the trajectory from early experience to adult emotional functioning, and identify means of intervention for those at-risk for negative health and life outcomes.



Rista Plate
  Rista Plate, Graduate Student, Clinical Psychology
B.A., 2010, University of Wisconsin, Madison (Psychology)

I am interested in exploring how social categories guide or compete with emotion perception and understanding. In particular, I would like to investigate the extent to which the identity of individuals expressing emotions influences how those emotions are perceived. I completed my undergraduate education at UW-Madison and spent two years as a clinical research fellow at the National Institutes of Health in a pediatric anxiety lab.


Barb Roeber
  Barb Roeber, Community Outreach Coordinator
M.S., 1988, St. Cloud State University (Child and Family Studies)
B.S., 1977, Michigan State University (Special Education)

My background includes over 25 years of work with children and families including teaching children with emotional disabilities, counseling children affected by abuse, and supporting children with developmental disabilities.  I am a licensed social worker in the state of Wisconsin and also hold a lifetime teaching license in Wisconsin.  I am passionate about making a difference in the lives of children and families.


Leslie Seltzer
  Leslie Seltzer, Postdoctoral Fellow
Ph.D., 2009, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Anthropology (Biological subfield)
B.S., 1998, SUNY Binghamton, Anthropology

How does social communication help establish and maintain emotional bonds between individuals, and how does this influence health and evolutionary fitness? We know that the quality of social ties can predict offspring survival, longevity, and the odds of getting different types of cancer, but no one is precisely sure how or why this works, requiring us to delve into the workings of the brain for answers. In particular, my research focuses on how social contact between parents and children can release hormones involved in the proximate causes of behavior (especially oxytocin), and how the effects of early life stress such as poverty and abuse can cause variations in future adult behavioral phenotypes. My latest research concerns the neurological efficacy of online communication in attempts at modern socialization, the differences between at-risk and control populations with respect to the pubertal development of female children, and the epigenetic effects of early life stress as moderated by warm interpersonal contact. My ultimate goal is to understand how the nuances of communication may translate, via hormonal cues, into differential developmental biology.


Kate Shannon, PhD
  Kate Shannon, Post-doctoral Fellow
Ph.D., 2010, University of Washington (Child Clinical Psychology)
M.S. 2006, University of Washington (Child Clinical Psychology)
B.S., 2002, University of California-Berkeley (Cognitive Science, Neuroscience Focus)

My research focuses on the neurobiological and psychophysiological underpinnings of child and adolescent behavior problems. I am particularly interested in understanding the neural correlates of impulsive choices and risk taking behaviors during adolescence, a time in which the brain changes in both structure and function. I am also interested in how children and adolescents learn from environmental feedback and whether these processes differ among those high on trait impulsivity. My research incorporates a developmental psychopathology approach , which attends to the interaction of environmental risk and biological vulnerability. During my postdoc I will be studying the relationship between emotional states and children's cognitive and learning processes. I am currently investigating how emotional arousal influences behavior during cognitive engagement. Related to my research interests, my clinical interests lie in pediatric neuropsychology, specifically in understanding executive dysfunction in children with developmental disabilities, neurological conditions, and those who have suffered from a brain injury.



Child Emotion Lab Alumni

Joseph L. Flanders
  Joseph L. Flanders, PhD
Research Director
Montreal General Hospital
McGill University



Jamie Hanson   Jamie L. Hanson, PhD
Post-doctoral Fellow
Institute for Brain Sciences
Duke University

Lori M. Hilt
  Lori M. Hilt, PhD
Assistant Professor Department of Psychology
Lawrence University

Jennifer McDermott
  Jennifer McDermott, PhD
Assistant Professor
Department of Psychology
University of Massachusetts – Amherst

Sarah Romens   Sarah E. Romens, PhD
Post-doctoral Fellow
Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic
Pittsburgh, PA

Jessica Shackman

Jessica Shackman, Ph.D.
Medical Student
University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health



Elizabeth A. Shirtcliff, PhD
  Elizabeth A. Shirtcliff, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Psychology
University of New Orleans

Nicole Strang   Nicole M. Strang, PhD
Post-doctoral Fellow
NeuroCognition Laboratory
Temple University

Alison B. Wismer Fries

Alison B. Wismer Fries, Ph.D.
Infant, Early Childhood, and Family Mental Health Consultant
Waupaca County Department of Health and Human Services State of Wisconsin