Research

Team

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Sophia Choukas-Bradley

Sophia (Sophie) Choukas-Bradley, Ph.D.
Lab Director

I am an assistant professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at the University of Delaware. I received an A.B. (B.A.) degree in Psychology from Brown University (2008) and a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (2016). Before beginning my first faculty position in the University of Pittsburgh Department of Psychology in 2017, I completed a pre-doctoral clinical internship and a post-doctoral fellowship in the University of Pittsburgh Department of Psychiatry (Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic). I joined the University of Delaware’s Clinical Science Program in June 2020.

 

My research focuses on understanding interpersonal and sociocultural influences on adolescent mental health, with an emphasis on gender and sexuality. A clinical psychologist by training, I integrate developmental and social psychology theories and methods into my work. I’m especially passionate about understanding the role of social media in adolescent body image and mental health; studying the development of sexual attraction, behavior, and identity across adolescence; and understanding mental health among LGBTQ+ youth. Additionally, I am currently working to increase the focus on intersectionality across my lines of work, with an emphasis on understanding intersecting racial/ethnic, gender, and sexual identities among adolescents and young adults. Across my areas of work, I use a range of study designs and methods, including laboratory-based studies that integrate eye-tracking technology; qualitative interviews, which allow us to hear adolescents' own words and inform the development of larger-scale studies; longitudinal school-based studies, through which we can examine a broad range of behaviors over time; and anonymous online surveys, which allow us to reach understudied populations (e.g., transgender adolescents who are not out to their parents). I also collaborate with neuroscientists to understand adolescents' brain responses to social media experiences. While most of my research has focused on basic science, I’m currently collaborating on several intervention development projects.

 

As the director of the Teen and Young Adult Lab (TAYA Lab), I strive to foster an inclusive, warm, and collaborative research lab. I’m passionate about mentoring undergraduate students, graduate students, and post-baccalaureate trainees who are interested in gaining research experience between college and grad school. If you’re interested in learning about opportunities to join the TAYA Lab research team, please visit our Join the Lab page. You can also learn more about our current and recent work on the Research Projects and Publications pages. Also, check out my new Psychology Today blog.

In addition to my work as a researcher, I am a licensed clinical psychologist in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania. My clinical training at the University of North Carolina and Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic included therapy and assessment work across outpatient, partial hospital, and inpatient settings, with children, adolescents, adults, couples, and families. As an instructor, I teach undergraduate and graduate courses focused on psychopathology and adolescent development. Additionally, I have a longstanding commitment to work focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in academic psychology; I have been involved in DEI committees for the past decade, and I have started LGBTQ+ affinity groups at the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Delaware. I live in Newark, Delaware with my wife and our quirky tailless tuxedo cat. 

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Annie Maheux, M.S. 

Graduate Student

Annie joined the TAYA Lab in the fall of 2018 as a joint Ph.D. student of Developmental and Social Psychology at the University of Pittsburgh. She continued her graduate studies and her work in the TAYA Lab at the University of Delaware beginning in the fall of 2020. A 2020 recipient of a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, Annie graduated in 2015 with a B.A. in psychology from the University of Vermont and completed an M.S. in psychology at the University of Pittsburgh in 2020, where her master’s thesis investigated the longitudinal associations between adolescents’ social media use, appearance-related social media consciousness, and depressive symptoms. Broadly, Annie’s research examines sociocultural influences on adolescent development, with a focus on the role of gender in academic achievement, sexuality, and mental health, particularly through the routes of gender socialization, peer influence, media messages, and social media use. Annie’s interdisciplinary work seeks to unite basic social psychological research with multi-methodological investigations of development—including using eye-tracking, implicit association tests, ecological momentary assessment, and both quantitative and qualitative designs—to address gender disparities and enhance well-being for all adolescents. Annie is also passionate about social justice work. She has prior experience in crisis-based social work and as a middle school teacher in rural India. She now mentors undergraduate students with special attention to building knowledge and confidence in advanced statistical methods among young female scientists. During her time at Pitt, she served as chair of the Outreach Subcommittee of Pitt’s Psychology Equity, Inclusion, and Community Committee.

Savannah Roberts, B.S. 

Graduate Student

Savannah joined the TAYA lab in the fall of 2019 as a joint Ph.D student of Clinical and Developmental Psychology at the University of Pittsburgh, and continued her graduate studies at the University of Delaware starting in Fall 2020. A 2021 recipient of a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, Savannah is interested in studying the sociocultural factors implicated in the development, maintenance, and prevention of body image concerns and disordered eating during adolescence, particularly as they relate to sexual and gender minority youth. She also studies the effect of social media use on adolescents’ body image, broadly. Savannah previously coordinated NIH clinical trials in the Center for Weight, Eating, and Lifestyle Science at Drexel University. As an undergraduate, Savannah worked as a research assistant in the Eating and Body Image Lab at Western Washington University to develop inclusive eating disorder prevention programs for college students. Savannah graduated magna
cum laude with a B.S. in Psychology and B.A. in Spanish Language and Literature from Western Washington University in 2016, where she completed an honors thesis researching the effect of gender on the perception of anorexia nervosa.

Brianna Ladd, B.A. 

Lab Manager

Brianna joined the TAYA Lab in the summer of 2019. She graduated first-generation from UNC Chapel Hill in 2019 with a B.A. in Psychology. At UNC, she was involved in research that focused on the role of the classroom context on children’s executive function and academic achievement. She was also involved in research with the Peer Relations Lab that investigated suicidal behavior and the role of peer influence on adolescent risk behavior. Brianna is broadly interested in understanding how systemic oppression, sociocultural contexts, and interpersonal relationships influence adolescent identity development, mental health, and sexuality. She is particularly interested in utilizing critical race theory and an intersectional feminist framework to examine mental health and resilience among marginalized populations, as well as the social justice implications of research in this area. Brianna hopes to pursue a Ph.D. in Psychology in the future. 

Emily Gotkiewicz 

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Emily is a junior at the University of Delaware majoring in psychology with a minor in health & wellness. After graduation, she plans to continue her psychology education by pursuing a PhD in clinical psychology. Her research interests include how both interpersonal and intrapersonal factors influence the mental health, body image, and eating behaviors of adolescents and young adults. She is also interested in how health behaviors affect one’s view of self. 

Maddi Kesten 

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Maddi Kesten is currently a junior at the University of Delaware. She is pursuing a degree in Psychology with minors in English and human development and family sciences, and plans to continue her education at a graduate level before pursuing a career in counseling psychology. Her research interests include the effect of peer relationships on adolescent development, social media’s growing influence on body image and self esteem, and shifts in self-perception over the lifespan with a focus on adolescence.

Alexa Rial 

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Alexa is a junior at the University of Delaware. Currently, she is pursuing a major in psychology with two minors in Spanish and Human Development & Family Sciences. After she graduates next year, she hopes to secure a post-baccalaureate position and eventually attend graduate school entering a Ph.D. program for clinical psychology or a Master's program in school psychology. Her research interests include looking at how social media affects the body image of adolescent girls, especially with a focus on minority groups, and how social media could lead to additional mental health outcomes.

Rmonte' Smack 

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Rmonte' is currently a junior undergraduate at the University of Delaware. They are pursuing a double degree in psychology and cognitive science. They are interested in going into the clinical field as well as becoming a school counselor. Their research interests include mood disorders, personality disorders, and other psychopathology in relation to creative arts.

Former Lab Members

Post-baccalaureate Alumni

Chloe Bryen

Chloe Bryen, B.A.

TAYA Lab Manager

Current Position: Doctoral Student in Clinical Psychology, Florida State University

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Emily Carrino, B.A.

TAYA Lab Manager

Current Position: Doctoral Student in Clinical Psychology, UNC-Chapel Hill

Madelaine Romito

Madelaine Romito, B.A.

TAYA Research Assistant

Current Position: Masters Student in Counseling, Northeastern Illinois University

Yiyao Zhou, B.A.

TAYA Research Assistant

Current Position: Doctoral Student in Counseling Psychology, University of Indiana

Undergraduate Alumni

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Uma Balaji

TAYA Research Assistant

Current Position: Undergraduate Senior, University of Pittsburgh

Sarah Drexler, B.S.

TAYA Research Assistant

Current Position: Research Coordinator, Drexel University

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Megan Kundra, B.S.

TAYA Research Assistant

Current Position: Administrative Assistant, Dartmouth College

Emma Stewart, B.S.

TAYA Research Assistant

Current Position: Lease Analyst, JLL,

Pittsburgh, PA

Tori Blazinski

Tori Blazinski, B.S.

TAYA Research Assistant

Current Position: Research Specialist, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center

Julia Friedman

TAYA Research Assistant

Current Position: Undergraduate Senior, University of Pittsburgh

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Kendra Plummer, B.S.

TAYA Research Assistant

Current Position:  Intake Coordinator, Child and Family Institute, NY

Laura Boyajian, B.S.

TAYA Research Assistant

Current Position: Research Coordinator,

Drexel University

Haley Henry, B.S.

TAYA Research Assistant

Current Position: Clinical Research Specialist, Duke University

Madeline Rushlau

Madeline Rushlau

TAYA Research Assistant

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Evelyn Zamora-Vargas

TAYA Research Assistant

TAYA Lab Gallery 

2020-2021

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April 2021 - Incoming grad student, Rachel Martino, presents a research poster at the virtual Society for Research on Child Development conference

April 2021 - A socially distanced celebration of Savannah’s NSF Fellowship

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July 2020 - Lab manager Bri Ladd moves from Pittsburgh to Newark, shown with Sophie 

2017-2019

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September 2017 - The First Lab Members

From left: Emily Carrino, Madeline Rushlau, Sophie Choukas-Bradley, Chloe Bryen, & Tori Blazinkski

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July 2018 - Conference in Madrid

Sophie Choukas-Bradley with her long-time collaborator Dr. Laura Widman, at the International Academy of Sex Research conference in Madrid

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Fall 2017 Lab Members

From top left: Emily Carrino, Sophie Choukas-Bradley, Chloe Bryen, Madeline Rushlau, Madelaine Romito, & Tori Blazinkski

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October 2018 - Soergel's Orchard

Lab managers Chloe Bryen and Emily Carrino

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April 2018 - Undergraduate Student Research Poster Session

From left: Chloe Bryen, Yiyao Zhou, Emma Stewart, Tori Blazinkski, Madeline Rushlau, Sophie Choukas-Bradley, & Emily Carrino.

Not pictured: Madelaine Romito & Julia Friedman

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Fall 2018 Lab Members

Front row from left: Evelyn Zamora-Vargas, Chloe Bryen, Emily Carrino, Sophie Choukas-Bradley, Megan Kundra, Madeline Rushlau, Emma Stewart. Back row from left: Julia Friedman, Yiyao Zhou, Annie Maheux, Uma Balaji, Madelaine Romito. 

December 2018 - Holiday Lab Party

From left: Sophie Choukas-Bradley, Emily Carrino, Uma Balaji, Yiyao Zhou, Annie Maheux, Megan Kundra, Julia Friedman, Emma Stewart, Madelaine Romito, and Chloe Bryen

Not pictured: Madeline Rushlau

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March 2019 - SRCD

Biennial Meeting

March 2019 - SRCD

Biennial Meeting

Lab manager, Emily Carrino.

From left: Annie Maheux, Sophie Choukas-Bradley, Emily Carrino, Chloe Bryen, Yiyao Zhou

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March 2019 - Research Symposium

March 2019 - SRCD

Biennial Meeting

Annie Maheux at the 7th Annual Adolescent and Young Adult Health Research Symposium at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC.

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August 2019: Welcoming New Lab Members, Pitt's Cathedral of Learning

Lab manager, Chloe Bryen.

From left to right: Lab manager Bri Ladd, lab director Sophie Choukas-Bradley, and grad students Annie Maheux and Savannah Roberts