Research Team

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Sophia (Sophie) Choukas-Bradley, Ph.D.
LAB DIRECTOR

I am an Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Pittsburgh (Pitt), where I'm a core faculty member in the Developmental, Clinical, and Social Psychology programs.

I earned 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). I completed a pre-doctoral clinical internship and post-doctoral fellowship in the Pitt Department of Psychiatry (Western Psychiatric). My first faculty position was in the Pitt Department of Psychology from 2017-2020. After two years at the University of Delaware, I returned to Pitt in June 2022.

My program of research focuses on interpersonal and sociocultural influences on the mental health and wellbeing of adolescents and emerging adults (ages 11–24). One major goal of my work is to identify specific social media experiences that predict adaptive and maladaptive body image, mental health, and identity development. I also aim to understand how gender identities, sexual identities, and racial/ethnic identities affect body image, mental health, and relationships. My work has increasingly focused on LGBTQ+ youth and the intersection of multiple marginalized identities.

In addition to my work as a researcher, I am a licensed clinical psychologist, and I teach undergraduate and graduate courses focused on adolescence, social development, and psychopathology. I have a longstanding commitment to 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 Pitt and U. Delaware. My blog, Psychology of Adolescence: The Science of Teens, Screens, Gender, and Sexuality, is available through Psychology Today.  I live in Pittsburgh with my wife, Anna, and our quirky tailless tuxedo cat, Balsam. 

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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. She will return to Pitt in September 2022. 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 prior time at Pitt, she served as chair of the Outreach Subcommittee of Pitt’s Psychology Equity, Inclusion, and Community Committee.

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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. She will return to Pitt in September 2022. 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.

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Claire Stout, B.A.
GRADUATE STUDENT

Claire joined the TAYA Lab in the fall of 2021 as a first-year Clinical Psychology Ph.D. student. She transferred to Pitt with the TAYA Lab in June 2022 where she is now a rising 2nd-year student in the joint Clinical–Developmental Ph.D. program. Claire graduated from Duke University in 2019 where she studied psychology, human development, and education. While at Duke, she worked with Dr. David Goldston at the Center for the Study of Suicide Prevention and Intervention and Dr. Sarah Gaither at the Identity & Diversity Lab. Following her time at Duke, Claire worked as a research assistant for Dr. Kate Guthrie at Brown University, where she gained experience in qualitative data collection and analysis on the topics of sexual and reproductive health. She also worked as a research assistant for Dr. Kimberly Nelson at the Boston University School of Public Health, where she became passionate about youth engaged research. Claire is interested in using quantitative and qualitative research methods to study LGBTQ+ adolescent development, with a focus on sexual health. In the future, she hopes to develop community informed interventions to address health disparities impacting LGBTQ+ adolescents. Claire cares deeply about advocacy, and she hopes to use her research to inform progressive policy. In her free time, Claire loves to play ultimate frisbee!

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Rachel Martino, B.S.
GRADUATE STUDENT

Rachel joined the TAYA Lab in the fall of 2021 in the Clinical Science program at the University of Delaware. She will transfer to Harvard's Clinical Science program in September 2022. Rachel graduated from Brown University in 2019 with a B.S. in Psychology and Gender and Sexuality Studies. As an undergraduate, Rachel worked with Dr. Dima Amso examining children’s acquisition of STEM gender biases. She also interned at Boston Children’s Hospital with Dr. Susan Faja developing a sexual and romantic health training program for young adults with ASD. After graduating, Rachel worked as a research coordinator in Dr. Katie McLaughlin’s Stress and Development Lab at Harvard University coordinating a longitudinal study investigating the dynamic changes in emotion, behavior, and brain function following stressful life events during adolescence. In graduate school, Rachel is interested in studying how stigma, social identities, and structural barriers influence child development and mental health. She also hopes to explore and identify protective factors for marginalized youth, such as social support from peers, parents, and broader communities. Rachel is passionate about drawing on interdisciplinary frameworks from intersectional feminism and disability studies, and community-informed and -engaged methodologies that address inequity and ultimately improve mental health for children, adolescents, and families.

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Brianna Ladd, B.A. 
 LAB MANAGER 

Brianna served as the TAYA lab manager from 2019-2022. She will join the Counseling Psychology Ph.D. program of the University of Maryland in the fall of 2022. 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 Black feminist and intersectionality theories to examine mental health and resilience among marginalized populations, as well as the social justice implications of research in this area. 

Emily Gotkiewicz 
UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCH ASSISTANT

Emily is a graduating senior at the University of Delaware majoring in psychology with a minor in health & wellness. 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 a graduating senior 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.

Former Lab Members

Post-baccalaureate Alumni

Chloe Bryen

Chloe Bryen, B.A.
TAYA Lab Manager at Pitt
Current Position: Doctoral Student in Clinical Psychology, Florida State University

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Emily Carrino, B.A.
TAYA Lab Manager at Pitt
Current Position: Doctoral Student in Clinical Psychology, UNC-Chapel Hill

Madelaine Romito

Madelaine Romito, B.A.
TAYA Research Assistant at Pitt
Current Position: Masters Student in Counseling, Northeastern Illinois University

Yiyao Zhou, B.A.
TAYA Research Assistant at Pitt
Current Position: Doctoral Student in Counseling Psychology, University of Indiana

Undergraduate Alumni

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Uma Balaji, B.S.
TAYA Research Assistant at Pitt
Subsequent Post-Bacc Position: Research Specialist, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center

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Sarah Drexler, B.S.
TAYA Research Assistant
Subsequent Post-Bacc Position: Research Coordinator, Drexel University

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Megan Kundra, B.S.
TAYA Research Assistant
Subsequent Post-Bacc Position: Administrative Assistant, Dartmouth College

Madeline Rushlau

Madeline Rushlau
TAYA Research Assistant
Subsequent
Post-Bacc Position: Clinical position at Western Psychiatric

Tori Blazinski

Tori Blazinski, B.S.
TAYA Research Assistant
Subsequent Post-Bacc Position: Research Specialist, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center

Julia Friedman
TAYA Research Assistant
 

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Kendra Plummer, B.S.
TAYA Research Assistant
Subsequent Post-Bacc Position:  Intake Coordinator, Child and Family Institute, NY

Emma Stewart, B.S.
TAYA Research Assistant
Subsequent Post-Bacc Position: Lease Analyst, JLL, Pittsburgh, PA

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Laura Boyajian, B.S.
TAYA Research Assistant
Subsequent Post-Bacc Position: Research Coordinator, Drexel University
Subsequent Graduate Position: Joining U. South Florida Clinical Psychology Ph.D. program in Fall 2022

 

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Haley Henry, B.S.
TAYA Research Assistant
Subsequent Post-Bacc Position: Clinical Research Specialist, Duke University

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Alexa Rial
TAYA Research Assistant


 

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Evelyn Zamora-Vargas

TAYA Research Assistant