People

Elliot M. Tucker-Drob (Lab Director)

(photo by Mark James Adams)

Elliot Tucker-Drob is a Professor in the Department of Psychology and a Faculty Research Associate at the Population Research Center and the Center on Aging and Population Sciences at the University of Texas at Austin. Dr. Tucker-Drob received his PhD in Psychology from the University of Virginia, and has held fellowships at Harvard Medical School and the Max Planck Institute for Human Development. He co-founded and co-directs the Texas Twin Project.

Dr. Tucker-Drob’s research addresses the questions of how and why different people progress along different life trajectories. His research on infant, child, and adolescent development primarily focuses on how social and educational experiences combine with genetic variation to impact cognitive development, and mental health over time. His research on adult aging is primarily concerned with the predictors, patterns, and consequences of individual variation in aging-related cognitive declines and dementia. In support of this work, he constructs, evaluates, and applies a variety of statistical methods for cross-sectional, longitudinal, and genetic data.

Dr. Tucker-Drob is a fellow of the Association for Psychological Science (APS). From 2018 to 2020, he was a Jacobs Foundation Advanced Research Fellow. In 2019, Dr. Tucker-Drob received the Max Planck-Humboldt Medal. In 2017, he received Janet Taylor Spence Award for Transformative Contributions from APS. In 2015, he received the Fuller and Scott Award for Outstanding Scientific Accomplishments from the Behavior Genetics Association. Some of Dr. Tucker-Drob’s recent publications can be found in Psychological Bulletin, Nature Human Behaviour, Nature Genetics, Annual Review of Developmental Psychology, Psychological Science, and Developmental Psychology. His research is funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Laurel Raffington (Postdoctoral Research Fellow)

Dr. Laurel Raffington completed a BSc in Experimental Psychology at the University of Bristol and a MSc in Social, Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience at the Freie Universität Berlin. During this time, she explored a range of psychology research topics by working as a research assistant or intern in the labs of Dr. Bruce Hood, Dr. Marcus Munafò, Dr. Karen Adolph, Dr. Bernhard Fink, Dr. Kimberly Noble, Dr. Hauke Heekeren, and Dr. Ben Godde. Her PhD research at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development was funded by the Berlin School of Mind and Brain in Germany. Under the supervision of Dr. Yee Lee Shing, Dr. Christine Heim, and Dr. Ulman Lindenberger, she investigated longitudinal associations of family income and children’s reading and mathematical development. Dr. Raffington’s PhD research also examined the potential role of chronic stress and cortisol secretion in mediating socioeconomic disparities in children’s cognitive development within the Jacobs Study, which she co-founded. She also co-founded a video project that discusses racism in Germany. After her PhD, Dr. Raffington continued working within the Jacobs Study, funded by the Jacobs Foundation, as a postdoctoral researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development.

Dr. Raffington joined the Texas Twin Project as a postdoctoral research fellow funded by the German Research Association in February 2019 under the mentorship of Dr. Elliot Tucker-Drob and Dr. Paige Harden. Her primary research interest explores how genetic and environmental interactions contribute to individual differences in neuroendocrine function and behaviors often found to correlate with socioeconomic status. To this end she utilizes behavior genetic and epigenetic methods that she hopes may inform intervention research.

Javier de la Fuente (Postdoctoral Research Fellow)

Dr. Javier de la Fuente visited the Lifespan Development Lab during Spring/Summer 2019, and joined the lab as a fulltime postdoc in Fall 2019. Dr. de la Fuente completed a BSc in Cognitive Psychology at Universidad Complutense de Madrid, and a MSc on Methodology on Behavioral and Health Sciences. In 2017, he joined the doctoral program on Epidemiology and Public Health at the World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Research and Training in Mental Health Services at Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, under the supervision of Dr. José Luis Ayuso-Mateos and Dr. Francisco Félix Caballero.  As a PhD student from the EU-funded ATHLOS project, his research focused on identifying heterogeneous trajectories of health in general population, with special interest on sensory and cognitive aging. He was conferred his Ph.D. summa cum laude in the Fall of 2019. Dr. de la Fuente’s current research continues his track record of applying sophisticated multivariate statistics to study the epdemiology of cognitive aging and health, and expanding his expertise to include advanced method in statstical genomics and genetic epidemiology.

Kelseanna Hollis-Hansen (Postdoctoral Research Fellow)

Dr. Kelseanna Hollis-Hansen is an NHLBI T32 postdoctoral fellow in the Dell Medical School and the Steve Hicks School of Social Work. Dr. Hollis-Hansen’s focus is on designing and analyzing food retail interventions that aim to improve diet and increase food equity in under resourced communities. In addition, she is using data from the Texas Twins Project to identify what elements of the built and social environment are associated with biological mechanisms (e.g. DNA methylation, stress hormones) that may influence physical and cognitive health outcomes.

Dr. Hollis-Hansen finished both of her graduate degrees at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York. While completing her master of public health (MPH), she worked with Dr. Youfa Wang to analyze and expand NASA’s Mission X: Train Like an Astronaut school-based childhood obesity prevention program to an online platform. Throughout her PhD, Dr. Hollis-Hansen worked under Dr. Leonard Epstein in the Division of Behavioral Medicine with a focus on translating reinforcement pathology and behavioral economic theory into a grocery shopping intervention for parents interested in buying healthier food for their families.

Lucy King (Postdoctoral Research Fellow)

Dr. Lucy King completed her PhD in Psychology at Stanford University where she worked under the supervision of Dr. Ian Gotlib and collaborated with Dr. Kathryn Humphreys to design, fund, and manage the Brain and Behavior Infant Experiences (BABIES) project, a longitudinal study of the impact of the perinatal environment on infant neurodevelopment. For her dissertation, Dr. King investigated how infants’ everyday interactions with their caregivers may affect how their brains function and whether they develop early signs of psychopathology. In addition, she created a novel assessment of early adverse experiences within the context of the caregiver–child relationship (see https://osf.io/tgmpz/). Her graduate research received funding from the National Science Foundation, the American Psychological Foundation, and the Stanford Institute for Research in the Social Sciences.

Dr. King joined the Lifespan Development Lab in Spring 2021 after receiving an F32 Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award from the National Institute for Child Health and Human Development. During her fellowship, Dr. King is working under the supervision of Dr. Elliot Tucker-Drob and Dr. Charles Zeanah (Tulane University) to examine environmental and genetic contributions to young children’s trajectories of psychological development. She will specifically consider how early caregiving experiences combine with genetics to affect risk for cognitive and socioemotional difficulties among orphaned children raised in institutions and foster care as well as children raised in their families of origin.

Ted Schwaba (Postdoctoral Research Fellow)

Dr. Ted Schwaba completed his BS Summa Cum Laude in Psychology and Communications at Northwestern University in 2014, where he worked with Dr. Anne Marie Piper studying human-computer interactions in older adulthood and Dr. Dan Mroczek studying personality assessment in emergency departments. In 2021, he completed his PhD in Psychology at the University of California Davis, working with Dr. Wiebke Bleidorn. During these years, he focused his research interest on using modern statistical techniques and large datasets to understand lifespan personality and psychopathology development. How do people change across the lifespan, and what role do life events (like retirement) and experiences (like lead exposure) play in this change?

As a postdoctoral research fellow in the Lifespan Development Lab, Dr. Schwaba continues to address questions about the origins of personality and psychopathology, now at the genetic level. In Dr. Schwaba’s current line of research, he uses genomic Structural Equation Modeling to better understand sex differences in the genetic structure of psychopathology. You can find more about Dr. Schwaba’s research on his website (tedmond.net).

James Madole (Graduate Student)

James joined the doctoral program in Clinical Psychology in 2017. He graduated from NYU with a BA in philosophy in 2013. He then completed a post-baccalaureate certificate in psychology at UC Berkeley, where he worked in Dr. Sheri Johnson’s Cal Mania lab studying the role of genes, stress, and impulsivity in aggression and bipolar disorder. His current research interests are in understanding biological and environmental mechanisms of cognitive and emotional aspects of psychopathology.

Aditi Sabhlock (Graduate Student)

Aditi joined the doctoral program in Clinical Psychology in 2017. She graduated from Duke University in 2015 with a BS in Psychology. She then worked as a clinical research assistant in the Duke ADHD Program, under Dr Scott Kollins. While there, she worked on a longitudinal study of the effects of pre- and post-natal maternal environmental tobacco smoke exposure on child neurocognitive outcomes, and whether the effects are associated with specific epigenetic signatures. Her current research interests are centered on examining genetic and environmental contributions to the association between executive functions and disruptive behaviours in elementary school children, and how these factors impact academic achievement.

Cherry Youn (Graduate Student)

Cherry joined the doctoral program in Clinical Psychology in 2018. She graduated from University of California, Berkeley with a B.A. in Psychology with Honors, where she also minored in Education. Prior to joining the Lifespan Development Lab, she worked as a research assistant in Dr. Stephen Hinshaw’s Berkeley Girls with ADHD Longitudinal Study (BGALS). At BGALS, she examined the moderating effects of response inhibition on the association between social preference/relational aggression measured in childhood, and intimate partner violence measured in young adulthood, among women with and without histories of childhood ADHD. Her current research interests include examining genetic mechanisms behind cognitive performance in psychopathology and understanding trajectories of academic achievement and social functioning in children with externalizing disorders.

Maggie Clapp (Graduate Student)

Maggie joined the doctoral program in the Individual Differences and Evolutionary Psychology(IDEP) area in 2020. She graduated from Washington University in St. Louis in 2018 with a B.A. in Psychology with honors and a minor in History. She then worked as a clinical research coordinator at the Washington University ALS Center under Dr. Tim Miller, where she helped launch the use of digital phenotyping measures in symptomatic and pre-symptomatic ALS patients. Previously, she also worked with Dr. Desiree White studying the impact of hydroxyurea therapy on cognitive performance in children with sickle cell disease. Her current research interests include examining genetic contributions to cognitive performance and the development of psychopathology.

Liza Vinnik (Data Scientist)

Liza Vinnik graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a B.A.

in Psychology with honors, and a minor in Philosophy. Prior to becoming a Lab Coordinator for the Texas Twin Project, she completed her undergraduate thesis, under the guidance of Dr. Elliot Tucker-Drob, examining genetic and environmental links between different domains of conduct problems and academic achievement. She worked as a project coordinator on the Texas Twin Project from 2019-2021 and subsequently transitioned to a data scientist role.

Vanessa Fishel (Project Manager)

Vanessa began as a Project Manager for the Texas Twin Project in 2021. She is from central Pennsylvania and went to college at the University of Pittsburgh (aka “Pitt”).  After graduating with a B.S. in Psychology, she stayed in Pittsburgh and worked for both Pitt and UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital doing research.  Her work in Pittsburgh included running MEG/EEG & MRI scans to study first episode psychosis, and studying the efficacy of reduced-nicotine cigarettes on smoking cessation. Vanessa is fascinated by many areas of psychology and is particularly interested in alcoholism and the various factors that contribute to recovery and sobriety.  Someday she would like to pursue a PhD in Clinical Psychology.

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Daniel Briley (Lifespan Lab Alumnus)

Dr. Daniel Briley joined the graduate program in the Individual Differences and Evolutionary Psychology (IDEP) area in 2010 and successfully defended his doctoral dissertation in May, 2015. He began a position as Assistant Professor of Psychology and Human Sociogenomics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in Fall, 2015. Dr. Briley’s research explores the dynamic relations between children and their learning environment, and how the unique characteristics of the individual child influence personal, academic, and social growth over time.

Dr. Briley’s website

Amanda Cheung (Lifespan Lab Alumna)

Dr. Amanda Cheung joined the doctoral program in Clinical Psychology in 2011, and  successfully defended her dissertation in May, 2016. She completed her clinical internship at the Mailman Center for Child Development at the University of Miami in August, 2017.  Dr. Cheung was instrumental in developing the Texas “Tiny” Twin study of parenting and child development over the first 6 years of life. Some of her recent research on early child development has been published in Behavior Genetics, Developmental Psychobiology, and Parenting: Science and Practice.

Evan Easley (Lifespan Lab Alumnus)

Evan Easley graduated in 2018 from The University of Texas at Austin with a B.A. in Psychology and a minor in History. While an undergraduate student, he worked for a year and a half in Dr. Elliot Tucker-Drob’s Lifespan Development Lab. He then worked as a lab coordinator at the lifespan lab from 2019-2021. Evan will pursue a Master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, with an emphasis on serving multicultural populations.

Laura Engelhardt (Lifespan Lab Alumna)

Dr. Laura Engelhardt joined the doctoral program in the Individual Differences and Evolutionary Psychology area in 2013 and successfully defended her dissertation in July, 2018. Dr. Engelhardt’s work at the Lifespan Development Lab incoporated measures of socioeconomic status into studies of gene-environment interplay. Additionally, she has investigated how these factors relate to structural and functional differences in the developing brain. Dr. Engelhardt was supported by a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.

Samantha Freis (Lifespan Lab Alumna)

Samantha Freis is a recent graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from The University of Texas at Austin. Her undergraduate honors thesis examined the environmental and genetic underpinnings of the co-occurrence of risky sexual behavior and substance use in adolescence. Sam worked as as a lab coordinator on the Texas Twin Project from 2017 to 2019, and is now pursuing a Ph.D. in behavioral genetics at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Andrew Grotzinger (Lifespan Lab Alumnus)

Dr. Andrew Grotzinger joined the doctoral program in  Clinical Psychology in 2015 and successfully defended his dissertation in April, 2020. His research has focused on the development and application of new statistical genomic methods for elucidating the joint genetic architecture of complex traits. Dr. Grotzinger is spending the 2020/2021 academic year on clinical internship at Harvard Medical School/Massachusetts General Hospital, after which time he will begin a tenure-track position at Institute for Behavioral Genetics/Department of Psychology, University of Colorado Boulder.

Margherita Malanchini (Lifespan Lab Alumna)

Dr. Margherita Malanchini received a PhD in Psychology at Goldsmiths University of London, and was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow  postdoctoral research fellow at the Texas Twin Project from 2017-2018. Dr. Malanchini is currently a tenure-track lecturer (Assistant Professor)  in the Psychology Department at Queen Mary University of London. Her research investigates psychological, environmental, and biological mechanisms that support individual differences in learning and cognition over development.

Frank Mann (Lifespan Lab Alumnus)

Dr. Frank Mann joined the doctoral program in the Individual Differences and Evolutionary Psychology area in 2013 and successfully defended his dissertation in July, 2017. He began a postdoctoral research fellowship at the University of Minessota in the Fall of 2017, working with Colin DeYoung, Valerie Tiberius, and Robert Krueger on a project that combines philosophy and behavioral genetics to disentangle genetic and environmental components of the link between personality and well-being.

Dr. Mann’s website

Megan Patterson (Lifespan Lab Alumna)

Dr. Megan Patterson joined the doctoral program in Clinical Psychology in 2014 and spent the 2019/2020 academic year on clinical internship at the Medical University of South Carolina. Her research interests are primarily centered on child-driven effects in parenting adolescents, and gene-environment correlation in the development of adolescent psychopathology.

Nick Patton (Lifespan Lab Alumnus)

Nick Patton was Lab Coordinator for the Texas Twin Project from 2018-2020. He graduated with Honors from the University of Texas at Austin with a B.S. in Psychology in 2018.

Mijke Rhemtulla (Lifespan Lab Alumna)

Dr. Mijke Rhemtulla received her PhD in Psychology from the University of British Columbia. Dr. Rhemtulla is both a Developmental Psychologist and a Quantititave Psychologist, who has spent time visiting the Lifespan Development Lab as a University of Texas Visiting Scholar. She completed postdoctoral research fellowship at the University of Kansas and went on to become an Assistant Professor in the Psychological Methods program at the University of Amsterdam. She is now an Associate Professor in the Quantitative Psychology program at the University of California, Davis.

Dr. Rhemtulla’s website

Stephanie Savicki (Lifespan Lab Alumna)

Stephanie joined the graduate program in the Individual Differences and Evolutionary Psychology area in 2015 and obtained her MA in 2018. She is primarily interested in personality development throughout the lifespan, as well as how genetic, temperamental, and socioeconomic factors relate to individual differences in academic achievement motivation.

Megan Thibodeaux (Lifespan Lab Alumna)

Megan was a project coordinator for the Twin Brains Study. She joined the team as a research assistant in 2014, went on to become a full-time project coordinator. Megan graduated from the University of Texas with a B.A. in psychology and a B.M. in voice performance.