Meet the GGSC’s New Fellows 2020-2022

February 12, 2021

The Greater Good Science Center is proud to present its 2020-22 class of distinguished Research Fellows, which includes excellent UC Berkeley students from the fields of psychology, urban studies, social welfare, integrative biology, and beyond. They are an outstanding group of young researchers who are committed to the greater good.

The GGSC’s annual fellowship program supports the work of UC Berkeley students whose research advances the science of compassion, empathy, and other topics we explore. The program attracts scholars from across a broad spectrum of academic disciplines, with a particular focus on the social-behavioral sciences.

This year, our fellows tackle subjects ranging from how loneliness affects dementia risk to how perspective taking might increase support for criminal justice reform. Please read on for more details about our newest fellows, and visit our fellowships page for more details about the program and summaries of past graduate and undergraduate fellows’ work.

2020-2022 Graduate Fellows

Belinda Carillo
Social-Personality Psychology

Belinda Carrillo is a fourth-year doctoral student in UC Berkeley’s Psychology Department within the social/personality area. She received her B.A. in psychology and gender studies from Whittier College in 2015. She is a close relationships researcher who focuses on trying to understand the bidirectional link between how the quality of our physical health influences the quality of our social relationships and vice versa. As a GGSC graduate research fellow, she plans to examine how lack of sleep may hinder our ability to authentically express ourselves in our social interactions with new acquaintances. Previous research has robustly linked lack of sleep to poorer relationship quality, particularly within romantic relationships, and thus Belinda hopes this line of work will reveal lower authenticity as one potential mechanism underlying this association. Overall, she hopes that her research will inspire others to take their sleep more seriously in order to improve their physical and social-emotional well-being.

Mayra Cazares-Minero
Social Welfare

Mayra K. Cazares-Minero is a doctoral candidate at UC Berkeley’s School of Social Welfare. Her research focuses on the construct of multidimensional resilience, specifically focusing on the mechanisms that help explain resilience among former foster youth attending public universities in California. In response to the current and narrow understanding of resilience among former foster youth as single-factor outcomes, her research focuses on representing their resilience as a dynamic and interactive process. As a GGSC research fellow, Mayra will employ a person-centered analysis to identify unique resilience profiles among former foster youth based on indicators of multi-level, resilience-associated factors.

Alexander Ehrenberg
Integrative Biology

Alexander Ehrenberg is a second-year doctoral candidate in UC Berkeley’s Integrative Biology Department and a researcher at the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute and UCSF’s Memory and Aging Center. Starting in 2013, he has worked at UCSF studying Alzheimer’s disease neuropathology and received a B.A. from UC Berkeley in 2017. As a GGSC fellow, Alex seeks to understand the mechanisms underlying how social isolation acts as a risk factor for dementia using a combination of animal models, human neuropathology, and developing biomarkers. This research aims to support risk-stratification frameworks for older adults experiencing loneliness and reveal novel therapeutic targets for neurodegenerative diseases.

Maedeh Golshirazi
School Psychology

Maedeh Golshirazi is a Ph.D. candidate in the School Psychology program at UC Berkeley. Before coming to Berkeley, Maedeh received her M.A. in child development from Tufts University and B.A in psychology from Isfahan University, Iran. Maedeh’s current research interests include social-emotional learning, school climate, parental involvement in education, and how these factors may influence the development of children who are marginalized in society (e.g., immigrants and children with special needs). As a GGSC research fellow, Maedeh will investigate the direct and indirect impacts of teachers’ perceived support, collaborations among school staff, and opportunities for professional development on students’ social-emotional competence. Further, she will examine how such relationships differ by student and school characteristics.

Jessie Harney
Public Policy

Jessie Harney is a second-year Ph.D. student at the Goldman School of Public Policy at UC Berkeley. She has previous degrees in psychology, biostatistics, and public policy. Her research interests are in criminal justice system reform with a specific focus on mental health and improving outcomes for those whose lives are impacted by the carceral system. As a GGSC fellow, Jessie will be conducting survey experiments to test the effect of perspective-taking interventions on support for justice system reforms. The first experiment will focus on prison reform, particularly in the context of COVID-19, and the second will focus on police divestment.

Mari Knuth-Bouracee

Mari Knuth-Bouracee is a second-year doctoral student in UC Berkeley’s Psychology Department. She earned her master’s degree in higher education and student development at Bowling Green State University and her bachelor’s in human development at Boston College. Her research focuses on the violence prevention, perpetration, norms and prosociality, and equity in education and workplaces. As a GGSC graduate fellow, Mari will examine norms-based interventions, within the context of intra-racial groups, to enhance prosociality and reduce sexual violence perpetration. The strengths of ethnic-specific communities and group processes (e.g., solidarity, collective self-esteem, and intragroup cooperation) may increase the salience, and in turn, the effectiveness of norms-based interventions.

Maria Monroy (Hornaday Fellow)

Maria Monroy is a fifth-year doctoral student at the Psychology Department at UC Berkeley. She received her B.A. in psychology from UC Berkeley. Her research covers multiple facets of emotion science, such as expression, experience, and culture. A large portion of her attention is devoted to investigating the beneficial effects of awe on stress, social connection, and well-being. As a GGSC Hornaday graduate fellow, Maria will contribute to the nascent literature on awe by examining its effects on social inclusion. With this work, she aims to demonstrate that awe can increase social inclusion and thereby improve intergroup relations.

2020-2022 Undergraduate Fellows

Kai Koerber
Data Science

Kai Koerber is a second-year intended Data Science major at UC Berkeley, and he and Professor Dacher Keltner started a research project that aims to identify “the sound of emotion” in a vocal context. This project directly aims to assess how much vocal expression can tell us about the emotions that we are feeling in the present moment. He believes that having a window into how we feel in any given moment, as well as having info on how often we feel this way, will give us more control over our states of happiness, awe, and relaxation. Kai is interested in bridging the gap between humanity’s emotional and technological experiences, and as such aims to one day start a company that successfully bridges that gap.

Rachel Schten
Urban Studies

Rachel Schten is a third-year Urban Studies major at UC Berkeley. She works as Department of City and Regional Planning Chair Professor Karen Chapple’s research and administrative assistant and has worked on various projects studying topics from accessory dwelling units (ADUs) to the impact of climate change mitigation investments on displacement. She intends to pursue a dual law-public policy degree after graduation. Her project focuses on both the familiar and novel issues in emergency and disaster planning for people with disabilities revealed by the COVID-19 pandemic. For her study, she will conduct interviews with emergency planners, people with disabilities, and employees of disability organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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