Meet the GGSC’s New Fellows for 2024-2025

June 4, 2024

The Greater Good Science Center is proud to present its 2024-25 class of distinguished Research Fellows, which includes excellent UC Berkeley students from the fields of psychology, demography, education, 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 the impact of awe on holistic wellbeing to the role of social support in preventing PTSD among sexual assault survivors. 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.

Graduate Fellows

Chris Soria

Chris Soria is a Ph.D. student in Demography at the University of California, Berkeley, where he previously earned a BA in Sociology. His research has been presented at various conferences, where he’s been awarded for “outstanding scholarship.” Currently, Soria’s work focuses on the role of social interactions in enhancing cognitive health among aging populations. He uses causal inference methods to explore Social Network Cognitive Buffers (SNCBs), a concept he developed to examine how social factors can influence the rate of cognitive aging. One of his goals is to identify whether diversity in networks can uniquely impact cognitive aging.

Lindsey Deringer

Lou Deringer is a first year doctoral student in Social-Personality Psychology at UC Berkeley. Before coming to Berkeley, Lou earned her BA in English literature from Colorado College and an MS in Narrative Medicine from Columbia University. Lou’s research broadly focuses on the interpersonal impacts of changes in the self concept. As the Libby Fee Graduate Research Fellow, Lou will be exploring how the self-transcendent emotion of awe may impact the process of perspective taking and subsequent feelings of social connectedness - with a particular focus on how this phenomenon may take place in elderhood. The goal of this research is to offer an accessible pathway for bolstering social cohesion in elderhood by learning how we may come to understand those around us in deeper, more meaningful ways.

Jiyoung Song

Jiyoung Song is a clinical science doctoral candidate in the Department of Psychology at UC Berkeley. Before coming to Berkeley, he completed his bachelor’s degrees in psychology and bioengineering at the University of Pennsylvania. Jiyoung’s research focuses on transdiagnostic mechanisms underlying the linkage between sleep and mental health. As a GGSC fellow, Jiyoung will investigate the role of individuals’ sleep patterns in their engagement of prosocial behaviors and mental health outcomes. Findings from this work will inform precise and dynamic approaches to studying the multifaceted impact of sleep health.

Jin Hyung Lim

Jin Hyung Lim is a student pursuing a Ph.D. degree in the School Psychology Program at the Berkeley School of Education. He obtained his B.A. (with Summa Cum Laude) in Education and M.A. in Special Education from Seoul National University in South Korea. Jin Hyung’s research broadly focuses on how the school system can support school members’ (e.g., students, teachers, and families) well-being by promoting their resilience while counterbalancing risk factors. As a GGSC fellow, he aims to explore the protective and promotive roles of teachers’ transformative social and emotional learning (TSEL) competencies on their well-being and culturally responsive practices.

Maria Luciani

Maria Luciani is a doctoral student studying social-personality psychology at UC Berkeley. Before coming to Berkeley, Maria earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Michigan. Maria’s research focuses on how people form and sustain high-quality relationships, often in the context of obstacles such as political disagreement. In her free time, she enjoys reading, cooking, and spending time outdoors in the beautiful Bay Area. As a GGSC fellow, Maria will study intellectual humility in the context of romantic relationships, modeling dyadic and longitudinal associations of intellectual humility with couples’ relationship quality and conflict behavior.

Aukeem A. Ballard

Aukeem Ballard is a Ph.D. candidate at the Berkeley School of Education. He holds a B.A. in Rhetoric and media studies as well as a Master of Arts in Teaching from Lewis & Clark College. Aukeem is interested in how students learn inside consequential, complex emotional experiences in schools as racialized and gendered beings. His dissertation builds on previous literature of Black boyhood futurity, psychological mattering, and critical theory with the goal of exploring how Black boys love possibilities into existence for themselves and their peers through their own cultural, affective practices of love-in-praxis inside sometimes oppressive structures and systems.

Christopher Gys

Christopher Gys is a 4th-year Clinical Science (Psychology) PhD student at UC Berkeley. Prior to graduate school, Chris studied Spanish and Religion at Bowdoin College and worked as an educator in Peru, Spain, and Japan. His current research examines the influences of digital media use, ethnocultural factors, and self-regulation on the development of US immigrant and Latin American youth. His GGSC project will take a qualitative interview-based approach to understanding factors that promote positive parent-child relationships in Chinese American families during emerging adulthood (18-29 years old), a period of significant intrapersonal, interpersonal, and cultural change within families.

Reuben Perez

Reuben Perez is a doctoral student in the Department of Sociology at UC Berkeley. Prior to Berkeley, he worked as a research assistant at MDRC—a non-profit think tank—doing evaluation research on education programming in low-income school districts. A New York native, Reuben double majored in Puerto Rican and Latino Studies and in Sociology at CUNY Brooklyn College. During his tenure as a GGSC fellow, Reuben will examine strategies for violence prevention in NYC neighborhoods and its impact on neighborhood well-being. Specifically, Reuben will examine the local factors that give rise to contrasting strategies to curb violence in low-income Black and Brown neighborhoods.

Joanna Cardenas

Joanna Cardenas is a doctoral student in the Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies at UC Berkeley. Prior to graduate school, she received a dual bachelor’s in African American Studies and Legal Studies with honors from Cal. Joanna’s research broadly focuses on how systems of confinement inform our understandings around gender, race, and ableism through the enforcement of violence and power through a close analysis of California prisons. As a GGSC research fellow, she will explore how institutional and interpersonal policing practices affect the social well-being of women in South Central Los Angeles through a Black Feminist framework.

Carolina Hamburger

Originally from São Paulo, Brazil, Carolina is a first-year Ph.D. student at the Berkeley School of Education. Before coming to Berkeley, she worked as a public school teacher in her hometown, developing and enacting anti-racist pedagogy for early childhood education. As a GGSC fellow, she will research methodologies and impacts of anti-racist pedagogy in the early years, exploring its potential to cultivate critical thinking, racial awareness, positive self-esteem, and empathy among young students.

Undergraduate Fellows

Selina Bilal

Selina Bilal is a junior at UC Berkeley majoring in Psychology and Cognitive Science, with minors in Music and Developmental Psychology. She actively contributes to research at RASCL, as well as the Berkeley Social Interaction Lab and the Social Origins Lab. She is also a researcher for the Science of Happiness Podcast, a proctor at the Disabled Students’ Program, and Academic Liaison for Psi Chi at Berkeley. Originally from Pakistan, Selina’s research is driven by her desire to create a positive impact. She’s actively working towards building an awe-based intervention for Berkeley students, which represents an exploration into the profound impact of awe on holistic wellbeing and personal growth. Through immersive experiences and reflection, this intervention aims to equip students with practical tools and strategies to integrate awe-inspiring encounters into their daily lives.