Lab Director

Jamil Zaki

Jamil received his BA from Boston University, his Ph.D. from Columbia University, and postdoctoral training at Harvard University. When he’s not writing about empathy for work, his hobbies include writing about empathy for fun, compulsive hiking, and perfecting a Michelin star oatmeal recipe for the SSNL’s very particular lab babies.

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  • Lab Manager

    Ian Ferguson

    Ian received his B.S. from Virginia Commonwealth University and his M.A. from New York University. His primary research interests include group polarization and partisanship, and he's especially interested in translating academic scholarship into public policy. Outside of the lab, Ian can be found watching basketball, watering his plants, and slowly becoming a devout Bayesian.

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  • Postdoctoral Fellows

    Marianne Reddan

    Marianne completed her B.A. in Psychology in the laboratory of Elizabeth Phelps at NYU. There she studied the effects of controllability on threat responses under the mentorship of Catherine Hartley. She continued to research human threat responding with Daniela Schiller at Mount Sinai as a lab manager and then later completed her M.A. and Ph.D. with Tor Wager at the University of Colorado Boulder. Her dissertation work took an embodied approach to emotion representation in the brain; applying machine learning to neuroimaging data in order to better understand how emotion can be constructed and modified through sensory simulations. As a post doc in our lab she is using time series analyses to identify brain networks tracking empathic accuracy. Ultimately she hopes to apply this work in the form of prosocial programs that will increase empathy in our society.

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  • Andrea Courtney

    Andrea received her B.A. and M.A. in Psychology from Wake Forest University and her PhD in Psychological & Brain Sciences from Dartmouth College. Her research combines behavioral experiments, social network data, and neuroimaging to understand how social connection contributes to well-being. She's happiest spending time outside, being active, and binge watching tv dramas — and enjoys them even more with other people!

    Graduate Students

    Eric Neumann

    Eric earned his B.Sc. at the Free University of Berlin. He spent his junior year as a visiting scholar at the University of Chicago, and the following summer as a research assistant at Harvard. His principal interests include why we tend to underestimate how social and prosocial a species we are, as well as testing interventions to reconnect us across social and moral divides. Eric loves to explore new countries, and enjoys food so long as he doesn't have to prepare it.

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  • Luiza Almeida Santos

    Luiza holds a B.A. in Psychology from Swarthmore College. Broadly, she uses a motivated emotion framework to study affective polarization and the development of politically-relevant moral convictions. Her research examines how to prevent empathic failures towards dissimilar others and, consequently, foster more productive political discussions. She applies experimental methods, natural language processing, and social network analysis to study these questions. Luiza is a Ph.D. fellow at the Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society. Prior to arriving at Stanford University, she was a behavioral research fellow at the Kellogg School of Management and a research assistant at the University of Pennsylvania. In her free time, she likes painting, hiking with her dog, and singing badly while driving.

    Research Assistants

    Dean Baltiansky

    Dean received his B.A. from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and his M.A. from New York University. In the lab, he is primarily working on the Stanford Communities Project. His research interests include lay theories of happiness, legitimization of inequality, and zero-sum thinking. Outside of work, Dean enjoys experimenting in the kitchen, watching sports, and pondering the meaning of life (often all at once).

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  • Sydney Garcia

    Sydney received her B.A. with Honors in Psychology from UC Berkeley. She is interested in creating psychological interventions to combat bias in domains such as education, policing, and the workplace. Outside of research, Sydney loves to workout, dance salsa and bachata, and read.

    Isabel Dibble

    Isabel Dibble is a senior who is majoring in Psychology with a minor in Data Science. She likes to learn about all the interesting research being conducted in the lab. However, she is specifically drawn towards political psychology and the influence of one's social network on decision-making. In her free time, Isabel likes to watch stand-up comedy and play tennis.

    Wicia Fang

    Wicia received her Cognitive Science B.A. and Economics B.A. from U.C. Berkeley and conducted her honors thesis research on changes in media coverage of police use-of-force over time. She is interested in how empathy affects relationships and drives decision-making, especially in regards to low-income communities. Aside from tending to her tortoise Morrie, she loves to paint with watercolors and watch thrillers/detective shows.

    Yifei He

    Yifei is a sophomore from China, majoring in computer science with a minor in psychology. He is interested in how technologies changed our daily life, and how we can use technologies to study psychology. He also works for The Stanford Daily’s Tech Team.

    Layo Laniyan

    Layo is a sophomore likely majoring in Symbolic Systems and English. He is interested in using computational modeling and neuroimaging methods to study empathy-building interventions, and he hopes to apply his research in clinical settings, especially in working with marginalized communities. He is also interested in understanding how race and ethnicity intersect with representations of the body in different works of literature. He loves writing for the Daily, hip-hop dancing, reading, and Southern soul food.

    Patrick Donohue

    Patrick is a rising sophomore at Stanford University. He is planning on majoring in Economics with a minor in Psychology. He is interested in studying behavioral economics, morality, and political psychology. He loves spending his time playing sports and exercising or hanging out with his friends and dogs.

    Zhengxuan(Zen) Wu

    Zhengxuan received his B.S. in mechanical engineering and aerospace engineering from Case Western Reserve University and M.S. in computer science from University of Pennsylvania. Currently, he is a MS&E student at Stanford focusing on computational social science while working at VMware. He is interested in applying computational methods to analyze social and cognitive data and building "artifical psychology" for robots.

    Recent Alumni

    Yuan Chang Leong

    Yuan Chang graduated from the lab in 2019. He is currently a post-doc working with Mark D'Esposito at UC Berkeley. He combines behavioral experiments, computational modeling and neuroimaging to study how reward and motivation interacts with cognitive processes to shape everyday behavior. Yuan Chang grew up in the city-state of Singapore, and there's nothing he craves more than authentic South-east Asian food.

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  • Isabella Kahhale

    Isabella received her B.S. in Cognitive & Brain Sciences from Tufts University, along with a minor in English and a certificate in Ethics, Law, & Society. She’s interested in how society labels some groups as worthy of empathy, while others are deemed undeserving. Among other projects, she is currently studying the impact of empathy and perspective-taking in a legal setting. She loves cooking, talking during movies, working out, and undoing her workouts with her uncontrollable sweet tooth.

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  • Matt Leipzig

    Matt graduated with a B.S. in psychology from Ohio State University. Matt is interested in prosocial behavior and empathy using behavioral experiments and neuroimaging methods. In his free time, Matt can usually be found eating Greek food or trying out new recipes.

    Mahnaz Roshanaei

    Mahnaz Roshanaei received her PhD in Computer Science from the University of Colorado Boulder in 2016. Her graduate work related study and analysis of Emotions in Social Media and Smartphones. After that, she worked as a research scientist at Toshiba Research America Inc for almost a year and then joined Cal state Long beach as a lecturer. She Joined University of Illinois Chicago as postdoc associate. She worked on a project that use machine learning and causal inference algorithms to determine the impact of story features and reader predispositions and perceptions on the empathy they feel when reading online stories. As a postdoc in our lab, she is working on developing statistical and machine learning methods to understand behavioral, network and smartphone data to explore how the individuals’ characteristics and behavior shape their position in, or effect on, social networks. Mahnaz is broadly interested in Machine learning and Causal inference to reason better with behavioral and network data to solve societal problems.

    Leor Hackel

    Leor Hackel received his B.S. from Columbia University and his Ph.D. from New York University. His research examines the intersection of learning, social cognition, and decision-making: he studies how people learn about other people through interaction, and how people make decisions guided by social knowledge and motives. His research uses behavioral experiments, computational modeling, and neuroimaging approaches to explore these questions.

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  • Lab Babies

    Alma Zaki

    Alma recently completed her master’s degree in Toddler and is now continuing towards a PhD in little kid. Her research interests include counting to 50, writing her name and diligently drawing inside the lines. To cut loose, Alma enjoys interpretive dance, impersonating a drill sergeant, and explaining things to her junior colleague, Luisa.

    Luisa Zaki

    Luisa recently completed her Baby Bachelor’s degree in 2019 and is now working towards her Toddler with a concentration in distraction. She excels at hugging, head-first slide acrobatics, and chocolate tasting, she is passionate about you knowing that her favorite color is blue, and equally interested in knowing what yours is.

    Lab Pets


    Morrie loves climbing up hills and taking baths. When not attending to his social media presence (insta: @morriethetortoise), he naps and waits for his guardian, Wicia, to drop romaine lettuce from the skies. Fun fact: his name was inspired by Morrie Schwartz, who is written about in Mitch Albom's book: Tuesdays with Morrie.

    Louie Santos

    Louie has a PhD in sniffing. He is also an expert barker, always alerting his colleagues of imminent dangers, which include but are not limited to: loud flies, fallen leaves, and malicious squirrels. Moreover, he is strongly committed to combating wastefulness and will happily eat leftovers. When taking a break from his concerns with security and the environment, he enjoys napping in the sun.

    Group Photos