Blue Brain pattern for the BRAVE Research Center (formerly known as BRAVE Youth Lab)



Ryan Herringa

Credentials: MD, PhD

Position title: Associate Professor, Child & Adolescent Psychiatry


Dr. Herringa is the UW Health Professor in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Director of the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and Director of the BRAVE Research Center. As a pediatric psychiatrist, he is an expert in the treatment of traumatized youth and families using psychotherapy and pharmacological approaches. As a neuroscientist, his work aims to better understand the effects of trauma on the developing brain as well as the body. Dr. Herringa earned his M.D. and Ph.D. as part of the Medical Scientist Training Program at the University of Wisconsin. He completed his Ph.D. in Neuroscience under the direction of Dr. Ned Kalin, during which time he studied the effects of stress on gene regulation in the amygdala, the brain’s fear center. He then completed a clinical-research residency in general psychiatry and pediatric psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh, one of the nation’s premier psychiatry residency programs. Following this, he returned to the University of Wisconsin as faculty, where his research center has been conducting seminal studies on brain development in trauma-exposed youth and youth with PTSD. Dr. Herringa has received funding from many agencies to conduct this work, including the National Institute of Mental Health, the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the UW Institute for Clinical and Translational Research.


Research Staff

Angela Lii

Credentials: BS

Position title: Assessment Specialist

Angela graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and earned her Bachelor’s degrees in Anthropology and Biochemistry in May 2020. As an undergraduate, she had the opportunities to work in a personal care setting assisting children with disabilities such as ADHD, down syndrome, and autism as an Inclusion Aide and volunteer at the EMCC as a tutor for children from low-income families who do not have access to necessary educational resources. Through her previous work and volunteer experiences, she gained insight working with children with mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. These experiences led her to pursue a career working with and helping children and their families, eventually joining the Brave Research Center as an Associate Research Specialist. In her free time, Angela loves to do yoga, weightlift, bullet journal, go to music festivals, and listen to podcasts about true crime or conspiracy theories while snuggling with her puppy, Benji.

Collin Schmit

Credentials: BS

Position title: Assessment Specialist

Collin earned a Bachelor’s degree in Neurobiology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in May of 2020.  For three years as an undergraduate, Collin worked in the BRAVE Research Center and developed a passion for improving mental health outcomes for disadvantaged children and their families.  During the peak months of COVID-19 in Wisconsin, Collin ran a youth lunch program at a local food pantry that continued to foster his love of public service.  Now as an assessment specialist, Collin enjoys running study interviews in preparation for a career as a school counselor.  In his free time, Collin enjoys soccer, chess, vinyl collecting, and spending time with his cat, Ash.

Samantha DiMaio

Credentials: BA

Position title: Assessment Coordinator

Samantha earned her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Art History from Rutgers University – New Brunswick. During her undergraduate career she quickly discovered her passion for psychology, and shortly thereafter sought practical research experience in clinical psychology positions. She attained two lab positions where she studied youth depression, and prevention of depression in youths. Samantha is ultimately planning to pursue a Ph.D in Clinical Psychology, with a focus on researching the intersection of childhood trauma and interpersonal relationships. As the BRAVE Research Center’s Assessment Coordinator, she coordinates day-to-day logistics, and oversees study activities. In her free time, Samantha enjoys hiking, testing new vegetarian recipes, reading, and crocheting.

Claire Volkert

Credentials: BA

Position title: Recruitment Coordinator

Claire earned her Bachelor’s degree in Community & Global Public Health from the University of Michigan where she worked in student recruitment with the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts. As an undergraduate, she studied disparities in health outcomes and the health impact of violent experiences, and volunteered with the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center. She is currently responsible for coordinating recruitment efforts for the BRAVE Research Center. In her free time, Claire enjoys live music, trying out new recipes, and embroidering.

Kay Lukszys

Credentials: MS, BS

Position title: Assessment Specialist

Kay graduated from University of Wisconsin-Madison with a Bachelor’s Degree in Special Education and received a Master’s degree in Teacher Leadership from Carthage College. In addition, she holds a Reading Specialist license from Viterbo College. With a background in Education and Research, she has a passion for working with children and their families. She particularly enjoys contributing to projects helping at risk individuals. Her previous research experience consists of identifying high quality afterschool programs for low-income families and working with families dealing with postpartum depression and those with children with Autism. Kay has conducted clinical diagnostic interviews with parents with children with Autism to identify factors that may put children at risk for Autism spectrum disorder. This experience fits nicely with Kay’s role as an Assessment Specialist in the BRAVE Research Center. In her free time, Kay enjoys spending time with her husband, teenage son, and guinea pig, Badger. She is an avid reader and loves to stay active by swimming, running, biking and taking long walks.

Postdoctoral Fellows

Justin Russell

Credentials: PhD

Position title: Postdoctoral Fellow

Justin’s research is driven by his desire to improve our collective understanding how early life adversity may moderate social and emotional development, and foment the onset of severe psychological problems. Justin earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Rochester in 2010, where he conducted research into the impact of family adversity on socioemotional growth under the mentorship of Drs. Patrick Davies and Melissa Sturge-Apple. Before beginning graduate study, Justin held several positions at the Mt. Hope Family Center, working with maltreated children in both research and clinical settings. Justin completed his Ph.D. in psychology at Iowa State University in 2018, under the direction of Drs. Carl Weems and Monica Marsee. During that time, Justin began to investigate the neurological sequelae of childhood traumatic stress, the nature of post-trauma symptoms, and the course of children’s brain development. His dissertation utilized data from a large, nationally representative sample of typically developing youth to identify normative growth changes in the amygdala, an area with enormous relevance for psychopathology. Justin is currently a post-doctoral trainee in the NRSA T32 Training Program in Emotion Research.

Graduate Students

Grace George

Credentials: BS, MPA

Position title: Graduate Student, Neuroscience and Public Policy

Grace graduated with her Bachelor’s degree in Neuroscience in 2017 at UW-Madison where she studied behavioral and neurological mechanisms of fraction learning in children. She is currently a graduate student in the Neuroscience and Public Policy program where she has finished her Master’s in Public Affairs degree and is still pursuing her Ph.D. in Neuroscience. Her dissertation work focuses on computation neuroimaging looking at parent-child interactions and their effect on child brain development. She hopes to use the knowledge learned from the lab to translate into policy solutions and to bridge neuroscience and public policy to help children recover from mental illness. In addition to science, Grace enjoys playing volleyball, soccer, knitting, and hiking.

William Wooten

Credentials: MS, BS

Position title: Graduate Student, Clinical Psychology

William’s research interests involve emotion regulation with respect to trauma and stress, with an emphasis on positive emotions. He has experience working with a wide range of ages, including newborn infants, children, and older adults. William received his Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside and his Masters of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at Marquette University. He has clinical experience working with individuals suffering from depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, and substance use disorders. William is a graduate student in the Clinical Psychology program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Undergraduate Research Assistants

Kinzie Collins

Kinzie is a senior at UW-Madison studying psychology and sociology with a certificate in disability rights and services. She is interested in trauma and mental illness in adolescence. After finishing her undergraduate degree, Kinzie plans on taking a gap year to do research and eventually pursue a PhD in clinical psychology. When she is not in the lab, Kinzie enjoys spending time with friends.

Shuka Konishi

Shuka is a senior at UW-Madison studying Biology and Psychology with certificates in Biocore and Gender & Women’s Studies. She is interested in researching adolescent brain development with affective disorders and trauma. After graduating, she plans to pursue medical school or a PhD in hopes of researching brain development. When she is not in the lab, Shuka enjoys bullet journaling, trying new restaurants, and finding ways to enjoy the outdoors such as hiking and kayaking.

Hailey Rich

Hailey is a sophomore at UW-Madison studying neurobiology. She is interested in studying the connection between the structure of the brain and affective disorders. After completing her undergraduate degree, Hailey plans to attend medical school, where she hopes to eventually specialize in neurology or neurosurgery. When she is not in the lab, Hailey enjoys doing yoga, reading, and spending time with friends.

Deepak Vir

Deepak is a sophomore studying Statistics and Biochemistry. He is interested in how maltreatment of youth can lead to psychological effects, in particular how trauma and maltreatment can lead to worsened physical health. After completing his undergraduate degree, Deepak plans to attend medical school, specializing in child psychiatry. When he is not in the lab, Deepak enjoys spending time with his dog Dexter, hanging out with friends, and listening to music. 

Abdullah Marei

Abdullah is a Junior majoring in Psychology. He hopes to attain a Ph.D. in clinical psychology after graduation. Abdullah is interested in the effects of chronic stress and trauma on brain development of adolescents and how that could lead to altered neurobiological and emotional development. Specifically, he is very passionate about researching the unique development of children and adolescents with PTSD. Eventually, he hopes to find ways to prevent and treat trauma-exposed youth and youth with PTSD. After completing his education, he aims to become an ambassador for mental health and normalize therapy in the Middle East as well as reduce racial inequalities in terms of access to therapy and other mental health resources. In his free time, he loves meditating and practicing self-care.

Ava Grotting

Ava is a senior at UW-Madison pursuing a degree in Health Promotions and Health Equity with certificates in Gender and Women’s Studies and Global Health. She plans to attend medical school to pursue her interests in gender-specific healthcare, eradicating health disparities, and trauma informed care. In her free time, she enjoys spending time outside, reading, and appreciating art in its many forms.

Muhamed Sanneh

Muhamed is a sophomore studying Neurobiology and Psychology with a certificate in Global Health. His research focus is on neurodegenerative diseases and mental illness with hopes of making these fields of research more accessible to underdeveloped countries. After completing his undergraduate degree, Muhamed plans to attend medical school in hopes of continuing his journey to become a Neurosurgeon. As a physician, Muhamed plans to focus on working with underserved communities and underdeveloped countries. When he is not in the lab, Muhamed spends his time playing soccer and relaxing with friends at the Union Terrace.

Melanie Oswald

Melanie is a senior at UW Madison majoring in psychology with a certificate in criminal justice. She is interested in researching children and their development, specifically how their development is affected by adverse events and the development of mental illnesses in their childhood. After completing her undergraduate degree, Melanie plans to attend graduate school, with the hopes of being able to work with children and adolescents as a therapist. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her friends and watching movies.

Riva Shrestha

Riva is a freshman at UW-Madison studying Neurobiology and Genetics. She is passionate about understanding the mechanisms of the brain in relation to the effects of external stimuli and biological factors in both structure and behavior, especially in children. After graduating, Riva plans on attending medical school and pursuing a career in pediatrics. In her free time, she enjoys shopping on State Street with her friends, throwing mugs on the wheel, and spending time with her sister.

Matt Weinberger

Matt is a sophomore at UW-Madison study neurobiology. He is interested in studying child brain development and how a child’s environment can affect their cognitive and emotional function. After graduating, Matt hopes to apply to medical school and pursue a career in surgery focused on either the eye or pediatrics. In his free time, Matt enjoys alpine ski racing, mountain biking, and hanging out with friends.