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

People

Director

Ryan Herringa

Credentials: MD, PhD

Position title: Associate Professor, Child & Adolescent Psychiatry

Email: herringa@wisc.edu

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 Collaborative. 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 collaborative 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.

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Research Staff

Samantha DiMaio

Credentials: BA

Position title: Lab Manager

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 Collaborative’s Lab Manager, she coordinates day-to-day logistics, and oversees study activities. In her free time, Samantha enjoys hiking, testing new vegetarian recipes, reading, and crocheting.

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 Collaborative 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.

Claire Volkert

Credentials: BA

Position title: Project Assistant

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 completing coursework to graduate with her Master’s of Public Health in 2025. As a project assistant, Claire enjoys running study visits with BRAVE families and managing data behind the scenes. In her free time, Claire enjoys live music, trying out new recipes, and visiting family and friends.

Hailey Rich

Credentials: BS

Position title: Assessment Specialist

Hailey graduated from UW-Madison in 2022, receiving her degree in neurobiology. She is interested in studying the connection between the structure of the brain and affective disorders. Hailey plans to pursue a PhD in neuroscience. When she is not in the lab, Hailey enjoys doing yoga, reading, and spending time with friends.

Research Scientists

Sara Heyn

Credentials: BS, JD, PhD

Sara is a clinical and developmental neuroscientist and lawyer who is passionate about understanding brain-body mechanisms underlying links between early life trauma, structural and functional brain development, and internalizing and externalizing behaviors. She is particularly interested in the relationship between trauma and delinquent behavior that leads to involvement in the juvenile criminal justice system, as well as the development of trauma-informed treatment interventions. Sara earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Colorado State University in 2014 studying jury decision-making processes under Dr. Matthew Rhodes. Next, she graduated from the Neuroscience and Public Policy Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she earned a JD from the UW Law School in 2016, followed by a PhD in Neuroscience under the mentorship of Dr. Ryan Herringa. Sara currently works as a research scientist in the Department of Psychiatry where she utilizes structural and functional neuroimaging and in-depth clinical and trauma assessment tools to identify biomarkers of trauma sequalae and is in the development and implementation of mindfulness-based interventions in youth and families, virtual-reality biofeedback for emotion regulation skills, and neuroplastinogen-assisted psychotherapy in youth with PTSD.

Justin Russell

Credentials: BA, PhD

Position title: Research Scientist

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.

Taylor Keding

Credentials: BS, PhD

Position title: Research Scientist

Taylor is a developmental and clinical research scientist, working jointly with the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine & Public Health and Yale University. His research broadly focuses on characterizing the development of the brain’s emotion circuitry during childhood and adolescence. More specifically, he is interested in the relationship between early-life adversity and the timing (initiation and pace) of circuit neurodevelopment, and how atypical maturation is related to pediatric psychopathology. He received his Ph.D. in Neuroscience (2021) from the University of Wisconsin-Madison under the mentorship of Dr. Ryan Herringa, where he studied the development of amygdala-prefrontal cortex connectivity after exposure to early-life violence and predictive markers of pediatric depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. He then completed a postdoctoral fellowship (2023) at Yale’s Child Study Center under the mentorship of Dr. Dylan Gee, where he applied patterns of frontolimbic circuit maturation to questions of familial risk for psychopathology and treatment-related symptom changes. His work makes extensive use of neuroimaging (structural and functional MRI, DTI), clinical/behavioral assessments, and computational and machine learning approaches to study individual differences in neurodevelopment.

Postdoctoral Fellows

Matthew Peverill

Credentials: BA, MS, PhD

Position title: Postdoctoral Fellow

Matt earned his PhD in clinical psychology from the University of Washington in 2021 under the mentorship of Dr. Katie McLaughlin. He is most interested in research with the potential to realize improved clinical outcomes in vulnerable, under-served, and under-studied children and families. To that end, his research has employed neuropsychological, psychological, and epidemiological tools to explore multiple mechanisms of mental health risk in children exposed to adverse experiences including child maltreatment, neglect, and poverty. His dissertation used multimodal measurement of socioeconomic status to research the effects of poverty on psychopathology risk factors including stress, emotion regulation, and social cognition. More information on Matt can be found on his website.

Graduate Students

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

Bella McDonnell

Bella is a senior at UW-Madison studying neurobiology. She is interested in studying mental disorders and traumatic brain injuries. After completing her undergraduate degree, Bella hopes to attend grad school to become an occupational therapist. She has worked in a Montessori for 2 years, and is hoping to work both with the brain and with children in her future. When she is not in the lab, Bella enjoys spending time with her friends and family, going on walks, and trying new coffee shops!

Emily Han

Emily is a senior studying Psychology  with a certificate in Art Studio. She is interested in studying the effects of trauma on child brain development. After graduating, Emily plans to pursue dentistry. In her free time, Emily enjoys painting, listening to music, and spending time with her friends and family!

 

Natalie Bovin

Natalie is a senior majoring in psychology and neurobiology at UW-Madison. Her research interests include investigating the development and progression of neuropsychiatric diseases within at-risk research populations. In the future, she plans to pursue a PhD in Behavioral Neuroscience. In her free time, Natalie enjoys running, playing lacrosse, and cooking.

Mitch Kaurich

Mitch is a senior majoring in Neurobiology on a pre-med track and looking to have a career in Clinical Psychiatry. He is interested in how neurological mechanisms effect behaviors and how these behaviors differ from person to person. In addition, he would like to spend his career researching the most effective ways in cultivating resilience and wellbeing in the general population.

Brian Kleinschmidt

Brian is a junior studying neurobiology and sociology. He is interested in studying mental disorders and trauma and its impact on the brain. He hopes to pursue a PhD in neuroscience or research psychology after his undergraduate degree to pursue these interests. He spends his free time walking along Madison’s lakeshore path, ice skating, and reading both fiction and nonfiction.