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

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 Center’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.

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 (very cute) puppies, Benji and Luke.

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.

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.

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 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.

Postdoctoral Fellows

Justin Russell

Credentials: BA, 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.

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

Olivia Otremba

Olivia is a sophomore at UW-Madison studying neurobiology. She is interested in emotional and behavioral processing and memory. After finishing her undergraduate degree, she plans to pursue a PhD in neuroscience. With her free time, Olivia likes to hike with her family and dog, and dance or draw.

Bella McDonnell

Bella is a sophomore 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 sophomore 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!


Weijia Liang

Weijia is a senior majoring in Psychology and Human Development and Family Studies. She hopes to become a life-long researcher to promote mental health and facilitate human flourishing. Her major research interests are 1) the role of positive emotions such as awe, compassion, and empathy in the prevention and intervention of PTSD and depression and 2) understanding fear conditioning in PTSD and stress responses with contemplative science and aesthetic philosophical approaches. In the future, she hopes to develop a culturally-adapted treatment that bridges Eastern Philosophy with Western Psychology. In her free time, Weijia enjoys singing in nature, meditating, and drawing movie scenes.

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.