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.

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.

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

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. During her gap year, she worked as a lab manager in the Educational Neuroscience Lab here at UW. She is currently a graduate student in the Neuroscience and Public Policy program undertaking a Master’s in Public Affairs as well as her Ph.D. in Neuroscience. She is interested in the developmental trajectories of different groups of children, including children who remit from PTSD compared to those who don’t and different trajectories of racial and SES groups. She hopes to use the knowledge learned from the lab to translate into policy solutions. Her goals including bridging neuroscience and public policy to help children recover from mental illness. In addition to science, Grace enjoys playing volleyball, soccer, knitting, and hiking, and pretending she can paint.

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

Cassie Barwick

Cassie is a junior at UW-Madison studying Psychology and Human Development & Family Studies with certificates in Global Health, Criminal Justice, and Leadership. She is interested in how affective disorders and trauma can alter the brain’s neurodevelopment, along with how biological development and the environment both interact to affect one’s mental health. After graduating, Cassie hopes to further her education and pursue a career that relates to child and adolescent psychopathology. In her free time, Cassie enjoys gymnastics, traveling, photography, trying new coffee shops/restaurants, and watching Badger football games. 

Kinzie Collins

Kinzie is a sophomore at UW Madison and is studying psychology, sociology, and disability. She is interested in exploring trauma and psychological disorders. After completing her undergraduate degree, she plans on entering a PhD program studying clinical and rehabilitation psychology. When she is not doing research, Kinzie likes to spend her time doing activist work and spending time with friends.  

Shuka Konishi

Shuka is a sophomore at UW-Madison studying biology with certificates in Sustainability and Gender & Women’s Studies. She is interested in researching adolescent brain development with affective disorders and trauma. Shuka plans to pursue medical school in hopes of practicing psychiatry. When she is not in the lab, Shuka enjoys spending her time bullet journaling, trying new restaurants and finding new ways to enjoy the outdoors such as hiking and kayaking.

Emily Krause

Emily is a freshman studying Biology and Psychology at UW-Madison. She is interested in working with children and studying how children’s development is affected by environmental factors. Emily plans to attend medical school after completing her undergraduate program somewhere much warmer than Wisconsin! She hopes to become a doctor of medicine, specializing in pediatric care. In her free time, Emily enjoys playing volleyball, skiing and volunteering.

Melanie Oswald

Melanie is a sophomore 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 or medical school, with the hopes of being able to work with children and adolescents as a therapist or psychiatrist. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her friends and watching movies.  

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.

Randi Sabatka

Randi is a sophomore at UW-Madison studying biology. After graduation she wants to pursue a career as a Physician’s Assistant, specializing in Pediatrics. Randi enjoys working with youth and getting more involved in her community. She is interested in learning more about how childhood experiences shape the ability to problem-solve. When not in the lab, Randi enjoys going to yoga classes and spending time with her friends. 

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.

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.

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. 

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.