Lab Director

Carolyn Parkinson, Ph.D.

[Web] [CV] [Email]

Carolyn studies how the human brain tracks and encodes information about its social environment, and how this information shapes our thoughts and behavior. She received her B.Sc. from McGill University in Montreal. After completing her B.Sc., Carolyn spent a year in China overseeing cross-cultural research on depression at Beijing University. She then completed her Ph.D. in Cognitive Neuroscience at Dartmouth College with Thalia Wheatley before becoming an Assistant Professor at UCLA in 2016.



Elisa Baek, Ph.D

Elisa is a postdoctoral fellow in the lab. She received her B.A. in Communication and Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Pennsylvania. She then worked for a few years in private industry as a consultant, advising clients on new product market forecasting. She received her Ph.D. in Communication from the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, where she focused on using neuroscientific tools to answer questions of interest in Communication. She is broadly interested in studying the cognitive mechanisms that lead to successful information propagation in both communicators and receivers of influence.


Information for those interested in joining the lab as postdoctoral fellows can be found here.


Lab Manager


Karina Lopez

Karina graduated with a B.A. in Neuroscience from Dartmouth College in 2019. There, she conducted an independent research study on differential neural representations of remembered past and anticipated future experiences for positive affect. She is broadly interested in using computational modeling to study how the brain represents emotion-driven behaviors such as memory recollection and savoring.

Graduate Students

Meng Du


Meng is a first-year graduate student. She graduated from the University of Michigan with a B.S. in psychology and computer science, and then worked here as a software developer. She is broadly interested in many aspects of social neuroscience, especially applying computational methods to understand how our brains process social experiences, and whether there are domain-general mechanisms for social functions and other cognitive processes. She is also interested in how findings in psychology and cognitive neuroscience inspire the development of AI.


Miriam Weaverdyck

Miriam is a third-year graduate student in the lab. She graduated with a B.A. in Psychology and Mathematical Sciences from Bethel College, KS in 2013. After college, Miriam spent a year working in immigration law as a volunteer. She then returned to academia as a lab manager in a linguistics lab, then a social neuroscience lab, where she studied neural representations of mental states. Using a multi-faceted approach, including fMRI and social network analysis, she now studies how the broader context of our social networks influences social thought and behavior. Currently, her work focuses on how context and psychological distance shape underlying neural representations of others.


Ryan Hyon

Ryan is a first-year graduate student. He graduated from Dartmouth College in 2017 with a degree in Neuroscience and then spent two years as our lab manager. His research has involved using machine learning to build structural and functional connectome-based predictive models of individuals’ social network positions. His recent work has focused on the relationship between individuals’ social network proximity and their inter-subject neural similarities. Broadly, Ryan is interested in neural homophily and in how friends may share similar interpretations and phenomenological experiences of the world.


Kevin M. Tan

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Kevin, a first-year graduate student, studies the computational mechanisms subserved by the default mode network (DMN). Specifically, he is interested in how these mechanisms are co-opted by social and affective processes. Kevin's current projects include 1) investigating the impact of pre-stimulus DMN activity on socioaffective judgments via decoded neurofeedback, and 2) exploring the spatiotemporal dynamics of mentalizing via electrocorticography. Kevin received a B.S. in Psychology from Carnegie Mellon, where he worked in the labs of Greg Siegle and Michael Tarr. Currently, Kevin works with Matthew Lieberman and Carolyn Parkinson as a PhD student and NSF Research Fellow at UCLA.


If you're interested in joining the lab as a Ph.D. student next fall, please apply to the UCLA Ph.D. program by Dec. 1.



Pratishta Natarajan

Pratishta is a third-year undergraduate student currently pursuing her B.A. in Psychology and Sociology. She is interested in gender role development in children and several aspects of social neuroscience. She aims to combine knowledge from social neuroscience with that from sociology, specifically social network analysis, to investigate the formation of social networks.


Kelly Xue

Kelly is a fourth-year undergraduate student pursuing her B.A. in Psychobiology. She is interested in the neurobiological mechanism underlying human social behavior and how their variation leads to different personalities. She is also interested in the computational learning of animals from social interactions. She aims to pursue a Ph.D. degree in social psychology after graduation.


Elena Sternlicht

Elena is a second-year undergraduate student pursuing a B.A. in Psychology with a minor in Philosophy. She is most interested in social psychology and friendship, as well as personality theory and interpersonal dynamics. After her undergrad, she hopes to pursue a Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy as well as potentially a PhD in Clinical Psychology, and is excited to see how her research interests evolve during her time at UCLA. 


If you're interested in joining the lab as an undergraduate research assistant, please complete this online application form.


Ruby Basyouni - Former Psychology Research Opportunity Programs (PROPS) undergraduate research assistant, now lab manager/research assistant in Dr. Maital Neta's Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Lab at University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Vanessa Castro - Former undergraduate honors student, now pursuing her Ph.D. in Psychology at UC Berkeley in Dr. Serena Chen's Self, Identity, and Relationships Lab.

Fini Chang - Former undergraduate research assistant, now a research associate at the Alzheimer's Disease Research Center at UCLA.

Mary Decker - Former lab manager, now pursuing her M.D. at Harvard Medical School.

Grace Gillespie - Former undergraduate research assistant, now a research associate at UCLA in Dr. Matthew Lieberman’s Social Cognitive Neuroscience Lab.

Taylor Pio - Former undergraduate research assistant, now a research assistant at the UCLA School of Medicine.

Yuchen Li - Former undegraduate honors student, now pursuing her Ph.D. in Psychology at the University of Illinois at Chicago in Dr. Karl Szpunar’s Memory Lab.

Zeynep Gungor - Former undergraduate research assistant, now pursuing a M.Sc. in Organizational and Social Psychology at the London School of Economics.

Catherine Trinh - Former undergraduate research assistant.

John-Andrew Chwe - Former summer research assistant visiting from NYU.