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Meet the GGSC’s Fellows!

Announcement | June 22, 2011

Young scholars study morality, the achievement gap, and the biological bases of compassion.

The Greater Good Science Center is proud to present its 2011-12 class of Hornaday Graduate and Goldberg Undergraduate Fellows, which includes distinguished UC Berkeley students from the fields of psychology, sociology, education, and social welfare. They are an outstanding group of young researchers who are committed to the greater good.

The GGSC’s annual fellowship program supports the work of UC Berkeley students whose research advances the science of compassion, empathy, and other topics we explore. The program attracts scholars from across a broad spectrum of academic disciplines, with a particular focus on the social-behavioral sciences.

This year, our fellows tackle subjects ranging from the biology of compassion to the causes of the racial achievement gap in schools to the links between empathy and emotional burnout. Please read on for more details about our newest fellows, and visit our fellowships page for more details about the program and summaries of past graduate and undergraduate fellows’ work.

2011-12 Hornaday Graduate Fellows

Jennifer Stellar
Psychology

Jennifer Stellar is a fifth-year graduate student in social psychology and the recipient of the GGSC’s top Hornaday Graduate Fellowship for the 2011-12 academic year. She received her BA from the University of Pennsylvania in 2006 and spent time as a researcher at the Solomon Asch Center for Ethnopolitical Conflict. Her current research focuses on the physiological experience of compassion, as well as what types of people or situations diminish a compassionate response. In addition, she explores the impact of moral and immoral behavior on one’s self-image and interactions with others. As a Hornaday Graduate Fellow, she plans to continue her work on compassion and investigate how it may promote improved health through better immune functioning and reduced stress.

Nora Broege
Sociology

Nora Broege is a Ph.D. candidate in the department of sociology. Her dissertation, “Race and the Subjective Experience of Education: Micro-Sociological Explanations of the Achievement Gap,” uses various methods to study the achievement gap. Specifically, she examines how subjective well-being, self-esteem, and stereotype threat affect the everyday experiences of schooling and academic achievement among high school students in Oakland, CA. Nora’s primary means of data collection is a time diary technique, the “Experience Sampling Method,” which allows researchers to track respondents across the course of an entire day—what they do, with whom they spend time, how much time they spend on activities, how they feel. Her goal is to provide an experiential explanation for the racial/ethnic achievement gap. She holds a BA in sociology from Rutgers University and an MA in social science from the University of Chicago.

Audun Dahl
Psychology

Audun Dahl is a third-year doctoral student in the change, plasticity, and development program who is studying the early development of morality. He did his undergraduate work in psychology and philosophy at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, and received his master’s degree philosophy from the University of Oslo. Audun is interested in how very young children learn and make use of moral and other behavioral norms. For his Hornaday Graduate Fellowship, he is conducting a home observation study of how parents and children communicate about norms—emotionally, verbally, and behaviorally—in the second year of life.

Eve Ekman
Social Welfare

Eve Ekman is a San Francisco native who holds a Masters of Social Work from UC Berkeley and is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in the university’s School of Social Welfare. She has been a crisis counselor in the emergency room at San Francisco General Hospital since 2006. For her Hornaday Graduate Fellowship, Eve will be conducting a series of focus groups with probation and correctional officers in California’s Division of Juvenile Justice, exploring the relationship between burnout and empathy. She will be focusing on the questions of, first, whether empathy can help officers guard against burnout on the job, and, second, whether empathy for others requires a capacity for emotional self-awareness. This project will inform Eve’s research for her Ph.D. and potentially help her develop programs to help people doing emotionally challenging work with others.

Katrina Martin
Education

Katrina Martin is a fourth-year graduate student in the Joint Doctoral Special Education Program between UC Berkeley and San Francisco State University (SFSU). She completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Puget Sound and her master’s degree in early childhood special education at SFSU. Katrina’s current interests surround empathy understanding and children with Autism. Specifically, what role does the mirror neuron system play in one’s awareness of other’s emotions, and what are the potential results of a dysfunction of this system? As a Hornaday Graduate Fellow, Katrina plans to implement and evaluate an intervention for teaching empathy understanding to young children with Autism.

Samuel Sakhai
Psychology

Samuel Sakhai is a third-year doctoral student in the behavioral neuroscience area of psychology. After transferring from Pierce College in Los Angeles, where he lobbied for easier access to higher education, he received his BA from UC Berkeley in 2007. His research focuses on sensitive periods during early life and the ways in which maternal care can influence both the behavior and neurobiology of an organism. For his Hornaday Graduate Fellowship, Samuel will study how early maternal care during the first days of a rodent’s life can program the pre-frontal cortex and other critical neural systems important in regulating executive functions, motivation, and both social and non-social rewards.

Michaela Simpson
Psychology

Michaela Simpson is a second-year graduate student in the clinical science psychology program. She received her BA from Stanford University, where she majored in international relations. Formerly an observer of the behavior of nations, Michaela now focuses on the behavior of humans. Her current interests include studying sensory processing and hedonic judgment and their relation to behavior, brain, and culture. As a Hornaday Graduate Fellow, she intends to pursue her interest in the biological bases of kind, helpful—or “pro-social” behavior—looking specifically at the biological response to distress as a way to understand pro-social behavior. An avid dancer, pianist, and traveler, Michaela revels in the realms of exploration and discovery.

2011-12 Goldberg Undergraduate Fellow

Andrew E. Yee
Interdisciplinary Studies

Andrew E. Yee, a native of California, is a fourth year premedical undergraduate in Interdisciplinary Studies, having switched from a biology major after taking a course in social psychology with Professor Robb Willer. He is a research assistant at UC Berkeley’s Evolab and Laboratory for Social Research. His Goldberg Undergraduate Fellowship project will explore the factors that contribute to “compassion fatigue,” which has been observed in health professionals and other caretakers who become exhausted after prolonged exposure to others’ suffering. In particular, he will be researching the relationship between compassion fatigue and different forms of empathy. Andrew anticipates that his research will be able to help professionals better understand the interactions of empathy and compassion within themselves, reducing their risk of burnout as they care for others.

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Here, in these bright faces and write-ups, clearly lies our chief hope for a better future.  How inspiring and reassuring!

David Loye | 11:03 am, June 29, 2011 | Link

 
Jason Marsh's avatar

Thank you for your comment, David. We couldn’t agree more!

Jason Marsh | 3:36 pm, July 5, 2011 | Link

 

I am happy they are interested in helping people by understanding how and why we behave in certain ways.  I am also interested in studies about altruistic behavior in animals (nonhuman animals that is).  I heard on NPR of an experiment with rats in which rats helped other rats by letting them out of cages.  If nonhuman animals can show altruistic behavior, perhaps human animals will not be so ashamed to show it too, and perhaps understand that wanting to help and helping others is not a bad thing.

Jane Moore | 9:00 am, December 29, 2011 | Link

 
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