University of San Diego Department of Psychological Sciences

The Department of Psychological Sciences at the University of San Diego is home to two programs - psychology and behavioral neuroscience.

Operating as usual


Hello! My name is Anna, and I graduated last May (class of ‘22) with a BA in Behavioral Neuroscience and two minors in Philosophy and Biomedical Ethics. I’ve recently started a position at the Oregon Health and Sciences University as a Research Assistant in the Molecular Microbiology and Immunology Department.

During my four years at USD, I was a member of the Psych and BN club, I was a TA for Biological Psychology during my third year, and was a RA for Dr. Goldschmied’s sports psychology research during my last semester! Being in the Psych/BN club, I learned a lot about the different careers that I could eventually enter after school. I was excited to go to the meetings, not just for the free lunch, but for the opportunity to meet professionals in the field(s) I was interested in and learn about their work and how they got there.

As a TA for a BioPsych, I would assist students with projects and research papers I had been assigned the year prior, which was very helpful in finding where my shortcomings were, so for future research papers and proposals, I would be better prepared. In my position as a Research Assistant, my partners and I learned about how to accurately and unbiasedly collect data, how to complete statistical analyses, how to design specific research methods and how we could bring the methods that we used into future projects. My partner and I presented it at USD’s spring Creative Collaboration conference, which was a great experience!

I plan on continuing my education in a graduate research program next year, where I hope to (eventually!) receive a Ph.D. in Cognitive Neuroscience/Psychology. Until then, I am currently working in a research lab at OHSU in the Molecular Microbiology and Immunology department. My research involves the nematode C. elegans, which is a worm species that has a similar, but simpler, genome to humans. The purpose of the lab’s research is to find the genes that impact the development of Alzheimer’s Disease, and to provide this research to those who can develop long-term treatments or prevention. Microbiology research is certainly different from the psychology research that I did at USD, but I have felt confident about my abilities to understand the different methods of research, terms and processes used in this lab. I was very nervous that because I studied neuroscience and psychology, I would not be prepared for working in microbiology and immunology, but I do feel that USD’s labs and my experience as a research assistant definitely did prepare me for entering any field of scientific research. Working in this lab, I am gaining knowledge and learning techniques that I would not have learned if I were to work in the field of psychology or neuroscience, and I am grateful for the challenge, because this will set me up for a well-rounded understanding of research in my graduate program.
I look forward to seeing what the psych/BN students will be researching during the next semesters!
Go Toreros!


Lindsay Benster:

I am currently a second year student in the Joint Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology at SDSU and UC San Diego. This program involves a combination of research, clinical work, and coursework. My research current focuses on identifying biomarkers that distinguish responders from nonresponders following intervention with repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) in individuals with severe and treatment-resistant mental illness. I predominantly use neurophysiological measures, such as EEG and EMG. Additionally, our lab focuses on refining rTMS treatment parameters to optimize patient outcomes. Ultimately, we’re hoping to increase the amount of patients successfully treated and decrease symptom severity as much as possible.

Following graduation at USD I joined a clinical neuropsychiatric lab at UCSD investigating a pharmacologically augmented cognitive training program for schizophrenia. While my undergraduate research focused on memory in rodents, my time as a research associate at UCSD allowed me to gain experience in human research and helped narrow my interests. After two years, I moved to Boston and worked in a developmental cognitive neuroscience at Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s hospital. Each of my research related experiences simultaneously expanded my skill sets but narrowed my focus; I became more aware of the topics I found particularly interesting which is very helpful for applying to PhD programs. I began graduate school in Fall of 2021 where I’m currently studying Clinical Psychology in the Experimental Psychopathology tract.

The things that made me successful at USD were getting involved in research as early as possible. For me, this meant junior year. While the research I pursued after undergrad differed in many ways, creating a solid foundation of basic research skills was translatable to future pursuits and demonstrated my interest to employers/opportunities. Additionally, being involved in community outreach through volunteering with local organizations expanded my experience to new populations and provided new perspectives. Finally, working hard in academics and obtaining honors/good grades never hurts!


Come listen to Dr. Laura M. Getz play with the Coronado Concert Band!


Grace Getchell
(She/Her) • 1st
Cancer Genetic Counselor
6d • Edited • 6 days ago
I'm excited to share I will be starting my new position as a genetic counselor in the Cancer Genetics and Prevention Program at the University of California, San Francisco at the end of August!

Thankful for the opportunity to create a genetic counseling network in California while working remotely from my new home in Dallas, Texas!


From one of your favorite professors!


Emily Chua, rising senior:

I am currently working as a psychology intern for the MindPower Foundation, which is a non-profit organization. I work alongside my team to develop a psychoeducation training module that is intended to inform parents, schools, teachers, coaches, etc. about how to interact with children that may have experienced trauma and how to avoid retraumatization (in essence, provide trauma-informed care). My job is to conduct reviews of research to ensure that our content is evidence-based and provide any exemplary studies. Our end goal is to create a larger library of psychoeducation modules that increase mental health awareness dealing with a variety of topics (students experiencing anxiety, depression, or other struggles). This is a growing space and MindPower is looking to emerge as a major provider of this service to corporations, universities, school districts, and more.


Dr. Marta Stojanovic, an alumna of the department, defended her dissertation last month titled: "The role of affect and exercise goals in physical activity engagement in younger and older adults." A very long journey of six years comes to an end with the prefix Dr. being added to her name. Congratulations! Marta is headed to Washington University in Saint Louis as a postdoctoral research associate.


Aluma, Angela Haddad, now a medical student (Universidad Autónoma de Guadalajara, Mexico) co-authored recently in the journal Su***de and Life Threating Behavior this important work!


Rhiannon Novelli:

The program I am going to attend is the University of North Carolina: Wilmington's Masters of Social Work program with a Clinical concentration. The program includes coursework in advanced social work practice based on professional knowledge and the related aspects of program development and management associated with the delivery of social work services. The program will prepare me for advanced clinical practice, in the area of particular interest to me- mental health, as I want to become a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC).

I was first interested in this field as a result of my own mental health experiences. I then participated in opportunities that gave me beneficial skills and experience. During COVID-19 lockdown I began volunteering with the Crisis Text Line where I received hands-on experience working with individuals in crisis. I later became a Peer Coach for the Student Success Center and the VP of Recruitment Programming for Panhellenic at USD, which solidified my interest in this field.

Advice I have for students trying to figure out a direction of work is to really consider your passions and what you find interesting. My rule of thumb is if you were to enter a bookstore filled with every possible genre or topic of book, what are the sections you might find yourself in? Consider which topics you would never tire of learning new information. Throughout college I wrote down pretty much anything about me in a journal: my interests, personality traits, how I preferred to spend my free time, and all the courses I took at USD. I used this to help narrow my interests and determine possible career paths.


Honors Convocation:

Distinguished Graduate in Academic Achievement, Research, and Service:

● Abby King - Psychology (right)
● Annette Vo - Behavioral Neuroscience (middle)
● Kaitlin Williams - Psychology (left)


Timothy Elkinton:

Can you describe the graduate program you will be attending next year?

- In the fall, I will joining Florida State's Master's Program in sport psychology. This program specializes in sport consulting practices where students will be able to help athletes reach their optimal performance, help organizations find methods to improve their training programs, and help administrations to implement ways to strengthen their organization. I will be conducting interventions with athletes within the football, baseball, wrestling, volleyball, and basketball teams to provide the best possible training environment for them that balances nutrition, strength and conditioning, mental health, and recovery.

What did you do while at USD that made you a successful candidate?

- There were a couple professors and classes that really helped set me up to be a successful candidate. I took courses in sport psychology, social psychology, research methods, statistics, and advanced statistics, which all set me up with the required course regimen to be accepted into the program. I also assisted in research with Dr. Goldschmied, which gave me practice with Qualtrics and SPSS. I was also a member of the Psych/BN club, as well as president of the I/O Psychology club. Both of these opportunities helped me to network with individuals in San Diego who are working within sport psychology. These people provided advice for my career planning. I also joined Psi Chi, which is a psychology honors society that provided me with the opportunity to tutor underclassmen in various psychology classes.


Anahi Salazar, soon to graduate!

Can you describe the program? Which type of research are you going to be involved with (if you know)?

At the University of Chicago, I will be joining the The PhD program in Neurobiology. Since the first year will involve doing rotations in different labs, I am not yet sure what exact type of research I will be doing. But, I am very interested in doing more clinical research that looks at the mechanisms underlying neurodegenerative diseases and drug addiction, and hope that it leads me to finding possible treatments.

What did you undertake while at USD that made you a successful PhD candidate?

I earned acceptance into the McNair Scholars Program and secured a research position in Dr. Jena Hales’ research lab. My research experience incredibly prepared me for a PhD program as it helped me learn about the current research in the fields I'm interested in as well as show grad schools I applied myself to my work outside of class. I would also make sure to attend/present at as many conferences as I could. Additionally, I made meaningful connections with all of my professors which considerably helped me determine what path I wanted to take to reach my career goals.

Who mentored you at USD or elsewhere to bring about your success?

Dr. Jena Hales and the USD McNair Scholars team greatly prepared me for my future endeavors in neuroscience. While McNair helped me stay on top of my grad school applications and fund my research experiences, Dr. Hales helped me become a successful undergraduate researcher and a well-rounded student. As a first-generation college student, they all helped me see my diversity as an accomplishment and as a unique characteristic. My family and loved ones have also always supported my career decisions which has tremendously motivated me to further my education.


Kaitlin Williams:

I was accepted into the Clinical psychology Ph.D. program at Adelphi University. The program is a scholar-practitioner model which provides training in clinical practice and research. The path I took to get here was majoring in psychology while being a peer coach, interning with the Center of Health and Wellness, taking the Current Approaches in Peer Assistance class, working with professors on research, being a part of the Psychology and BN club as a co-president, and being a McNair scholar.

While at USD I conducted research with Dr. Goldschmied on “Hockey Fighting in the NHL and Mortality Rates” as well as Dr. Zwolinski on Influence of Fears of COVID-19 and Overall Psychological Distress on Willingness to Use Telemental Health Services.

USD offered many opportunities such as research within the psychology department and peer coaching with the Center for Student Success that gave me the skills, I believe gave me an advantage over undergraduates during the application process and helped me to hold my own among all other applicants coming from various backgrounds. Additionally, the support provided by mentors and McNair immensely helped during the process.


Hi! My name is McKenna Sakamoto, and I graduated from USD in 2019. Since graduating, I’ve worked as a neuropsychology research coordinator at the VA San Diego Healthcare System. At the VA, I work on traumatic brain injury and posttraumatic stress disorder studies, and I’ve become very interested in factors that interact with and influence outcomes after brain injury. To further pursue this interest, I'm excited to inform that this fall, I’ll be pursuing a Ph.D. in clinical psychology at the Pennsylvania State University where I’ll be mentored by Dr. Peter Arnett to research the cognitive, psychiatric, neurobehavioral, and neurobiological consequences of sports-related concussion.

I think that two of the greatest strengths of USD’s Department of Psychological Sciences include accessible professors and ample opportunities to get involved in research. At USD, I was as an undergraduate research assistant in Dr. Kristen McCabe’s Parent-Child Interaction Therapy lab, and Dr. McCabe was instrumental in my decision to pursue a Ph.D. in clinical psychology. I would encourage students interested in research and/or a graduate degree in psychology to talk to their professors and take advantage of the department’s resources!

Verbal harassment against Asian Americans and people of color is harmful, but not currently criminal 03/28/2022

Michael Ichiyama, chair of the department of psychological studies at the University of San Diego - interview with the San Diego Union-Tribune

Verbal harassment against Asian Americans and people of color is harmful, but not currently criminal Michael Ichiyama, chair of the department of psychological studies at the University of San Diego; Miwa Yasui, associate professor in the school of social work at the University of Chicago; and Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the University of California Berkeley School of Law discuss verbal harassment.....


Amanda Holbrook

After graduating from USD in 2020, I began working as a full time lab manager at The Center for Understanding and Treating Anxiety at SDSU. During this time, I expanded on my undergraduate research that uses EEG to better understand neurophysiological correlates of anxiety, depression, and OCD. I have also had the opportunity to mentor several USD undergraduate psychology students. In the Fall, I will be attending The University of South Florida in Tampa to pursue my PhD in Clinical Science. I am looking forward to pursuing similar research avenues and working towards becoming a Licensed Clinical Psychologist.


Hi, I'm Michael Apostol. I graduated from USD in 2020 with the goal of working in a research lab for a few years and then applying to graduate school. Due to the pandemic, however, I wasn't able to find a full-time research position after graduating, and I instead began working in a marketing position at 3DEO, a 3D printing company in Los Angeles.

In my spare time after work, I continued to collaborate with Dr. Goldschmied, Dr. Getz, and Dr. Wanic on different research projects that I began working on at USD. Since graduating, I'm proud to have presented at conferences and contributed to several published journal articles.

After working at 3DEO for the past year, I'm excited to have recently accepted an offer for a Staff Research Associate position in the Translational Neuroimaging Lab at UCLA. The researchers in this lab are testing whether noninvasive brain stimulation influences withdrawal symptoms in people who smoke ci******es.

I'm thrilled to be getting back into research full time, and I couldn't be more grateful towards the USD psychology faculty for their continued support and encouragement.


Hi! My name is Ashlynn and I’m a 2020 graduate of the arts and sciences! I graduated with a bachelors in Psychology as well as Theology and Religious Studies. In my last year at USD I decided I wanted to pursue chaplaincy and applied for the masters program at Yale Divinity School. I’m currently in my second year at Yale and can honestly say that my time at USD was fruitful and prepared me for my time at Yale. If you’re considering getting your masters, know that USD will be a great stepping stone for your continued education! Go toreros!


Junior Honors Student:

I’m fortunate to have had the opportunity to attend the Council of University Directors of Clinical Psychology’s Diversifying Clinical Psychology Conference (CUDCP DCP) this week. It was an amazing two days of meeting other undergraduates and recent graduates of underrepresented groups interested in a doctorate in clinical psychology. I’m also thankful to have had the opportunity to discuss various PhD in clinical psychology programs with Directors of Clinical Training around the country. I’m looking forward to next year’s DCP Conference.


Tatum Weight:

Since graduating from USD in May 2021, I have started my journey at Arizona State University pursuing my law degree. Through taking several classes on psychology, the law, and criminal justice, my education at USD solidified my decision to pursue law school and focus on criminal law. I have always been taken with the connection between psychology and every facet of the criminal justice system: from committing a crime to deciding a jury. I highly recommend Professor Goldschmied’s Law and Psychology course if others share this interest.

In between classes, I work part-time as a legal intern for a criminal defense attorney in Phoenix. I have been able to attend depositions, consultations, and trials. My main responsibilities have been examining and consolidating police body cam footage and conducting legal research for various defense motions. After graduating with my JD, I plan on obtaining my PhD in Law and Psychology at ASU, so I can further contribute to the research and academia in this field as a professor.

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University of San Diego Department of Psychological Sciences

Psychological Sciences

The objective of USD's Department of Psychological Sciences is to advance student understanding of psychology and behavioral neuroscience as a science, a profession, and a means of promoting human welfare.




Serra Hall 158, 5998 Alcalá Park
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