Alumni News

Fernanda Ferreira '88PhD elected 2019 Fellow of the Cognitive Science Society

fernanda ferreiraFernanda Ferreira '88PhD, a psycholinguist and professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis, has been elected a 2019 Fellow of the Cognitive Science Society. Fellows of this society are individuals whose research has exhibited sustained excellence and had sustained impact on the Cognitive Science community.

Professor Ferreira uses basic insights from formal linguistics, especially theories in sentence phonology and syntax, to develop models of processing. Her empirical work relies both on behavioral and neural measures, including eyetracking (for measurement of fixations, saccades and pupil diameter) and the recording of event-related potentials (ERPs). The fundamental aim of her research is to uncover the mechanisms that enable humans to understand and generate language in real time and in cooperation with other cognitive systems.

The Cognitive Science Society brings together researchers from around the world who hold a common goal: understanding the nature of the human mind. The mission of the Society is to promote Cognitive Science as a discipline, and to foster scientific interchange among researchers in various areas of study, including Artificial Intelligence, Linguistics, Anthropology, Psychology, Neuroscience, Philosophy, and Education. The Society is a non-profit professional organization and its activities include sponsoring an annual conference and publishing the journals Cognitive Science and TopiCS (Cognitive Science Society).

Learn more about Professor Ferreira's research:

Cognitive Science Society (2018).


Joshua Mauro ’12—His Journey to a Career in Higher Education

Joshua MauroAs a double-major in psychology and theater, Joshua Mauro ’12 identified with several communities within UMass that were a great source of motivation and guidance. Now an admissions coordinator for Signet Education, his team guides students through the college application process and prepares them for a successful academic career.

As an undergraduate psychology major, Mauro took on the role of research assistant within Professor Linda Isbell’s Affect and Social Cognition Lab. Isbell’s research focuses on how affective feelings may convey valuable information that guides individuals’ thoughts, judgments, and actions. The lab also examines how affect influences information processing during everyday activities such as reading a news article.

Over the course of his 2 ½ years in the lab, Mauro’s responsibilities evolved significantly. He began working more closely with the primary investigators (PI’s), learning more about the structure and function of the lab environment. He setup new experiments, created new trials, and recorded data from human subjects using computer applications. Mauro was taught techniques used for analyzing data, discovering more about what happens after data is collected.

“My biggest take away from my undergraduate lab experience was seeing how a healthy and productive lab functions and produces quality research. There was a connection between everyone involved with the lab, the PI’s, researchers, and faculty,” says Mauro. This experience piqued Mauro’s interest in research and academia; a potential new direction for him. He built lasting relationships with Dr. Isbell and his former lab mates.

As part of his second major in theater, Mauro performed in drama groups. He also enjoyed being a peer mentor for Residence Life; advising first-year students and creating new programs for their community. Mauro learned that working with college-age students was very rewarding; he was motivated by their enthusiasm and creativity.

Mauro’s drive to have a positive impact on students’ lives led him to earn a master's degree in higher education at the University of Pennsylvania. Afterward, he worked in several college admissions offices while maintaining a consulting position with Signet Education. As a consultant, he helped high school students to research potential schools, write essays, and complete applications.

Now as Signet Education’s admissions coordinator, he oversees admissions services, matches students with consultants, and is involved in recruitment and training strategies. Mauro developed a passion for interacting with the college-age community and getting them excited about their education. The great experiences he had at UMass Amherst got him on the right track to a fulfilling career. 

Mauro offers the following advice to recent graduates who are searching for their ideal job, “Take a close look at everything, it's not just about the nice organization or things that will fluff up your resume. Find out what quality of life you desire. When looking at a new position consider all the factors that will shape this. Think hard about what is important to you and how this will help you moving forward.”

Jason Sidman ’99 Shares His Career Experience Applying Psychology in Industry

Jason Sidman ‘99, Vice President, Business Development, at tool, Inc., graduated from the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences (PBS) with a focus in developmental science. He has worked extensively in the field of Research and Development (R&D) as a cognitive scientist, user experience designer, and director of cognitive training systems. Sidman has developed training and educational systems for a wide variety of schools, healthcare organizations, sports markets, and federal agencies. In a recent presentation for UMass psychology majors, he shared some of his professional expertise and how he got his start working in a non-academic setting.

During his time at UMass, Sidman got the chance to work in many different labs within the various disciplines of psychological science. He was involved in the research process, often receiving volunteer human subjects and running through procedures with them before trials began. This was an excellent way for him to learn how science works in real labs. He acquired a deep interest in developmental science, encouraged by his developmental psychology professor, as he studied how infants and children learn. His senior thesis explored the relationship between motor control and cognition in children.

Sidman highly recommends doing a senior thesis as an undergraduate. It is an opportunity to create a body of work that can be used as an introductory tool for applying to grad school. Sidman suggests that student applicants should try to find similarities between their research interests and those of a graduate advisor when considering where to apply.

Sidman went on to study experimental psychology at Tufts University for his doctorate. He continued to study infant subjects, examining how they gain the ability to use objects and toys. It was very fun and engaging work. He felt that his graduate experience helped him to reach an expert level in his chosen discipline. 

Despite his interest in becoming a professor, as Sidman progressed through the doctoral program, he also noticed some of the challenges of that route (e.g., tenure, being willing to move to any part of the country) and wanted to have a plan B. The subject of psychology has many interesting subjects to learn about. But students may be asking themselves, “What do I do with my degree?” In Sidman’s case, he went onto a job site and saw a posting for a cogntive scientist position at a company. This piqued his interest in opportunities within industry, and he started out by accepting an internship as a cognitive scientist through an internal contact he made at Aptima, a human performance assessment firm.

Sidman put his background in psychology to use in the R&D field. He soon began working for Aptima full-time on projects in the government and military sector. One of his first professional projects was to design computer-based training exercises to promote the safer operation of a certain type of military boat. He used research methods and developmental science theories, such as dynamic systems theory, to aid his work. His team applied these theories to how they studied the various environments the boat operator was exposed to.

One way his team collected information was to capture videos of personnel working in the field to discover the techniques that were used by experts. During additional research phases, experts would be presented with multiple scenarios to walk through. Cognitive task analysis was used to try and understand why certain tasks were being done in specific ways. The scientists wanted to figure out how these trainings could improve the cognitive processes and decision-making skills of novices working in the field. 

Sidman also developed game-based trainings for healthcare organizations. These projects had the common goal of developing new cognitive skills for patients with traumatic brain injury.

He later moved to the position of Vice President, Business Development, at tool, Inc., a product design firm. This firm designs a wide range of products including personal protective equipment such as helmets and mouth guards. Members of tool, Inc. study the user experience behind their products. They want to know what decisions users are making as they interact with their designer’s latest prototypes. Sidman’s background in psychology has helped him to lead successful research initiatives, helping his team to learn about the needs of consumers and produce innovative work.

Sidman offers the following collection of helpful advice to psychology students taking the next step in their career:

Department of Defense Labs

  • ARI, ARL

Private Companies

  • Small
    • Aptima, Charles River Analytics, Sonalysts
  • Large
    • Boeing, Lockheed Martin, L3
  • Consulting firms
    • Seek Company, Cambridge Consultants
  • Tech
    • Netflix, LinkedIn
  • Product Companies
    • Ocean Spray, Gillette
  • Gaming Companies
    • Valve, Hasbro, Neurable
  • Advertising
    • Neuromarketing: NeuroPlus
  • Brain Fitness
    • Sharpbrains, Cognifit, Posit Science, Lumos Labs
  • Ed Tech
    • Pearson



  • User Interface / User Experience (UI/UX)
  • Neuro
  • Industrial and Organizational Psychology (I/O)
  • Cognitive


  • Lab experience
  • Internships
  • Senior thesis (helps to match you with a graduate advisor)
  • Coauthor publication(s)
  • Attend conference(s)


  • Ask for opportunities to write grants
  • Project management (multidisciplinary team)
  • Publish
  • Internship
  • SBIR/STTR (federal R&D funding for domestic small businesses)

Christina Roth ’11, Founder and CEO of the College Diabetes Network

Christina Roth ’11 is the Founder and CEO of the national nonprofit organization, the College Diabetes Network (CDN). This organization creates opportunities for students and young adults living with type 1 diabetes (T1D) to connect, share, and succeed in their academic and professional life. CDN includes a central online resource for young adults, friends, and family who want to learn more about how the disease can be managed effectively. Their programs seek to guide students through the many new experiences and challenges of attending college with T1D.

In 2009, during her junior year as a Psychology major at UMass Amherst, Roth became overwhelmed with her own diabetes management, finding it difficult to stay energetic and healthy enough to perform her studies. Feeling isolated and hoping to meet others who may help her develop new strategies for managing diabetes during college, she started an on-campus peer support group for students living with diabetes. She discovered there was a number of students who shared in her experience.  

Roth found an ally in a nurse practitioner at the university health services, Christine Horn, who had experience treating patients with diabetes. Horn noticed that many students with diabetes were confronted with the same challenges as Roth, and were interested in connecting with each other. Roth and Horn worked together, promoting a website for the new peer support group which allowed them to reach students without violating any HIPAA-related constraints.

“Most of what we did was centered around facilitating care support and making it easier for people to connect. Diabetes is not a visible disease; two friends could just not know that each other has it. Through CDN and this concept, people could be connected and have these meaningful relationships,” says Roth. In 2010, Roth began talking with other schools with similar diabetic support groups. She decided to apply for 501(c)(3) status as a non-profit, which was approved her senior year in 2010.

During her time as an undergraduate student at UMass, Roth was involved with the Rudd Adoption Research Program. Under the guidance of Dr. Harold Grotevant, Rudd Family Foundation Chair in Psychology, she aided in transcribing adolescent data from the Minnesota Texas Adoption Research Project. She used this data for her honors thesis focusing on strengths and competencies in adopted adolescents. Roth developed a passion for positive psychology and resiliency, which relates to her current work regarding diabetes and chronic illness.

Roth delved into graduate-level subjects, being taught advanced statistical analysis by Dr. Grotevant. Roth reflects on this experience, “It gave me a lot more confidence in myself. Hal gave me opportunities to ask questions, talk through findings, and our thoughts about them. Being given the green light to think creatively and figure out how new things can be accomplished wasn’t something I had been exposed to before.”

Roth went on to present her thesis research at an international conference in Leiden, Netherlands as well as several other national conferences. In 2011, she received the UMass Amherst 21st Century Leader Award and was one of the “29 Who Shine," a statewide honor presented to her by then-governor Deval Patrick.

Roth’s experience at UMass helped her to Identify what she was passionate about. She asked questions about disciplines outside of common class topics. “It wasn’t until I found something I was passionate about that my thinking got much more complex and creative. I was able to pursue it in a way that hadn’t really occurred to me as you’re doing class assignments,” says Roth. Presently, she often utilizes what she learned from psychology including the study of interpersonal relationships, reading and analyzing peer-reviewed literature, and understanding measures, metrics, and evaluation data. These skills can be applied to many current industries, not just psychology. “Regardless if you become a psychologist or not, it’s going to serve you very well to be able to understand these things and apply them,” she adds.

Several years after Roth’s graduation from UMass, CDN had grown into a national organization. CDN expanded their vision and began creating online resources for young adults with T1D. By talking with student groups and advisors, the CDN team realized that there were many similar themes that could be addressed. The first resource entitled Off to College, was a series of booklets for high school students and their parents beginning a transition into their college years. It provided new students with helpful information on managing their T1D, addressing topics such as dealing with a varying and sometimes erratic schedule, nutrition concerns, stress and emotions, and even talking with friends and roommates about the disease.

CDN’s resources and programs helped to fill a gap in the information being provided to diabetic patients by our current health care system. They go beyond ‘doctor’s advice’, teaching students how to live with the disease 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Students in peer support Chapters can learn about coping mechanisms based on what’s challenging for them right now. Groups also discuss what new therapies and technologies exist that could make life better. They provide an outlet for students to talk about anything that is on their mind, fostering a collaborative network which helps individuals overcome their difficulties and succeed.

Roth credits the mentorship of Dr. Grotevant and the faculty in psychological and brain sciences for teaching her the skills needed to pursue similar mentor relationships within her own organization’s staff and student programs. Looking into the future, Roth has outlined a strategic plan for CDN in 2018-2020, identifying several objectives to support their ongoing progression. They include the promotion of student leadership and professional development for young adults, providing new educational resources and opportunities for community involvement, and gaining a better understanding of the barriers to care that young adults with T1D are confronted with and what solutions can be proposed.

Roth offers the following advice to students, “Take initiative, don’t just focus on your classes. One of the most amazing things that my thesis allowed me to do was to take ownership of where I wanted to learn and what I wanted to learn and figure out ‘how do I get there?’ Find something you’re passionate about and run with it.”

To learn more about CDN visit

UMass Amherst CDN Chapter: Website, Facebook

Chapter email:

Robert G. Bringle '72MS, '74PhD Receives Second Fulbright U.S. Scholar Award

The U.S. Department of State and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board are pleased to announce that Robert G. Bringle '72MS, '74PhD of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis has received a second Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program award. The Global Scholar award will take him to Ngee Ann Polytechnic in Singapore, the Universidad Antonoma de Madrid in Spain, and the Vrije Universidad in Amsterdam, the Netherlands during 2018-2019. Professor Bringle will lecture and conduct research related to institutionalizing community service learning at each institution. 

Professor Bringle, who is Chancellor’s Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Philanthropy, is one of over 800 U.S. citizens who will teach, conduct research, and/or provide expertise abroad for the 2017-2018 academic year through the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program. Recipients of Fulbright awards are selected on the basis of academic and professional achievement as well as record of service and demonstrated leadership in their respective fields. The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to build lasting connections between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.


Danielle O’Connor Dean ’10 Receives Distinguished Alumni Award

Danielle O’Connor Dean was one of six recipients of the Distinguished Alumni Award this year. She was presented the award by UMass Amherst Alumni Association President Michaella Morzuch at the Great Hall of the Massachusetts State House on April 24. Also in attendance was UMass President Marty Meehan, Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswamy, and Dean of Natural Sciences Steve Goodwin.

Dean has made great contributions to the field of Data Science Modeling. A current senior data scientist lead at the Microsoft Corporation, she explores machine learning and how it can fulfill the specific requirements of businesses. She is a successful speaker within the data science industry, contributing to notable international conferences. Dean is also an active mentor to young women, advising computer programmers, researchers and job-seekers.

Dean earned a bachelor's degree in psychology at UMass as well as an additional degree in statistical analysis. She continued her studies with a doctorate degree in quantitative psychology with a concentration in biostatistics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Dean has been recognized with multiple awards and honors such as the UMass Amherst 21st Century Leaders Award, Senior Leadership Award, the LeBovidge Research Fellowship, and Psi Chi Regional Research Award ("Distinguished Alumni", par.6).

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UMass Amherst Alumni Association. (2017, April). Distinguished Alumni Awards

Michael G. Wessells 73 MA, 74 PhD Receives Distinguished Alumni Award

Michael Wessells received the Distinguished Alumni Award on Monday, April 24 in the Great Hall of the Massachusetts State House in Boston. UMass Amherst Alumni Association President Michaella Morzuch presented the award. Also in attendance was UMass President Marty Meehan, Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswamy, and Dean of Natural Sciences Steve Goodwin.

Wessells is a professor of clinical population and family health in the Program on Forced Migration and Health at Columbia University. His work emphasizes the resilience of children, families and communities and impact of distress due to armed conflict, disasters, family separation and deprivation of basic needs. In addition to research and teaching, Wessells has focused on psychosocial and child protection supports for war-affected children primarily in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and Latin America ("Distinguished Alumni", par. 1). 

Wessells earned his master’s and doctorate degrees in psychology from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where his supervisor, John Donahoe PhD, nurtured an enduring interest in science, a keen appreciation of environmental determinants of behavior and a love of teaching. "Michael Wessells is a modern day Indiana Jones--but an academic who saves lives instead of antiquities, often at great personal jeopardy," says Donahoe. 

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UMass Amherst Alumni Association. (2017, April). Distinguished Alumni Awards.

Blaustein Featured on National Public Radio

Jeffrey D. Blaustein, psychological and brain sciences, is featured on National Public Radio show "The Academic Minute" where he talks about the pros and cons of estrogen blockers for treatment of breast cancer and what women should know about this type of treatment. He says it is important for women to know that estrogens have many effects on the human body, and some of those have a significant impact on quality of life. (The Academic Minute, Inside Higher Ed, 12/20/16).


Blaustein and Dasgupta honored at Twelfth Annual Faculty Convocation

Jeffrey D. Blaustein and Nilanjana Dasgupta, both from the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, and Andrea R. Nahmod, Mathematics and Statistics are three of eight nationally acclaimed faculty members presented with the 2016 Award for Outstanding Accomplishments in Research and Creative Activity during the Twelfth Annual Faculty Convocation on September 30.


Jeff BlausteinJeffrey D. Blaustein

Professor, Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences

Widely recognized as an expert on the influences of hormones on the brain, Jeffrey D. Blaustein has spent nearly his entire career at UMass Amherst. He studies the cellular processes by which estrogens and progestins act in the brain to influence behavior, mental health, and cognitive function. Blaustein is currently developing tools to help better explain to oncologists and breast cancer survivors the important role that estrogens play in the brain, so that patients can make informed decisions about breast cancer treatments that block estrogens.

Blaustein has served as president of the Society for Behavioral Neuroendocrinology and during the past few years, has been invited to give keynote and plenary addresses in Chile, Mexico, Italy, and Miami. He has contributed numerous chapters to major compilations and articles to major journals. Blaustein served a five-year term as editor-in-chief of Endocrinology, the journal of the Endocrine Society, and was chosen by the Society for Neuroscience to be a reviewing editor of eNeuro, its new open-access journal.

Blaustein has also served on the editorial boards of all the major journals in his field and on numerous grant review panels for the National Institutes of Health. He was recently asked to write a blog for the American Cancer Society on the effects of hormones and antihormone treatments in breast cancer survivors.

Education: BS, University of Massachusetts Amherst, 1973; MS, University of Massachusetts Amherst, 1975; PhD, University of Massachusetts Amherst, 1977.


Nilanjana Dasgupta​Nilanjana Dasgupta

​Professor, Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences

A professor and the director of faculty equity and inclusion for the College of Natural Sciences, Nilanjana Dasgupta conducts seminal research on implicit bias, translating scientific research to inform such social problems as bias against racial and ethnic minorities, lesbians and gay men, employment discrimination, educational disparities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), and the professional underrepresentation of women and racial minorities in STEM fields. She has twice been invited to the White House to present her findings on STEM education. During her recent distinguished lecture at the National Science Foundation (NSF) in Arlington, Va., Dasgupta spoke of how to prevent girls and young women from leaving careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Since the beginning of her career, Dasgupta’s research has been funded by the NSF and the National Institutes of Health, amounting to approximately $4 million in grant support to date. Her research findings have been featured in the New York Times, the Boston Globe, the International Herald Tribune, BBC Radio (U.K.), National Public Radio, PBS News Hour, Scientific American Mind,, ABC News, and many other popular news outlets.

Dasgupta has held leadership positions in several international societies in social psychology and is the 2017 incoming president of the Society for Experimental Social Psychology. She also serves on the National Science Foundation’s Advisory Committee for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences.

Education: AB, Smith College, 1992; MS, Yale University, 1994; MPhil, Yale University, 1996; PhD, Yale University, 1998.

For more information on the Twelfth Annual Faculty Convocation award recipients, visit

Miriam DeFant is now Project Director for the Stress, Trauma, and Resilience Program

Miriam DeFant '89 PhD, is the newly appointed Project Director for the Stress, Trauma, and Resilience (STAR) Program at Clinical and Support Options, Inc. Miriam is currently the director of CSO's Psychological Assessment Services, In-Home Behavioral Services, and the Center for Professional and Community Education (CPCE).

The STAR Program is funded through a multimillion dollar, multi-year SAMHSA grant for a Category III Community Treatment and Service Center. The STAR Program will be a node in the National Child Traumatic Stress Network. This new trauma program will focus on the ARC (Attachment, Regulation, and Competency) Framework for treatment of youth with complex trauma. The ARC Framework is an emerging evidence-based practice model that has been successfully applied in outpatient clinics, residential treatment centers, schools, shelters, day programs, youth drop-in centers, domestic violence programs, foster care, and juvenile justice programs, and other systems of care. The STAR Program's goals include providing both specialized trauma treatment and also specialized training to systems of care throughout Western Massachusetts.