Lab Staff

Portrait of Anna Bechner

Anna Bechner, Research Laboratory Manager
B.S. Ed., Marian College (Early Childhood Education)

My background includes teaching and research experience with families and young children in childcare, preschool, and the elementary school level. As a teacher I became very interested in understanding how children’s emotional experiences affect learning, behavior, and socio-emotional development. In my current role, I manage laboratory projects focused on examining early life stress and poverty, and the effects these emotional experiences have on child development, with the goal in mind of developing intervention strategies for at-risk children and families.


Photo of Cory Burghy

Cory Burghy, Research Scientist
BA Psychology (2001, UW-Madison)
MS Clinical Psychology (2008, University of Wyoming, Mentor: Eric Dearing)
PhD in Experimental Psychology (2010, University of Wyoming, Mentor: Narina Nunez)
Postdoctoral Fellow (2010-2014, UW-Madison; PIs: Davidson & Essex)

My research interests encompass the developmental trajectories of emotion understanding and regulation across childhood and adolescence as impacted by adversity (e.g., poverty, stress, maltreatment). In particular, I am interested in the biobehavioral correlates of early life stress and how children synthesize stress and unpredictability in the home into their own personal constructions of the world around them. My current research focuses on how poverty and housing stability in the first decade may be reflected in individual differences in affective experience, decision making, and academic success.


Abbie Klein, Research Specialist
B.A., 2020, University of Chicago (Psychology & Comparative Human Development)M.A., 2021, Northwestern University (Clinical Psychology)

My goal is to bridge the gap between developmental-clinical research and policy application. I am interested in translating knowledge about the mechanisms and socio-contextual factors that influence adverse mental health outcomes and resiliency into trauma-informed interventions for at-risk youth. Specifically, I aim to engage in research that optimizes the way children and their families interact with welfare agencies and the justice system.


Photo of Alyssa Lovely

Alyssa Lovely, Community Outreach Coordinator; Research Specialist
B.A., 2015, UW Madison (Psychology)
B.S., 2017, UW Madison (Studio Art)

After graduating with my first bachelor’s in psychology, I spent several years working with youth of varying needs and abilities.  I quickly learned I wanted to continue working with youth, but I wanted to somehow incorporate my passion for art.  After earning a degree in Studio Art and working in the Culture and Cognition Lab at UW Madison, I  now find myself on the path to becoming an Art Therapist.  I am interested in how art can be used as a tool for improving our mental health through self expression, creative exploration, and mindful meditation, and how we can apply psychological research methods to bettering our understanding of the benefits of doing art.


Ashley Ruba, Postdoctoral Fellow
B.A., 2013, Duke University (Psychology)
Ph.D., 2019, University of Washington (Developmental Psychology)

I am interested in how emotion concepts develop throughout the lifespan, particularly in infancy and early childhood. My current research examines (a) what infants and young children understand about others’ emotions, and (b) how language-dependent and language-independent learning processes influence emotion concept development. Overall, my research aims to bridge gaps between affective science and developmental psychology.


Portrait of Karen Smith

Karen Smith, Postdoctoral Fellow
B.A., 2011, Univeristy of Chicago (Psychology)
Ph.D., 2018, University of Chicago (Psychology)

I am interested in understanding individual differences in psychophysiological responses to stress, especially experiences of early life stress. Specifically, my research centers on elucidating the role of reciprocal interactions between physiological processes and affective states in children’s responses to stress, with a focus on how children’s perceptions of environmental demands shape their responses to stress. This work aims to identify protective factors that can aid in the development of targeted, effective interventions for at risk children and families, through enabling a more comprehensive understanding of the mechanisms contributing to individual differences in responses to stress.