Fellow and Intern Biographies

The following bios are provided for both current and former interns and fellows. As we are unable to maintain current bios of former team members, the bios below may be reflective of the individual’s previous professional development status. Bios are provided chronologically with information about current interns at the top.

Jenna Russo

Jenna Russo is a Clinical Psychology Ph.D. Candidate at Mississippi State University. Her research focuses on social determinants of child health and resilience following exposure to early adversity, including the roles of parenting behaviors, family risk, and community systems. Jenna’s current community-based research includes the investigation and dissemination of trauma-informed care and best practices for court and school systems. She developed a course for teachers which utilizes an evidenced-based intervention in attribution retraining that is embedded in content regarding children’s developmental needs and traumatic stress response. Jenna strives to continue promoting changes at the systems in which they are nested by using her research to transform public policies and practices that allow all children and families to thrive. 

Kaniyaa Francis

Kaniyaa Francis earned her B.S. in Global Disease Biology at the University of California, Davis and is a current Master of Public Health candidate at Columbia University. Kaniyaa is passionate in using research to create equitable policy change to improve health the health outcomes in low-income communities. She has a variety of research and policy experience on issues including food insecurity, public safety, and affordable housing. 

Jessica Enderlin Nadzam

Jessica Nadzam is a Ph.D. candidate at Texas Tech University studying education policy. She has seven years of experience teaching high school science in Title I classrooms, and has also spent the past several years as an independent consultant and part-time instructional coach. In her future career, Jessica hopes to find a role where she can bridge the gap between rigorous academic research and high-leverage practice in K-12 schools. When she’s not trying to finish her dissertation on teacher retention, she’s probably gardening, rewatching Parks & Rec, or spending too much time making videos of her dogs on TikTok.

Zainab Bakarr Kamara

Zainab (Zain) is a PhD Student in the Department of Criminology, Law, and Society at George Mason University. Her research interests are vulnerable populations that interface with the criminal justice system. More specifically, behavioral health populations, victimization, human trafficking, hate crimes, state harm, social movements, and restorative justice. Zain earned her M.S. in Conflict Analysis and Resolution with a concentration in Inclusive Conflict Engagement at George Mason University’s Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter School for Peace and Conflict Resolution in Arlington, Virginia. As a graduate student, she worked as a Research Assistant examining police officer training curriculum to improve officer responses to crisis situations to implement reform and accountability for the West Hartford Police Force. In addition to her work, she volunteers as a Research Assistant at the Center for Advancing Correctional Excellence at the Schar School of Government and Public Policy at George Mason University and at Fairfax County’s Department of Domestic & Sexual Violence Services.

Kamna Tiwary

Kamna Tiwary holds a PhD in International Politics, Organization and Disarmament Studies from School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, India. Her PhD research focused on the limitations of public science communications when it comes to democratic decision making especially on issues of sophisticated technologies. Her case study was a Nuclear Power Plant, Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KNPP) located in the Tamil Nadu state of India. She is experienced in interacting with multiple stakeholders like local administrators, villagers residing near the power plant, as well as activists and public intellectuals to draw the conclusions of her PhD study. Her study used critical theory as a theoretical framework. She is interested in more interdisciplinary research that can enhance the value of policy making. She has served in a New Delhi based think tank Foundation for National Security Research  on issues of Climate Change and her M.Phil Dissertation was on Indo-US Defense Diplomacy in the Post Cold War Era.

Perla Rae Henderson

My name is Perla Rae Henderson and I am a PhD student at the University of Houston. I am primarily interested in examining the cognitive mechanisms underlying racial bias through topics like metaphors, meaning in life, religion, and more. I hope to further explore the interdisciplinary framework between psychology, philosophy, and public policy throughout my career in research. 

Debbie Halla

Debbie Halla is earning her Masters in Public Policy at American University’s School of Public Affairs. She holds a BA in Environmental Sciences and Biology at the University of Virginia. Her research interests include marine carbon capture,  how policies can facilitate technological solutions to climate change, and improved methods for stakeholder involvement. Debbie is excited to serve the RPC Implementation team in responding to legislative requests, and supporting outreach efforts.  

Meg Maykoski

Meg got a B.S from George Mason University in Neuroscience. She decided to continue her academic career pursuing her Masters in Health Systems Administration. Her graduate coursework introduced her to the policy side of healthcare, which piqued her interest in the relationship between policy decisions and population health. She is excited to get first hand experience with RPC in bridging the gap between academia and public policy.   

Shannon Kelly

Shannon Kelly is a PhD candidate in Brain, Behavior, and Quantitative Science at the University of Kansas (KU) where she studies cognitive and brain development in individuals with autism spectrum disorder. She also holds an M.A. in Clinical Child Psychology from KU. In the future, Shannon is interested in working to integrate psychological and neuroscience research with public policy.  

Nicole telfer

Nicole A. Telfer, M.A. is currently a 4th year Ph.D. candidate in Applied Developmental Psychology at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Her primary research areas of focus are factors that influence the wellbeing of Black children and their families, educational outcomes among racially minoritized youth and college students, and the role of sociocultural factors (e.g., neighborhood poverty and ethnic-racial socialization practices). Nicole’s research is grounded in the theory of intersectionality and the critical race theory. She is currently a graduate student fellow for the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management (APPAM) and Researchers Investigating Sociocultural Equity and Race (RISER) network, and both of these fellowships have afforded Nicole the opportunity to understand and be involved in translational research by disseminating applied research that can be used in the design of policies, programs, and systemic practices that foster the healthy development and academic success of racially and ethnically diverse learners.  

cassidy jackson

Cassidy E. Jackson received her B.Sc. in Chemistry from James Madison University where she worked under Dr. Donna Amenta and Dr. John Gilje on the synthesis and characterization of porous materials. She is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Chemistry at Colorado State University working in the group of Dr. Joseph Zadrozny. Her graduate research in molecular magnetism aims to understand how specific placements, arrangements, and patterns of nuclei surrounding an unpaired electron on a molecule impact magnetic relaxation. She is passionate about advocating for more accessible science literature and improved science communication from researchers.  

Emily Warthman

Emily is an MPH student at Walden University, with interests in public health, law, and policy. She earned a J.D. from The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law and is a licensed attorney. She also holds a master’s in human resources management from Franklin University and a B.A. in psychology and political science from Georgetown College.   

Carina Liebeknecht

Carina recently joined the Research-to-Policy Collaboration as an intern. She has a master’s degree from Rutgers in literature and is currently getting her B.S. in public health from CUNY. She is interested in addressing health disparities through evidence-based policy. Carina is working towards graduate school to receive her Master’s in Public Policy.

Lizzie Voight

Elizabeth Voigt is a MPH candidate studying Policy and Management at New York University’s School of Global Public Health. She is interested in the intersection of health, policy, and law and hopes to bridge the gaps between these fields to improve public health. During her time at RPC, Elizabeth hopes to respond to legislative requests and support outreach efforts to build the Collaboration’s network. Her previous research experience involves behavioral interventions for low-income smokers.

Meghan Flynn

Meghan is a Ph.D. student in Community Psychology at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC). She holds a B.A. in Psychology from SUNY Fredonia and an M.A. in Community Psychology and Program Development from the University of New Haven. Her research interests include community health, community empowerment, and maximizing efficiency of dissemination efforts among stakeholders within research and policy settings.

Leanna Kalinowski

Leanna is a PhD student in behavioral neuroscience at the University of Toronto, where she studies the neurobiological regulation of stress and social behavior in animal models. She holds an M.A. in experimental psychology from the University at Buffalo, where she studied the impact of adolescent psychostimulant abuse on brain function and behavior. She is interested in bridging the gap between fundamental science and public policy, and is excited to be part of the Research-to-Policy Collaboration team.

Nanxi Xu

Nanxi is a PhD student in Developmental Psychology at the University of Missouri. She holds a B.B.A. in Finance from UW-Madison and a M.A. in Clinical Mental Health from the University of Denver. Her research focuses on early childhood experiences, and It is her goal to promote the integration of developmental science and public policy. 

Brennah Ross

Brennah is a PhD student in Clinical-Community Psychology at Georgia State University where she researches sexual violence, alcohol use, and brief low-resource interventions. She holds a BS in economics from The College of New Jersey and hopes to pursue a career where she can bridge sexual violence research and public policy.

Kathryn Lewis

Kathryn recently joined the Research-to-Policy Collaboration and is excited to begin her work with the team. She will graduate in May 2022 from The Pennsylvania State University, Schreyer Honors College with a B.S. in Global and International Studies and a B.A. in Spanish. In the future, Kathryn strives to attend a graduate school to receive her Master’s in Public Policy.

Patrick O’Neill

Patrick O’Neill is a post-bac who comes from an analytic and social science research background. He earned his B.A. in Psychology from the University of New Haven, graduating in December of 2020. After gaining further research and policy experience, Patrick hopes to continue his education at a Clinical Psychology Ph.D. program.

Ciara Nestor

Ciara works with the Research to Policy Collaboration on projects related to Visibility and Social Media communication. Her previous research work has involved understanding how families make decisions about their children’s education and the impact of both home and school environments on children’s development. She received her B.S. in psychology from the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia and is currently working on a dissertation for a doctorate in Applied Developmental Psychology from Fordham University. 

Megan Collier

Megan is a PhD student in the department of Social Work at Boston College. She holds a B.S. in Applied Psychology from New York University and a M.Ed. from Vanderbilt University where she studied child clinical and developmental research. Her current research focuses on social determinants of health disparities and health care service accessibility, both domestically and internationally.

Faith VanMeter

Faith is a PhD candidate in Developmental Psychology at the University of Minnesota’s Institute of Child Development. Here general research interests are child victimization and mental health over the course of development. Specifically, her current research explores how characteristics of the foster care system relate to children’s likelihood of crossing over into the juvenile justice system. She is interested in discovering ways to bridge the gap between developmental scientists and child welfare policymakers.

Aditya Sai Phutane

My name is Aditya and I go by Adi. I am a PhD student in Public Policy at Virginia Tech. I am an ex-engineer, did my Masters in UW-Madison, and worked at a material test company in Minneapolis. My primary interest is in Technology Policy, especially on the regulation of tech companies. I am currently working on two separate projects – one dealing with how external expertise participation is incentivized in federal agencies and the other dealing with the effects of immigration policy on labor markets. Other than reading, I love biking and photography.

Kaitlin Fronberg

Ms. Fronberg is a Penn State graduate student in the Human Development and Family Studies department, studying under Drs. Douglas Teti and Daniel Max Crowley. Her research focuses on how differing contexts, such as family or policy systems, impact early child development. She has previous education technical assistance expertise from her prior work as a Research Associate at American Institutes for Research. She holds a bachelors of arts in Psychology and Political Science from UC Berkeley.

Jason Ashe

Jason recently joined the Research-to-Policy Collaboration, and will be supporting the evaluation needs of the team to better understand best outreach and dissemination practices between researchers and policymakers. He is a Ph.D. student at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, studying community psychology and behavioral medicine. He is also a Health Policy Research Scholar with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Erica Floding

Erica works with other Research to Policy Collaboration members on various topics, including the VOCA initiative, and is passionate about subjects such as food access, mental health, substance abuse, advancing LGBTQ+ rights, migrant’s rights, and racial and gender justice. She holds a B.A. from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, where she studied communication studies, psychology and political science, and an M.A. in Forensic Psychology from the Graduate School of Professional Psychology at the University of Denver.

Jayne Hoffman

Jayne is currently a PhD student in the Community Action and Research program at Binghamton University. Her current research explores health and education outcomes of undocumented immigrants with a focus on federal policy. She also holds an M.A. in English Literature.

Liwei Zhang

Liwei is a Policy Fellow who works on the Evidence-to-Impact Collaborative. Liwei supports congressional outreach by connecting research professionals with policymakers to develop evidence-based policies on child and family policy issues. Liwei holds a Ph.D. in Social Work from New York University and an MSW from Peking University, China.

Katherine Cruz

Katherine is a University of Texas graduate, where she majored in Biology. She loves local politics and her home state of Texas, and hopes to one day address health disparities through evidence-based policy.

Mary Fernandes

Mary is a PhD candidate in Clinical Psychology at Georgia State University. She holds Bachelor’s degrees in Psychology and Animal Science from the University of Maryland, College Park. Mary hopes to pursue a career in mental health policy and is excited to be a part of the Research-to-Policy Collaboration team.

Margaret (Mia) Hendricks

Mia is a Ph.D. Candidate in the dual Psychology Ph.D. and Master’s in Public Policy program at Georgetown University. Her research interests include political psychology, immigration, terrorism, and human rights.

Nicolyn Charlot

Nicolyn Charlot is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Western Ontario. She seeks to help people avoid abusive relationships by conducting research that identifies warning signs of intimate partner violence and establishes when they first appear. She is interested in translating research findings into policy implications, and directly helping sexual assault survivors using crisis intervention strategies. Nicolyn was an RPC fellow in the Summer of 2020, where she organized a congressional briefing on racial health disparities during COVID-19, edited a series of fact sheets on the Victims of Crime Act, and assisted with the development and dissemination of articles on police reform. 

Toria Herd

Toria is currently a PhD candidate in developmental psychology at Virginia Tech. Her major research interests include using a developmental psychopathology framework and longitudinal modeling to understand how risk and protective factors, namely parent-adolescent relations and emotion regulation development, relate to adolescent adjustment and psychopathology. Toria is also very passionate about science communication and translating basic science to public policy—allowing meaningful research to actually help people. In her work with the Research-to-Policy Collaboration, she supports rapid responses by creating policy briefs, fact sheets, and panel discussions with research-oriented professionals to support legislative needs.

Azaliah Israel

Azaliah Israel holds an M.S. in Human Development and Family Studies from the University of Alabama and is a Ph.D. Candidate in Family Policy at the University of Arkansas. She joins our team as a skilled provider of technical assistance (TA) to human services programs and agencies, including Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood (HMRF) grantees and TANF programs. In addition to researching, analyzing, and interpreting federal and state legislation affecting fatherhood programs, she also participated in the assessment, planning, and implementation of programs and special projects concerning father engagement. Azaliah assists the RPC team in conducting introductory meetings with congressional staff to assess their research needs and identify potential researchers in our network to assist in decisions making. In addition to the recruitment researchers, she also leads the rapid response process for congressional offices following in-person meeting with in-network researchers and congressional offices. She regularly engages with research experts across the nation to coordinate the production of policy briefs for congressional offices through conferencing and in-person meetings and supervises RPC interns.

Allie Ryave

Allie Ryave is an undergraduate honors student at Penn State, studying Human Development and Family Studies, and Global and International Studies. As a research intern with the Research-to-Policy Collaboration, Allie works on process data, outreach support, and manages the RPC Twitter.

Christina Athineos

Christina Athineos is a doctoral student in Suffolk University’s Clinical Psychology Ph.D. program. As a member of Suffolk University’s Community Action-Based Research Lab, Christina is involved in research efforts focused on empowerment and social justice. Christina joined the RPC in August 2017 to translate research related to current legislative efforts. Through this experience, Christina has managed social media posts that share research findings and spearheaded the development of the current website!

Amy Anderson

Amy J. Anderson is a doctoral student in community psychology at DePaul University and is interested the role of public policy in influencing educational equity, the well-being of youth populations, and social justice broadly. She worked with the RPC the academic year 2017-18 to lead an outcome evaluation of efforts to disseminate research via emails to congressional officials. In this role, Amy tremendously expanded the RPC’s capacity for developing a replicable approach for collecting and managing data regarding congressional staff’s opening research emails and content (e.g., a URL to a policy brief), as well as potential predictors such as the relevance of the topic to the legislator (e.g., assessed via their public statements).

Alex Ingram

Alex Ingram is a doctoral student in the clinical psychology program at Arizona State University, studying risk factors and interventions to promote resilience in children who face difficult family transitions such as parental bereavement and divorce. She began working with the RPC in September 2017. A project that Alex helped to lead involved examining the use of research evidence in legislation. Specifically, Alex helped to assess the use of keywords in legislation (e.g., evidence-based) and use those data to select bills that were qualitatively coded using an inductive approach for document review.

Taylor Darden

Taylor Darden is a Clinical/Community doctoral student at University of Maryland – Baltimore County who is interested in studying how social determinants (e.g., racial discrimination, SES, and gender) impact health inequities among the African-American population. She began interning for the RPC in January 2017 in order to learn one method of translating research to policy by connecting research experts to legislative staff based on the current interests and needs of lawmakers. Taylor has supported efforts to build the Research Network among child welfare researchers, facilitated several responses to legislative inquiries for research evidence, and has edited grant proposals. Most recently, Taylor has been working on a policy brief related to independent living programs for youth aging out of the foster care system.

Rebecca Smith

Rebecca works with the Research-to-Policy Collaboration on issues related to substance use and youth development. She is interested in risk and resiliency factors in adolescents and emerging adults with a specific focus on substance use and recovery. The larger goal of her work is to better understand the trajectories of individuals at risk in order to inform future prevention and intervention efforts and policies. She holds a B.S. in psychology from the University of Mary Washington and a M.S.W. in clinical social work from Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). She is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in developmental psychology at VCU.

Jenna Reardanz

Jenna works on the Research to Policy Collaboration team to both evaluate and respond to legislative requests. She has worked on a variety of topics like violence prevention, child welfare, nutrition, education, and disability. She holds a B.A. from Whitworth University (Spokane, WA) in psychology and an M.A. in developmental sciences from the University of Alabama. She is currently a doctoral candidate at the University of Alabama studying social development and disability. She is especially passionate about using research to best inform and influence policy development.

Jenesse Kaitz

Jenesse Kaitz is a former RPC intern who supported outreach efforts to build and maintain the RPC network. She received her PhD in Clinical Psychology from Suffolk University in Boston, MA. She is currently a health services research fellow at the Veteran’s Health Administration Center for Health Organization and Implementation Research.

Liz Baker

Liz is a postdoctoral associate at the University of Calgary. She completed her Ph.D at Kent State University in experimental psychology, with a minor in quantitative methods. Her research focuses on promoting youth health, preventing dating violence, and program evaluation. She also works alongside policymakers to inform evidence-based decision making for social issues.

Logan Craig

As an intern with the Research-to-Policy Collaboration, Logan worked with Dr. Taylor Scott and Dr. Elizabeth Long to explore how evidence-based substance use prevention research has been addressed within legislation. Since then, she has worked as the Lab Coordinator for the Affective and Translational Neuroscience Lab at the University of Maryland, and is currently the Director of Research Operations at the Well-Being Lab at George Mason University. She is now in the process of applying for a PhD in Clinical Psychology.

Sarah Prendergast

Sarah Prendergast is an applied developmental science doctoral candidate at Colorado State University and a Doris Duke Fellow for the Promotion of Child Well-Being at Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago. Her research interests include family resilience, child maltreatment prevention, and kindergarten readiness, and how these are influenced by contextual factors (e.g., social policies, family economic resources, and neighborhood quality). She began working as an RPC intern in 2017, and has been involved in responding to a number of legislative requests for research evidence, including one that involved organizing information on studies related to home visitation programs. She also supported a congressional briefing on preventing human trafficking. Most recently, Sarah has been served on the investigation of how research is used in the federal legislation through keyword analysis and qualitative coding of bills and statute. She is also working to publish an op-ed regarding federal agencies’ program evaluation capacities.