Lab Director

Dr. Amrisha Vaish

Amrisha is Assistant Professor of Psychology and director of the Early Social Development Lab at the University of Virginia. Her research focuses on the social, emotional, and moral development of young children. In particular, she studies the emergence of moral emotions (such as empathy, sympathy, guilt, and gratitude), moral judgments, and prosocial behavior. She is also very interested in how infants understand and learn from others’ emotions and desires.

Amrisha began as Assistant Professor at UVA in 2014. She received her Ph.D. in Psychology from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and the Free University Berlin (Germany) in 2010. Prior to starting at UVA, she was a Dilthey Postdoctoral Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. Amrisha received the Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation Award from the Society for Research in Child Development in 2011, the Division 7 Dissertation Award from the American Psychological Association in 2012, and a ‘Rising Star’ designation by the Association for Psychological Science in 2015. She is a faculty fellow of the LIFE academy and a faculty affiliate of Youth-Nex.


[Curriculum Vitae]


Post-Doctoral Research Associate

Jessie Stern 

js (1) Jessie’s research examines how social relationships shape the developing brain, and in turn, empathy and social behavior. After receiving her B.A. in Psychology at Pomona College, she completed her Ph.D. at University of Maryland, working with Dr. Jude Cassidy to investigate attachment relationships in early childhood, adolescence, and adulthood.



Graduate Students

Caroline Kelsey 


Caroline is currently a fifth year Ph.D. student in Developmental psychology. Prior to beginning her work at UVA, she received her B.S. in Biology and Psychology at Penn State, and her M.A. in Experimental Psychology from William and Mary. A fun tidbit about Caroline is that she enjoys the food network, and she has a goal to go to all of the food network chefs’ restaurants. (She has completed 5 so far!)



Meltem Yucel

thumbnail_Yucel_Headshots_short Meltem is a fifth year doctoral student in Developmental Psychology. She is also a fellow in the International Max Planck Research School on the Life Course (LIFE Academy). Prior to attending UVa, she received her B.A in Psychology from Ozyegin University in 2015. Meltem is interested in children’s social and moral development, specifically focusing on how and when children become moral beings.




Stefen Beeler


Stefen received his BA degree from the University of Tennessee in Psychology. He continued his education at Boston University, where he received an M.A. in Psychology focused on Developmental Psychology. Stefen gained experience in many developmental and social neuroscience labs in Boston, including the Boston University Social Development and Learning Lab, Harvard University Moral Cognition Lab, as well as the Harvard University Social Cognitive Development Group. Stefen is interested in children’s altruistic behavior and cooperation. He loves the outdoors and is excited to explore Charlottesville and the Shenandoah Valley.



Johanna Chajes

31530370_1675458175836292_8738366621640294400_oJohanna is a second year Ph.D. student in the developmental psychology program. She received her B.S. in Neuroscience from the University of Delaware where she completed an honors thesis focusing on effects of early life stress on the brain and behavior. Johanna is interested in understanding the development of prosocial or altruistic behaviors in young children by making connections between their observable behaviors and their underlying brain activity. When she’s not in the lab, she enjoys dancing and crafting and is excited to explore Charlottesville during her time at UVA.



Lab Coordinator

Katrina Farris

Katrina Farris

Katrina received her B.A. in Psychological and Brain Sciences from Washington University in St. Louis. She worked as an undergraduate research assistant for Dr. Michael Gaffrey at the Early Emotional Development Program where she completed a supplemental concentration research project investigating the effects of risk factors on cortisol levels in response to stressful stimuli in preschool-aged children. Working now as the lab coordinator for both the ESDL and the Babylab, she hopes to continue gaining experience in psychology research before continuing her education. Katrina also enjoys spending time outdoors, yoga, and reading!