Faculty

Amir Raz - Director

Amir Raz

Founding Director, Professor

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Amir Raz

Founding Director, Professor

Amir Raz - Director

Dr. Raz is Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences and Founding Director of the Brain Institute at Chapman University, and Professor in the Department(s) of Psychiatry (Psychology, Neurology and Neurosurgery) at McGill University (Canada). His research spans the cognitive neuroscience of attention, placebos, and altered planes of consciousness.

Dr. Raz is a world leader in unlocking the brain substrates of attention and consciousness. Dr. Raz is Professor of Psychiatry, Neurology & Neurosurgery, and Psychology; Senior Investigator in the Lady Davis Institute for Medical Research of the Jewish General Hospital; and a member of the Montreal Neurological Institute. He heads both the Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory at McGill University and the Clinical Neuroscience and Applied Cognition Laboratory at the Institute for Community and Family Psychiatry.

Former member of the McGill Board of Governors and Editor-in Chief of a specialty peer-reviewed journal, Professor Raz combines cutting-edge science and trailblazing research with community outreach, science teaching, and interdisciplinary education in the health and psychological sciences. With peer reviewed publications in journals such as Nature, Nature Reviews Neuroscience, The Lancet, and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Professor Raz has received multiple accolades, ranging from a Young Investigator Award from the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression and the American Psychological Association’s Early Career Award, to Fellow of the Society for Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis and Honorary Fellow of the Golden Key Society.

Dr. Raz’s research interests span the neural and psychological substrates of attention, suggestion, placebos, and self-regulation. A former magician and musician, he also conducts research into the cognitive neuroscience of deception, ownership, altered consciousness, and atypical cognition. Using imaging of the living human brain, genetics, and other techniques, his research brings together basic and clinical science.

Uri Maoz - Assistant Professor

Uri Maoz

Assistant Professor

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Uri Maoz

Assistant Professor

Uri Maoz - Assistant Professor

Dr. Uri Maoz joined Chapman University in 2017 as an Assistant Professor of Computational Neuroscience at Crean College and at the Institute for Interdisciplinary Brain and Behavioral Sciences. He is also an affiliate at Schmid College of Science and Technology and at the Fowler School of Engineering. His research lies at the intersection of volition, decision-making, and moral choice. He uses a combination of empirical techniques (e.g., EEG, intracranial recordings, behavioral studies) and theoretical modeling to develop a computational account of volition, with an emphasis on the decision-making processes that lead to voluntary action and on the role of consciousness in such processes. In particular, he uses machine-learning to carry out online, real-time, closed-loop analysis of neural data, as it is recorded. He is further interested in the legal, ethical, conceptual, and economic implications of this work.

Dr. Maoz earned a B.Sc. in computer science and general humanistic studies and a Ph.D. in neural computation from the Hebrew University. As part of his graduate studies, he was a visiting student at the Weizmann Institute of Science and the Collège de France. He was then a postdoctoral scholar at Caltech and at the Cedars Sinai Medical Center. Later, he was a researcher at the Department of Neurosurgery at UCLA and then faculty at the Department of Psychology there. He serves as a Visiting Associate in Biology and Bioengineering at Caltech. He also directs a large, international project comprising 17 neuroscientists and philosophers, who aim to understand how the brain enables conscious control of human decisions and actions.

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Aaron Schurger

Assistant Professor

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Aaron Schurger

Assistant Professor

Dr. Schurger’s research is focused on uncovering the distinction between conscious and non-conscious neural information processing and on the neural mechanisms of volition and self-initiated action. He uses a variety of techniques in his research including neuroimaging, behavioral psychophysics, machine learning, and computational modeling.

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Tara Gruenewald

Interim Administrative Director

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Tara Gruenewald

Interim Administrative Director

Tara Gruenewald is an Associate Professor and Chair of Psychology who joined the Chapman faculty in the Fall of 2017. She is a social and health psychologist with additional specialization in lifespan development, aging, and public health. Her research explores social risk (e.g., social stressors, social adversity, low socioeconomic status) and resilience (e.g., social support, social engagement, social connection) factors that shape mental well-being, cognitive and physical functioning and health, physiological health, and morbidity and mortality. Of particular interest are the cognitive, affective, and biological pathways through which these social risk and resilience factors are linked to health and well-being outcomes. Her work utilizes multiple methods in advancing our theoretical and empirical understanding of these associations including longitudinal cohort studies, daily experience sampling techniques, naturalistic and lab-based experiments, surveys, and randomized controlled trials.

In addition to her science, she is passionate about opportunities for leadership and service which promote health psychology, psychosomatic medicine, and biopsychosocial approaches to health, as well as the fields of psychology and aging. She has served as an officer and a member of the leadership boards of the American Psychosomatic Society and the California Council on Gerontology and Geriatrics, as well as serving as a member of committees, working groups, and advisory boards for other professional societies (e.g., the Gerontological Society of America, the Russell Sage Foundation, the Harvard University Lee Kum Seung Center for Health and Happiness). She is a Fellow of the Gerontological Society of America and the American Psychosomatic Society and a member of the American Psychological Association Leadership Institute for Women in Psychology.

Staff

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Tian Lan

Senior Research Engineer | Operations Lead

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Tian Lan

Senior Research Engineer | Operations Lead

Tian Lan is a biomedical engineer with the Brain Institute. He holds an M.S. in Biomedical Engineering from UC Irvine. He oversees the equipment and experiments in the lab, as well as the day-to-day operations of the institute

Tian is interested in using EEG, EMG, TMS, eye-tracking, VR and other tools in various environments to assess human brain activities and physiological changes, in particular, the underlying mechanisms of consciousness in decision making and voluntary actions.

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Debbie Nguyen

Operations Manager

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Debbie Nguyen

Operations Manager

Debbie studied Psychology and Chemistry at Chapman University. They began as an Administrative Assistant at the Brain Institute in Spring 2022. She is passionate about advocating for marginalized populations, especially as it relates to representation in academia. Debbie aims to pursue a career in Public Health and Clinical Research.

Visiting Faculty

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Liad Mudrik

Visiting Research Professor

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Liad Mudrik

Visiting Research Professor

My research focuses on consciousness, its neural correlates and its functions: how does it come about, and what – if anything – does it do. As part of this interdisciplinary collaboration, we will focus on volition, and study the possible role consciousness might play in volitional actions. We will further ask if this role changes as a function of decision type, differentiating between arbitrary decisions and deliberate, meaningful ones. To do so, we will use different imaging techniques as well as psychophysical methods.

Postdocs

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Alessandra Buccella

Postdoc

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Alessandra Buccella

Postdoc

Dr. Buccella received her PhD in philosophy from the University of Pittsburgh in 2020. At the core of her work lies the relationship between so-called ‘subjective’ and ‘objective’ aspects of experience. On the one hand, experience discloses the world to us, making its objective features available for knowledge and action. On the other hand, experience is irreducibly subjective and perspectival. In her research, Dr. Buccella explores the co-dependent notions of objectivity and perspective in different contexts, at the interface between philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience. More specific topics include perceptual constancy, the role of mental representations in cognitive science, feminist themes in enactive-embodied theories of cognition, and the philosophical foundations of machine learning.

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Tomáš Dominik

Postdoc

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Tomáš Dominik

Postdoc

Dr. Dominik received his Ph.D. in December 2019 after defending a dissertation thesis pertaining various aspects of Libet’s experiment. His interests lie in the overlap between psychology, psychophysiology and neuroscience of volition. Specifically, he studies the reliability of introspective reports of motor intention or the origins of brain potentials preceding voluntary or pre-contemplated movements. He also previously led a project of complex replication of Libet’s experiment. He uses EEG, various psychophysiological methods (ECG, EDA, EMG, EOG, etc.), and behavioral methods for his research.

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Mathieu Landry

Postdoc

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Mathieu Landry

Postdoc

Dr. Mathieu Landry completed his Ph.D. in cognitive neuroscience at McGill University. Broadly, his research explores how cognition (e.g., attention, anticipation, executive control) shapes consciousness (i.e., how we subjectively experience the world and our own mind). His work has primarily focused on the overlapping dynamics between attention, perception and metacognition, while he also investigated and published several papers on hypnosis and suggestions. His research combines various methods, including neurophysiology (i.e., electro- and magnetoencephalography), experimental strategies from psychophysics and cognitive psychology, and a variety of analytical strategies (e., computational modelling, machine learning).

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Marie-Christine Nizzi

Postdoc (joint with Adina Roskies)

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Marie-Christine Nizzi

Postdoc (joint with Adina Roskies)

My research focuses on resilience and the sense of self. I am interested in understanding what enables certain persons to better integrate life changing events or diagnoses into their narrative. So far, I have worked with clinical populations suffering from cognitive impairment (neuro-degenerative diseases) or motor disabilities (locked-in syndrome) and I am currently developing projects with trauma survivors (sexual assault, domestic violence, child abuse, combat exposure).

My goal is 1) to better understand the nature of the processes involved in forming and maintaining a healthy sense of self and 2) to improve the quality of life in patients with a feeling of alienation due to their condition.

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Paulius Rimkevičius

Postdoc

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Paulius Rimkevičius

Postdoc

My research focuses on consciousness and free will. I am interested in whether we are conscious of what goes on in our own minds and whether we have free will. I am also interested in our beliefs about consciousness and free will and how these beliefs affect our behavior. My main current project investigates what goes on in our brains and what we are conscious of when we perform a spontaneous voluntary action, specifically: whether we are conscious of mental imagery related to the action and whether the generation of such mental imagery is reflected in a brain signal, the readiness potential, that is associated with spontaneous voluntary actions.

Graduate Students

Caitlyn Chavez - Graduate Research Assistant

Caitlyn Chavez

PhD Student

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Caitlyn Chavez

PhD Student
Caitlyn Chavez - Graduate Research Assistant
Caitlyn is a PhD student at the Brain Institute and MLAT lab in Chapman University’s Computational and Data Sciences program. She graduated from UCSB in June 2016 with a B.S. in Chemistry. In her research, Caitlyn focuses on deep learning, computer vision, and signal processing in solving problems in precision medicine and biomedical imaging.
Jake Gavenas - Graduate Research Assistant

Jake Gavenas

PhD Student

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Jake Gavenas

PhD Student
Jake Gavenas - Graduate Research Assistant
Jake is a PhD student with the Brain Institute and Chapman University’s Computational and Data Sciences program. He graduated from UCLA in June 2017 with a B.A. in Psychology and a minor in Mathematics. His research interests include the neural mechanisms of voluntary action, the timing of unconscious and conscious factors in decision making, and mathematical and computational modeling of these and related phenomena. He is also engaged with the philosophical debate surrounding what the neuroscience of volition can tell us about free will.
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Lucas Jeay-Bizot

PhD Student

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Lucas Jeay-Bizot

PhD Student

Lucas Jeay-Bizot is an incoming PhD student in the Computational and Data Science program at Chapman University. Lucas received an MA in Mathematics and Philosophy from the University of Glasgow and will be graduating with an MSc in Cognitive Science from the University of Vienna. His research interests cover both the neuroscientific and philosophical investigations of the phenomenon of free will. During his PhD he plans to investigate different aspects of voluntary actions using EEG and machine learning techniques.

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Andy Liang

PhD Student

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Andy Liang

PhD Student

Andy is a PhD student in Computational and Data Sciences at Chapman University. His research is mainly focused on computational methods in neuroscience and deep learning. During his time as a student at Chapman, he has worked on many different datasets. For Andy, the data that are collected from the brain is the most exciting data to analyze. He believes the brain and cognition are still mysterious to us and understanding how the they work will make an impact on how we understand human beings.

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Alice Wong

PhD Student

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Alice Wong

PhD Student

Alice is a current PhD student in the Computational and Data Science program at Chapman University, with a B.A in Psychology from UCLA. Her areas of research interests include characterising the extent of how random human generated sequences can be, and the neuroscience and temporal dynamics of voluntary action.

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Alison Oliver

MS Student

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Alison Oliver

MS Student

Alison studied neuroscience and philosophy at the University of San Diego before coming to the Brain Institute to pursue her research interests, which include social cognition, evolutionary psychology, and neuropsychiatry. She started at the Brain Institute in 2020 and is now teaching and working towards her MSc alongside research with new projects that use EEG, TMS, and pupillometry.

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Guillaume Pech

PhD Student (joint with Axel Cleeremans)

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Guillaume Pech

PhD Student (joint with Axel Cleeremans)

 I graduated from the master in cognitive sciences at the University of Lyon Lumière 2 (France) in 2021. Then, I had the opportunity to work as a research assistant during 8 months at the Université Libre de Bruxelles with Prof. Emilie CASPAR (M&SB lab). We conducted projects investigating several processes related to decision-making, such as the sense of agency, empathy for pain and cognitive conflict using EEG. We approached rare populations such as inmates, military, and former perpetrators and survivors of the genocide in Rwanda. In 2022, I had the honor to receive a 6-month predoctoral fellowship offered by the Neurophilosophy of Free Will for the project ‘Does the Readiness Potential reflect action initiation or uncertainty?’.

I am now a PhD student under the supervision of Pr. Axel CLEEREMANS (CO3) and Pr. Uri MAOZ (Brain Institute). My research focuses on the neural markers of volition, with a specific interest in the Readiness Potential. In a broader sense, my topic of interest is to investigate how to model decision-making and how these findings can feed the debate on free-will.

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Damini Trehan

PhD Student

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Damini Trehan

PhD Student

Postbac Research Assistants

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Emma Chen

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Emma Chen

Emma Chen is a sophomore at Chapman University majoring in Health Sciences and minoring in Neuroscience. She is involved in the EEG biofeedback, microdosing, and TMS-agency projects. Her research interests lie among the intersection between neuroscience, philosophy, and law.

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Nico Barrett

Animation Artist/Graphic Designer

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Nico Barrett

Animation Artist/Graphic Designer

A recent grad of Chapman University with a BFA in Animation and Visual Effects, Nico is an illustrator, animator, and graphic designer for the Brain Institute who is interested in pursuing a career in TV animation.

Melissa Brillhart

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Melissa Brillhart

Melissa Brillhart recently graduated from Chapman University with degrees in Psychology and Vocal Performance. She started as a research assistant at the Brain Institute in 2021 and is continuing to pursue her research interests as a postbac research assistant.

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Jillian Nooney

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Jillian Nooney

Jillian graduated from Towson University in May 2022, where she earned a B.S in Psychology and Interdisciplinary Studies with a Concentration in Animal Behavior. She hopes to earn a PhD in Neuroscience and focus on consciousness research. She is interested in using a multidisciplinary approach to study consciousness, and related topics, which she plans to pursue as a postbac research assistant at the Brain Institute.

Undergraduate Research Assistants

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Amy Whitmarsh

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Amy Whitmarsh

Amy Whitmarsh is a health sciences major with a neuroscience minor, who is planning to graduate in fall 2022. She has been a research assistant with the Brain Institute since spring 2021. While doing research, Amy has focused on EEG and the use of the float-pod. She plans on becoming a PA, but has yet to decide what specialty. 

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Ilai Gavish

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Raniyah Chishti

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Raniyah Chishti

I’m an Applied Human Physiology major and an Interdisciplinary Honors minor, planning to graduate in spring of 2025. I’ve been a research assistant with the Brain Institute since spring of 2022. My research interests involve EEG, TMS, and eye-tracking. 
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Nina Wolf

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Undergraduate Interns

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Ori Garibi

Research Assistant

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Ori Garibi

Research Assistant

Ori is a Freshman at Chapman University majoring in Computer Engineering. He is working on developing the VR Driving Simulator, by creating a Unity environment where users can drive a realistic car in virtual reality.

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Sophie Kelly

Videographer

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Sophie Kelly

Videographer

Sophie Kelly is a Television Writing and Production Major from Kansas City, Missouri. She joined the Brain Institute as a videographer in 2022, and loves to learn new things about psychology through the filmmaking process. Outside of videography, she is a Film Music minor, and enjoys playing the bass, acting, and writing.

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Sydney Scott

Administrative Assistant

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Sydney Scott

Administrative Assistant

Sydney is a sophomore English journalism major and education minor. At the Brain Institute she is an administrative assistant, who hopes to use the experience to gain useful skills that will help her succeed in future endeavors. When she is not working at the Brain Institute, she spends her time writing. She has published articles in the Voice of Orange County and Chapbook magazine.

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Kajal Padi

Media and Publicity Manager

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Kajal Padi

Media and Publicity Manager

Alumni

Martha Shaw (2020~2022, Undergrad/Postbac RA)

Gretchen Albers (2021~2022, Videographer)

Angelina Quagletti (2021~2022, Postbac RA), now PhD student at Palo Alto University

Jackson Gregory (2018~2022, Undergrad/Postbac RA), now PsyD student at University of Denver

Jinkyoung Oh (2021~2022, Visiting Professor)

Gilana Pikover (2018~2022, Undergrad RA/Institute Manager)

Hannah Ravitch (2019~2022, Undergrad RA/Administrative Assistant)

Joanna Pak (2019~2022, Undergrad/Postbac RA), now Staff Research Associate at UCSF

Alex Rigl (2020~2021, App Developer), now Escorts Development Lead at World Champion Fantasy

Elnaz Lashgari, Ph.D. (2017~2021, PhD student), now Senior Scientist at Abbott

Ariana de Leon (2021~2022, Videographer)

Libby Chun (2021~2022, Videographer)

Sam Brown (2020~2021, Videographer)

Adrien Schurger-Foy (2020~2021, Postbac RA), now MS student at EPFL

Tom Kim (2020~2021, Postbac RA), now PhD student at UCLA

Akima Connelly (2018~2021, Undergrad/Postbac RA), now MS student at Tokyo Institute of Technology

Amber Hopkins (2018~2021, Undergrad/Postbac RA), now PhD student at UCLA

Katelyn Snook (2020~2021, Videographer)

Joaquin Valencia (2020~2021, App Developer), now Junior Product Manager at BluIP

Natalie Nichols (2019~2020, Graphic Designer)

Sereena Gee (2019~2020, Administrative Assistant)

Jungsu Pak (2018~2020, MS Student), now Data Scientist at Skillprint  

Jyelyn Bold (2018~2020, Undergrad/Postbac RA), now Analyst at Hypoithesis Group

Ariane Guirguis (2018~2020, Postbac RA)

Morgan Kindel (2018~2019, Undergrad RA), now PhD student at the University of Pennsylvania

Where we come from