Lab Director

Lab Manager

Michael T. Rizzo, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Psychology

CV: CV, GoogleScholar, Publons, ORCID
Education and training:
B.S., University of California, San Diego;
Mentor: Dr. David Liu
Ph.D., University of Maryland, College Park;
Mentor: Dr. Melanie Killen
Postdoctoral Fellowship, New York University;
Mentor: Dr. Marjorie Rhodes

Bio: The goal of my research is to promote social equity in childhood by identifying 1) how children develop conceptions of fairness, 2) how children develop the social biases that run counter to their conceptions of fairness, and 3) how we can disrupt the formation of social biases and promote a greater understanding of equity in childhood. I take a constructivist approach in answering these questions, meaning I focus on how children experience, interpret, and respond to the world around them, and the role of those experiences, interpretations, and responses in shaping their development. I grew up in Illinois and returned home after stints at UC San Diego (undergrad), U of Maryland (PhD), and NYU (postdoc). Outside of work I enjoy cooking, gardening, woodworking, and spending time outside with my wife, Jess, and our two dogs: Yadi and Kona.

Lexie Ausland, B.S.

Lab Manager of Developing Equitable Minds Lab

Education and training: B.S., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Bio: I recently graduated from UIUC earning my degree in Clinical/Community Psychology. I have always been interested in psychology because I think mental health care is incredibly important, and I have always been curious as to why people think and behave the ways they do. Recently, after working as a research assistant, I have found I have a deep passion for research as well. Due to this, I hope to gain my PhD in the future to become a psychologist and hopefully contribute to the field through my own research, teach it to others, while seeing patients as well. Outside of working in the lab, I enjoy spending time with friends, family, and my cat, Sonnet. I also enjoy tending to my houseplants, listening to music, and spending time in nature any chance I can get!

Doctoral Students

Junyi Mei, B.A.

Ph.D. Student; University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign; Psychology Department

Education and training: B.A., Nanjing University

Bio: I earned my bachelor’s degree in sociology from Nanjing University, with the guidance from Dr. Xiangnan Chai. In graduate study, I am eager to investigate the influence of social context on children’s concepts of equity, social biases and expectations for future, and how these beliefs are involved in the reproduction of social inequality. Furthermore, I have a strong interest in exploring social technical solutions that can effectively promote anti-discrimination education among children. My hometown is Harbin, the Ice City renowned for its bitterly cold winters in China. I like swimming, skiing, and drone photography. During my leisure time, I enjoy playing board games with my friends, listening to music (as a big fan of JJ Lin), and watching TV shows on Netflix.

Tim (Wei-Ting) Chao, B.Sc. (Hons)

Ph.D. Student; University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign; Psychology Department

CV: Link
Education and training: B.Sc. (Hons), University of Toronto

Bio: I completed my Honours B.Sc in psychology at the University of Toronto, where I worked with Dr. Jessica Sommerville at the Toronto Early Cognition Lab. At UIUC, I’m interested in studying the role of status and cognitive biases in shaping children’s perceptions of structural advantages and inequalities. For instance, whether children develop structural biases and hierarchy-reinforcing beliefs when placed in an advantaged position. In addition, I want to explore how structural biases linked to social categories (socioeconomic status, race, gender) shape children’s social beliefs and evaluations of group members’ abilities. Utilizing an online unmoderated data collection approach, I am also interested in studying how parental inputs and neighborhood socioeconomic factors influence children’s trait development and intergroup attitudes. I was born in Taipei, Taiwan. In my free time, I enjoy playing violin and video games.

Unity Game Engineer

Heston Blackwell

Bio: My name is Heston Blackwell. I am currently a third year student in Computer Engineering at the UIUC and am doing a dual degree with ZJU. I have a passion for game design and developing tech software that have real world applications specifically in helping de-stigmatize mental health and making a more accessible world. I enjoy gaming and watching tv with my friends.

Undergraduate Students

Aditi Chadha

Bio: My name is Aditi and I am a junior from San Jose, CA majoring in clinical psychology with minors in business and public health. I am especially passionate about the intersection of psychology with diversity and inclusion efforts. I hope to ultimately contribute to expanding mental health care as well as making our communities more inclusive and supportive. In my free time, I enjoy baking, watching tv, sitting in the sun, and spending time with friends. 

Christianna Dalton

Bio: My name is Christianna Dalton, and I’m from the Chicago suburbs. Currently, I am a junior majoring in Psychology with minors in Sociology and Anthropology. I am especially interested in developmental psychology and hope to help support healthy development in children through research, and/or therapy in the future. In my free time, I enjoy being with my loved ones, reading in my hammock at Illini Grove, hiking, listening to music, dancing, and baking. 

Ineassa Dassani

Bio: My name is Ineassa Dassani, and I am a sophomore majoring in Psychology from New Delhi, India. I am interested in developmental as well as social psychology and the combination of the two. Besides this, my other involvements on campus include being the Career Expo Committee Head of Women in Psychology and an LAS Intern. In my free time, I love listening to music (currently in my Folklore era), crocheting, watching sitcoms and baking. I am also a professional musician classically trained in Tabla (an Indian instrument).

Enrique Macias

Bio: My name is Enrique Macias, but most people call me Ricky 🙂 I’m from Schaumburg Illinois, which is a northwest Chicago suburb. I’m currently a junior majoring in Psychology concentrating in community/clinical, with a progressive minor in communications. I’m interested in developmental psychology to further enhance my knowledge for the reasons behind mental illness and future prevention of factors attributing to these illnesses. In my free time I enjoy hanging out with my friends, enjoying nature, helping my fraternity, listening to music, and I love doing anything with my best friend.

Zara Mkrtychian

Bio: My name is Zara Mkrtychian and I am from the northwest suburbs of Chicago. I am a junior pursuing a dual degree in psychology and community health and am interested in working with children and families. I am passionate about addressing issues that underprivileged communities face, and the impact that institutional structures have on the individual and their community. I have had a great experience volunteering at a Champaign youth center and connecting with and mentoring the local youth. In my free time, I enjoy going to the gym, cooking, trying new foods, and traveling. 

Stephany Schelm

Bio: My name is Stephany Schelm, and I am a junior at UIUC from the more Southern part of Illinois. I am majoring in psychology, with a minor in social work. My current interests within psychology are clinical and developmental, especially child development, as I would like to work with kids in the future. Outside of the lab, I am involved with the Illini Union Board on campus as Vice President of Policy. In my free time, I enjoy reading, hanging out with my friends, listening to music, cooking, and playing games such as the Sims 

Iris Shang

Bio: My name is Iris, and I’m currently a senior of psychology major from China. I’m open minded and love to try something new; I volunteered as music teaching assistant at children’s center, did an internship at counseling center, and passionate about research. My major interest is discover how social concept and one’s experience shape their behavior and future life choices. In my spare time, I sing A capella with my friends, play the piano, draw some watercolor paintings, and enjoy gaming (which is why I also minor in Game Studies and Design). 

Sanchita Teeka

Bio: My name is Sanchita and I’m a junior from Palatine, IL majoring in Psychology and Finance on a pre-law track. I am really interested in social and political psychology, as well as the intersection of psychology and law. Outside of the lab, I serve as the Student Trustee to the University of Illinois Board of Trustees where I continually work to be a strong advocate for students. In my free time, I enjoy reading, journalistic writing, cooking, meeting new people and amateur digital photography.

Tiffany Williams

Bio: My name is Tiffany Williams, and I am a junior at UIUC from the southern part of Illinois. I’m currently majoring in developmental psychology, with a minor in Child Health and well-being. In the future, I plan to get my Ph.D. in developmental psychology to work with children and individuals with developmental disabilities. In my free time, I enjoy lifting weights, camping, traveling, listening to music, and hanging out with friends

Dominic Larrieu

Bio: Hello, my name is Dominic Larrieu. I’m a junior in New Media and planning on getting a minor in Game Design & Studies. My two biggest sources of happiness are video games and 3D modeling/animation. I hope to one day be responsible for the breathtaking visuals in future games that hit everyone’s systems worldwide. When my eyes aren’t glued to the screen working on projects, I enjoy playing soccer for fun and bike riding around campus

Lab Alumni

Deepak Subramanian

Master’s Student (2023)

Sophia Lyons

Undergraduate Student (2023)

KailahRenee Hudson

Undergraduate Student (2023)

Jasmin Serrano

Undergraduate Student (2023)