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New Jersey Resilience Research Team




Geraldine V. Oades-Sese, Ph.D, Director & Principal Investigator

When not engrossed in research and clinical practice, Dr. Oades-Sese is busy pursuing her various other passions: Earning her private pilot’s license flying a Cessna 172; cultivating her “Monet” garden, where each year she plants thousands of Darwinian Hybrid tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, and irises; playing  the drums with the family band she’s performed with since age 14. She’s also a serious bird photographer, an avid Sherlock Holmes fan, and loves to read scientific articles and books on expeditions, Charles Darwin, biogeography, and neuroscience.




Ashley Rodgers, Lab Manager

Ashley Rodgers is currently a senior at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, majoring in psychology and minoring in biology. After graduating, her career goals are to attend medical school and study pediatrics. At Rutgers University, Ashley is an active member of the sorority, Phi Sigma Sigma, Gamma Nu chapter and The National Society of Leadership and Success. Through her experiences with Phi Sigma Sigma, Ashley has learned even more about her passion for pediatrics through the RU4Kids Program, fundraising, visiting and supporting children with cancer at their clinics. Outside of school, Ashley loves to travel and to relax at her beach house with her family.




Melanie Yu, Lab Manager
Melanie Yu is a junior at Rutgers University double majoring in Psychology and Women’s and Gender Studies as well as minoring in Social Justice. In addition to working at the lab, she works as a volunteer at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital and mentors students in the local high schools. In the near future, she hopes to attend Columbia University for graduate school and plans on pursuing a doctorate degree in Psychology. Her outside interests include spending time with family and friends, volunteering, and playing her ukulele.





Marian Abdelmalek, Research Assistant


Marian Abdelmalek is a graduate from Rutgers University who doubled majored in biology and psychology. She was the president of Psi Chi, the International Honors Society for Psychology at Rutgers University. In her spare time, Marian likes cooking, taking vacations to Europe, and enjoying and spending time with family. She is currently applying to medical school programs for the upcoming year.


Joyce Lee, Social Work Supervisor, LSW
Joyce Lee is the Social Work Supervisor responsible for mentoring and supporting undergraduate social work students in the lab. Her research interest includes promoting early childhood caregiving and education for children between the ages of 0 to 8 from at-risk populations in urban settings as well as empowering their primary caregivers and building capacities in their communities. During her spare time, she enjoys reading biographies and novels, contemporary jazz, and volunteering at a child community center in New Brunswick. Joyce graduated from Rutgers University with a BA in Social Work and minor in Psychology. She then briefly worked at Apple Inc. before going to Columbia University to get her MA in Social Work with a policy concentration in International Social Welfare for Immigrants and Refugees. She is enrolled as a part-time graduate student to obtain her second master's degree in Divinity.

Kelly Guzmán, Research Assistant
Kelly Guzmán is a rising senior at Rutgers University. She is a Biological Sciences major and a Spanish minor in the School of Arts and Sciences. She is an aspiring physician who understands the importance of diversity in all aspects of healthcare.  With that being said, she contributes to the team at the Institute by helping reach out to Spanish-speaking families. She loves giving back to her community whether that means volunteering in a hospice center, the Emergency Department or non-profit organizations geared towards underrepresented populations. In her spare time she enjoys cooking exquisite Hispanic-Indian dishes and falling in love with different cultures.

Michael Avellan, Research Assistant
Michael Avellan is a senior completing a Biological Sciences major and Spanish minor. He likes to spend time reaching out to the Hispanic community through clubs like Envision Rutgers and the sesame street resilience project. He also enjoys tutoring for AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) at New Brunswick middle school and high school. During his free time he enjoys to play and watch soccer, improve his guitar skills and listen to music. His future plans include attending medical school and becoming a medical professional.

Alexandria Quinere, Research Assistant
Alexandria Quinere is a senior at Rutgers University majoring in Biological Science and minoring in Psychology, and hopes to pursue pediatric medicine in the future. In addition to working with the Resilience Project team, she volunteers with the Child Life program in the Bristol-Meyer Squibb Children's Hospital and works as a camp counselor at a local summer enrichment day camp. In school, she's active in Global Medical Brigades, and occasionally does cultural dancing with the Rutgers Association of Philippine Students. When she is not working, she enjoys trying out different kinds of food, travelling, exploring different cafes, drinking tea, watching movies and TV shows, playing her trombone in her church music ministry, and spending time with her family and friends.

Jina Louis, Research Assistant
Jina Louis is a senior at Rutgers University majoring in Public Health and minoring in Psychology. She plans on receiving her Masters' in Public Health with a concentration in Urban Health Administration. With that, her overall goal is topursue career in medicine as an Obstetrician/Gynecologist with a specialty in Reproductive Endocrinology and Fertility. Along with being a part of the Resilience Team, she is training to be an advocate for the Violence against Women and Children and Sexual Abuse Response Team. Outside of school, Jina is a part of the Royal Priesthood Choir at Abundant Life Family Worship Church and the Musical Director for the Rutgers Liberated Gospel Choir. Her outside interests include reading, photography, and being involved in church ministry.

Yusra Syed, Research Assistant
Yusra Syed will be completing her B.S. in Public Health at Rutgers University in the fall semester of 2014. With a concentration in Public Health Education, a minor in Spanish, an inclination towards languages, and professional experience in higher educational settings, Yusra plans to pursue a career that combines all of these elements. She is planning on attending medical school in the future, as well as pursuing an MPH in Epidemiology or Behavioral Science. In addition to her research experience at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, Yusra currently works at Raritan Valley Community College as a Professional Academic Tutor and an Admissions Recruiter.

Nyasa Cusmai, Research Assistant
Nyasa Cusmai, an undergraduate senior at Rutgers University, is a Social Work major with pursuits of obtaining her Masters degree in the field along with a License in Clinical Social Work. While serving, helping, and interacting with people has always been her niche, Nyasa has a developed history in the performing arts as an avid dancer and choreographer in scenes such as musical theatre, dance studios, and Rutgers performing cultural dance troupes. In addition, Nyasa is President of a spiritual community on campus that fosters self-reflection, peace, and relaxation through an organization called the Bhakti (Yoga) Club. Beginning in the Fall 2014 semester and continuing through the Spring 2015 semester, she is excited to work with Project SPAN (the Supportive Parent Aide Network), a child mentorship program partnered with DCPP (DYFS), to provide support to neglected children and, through friendship, guide them on the path of empowerment.

Elizabeth Chern, Research Assistant

Elizabeth Chern is a rising junior at Rutgers University majoring in Psychology and minoring in English. In addition to the Sesame Street Resilience Project, she also volunteers as a tutor for The Collaborative Mentoring Program and does research in Professor Manish Singh's lab. She plans to pursue medical school and go into psychiatry or pediatrics. Her hobbies include reading, writing, backing, and dancing.

Song Hwa Chai, Research Assistant
Song Hwa Chai is a senior at Rutgers University majoring in Social Work and minoring in Psychology. Her future plans involve pursuing further education by earning a Master’s degree and a Ph.D. in Social Work. She intends to become a researcher studying child development, education, and childhood abuse in relation to future criminal behaviors. Prior to joining the team, Song Hwa worked at a private nursing care residence and worked part time as a piano instructor. She is currently a Volunteer Head Coordinator and a Children Ministry Instructor at KUMC. Outside interests involve spending time with friends, playing piano, shopping, watching movies, and browsing restaurants in the city.


Kafu Shoda, Research Assistant
Kafu Shoda is a current psychology senior. He is currently an Aresty Fellowship undergraduate and his past laboratory experience includes working in Dr. Alan Leslie's Cognitive Development Lab and Dr. John Aiello's Social Organizational lab. Kafu was also a FIGS instructor for psychology in Fall 2014, in where he taught his own class for incoming freshmen to psychology. His future plans include pursuing a Ph.D. in Social Psychology and teaching as a professor. In his spare time, Kafu enjoys singing, playing the guitar and ukulele, writing stories, and filming and editing home movie projects.


Past Members of the Reslience Research Team



Jedediah Allen, Ph.D, Past Co-Investigator


 Jedediah WP Allen completed a PhD from Lehigh University in Developmental Psychology with a minor in Cognitive Science. Jedediah is originally from Vancouver where he completed a BS in Cognitive Science at Simon Fraser University. Jedediah is currently a Post Doctoral Fellow at the Institute for Studies of Child Development – UMDNJ and he is a co-investigator for the Sesame Street Resilience Project. Jedediah has been at the institute for a year and half and has recently accepted an Assistant Professor position at Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey. Jedediah enjoys playing soccer, eating food, and enjoys watching Battlestar Galactica and Game of Thrones.





Sri Harathi, Past Lab Manager
Sri Harathi graduated in May of 2014 from Rutgers with a Bachelor's in Psychology and a minor in music. Before working with the Sesame Street Resilience Project, she worked with the Civic Engagement and Service Education Partnership (CESEP) on implementing behavioral intervention plans in the classroom setting. She also worked at the Douglass Developmental Disability Center as a fieldwork assistant, working directly with Autistic students. She is currently managing the Incarceration and Divorce studies for this lab. In her free time, Sri enjoys Netflix marathons and playing her violin.




Noor Mahmood, PastLab Manager
Noor Mahmood is a senior at Rutgers University, pursing a degree in biology and psychology. Noor has been an eboard member for Project HEAL and has mentored high school students in her hometown for the past year. She is also interested in the role of diet in daily life and is minoring in nutrition. She enjoys watching documentaries including Food Inc. and is an avid fan of Malcolm Gladwell.







Sheree Occenad, PastGraduate Research Assistant
Sheree Occenad is a M.D. candidate at Rush University Medical College in Chicago, IL. She received her Bachelor of Science Degree from Andrews University in Berrien Springs, MI where she studied Neuroscience, Chemistry, and Spanish. During her time at this institution, she worked as a chemistry, neuropsychopharmocology, and physics tutor and conducted neurobiological research on female crickets of the species Acheta domesticus. Her research compared the responses of the omega neuron, one of the major cricket auditory neurons, to computer-generated models of the male cricket’s call, in hopes of understanding behavioral responses in a specific subpopulation within the species. She has peer reviewed for the International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism and is a member of the Beta Beta Beta Biological and the Alpha Mu Gamma Foreign Languages Honor Societies. She is interested in pediatric emergency medicine and neurology.





Sam Seidman, Lab Manager
Sam Seidman is a recent graduate of Rutgers University where he double majored in Psychology and History. He has worked at the Institute since graduating in 2013. He plans to eventually pursue a career in Clinical Psychology. He maintains an abiding interest in the works of Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, Viktor Frankl, Henry Murray and other great personality theorists, who's works originally inspired him to pursue a career in clinical work and research. His research interests range from the use of psychotherapy in adult cases of major depression/anxiety as well as schizophrenia, to personality theory, personology, phenomenology, meaning making processes and dreaming.  In his free time he enjoys reading Murakami and Kafka, traveling, playing video games and trying new beers with friends on the weekend.






Sara Feinberg, Research Assistant
Sara Feinberg is currently a Master's student at the Rutgers University, School of Social Work in pursuit of becoming a Licensed Social Worker through the concentration of Non-Profit Management. She graduated with a Bachelor's in Social Work and a minor in Psychology from Rutgers University. Her interests in the field of research were sparked by the experiences of two of her professors, who lead research facilities at Rutgers University. Outside interests include reading books relating to neuroscience, hiking, and traveling.






Jinni HyunJin Cheon, Research Assistant
Jinni HyunJin Cheon is a Master's student at Columbia University with the concentration of policy in International Social Welfare and Services to Immigrants and Refugees. Areas of interests include international policies, global poverty, and child education. Before joining the team, Jinni worked at a public senior citizen resource center and at a non-profit organization as an assistant program coordinator. She was a Vice President of the Korean-American magazine organization and a lead Sunday school instructor at her church. Other interests include singing, reading, traveling, photography, outdoor activities, and church programs.







Sumra Raja, Research Assistant
Sumra Raja is a junior at Rutgers University majoring in both Psychology and Criminal Justice. Prior to joining the Sesame Street Resilience Project, Suma mentored at-risk youth at various high schools in the New Brunswick and Piscataway area. She is a member of the National Society of Leadership and Success of the Rutgers New Brunswick Chapter. Sumra is an Executive Board Member of the Rutgers Empowering Disabilities Club (RED), and helps spread awareness about different types of disabilities through presentations and community service events. Her future plans include receiving a Masters in Forensic Psychology and going on to helping the community and law enforcement. Sumra also enjoys traveling and wishes to visit Spain and Morrocco one day.





Charles Graff, Research Assistant
Charles Graff is a junior year at Rutgers University majoring in Social Work. He plans on earning his Master's degree in Social Work with the ultimate goal of counseling families and children going through divorce. New to research, he is enthusiastic and eager to contribute to and learn from his experience with the Sesame Street Resilience Project team. In his spare time, Charles enjoys reading a good zombie novel, listening to classic rock music, following a strict workout regimen, and unwinding with video games. A couple of interesting facts about Charles is that he played soccer for 13 years and his GPA hasn't fallen below a 3.75 since high school.






Jenna Johnson, Research Assistant
Jenna Johnston is currently a senior at Rutgers University majoring in Psychology and minoring in Public Health and Criminology and will be graduating in May. She plans to possibly pursue a degree in Clinical Psychology after graduating. She had always been interested in research since her freshman year when her first-year interest group (FIGS) instructor, Lauren, encouraged her to be involved with research as an undergraduate, knowing that it was a rewarding experience. She is very happy to have been a volunteer research assistant for the Sesame Street Resilience Project since September of 2013! Outside of academics, Jenna is a member of Alpha Phi Omega, which is a co-ed service fraternity. She loves being a part of the fraternity, as she can enjoy giving back to the community with many of the friends that she has made. Her other interests include spending time with family and friends, reading, traveling, and watching TV.






Jennifer Sanders, Research Assistant
Jennifer is a senior at Rutgers University-School of Arts and Sciences who is majoring in Spanish and minoring in Psychology. She is bilingual in English and Spanish and has studied abroad at the University of Valencia in Spain. She would ultimately like to get her Ph.D. in psychology and work with Spanish-speaking individuals, particularly those who struggle in this country. She is also interested in becoming a translator for the justice system, but her dream job is to be a translator for the United Nations. Jennifer is currently a certified EMT-B (Emergency Medical Technician) and has volunteered for two ambulance corps during her high school and early college career. As well as working with the Sesame Street Resilience Project, Jennifer also works for The Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling of Eagleton Institute of Politics and is a member of Chi Alpha Epsilon and Phi Sigma Iota, academic and community service honor societies.








Wei Zhao, Graduate Research Assistant (Statistics)
Wei Zhao is a Graduate Research Assistant for the Sesame Street Resilience Project. She has a Master’s degree in Statistics at Graduate School-New Brunswick from Rutgers University. She has previous experience in project-oriented work in data analysis and statistical software skills. She intends to pursue a career as a Statistical Analyst. In her spare time, she likes reading, Chinese style cooking and spending time with family and friends.





Nancy Lang, Research Assistant
Nancy is a recent graduate from Rutgers University with a Bachelor in Psychology and a minor in Education. As she continues her journey helping at-risk youth, she has undertaken any opportunities that she can to involve herself in the field and gain experience working with children. Asher awareness of children’s needs grew,she continued to explore the community and commit to research efforts so thatshe can understand the diverse cultures and lifestyles of others. She volunteers at the Child Life program of Robert Wood Johnson, attends events for children with special needs, provides services at two local soup kitchens, and takes calls for acrisis hotline. In the futureshe plans on going to graduate school for clinical psychologyand teaching at community college. In the meantime, she is gettingher motorcycle license, jumping out of an airplane, and going on a 2 month service trip to Africa to provide aid to youths at orphanages and schools






Isrin Srisethnil, Research Assistant
Isrin is a recent graduate of Rutgers University with a major in Psychology and a minor in Biology. His plans include medical school and eventually practicing medicine in the future. Aside from this research project, Isrin spends his time shadowing and volunteering at nearby hospitals to gain clinical experience and exposure. In his spare time, Isrin loves to cook, play basketball, work on his cars, and attend music festivals with his friends.




Lauren Levatino, Research Assistant
Lauren Levatino received her B.A in Psychology with a double minor in Nutrition and Biological Sciences from Rutgers University in May 2014. Lauren has been involved in philanthropic events such as Rutgers Dance Marathon, Relay for Life and Big Pink Volleyball Tournament for breast cancer. She was an active member in Rutgers Allied Health Professions Club and enjoys anything related to healthcare. She was a volunteer for the Child Life Program at the Bristol Myers Squibb Children's Hospital and is a current volunteer at Riverview Medical Center in Red Bank, New Jersey. Her previous experiences have aspired her to apply to Physician Assistant Graduate programs. Her three favorite hobbies are spending time with loved ones, exercising, and laughing. Lauren hopes to one day train a seeing- eye puppy, go skydiving, and travel the world.





Keith Sperling, Research Assistant
Keith Sperling is currently a senior at Rutgers University majoring in both Psychology and Communication. Prior to joining the Sesame Street Resilience Project, Keith mentored at-risk adolescents at Piscataway High School through the Rutgers Future Scholars program and is currently a member of the executive board of the Psychology Alliance at Rutgers University. His past research experience includes social facilitation, disruption studies, and electronic monitoring performance and is excited to be given the experience to explore a different side of research. He plans to apply for PsyD programs in hopes to receive his degree in Clinical Psychology and one day become a licensed child psychologist focusing on playing therapy






Kathleen Camacho, Graduate Bilingual Research Assistant
Kathleen Camacho is a Spanish bilingual Research Assistant with the Sesame Street Project. Prior to joining Sesame Street, she spent the past several years assisting with research on developmental psychopathology, particularly, prevention interventions for children and adolescents exposed to trauma/adversity, child and adolescent depression, disruptive behavior disorders, and suicidal ideation and behavior. She also has clinical experience working with victims of crime as a previous employee of the Manhattan District Attorney's office. She obtained her bachelor's degree in psychology from New York University and her master's degree in forensic psychology from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. At John Jay, she completed a master's thesis examining the role of peer relations on internalizing symptoms in children and adolescents exposed to intimate partner violence under Dr. Miriam Ehrensaft. In the fall, she will begin pursuing her doctoral degree in Clinical and School Psychology at Yeshiva University. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her family, catching up with friends, and watching a good movie. She is also a huge Charles Schulz fan and loves all things Peanuts.