Lab Team

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” – African Proverb

Principal Investigator

Valerie Taylor

Valerie Taylor

Principal Investigator

Broadly, my research centers on exploring two sides of an issue that educators and policy makers have struggled to untangle—why and when “diversity” (and with it, greater intergroup and interracial contact) might hurt or help individuals and institutions. Much research has shown the benefits of diversity across domains, in schools, workplaces, and even neighborhoods. However, with increasing diversity and greater contact among individuals with different social identities comes the possibility that people might experience social identity threat—the concern or worry that one may be treated or judged negatively based on one’s social group membership. Thus, as diversity and intergroup contact increases, pressing identity-related questions soon arise.

Addressing this issue, across several lines of research, I seek to answer various identity-related questions, particularly when negative group stereotypes are salient. For example, why are high potential women’s and minorities’ performance undermined in academic and workplace contexts where they are underrepresented and negatively stereotyped? Why do coworkers of different racial backgrounds sometimes have difficult interactions, which can derail their ability to perform well and work effectively together? As our nation continues to diversify, why do negative stereotypes about the spaces occupied by racial group members continue to disadvantage minority neighborhoods and bias policy? And, most importantly, what strategies can be leveraged to reduce the opportunity gap, improve inter-group relations, and promote more equitable policy-making at both the individual and institutional level? In my work, I draw on theories such as social identity threat, and apply frameworks such as models of stress and coping and social cognitive inter-group processes, to answer such questions that loom large for those working to implement successful diversity strategies to reduce inequities and promote positive social change.

Research Associate

Caitlyn Yantis, Ph.D.

Caitlyn Yantis, Ph.D.

Research Associate

Before becoming a postdoctoral research associate at Lehigh, I earned a B.S. from the University of Mary Washington in 2010, an M.S. in experimental psychology from DePaul University in 2012, and an M.A. (2015) and Ph.D. (2018) in social psychology from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Outside of research, I enjoy listening to true-crime podcasts, watching reality TV, and spending time with my niece and 2 nephews.

For more information and to view my CV, please visit my personal website or contact me via email at cay218@lehigh.edu.

 

Graduate Students

Juan Valladares

Juan Valladares

Graduate Student

I am a graduate student in the Social Psychology PhD. program at Lehigh University. I am working in the Stereotyping & Social Interactions (SSI) lab under the advisement of Dr. Valerie Jones Taylor. My research interests revolve around interracial and interracial interactions as they are affected by stereotypes, prejudice, in-group bias, etc. Additionally, I am interested in how understanding socio-cultural contexts can contribute to positive experiences in intergroup contact situations and toward reducing inequities. My research goal is to address some of the cross-cultural gaps concerning group behavior, stereotypes, and racial attitudes- especially as these phenomena apply to areas and countries that have been underrepresented in the literature.

I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish from Brigham Young University in 2017. My wife Michelle and I enjoy watching all types of movies, especially superhero movies, cooking, long boarding, and taking care of our baby son Emanuel. We love to travel and have visited several places including Honduras (my home country), Peru (where Michelle and I met), and Israel. 

Claire Siepsper

Claire Siepsper

Affiliated Graduate Student

I am a graduate student in the Counseling and Human Services program at Lehigh University. In addition to the Stereotyping & Social Interactions (SSI) lab, I am also working in the Resistance Lab studying gender-based violence and in the Study Abroad Office. My research interests are intersectionality, non-binary gender, adult games and play, humor, power dynamics, sex and sexuality, and social justice.
I graduated with a B.A. in French Literature from Reed College, an M.A. in Printmaking and M.F.A. in Book Arts from the University of Alabama. I like to go mushroom hunting, cook, garden, play games, read, hike, and fight systemic injustices in my free time.

 

Psychology Team

Khalid Khamis

Khalid Khamis

Lab Manager

I’m a senior at Lehigh University majoring in Electrical Engineering, pursuing a minor in Psychology. On-campus, I’m part of the community service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega, and I’m a volunteer at the Center for Gender Equity. 

 I’m currently the lab manager working with Dr. Taylor and help oversee the various projects. I’m very interested in the research because of the spaces that I interact in and how stereotypes are formed and how they can affect interaction with myself or others. I also joined the lab to help better understand why people held negative attitudes towards those whom they knew little about or nothing at all.

 

Arleene Castillo

Arleene Castillo

Research Assistant

I am currently a senior at Lehigh University double majoring in Psychology and Political Science. I am excited to further understand how racially charged interactions affect people’s perceptions about themselves and their environment and how these experiences could perpetuate the current racial atmosphere in the United States. One subject that I am especially passionate about is the American educational system. I am extremely curious to see how interracial interactions enhance or impair the educational development of students.

Outside of my academic interests, I work for the America Reads America Counts program as a Site Leader. I love to dance and am in two dance teams at Lehigh University. I also love to watch movies.

 

Courtney Parry

Courtney Parry

Research Assistant

I am a sophomore undergraduate student at Lehigh University. I am double majoring in Psychology and Sociology. I am working as a research assistant in the Stereotyping & Social Interactions (SSI) lab under Dr. Valerie Jones Taylor. My research interests are stereotypes in social interactions and how they can lead to discrimination. I would like to understand how stereotypes and prejudice can facilitate uncomfortable to even hostile interracial interactions, and how provisions can be taken to foster more healthy interracial interactions. I aspire to apply this knowledge to the field of criminal justice to increase the effectiveness of our current legal system. 

 

Mya Tucker

Mya Tucker

Research Assistant

I am currently a junior at Lehigh University. I am double majoring in Psychology, and Health, Medicine, and Society (HMS). I am interested in Psychology because I want to become a Nurse Practitioner. Having a better understanding of people and what drives their decisions will allow me to make personal connections with my patients and give them the best care.

When I am not in class or doing homework I enjoy spending my free time at the gym or hanging out with my friends. I have 3 rabbits named Checkers, Nahla, and Cosmo.

 

Emily Tasik

Emily Tasik

Research Assistant

I am a second-year pre-medical student at Lehigh University, pursuing a degree in Biology with a minor in Psychology. I have always been enthralled by the science of the brain–the chemistry of its machinery, and its psychological manifestations in humans. I am especially excited to join the SSI Lab due to the troubling atmosphere of racial divide we currently see brewing today. I am particularly interested in exploring the conscious and the unconscious and how they may intertwine–from overt racism/sexism to subtle biases. I hope to expand my knowledge of research design as well as understand the psychology behind certain levels of prejudice, in order to further understand the brain and one day find a solution.  

 

Garrett Rosenboom

Garrett Rosenboom

Research Assistant

I am a senior undergraduate student at Lehigh University and I am pursuing a degree in clinical psychology. I am interested in this area of work because I have close, personal relationships with people who are affected by mental illness and I believe the stigmatization of it needs to end. I am also deeply interested in the social aspect of interpersonal relationships in a psychological aspect. Racial biases affect conversations and treatment of minority groups in a negative manner on a daily basis. I hope through this experience that I am able to gain a deeper understanding of how we, as a society, can end these biases. 

I also enjoy studying biology and neurology due to the complexity and unknown aspects of the brain and mind. In my free time I like to surf, snowboard and play basketball with my friends. Outside of classwork, I spend a lot of time with my Alpha Tau Omega fraternity brothers.

 

Myunggee Sung

Myunggee Sung

Research Assistant

I am a junior psychology major here at Lehigh University. I am an international student from South Korea. I like studying psychology, because it is so interesting how people can act so differently (sometimes crazy) when other people are present. As I moved to the states, I saw many different people from different ethnic backgrounds. I wanted to learn more about the interaction and some of the problems that might occur, so I joined the SSI Lab. 

I like to spend my free time just hanging out with my friends or just watching youtube videos in my room. I also like playing and watching tennis. I played for my highschool team for all 4 years.

Sara Smolenyak

Sara Smolenyak

Research Assistant

I am a junior at Desales University and I am a Psychology major taking the Forensic Psychology track. I am also minoring in Computer Science. The reason I decided to join this project is to understand how individuals react in stressful situations and to understand how different groups play a role in interracial relations and false stereotypes. 

Some of my hobbies include hiking, cooking and spending time with friends and family. I am excited to be apart of this project and to get to know everyone.

Coding Team

Romeo Bahoumda

Romeo Bahoumda

Head Coder

I am a senior at Lehigh University majoring in Computer Science. I am from Togo, West Africa. I’m a developer on the team and I am excited about the potential of this study. 

Outside of class, I am a member of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE). Also, I have experience in developing video games, mobile applications, web applications, desktop applications, as well as VR. My passions are VR and AI. After graduation, I will be working at Redfin as a Software Engineer, but my personal goals are learning more about XR, AI, and I hope to be a part of the generation that redefines XR and AI.

Hannah Fabian

Hannah Fabian

Coder

I am a sophomore at Lehigh University who is pursuing a B.S. in Computer Science through the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science. I am also pursuing minors in both business and Spanish, and I am a part of the Global Citizenship Program at Lehigh. As a member of the SSI Lab, I work on the VR coding team writing in C# and JavaScript.

Working within the SSI Lab allows me to combine my interests in easing interracial social issues and anxieties with my love for computers to create a technical solution to a long-standing problem. It’s important that issues as prominent as the ones we are focusing our research on gain more attention and resources so we can look to solve them effectively, and I am excited to see positive changes happening in the lab.

JohnDerek Daniels

JohnDerek Daniels

Coder

 I am a senior at Lehigh University majoring in Computer Science. I am from Kirkland, Washington. I’m a developer on the team and I am excited about the potential of this study. 

Matthew Clarke

Matthew Clarke

Coder

I am a second-year student pursuing a bachelor of science in computer engineering and being from Barbados, where most of the population is black, it is very exciting to work on a project that analyzes interracial interactions in a space where the racial demographic is very
different.

Nick Owens

Nick Owens

Coder

I am a second year student at Lehigh studying Computer Science and Design in the IDEAS program. I see computer science as a medium for change, as our world is built on computers. I am excited to work in the SSI lab where we are leveraging new technology such as VR to try to understand complex issues like never before. I am particularly excited to see to what degree human beings respond similarly in simulated environments to real world environments, and what kind of solutions might come out of that – such as VR counseling to combat unconscious predjudices.

Outside of school, I have been working hard on creating a mobile app that is focused on helping people get more involved with their community, and in activities that they genuinely enjoy. It has been a very challenging but rewarding process and has required me to draw on knowledge from many disparate fields. I hope that my work in the lab will give me some perspective to address some of the psychological barriers between people and involvement in their community.

Swetha Ramesh

Swetha Ramesh

Coder

I’m currently a sophomore at Lehigh University, pursing a degree in Computer Science and Business.

Outside of my classes, I also work at Computer Repair Services and dance with LU Bhangra. But my interest in technology will always come first. My first interaction with virtual reality was on campus. It was completely different than anything I had ever experienced, in the best way possible. The SSI Lab incorporates this new world with the reality we face every day. Unfortunately, this reality includes racism, sexism, and biases. I’m excited to see how the incorporation of virtual reality can impact our empathy towards certain situations. Additionally, I’m excited to help create a platform that aids this research, while also creating another world that can be experienced by simply putting on a headset.

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