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Meet Our Team

pearl members

Principal Investigator

charlie taylorCharlie Taylor, Ph.D.

Dr. Taylor is an Associate Professor of Psychiatry at UC San Diego and the Director of the Positive Emotion & Anxiety Research Laboratory (PEARL). He received his B.Sc. in Psychology at McMaster University (Hamilton, ON, Canada) and Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the University of British Columbia (Vancouver, BC, Canada). He has over 15 years of experience specializing in the assessment and treatment of anxiety and depression. Dr. Taylor directs an active program of clinical research funded by the National Institute of Mental Health and Brain and Behavior Foundation.


Visiting Scholar

  • Ho-Jun Seo, MD

    Ho-Jun Seo, MD

    Ho-Jun is a Psychiatrist and a Professor of Psychiatry at the Catholic Univ. of Korea. He has been working as a faculty at St. Vincent Hospital since 2009, participating in resident training and clinical care of patients. He spent over 20 years specializing in psychoanalytic psychotherapy. His research interests are Anxiety disorders, Depression, and CBT. He is a director of the Korean Academy of Anxiety and Mood, the Korean Association of Psychoanalytic Treatment, and the Korean Association of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. He will be here as a Visiting Scholar 2023-2024.

Doctoral Students

  • Samantha Hoffman

    Samantha Hoffman

    Sam (she/her) is a 5th-year clinical psychology Ph.D. student at the San Diego State University/University of California San Diego (UCSD) Joint Doctoral Program (JDP) in Clinical Psychology. She graduated with a B.S. in Physiology and Neuroscience from UCSD and earned a M.S. in Clinical Psychology from the JDP. Sam joined PEARL in 2019 and is passionate about improving treatment outcomes for individuals with mood, anxiety, and trauma-related psychopathology. Her research has encompassed the intersection of emotional processes, social disconnection, suicide, and trauma with the ultimate goal of clarifying the mechanisms behind treatment response and long-term recovery. She is currently a therapist who delivers treatments to PEARL's wonderful participants. In her spare time, she enjoys discovering new coffee shops, restaurants, and eateries.

  • Madeleine Rassaby

    Madeleine Rassaby

    Hi there! My name is Madeleine and I am a third-year graduate student at the SDSU/UC SanDiego Joint Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology working under the mentorship of Dr. Charles Taylor and Dr. Murray Stein. My research interests focus on the development and optimization of evidence-based treatments aimed to both reduce negative affect and associated maladaptive cognitive and behavioral processes, and enhance positive emotions. I am particularly interested in the treatment of anxiety, depression, and trauma-related disorders. In my free time I enjoy connecting with family and friends, trying out different coffee shops and restaurants around San Diego, singing and listening to music, being active, traveling, and admiring the beautiful beach sunsets.

  • Isabella Spaulding

    Isabella Spaulding

    Hello! My name is Isabella and I’m a first year doctoral student in the SDSU/UC San Diego Joint Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology. Before joining PEARL I completed my B.S. in Clinical Psychology at Tufts University and then worked as a postbaccalaureate fellow in the Section on Development and Affective Neuroscience at the National Institute of Mental Health. My research interests are focused on exploring the cognitive and neurobiological mechanisms underlying mood, anxiety, and trauma disorders, and how these insights might inform the development of novel treatments. I’m also particularly interested in better understanding the impacts (e.g., biological, social) of early adversity on individuals with psychological disorders in adulthood, in an effort to identify potential treatment targets and ultimately improve outcomes for this population. Outside of the lab I love to spend time at the beach, try new recipes, and travel! 

Research Coordinators

  • Taylor Smith

    Taylor Smith

    Taylor R. Smith is a study coordinator at the Positive Emotion & Anxiety Research Laboratory. She graduated from the University of San Diego, California with a B.S. in psychology and a minor in mathematics. Taylor started as a student volunteer and now has been coordinating in the lab for over 8 years. She is currently is attending CSUSM to obtain her Master’s in Social Work. She is a San Diego native and enjoys swimming in the ocean, rollerblading, and baking.

  • Maggie Satchwell

    Maggie Satchwell

    Hello! My name is Maggie and I am a coordinator at PEARL primarily working on our R33 study and upcoming pramipexole study. I was born and raised in Portland, Oregon and moved to San Diego in 2019. I graduated from UCSD in 2023 with a B.S. in Clinical Psychology. In 2022 I joined PEARL as an undergraduate honors thesis student where I explored qualitative client outcomes from our cognitive and behavioral treatment; Amplification of Positivity (AMP). My broad research interests include the development of novel treatments for anxiety, stress, and mood disorders. I am also highly interested in positive emotions. In my free time I love to stay active, read, and listen to music (preferably live)! 
  • Marissa Larkin

    Marissa Larkin

    Hello! My name is Marissa, and I am a lab coordinator at PEARL. I graduated from the University of Utah in 2023 with a B.S. in Psychology and a minor in Applied Positive Psychology. During my undergraduate career, I worked in the Child Adaptation and Neurodevelopment Lab as a research assistant and wrote an honors thesis focusing on emotion dysregulation and trauma history. Soon after graduation, I joined PEARL! I work mainly with the CBD study, but also assist with all other areas of work within the lab. I plan to attend graduate school for clinical psychology and work as a practicing clinician long-term. My research interests broadly surround anxiety and depression intervention. In my free time, I enjoy going to the beach, on a hike, or to concerts.

Clinical Research Assistants

  • Kaye Han

    Kaye Han

    Hey everyone! My name is Kaye. I’m a 2nd year clinical psychology and cognitive science major at UCSD. I joined PEARL in April 2022 to gain more hands-on experience working in a research lab, specifically one specializing in novel treatments for mood and anxiety disorders. In the lab, I am currently the Head of Behavioral Data Management and SRP Data, as well as a phone screener and confederate. Outside of the lab, I like to sing, play Genshin Impact, and watch sunsets. In the future, I hope to pursue a P.h.D. in clinical or developmental psychology and specialize my field of research in musicality and music therapy. In addition to picking up Japanese as my third language, I would love to travel around the world to learn more about different cultures and potentially conduct cross-cultural research.

  • Juliana Himawan

    Juliana Himawan

    Hi! My name is Juliana, and I’m a second year student at UC San Diego. My major is Cognitive Behavioral Neuroscience, and my minor is General Biology. I joined PEARL in November of 2022. I became a part of PEARL to gain research experience and to learn more about mental health. Everyday at PEARL, I am proud to be part of a team that works towards making medical advancements in the psychiatry field. In the lab, I am currently responsible for: SRP data entry, phone screening, and being a confederate. Outside of lab, I love going to the beach, traveling, and spending quality time with my friends and family. In the future, I hope to pursue a career in medicine as a practicing physician.

  • Ellis Conner

    Ellis Conner

    Hi, I’m Ellis!  I’m a fourth-year Business Psychology major at UCSD.  I joined PEARL in April 2023 to learn about and gain experience in clinical psychology research.  In lab, I am the Head of Recruitment and Website Management.  I am also a confederate for one of our studies and one of Dr. Depp's studies (a collaborator of Dr. Taylor).  Lastly, I phone screen potential participants and enter and verify study data.  Outside of lab, I practice aerial silks, tend to my plants, and raise Monarch butterflies for conservation!  In the future, I hope to attend graduate school in Clinical Psychology to become a clinician!
  • Vito Vacirca

    Vito Vacirca

    Hello! My name is Vito and I’m a fourth year at UCSD majoring in general psychology. I joined PEARL in April of 2023 because I was very interested in the novel treatments for individuals struggling with anxiety and depression being studied here. In addition, I joined in hopes to gain meaningful skills and experiences that will help me in my future endeavors with clinical work and research. In the lab I do confederate work, help with brain imaging, and am currently one of the heads of phone screening! Outside of the lab I love skateboarding, surfing, reading, playing guitar, drawing, thrifting, working out, and eating good food! In the future I hope to continue my involvement in the research of behavioral therapies, but ultimately implement these interventions for PTSD, anxiety, and depression in my own clinical practice.
  • Tess Oswalt

    Tess Oswalt

    Hi, I’m Tess and I am a third year at UCSD studying Clinical Psychology. I joined PEARL in May of 2023 to learn more about the intricacies of research and gain experience working in a clinical psychology research lab. I am responsible for phone screening, data entry, and confederate work in the lab. Outside of the lab, I enjoy exploring new food places, hiking, reading, and working out. I am still exploring different career paths in the field of Psychology, but I hope to pursue a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and apply all the knowledge and experience I have gained here at PEARL.
  • Ivan Lagunas

    Ivan Lagunas

    Hey! My name is Ivan and I am a recent UCSD graduate as of fall of 2022. I joined PEARL lab in June of 2023 in order to get more hands-on experience working in a lab that focuses on mood and anxiety disorders. At the moment I am a part of the confederate & phone screening team, as well as the SRP & EMA Data tracking team. Outside of lab when I have free time I like to go to the gym, skateboard, hike, and listen to music! In the future I hope to pursue a PhD in clinical psychology and study resilience in children.
  • Yian He

    Yian He

    Hi! My name is Yian , and I am a 3rd year clinical psychology major at UCSD. I joined PEARL in June of 2023 because I always wished to become a psychiatrist. Working as a research assistant in PEARL is my first step into the field of psychiatry and I am very excited about looking at novel treatments for anxiety and depression. I am currently responsible as a phone screener and confederate. I also help with data entry and participant recruitment. Outside of the lab, I love to spend time with my dog Niyo. I also love singing, skiing, and playing billiards! In the future, I wish to become a therapist to brighten people's days. On top of that, I would also love to own a nice bar and talk to various people :)
  • Siyi He

    Siyi He

    Hi! My name is Siyi, and I am a third year student majoring in clinical psychology at UC San Diego. I joined PEARL in June of 2023 with the goal of becoming more familiar with psychiatric research and how novel treatments can help people with mood disorders. I am especially interested in the causes, symptoms, and treatments for generalized anxiety disorder and social anxiety. In the lab, I am responsible for phone screening as well as acting as a confederate. I am also the Head of EMA data tracking. Outside of the lab, I like cooking, listening to music, and going to the dog beach with my dog Honey! In the future, I hope to pursue a PhD in clinical psychology and eventually become a practicing clinical psychologist.
  • Alexa Duran

    Alexa Duran

    Hi! My name is Alexa. I’m a fourth year Clinical Psychology major at UCSD. I joined PEARL in June 2023 to gain more experience in clinical research and support research on positivity focused treatments to help advocate for mental health. In the lab, I am currently a senior honors thesis student, the head of experimenters, and I do some phone screening work. Outside of the lab I like to crochet stuffed animals, listen to and practice music (guitar, bass, and ukulele), paint/draw, play video games (rock and stone!), and watch reality TV shows. In the future, I hope to get a PhD in Clinical Psychology and work on improving behavioral treatments for children with ADHD or Anxiety Disorders.
  • Ahladita Lotti

    Ahladita Lotti

    Hey! I am Ahla and I’m a 4th year cognitive science major with a specialization in neuroscience and a minor in psychology at UCSD. I joined PEARL in July 2023 to gain more hands-on experience and knowledge about working in a clinical research lab, particularly one with innovative approaches to treating mood and anxiety disorders. I help out with phone screening participants, data entry/organization and confederate interactions for ongoing studies in the lab. Outside of the lab, I like to sing and play the guitar, read books and spend time outdoors with friends. After graduation I want to take some time to travel and experience different cultures around the world. In the future, I plan on pursuing a PhD in psychology or neuroscience.
  • Sarah Hoffman

    Sarah Hoffman

    Hello! My name is Sarah, and I'm a recent UCSD graduate majoring in psychology. I joined PEARL in August of 2023. I became a part of PEARL because I wanted to gain more research experience and use that experience to help narrow down what career path is best for me. In the lab, I currently have roles as a confederate and a phone screener. Outside of lab, I like to do yoga, hike, and try new foods with my friends. In the future, I hope to become a clinical psychologist working with young adults with ADHD. 
  • Zachary Yoo

    Zachary Yoo

  • Michael Mansour

    Michael Mansour

  • Brentney Reynolds

    Brentney Reynolds

    Hi all, I'm Brentney from Fresno California! I'm in my 4th year of undergrad and I'm majoring in general psychology. I'm in the psychology honors program at UCSD and will be doing my thesis project with PEARL. The focus of this project is TBD, but it will be a mixture of social and clinical psychology themes. In my future, I hope to conduct research on resilience, and how to build and maintain healthy relationships. Outside of lab, I enjoy rollerblading, dancing,  and exploring new coffee shops and restraunts.
  • Mehar Zaman

    Mehar Zaman

    Hi, I’m Mehar! I graduated from UCSD and majored in Psychology. I worked as a behavior interventionist, supporting individuals on the autism spectrum and youth-at-risk for PTSD in conflict zones. Now at PEARL since August 2023, I'm gaining hands-on experience in clinical research exploring innovative treatments for anxiety and depression. 

    At the lab, I navigate data and work as a confederate. Beyond the lab, I like to read, sketch, and I am currently learning a 4th language. In the future, I intend on pursuing a PhD in Clinical Psychology and establishing an institute for cross-cultural research in my native country.

  • Amy Nguyen

    Amy Nguyen

    Hi there! My name is Amy, and I'm a 3rd-year Business Psychology major at UCSD. I joined PEARL in September 2023 because of my interest in social-organizational psychology and desire to learn more about novel treatments for anxiety and depression through clinical research experience. In the lab, I am currently responsible for data entry and confederate work. Outside of the lab, I love to read, write, practice taekwondo, make music, and explore cute cafes around San Diego. In the future, I would like to travel or study abroad to learn more about different cultures (and practice new languages!) and eventually pursue a PhD in human factors psychology to help make the world more equitable for neurodivergent people. 
  • Jessica Sauceda

    Jessica Sauceda

    Hello! My name is Jessica. I’m a 3rd year clinical psychology major and I'm minoring in sociology. I joined the PEARL lab in Fall of 2023. I became a member of PEARL because I wanted more research experience in a clinical psychology lab. I am also very interested in exploring different treatment options and interventions for anxiety and depression. In the lab, I am currently responsible for doing confederate work and data entry. Outside of the lab, I enjoy hanging out with my friends and spending time at the beach. I also enjoy trying new food, coffee places, and exploring San Diego. In the future, I hope to pursue a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and eventually become a clinical psychologist.
  • Ana Flores

    Ana Flores

    Hi! My name is Ana, and I am a recent UC Berkeley graduate with a bachelors in Psychology and Public Health. I joined PEARL in February of 2024 with the goal of becoming more familiar with psychological anxiety research and get hands-on experience with treatments for mood disorders. I have a special passion for studying anxiety disorders, multicultural approaches to treatments, and pursuing the inclusion of mental health in public health policies. In the lab, I act as a confederate. Since graduation, I have also worked as an instructional aid for special needs students at my local high school. Outside of the lab, I like cooking, reading fantasy novels, drawing/painting, and I recently picked up ice skating as a new hobby! I love to travel and am always happy to talk about my adventures around the world. In the future, I hope to pursue a PhD in clinical psychology and eventually become a practicing clinical psychologist focusing on adolescents and young adults. 


  • Bruiser


    One of Charlie's two dogs.

  • Fern


    One of Charlie's two dogs.

  • James


    James is Kaye’s 9-year-old Scottish Fold. His favorite hobbies are sleeping (honestly, same), keeping his family members company, and enjoying his favorite treat. 

  • Wilbur


    Wilbur is Ellis’ rescued Staffordshire Terrier mix.  His hobbies include digging holes in the backyard and eating gross things.  
  • Hannah


    Hannah is Ellis’ rescued Shepherd mix.  She enjoys hunting lizards and exploring. 

  • Lupo


    This is Vito's puppy Lupo, who is a mut with some border collie, lab, and some other herding dogs mixed in! He loves having playdates with other dogs, catching his ball, and snuggling with his humans!
  • Niyo


    Niyo is Yian's 1-year-old maltipoo. He runs up and down our sofa like a cat and screams like a human when getting vaccines. Niyo loves his dental treats and cuddling in bed. 
  • Honey


    Honey is Siyi's Irish Wolfhound mix. She enjoys chasing birds and swimming in the ocean.
  • Bru


    Hi, I'm bru. I am Ahla's 4 year old golden retriever. I love giving handshakes, performing tricks (and getting treats as well :)), going on walks and stealing clothes from laundry baskets!
  • Jax


    Jax a.k.a Jaxeus the 1st is Mehar’s 5 year old Siberian forest cat. If motivated with treats, Jax can humor you with a fist bump, high-five, and a spin. 
  • Charlie


  • Lola & Ash

    Lola & Ash


  • Staff

    Alison Sweet
    Tommy Tsai
    Sarah Dowling
    Kim Potter
    Sarah Huang
    Kaitlin Latta
    Karalani Cross
    Alex Skupny
    Alexis Roach


    Matt Boland
    Amanda Kahn

    Visiting Scholars

    Soo-Hee Choi

    PhD Students

    Sarah L. Pearlstein
    Maria Kryza-Lacombe

    Research Assistants and Honors Students

    Zoë Siddall
    Maya Cooper
    Joanna Chen
    Angela Chin
    Victor Fu
    Manmeet Kaur
    Paige Klein
    Ivory Ku
    Nana Pearson
    Bianca Pomar
    Felipe Guerrero
    Kate Elizondo
    Anna Gruszka
    Sumire Lundell
    Chris Kagoo
    Shaira Cruz
    Gage Chu
    Chris Heyman
    Natalie Dalton
    Melea Thomas
    Jenifer Dorsett
    Shayna Quach
    Maya Bunyan
    Iliana Favila-De La Trinidad
    Jasmine Ramirez
    Sarah Knapp
    Mercy Lopez
    Atiyeh Samadi
    Angelica Estrada
    Gregory Pak
    Allison Endo
    Eleni Kapoulea
    Sanskruti Kakaria
    Aaron Tay
    Vivi Dang
    Stephanie Zepeda
    Carl Bolano
    Anna Chen
    Michelle Chang
    Sarah Tran
    Jennifer Alcalde
    Nora Asi
    Melissa Perez-Ruan
    Jessica Foster
    Dina Naji
    Joelle Lam
    Alexis Andom
    Katie Price
    Katie Socha
    Lucia Chen
    Tiara Alvarado
    Deborah May
    Ethan Averbukh
    Gabby Arellano
    Ari Goodman
    Alyson Johnson
    Elizabeth Tran-Nguyen
    Lina Choi
    Aly Bartolovich
    Damian Tapia
    Amanda Bruse
    Kari Siu
    Cameron Hicks
    Tom Bowers
    Angie Gross
    Jonny Brekke
    Nick Marshall
    Shivani Vasanth
    Mylon Kemp
    Elizabeth Stewart

    Nirel Ben Joseph