Samuel D. McDougle
Principal Investigator
Sam is an Assistant Professor in Yale's psychology department, and is a program faculty member for Yale's Interdepartmental Neuroscience Program, Cognitive Science Program, and the Wu Tsai Institute. He earned his PhD in psychology and neuroscience from Princeton University, and did a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of California, Berkeley. Sam uses psychophysical, computational, and neurophysiological techniques to investigate human learning and memory, with a particular interest in the interface of high-level cognition and motor behavior. Sam also likes: playing folk music (fiddle & guitar), opaque IPAs, and rainy days.

Skill!Old-time fiddle & guitar


Christopher Hewitson
Chris earned his PhD in Cognitive Science from Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. Chris uses behavioral methods and computational modelling to investigate sensorimotor learning and is particularly interested in how sensory uncertainty influences motor learning. Chris' recent work has also focused on how expert surgeons learn to cope with a variety of visual and tool-based perturbations encountered during minimally invasive surgery. Outside of the Lab, Chris enjoys playing soccer, practices the Japanese martial art of Aikido, enjoys hobby bladesmithing, is an avid gamer, and enjoys nothing more than walking his cat Lily, on a lead, throughout the neighborhood.

Skill! ⇾ Aikido


Olivia A. Kim
Visiting Postdoc
Olivia earned her PhD in Neuroscience from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, TX. Her primary appointment is as a postdoctoral research fellow in Jordan Taylor's Intelligent Performance and Adaptation lab at Princeton University, and she is a visiting postdoc at the ACT lab. She uses neurobehavioral approaches to investigate the psychological and cognitive mechanisms underlying motor behaviors, and has lately been focused on the intersections between adaptation, planning, and motor control. In her free time, Olivia enjoys trying out new recipes and making textile-based crafts.

Skill! ⇾ Textile crafts


Hanna Hillman
Graduate Student
Hanna is interested in taking a multimodal approach to better understand the process of cognitive motor learning and its computational underpinnings. She graduated from the University of Minnesota where she studied psychology, neuroscience, and sociology. As a research assistant in Uri Hasson's lab at Princeton, and then in Sam Gershman's lab at Harvard, Hanna used fMRI and novel computational methods to investigate human learning behavior and individual differences. Outside of the lab, Hanna enjoys dancing Lindy Hop, painting, carpentry, Star Trek, and going on recreational geology adventures.

Skill!Unicycling & medical illustration


Juliana E. Trach
Graduate Student
Juliana is interested in how people learn about structure in the world and how knowledge about structure supports efficient behavior. She's particularly interested in hierarchy in the brain and how neural systems interact to constrain and facilitate structure learning. Juliana obtained her ScB in Cognitive Neuroscience at Brown University in 2018. After Brown, she spent two years working with Casey Lew-Williams and managing the Princeton Baby Lab. Outside of the lab, Juliana can be found listening to political podcasts on walks with her dog, Ruby, exploring EVERY local brewery, and testing the limits of her newly discovered quarantine skill, cooking.



Liang Zhou
Visiting Graduate Student
Liang is a PhD student at the Gatsby Computational Neuroscience Unit at University College London, where he studies the theoretical underpinnings of learning, adaptation, and decision making. He grew up in southern California and misses the sun dearly in London. In his free time, he enjoys running, traveling, and dancing.


Alexander D. Forrence
Lab Manager
Alex earned his BA in Neuroscience from Johns Hopkins University, and previously worked as a research assistant in the Brain, Learning, Animation, and Movement Lab at Hopkins. He is interested in how people acquire new motor skills, and has previously done research in habitual action selection and stroke rehabilitation. Alex enjoys writing code, the great outdoors, and playing racquet sports.



Naser Al-Fawakhiri
Research Technician
Naser earned his BA in Psychology from Princeton University, with certificates in Neuroscience and Cognitive Sciences. He previously investigated how reward influences implicit motor learning and currently pursues topics related to memory of motor skills. Outside of the lab, Naser enjoys playing chess (although not very well) and making origami.



Sabrina Santos
Visiting Researcher
Sabrina Santos is a junior at the University of Puerto Rico majoring in cellular molecular biology. She is interested in exploring the mechanisms behind the acquisition of skilled behavior. She has previously worked on research regarding reward/avoidance behaviors and spatial navigation. She hopes to continue her studies on neurodevelopmental diseases and their effect on motor skill acquisition. Sabrina enjoys dancing and exercising.

Skill! ⇾ urban and hip-hop dancing


Tolu Adanri
Undergraduate Researcher
Tolu is a second-year at Yale in Davenport College, considering majoring in psychology. She is interested in the cognitive processes of learning, particularly how people learn new skills. As a research assistant in the ACT Lab, she is exploring habitual motor behaviors in humans and hierarchical categorizations of tools. Outside of the lab, she enjoys watching reality television, playing board games, and exploring the New Haven food scene.

Skill! ⇾ Board game pro


Addison Beer
Undergraduate Researcher
Addison is a Junior at Yale in Jonathan Edwards College and he is majoring in Cognitive Science. As an undergraduate research assistant he is eager to learn about the cognitive processes behind various forms of learning, and the intersection between learning and communication. In his free time, he enjoys skateboarding (a complex motor skill that he hopes to improve at).

Skill! ⇾ Skateboarding


Jed Burde
Undergraduate Researcher
Jed is a junior at Yale, in Ezra Stiles College. Jed is interested in all things learning and memory. As a research assistant in the ACT Lab, he is beginning this investigation by examining hierarchical and reinforcement learning. For his degree, Jed aims to pursue Cognitive Science with a focus in philosophy and neuroscience, and enjoys reading and running in his free time.


Katherine Chou
Undergraduate Researcher
Katherine is a first-year undergrad in Silliman College. She is interested in the hierarchical structures neural systems create when learning, and exploring where cognitive psychology and human learning might intersect with artificial intelligence. She is into neuroscience, creative writing, and tech policy. Outside the lab, Katherine enjoys playing badminton, finding good poetry to cry over, and unearthing the best crannies of campus to nap in.

Skill! ⇾ Badminton


Stephanie Hu
Undergraduate Researcher
Stephanie is a sophomore in Saybrook College majoring in Statistics & Data Science. As a research assistant in the ACT lab, she is interested in applying computational methods to model the processes involved in human learning. Outside the lab, she enjoys binging podcasts, hiking, and learning to invest.


Michael Irias
Undergraduate Researcher
Michael is interested in all things learning and memory! He is a third-year undergraduate pursuing a major in Psychology. As a research assistant in the ACT Lab, he is exploring how sensory uncertainty influences motor learning. Outside the lab, he is an avid pool player, enjoys being frustrated at hyperbullet online chess, and loves playing Tetris.

Skill! ⇾ Pool


Taylor McClure
Undergraduate Researcher
Taylor McClure is a sophomore in Ezra Stiles College studying Cognitive Science. As a research assistant in the ACT Lab, she hopes to draw from her background in ballet to explore applications of motor learning to dance and physical therapy. Outside the lab, Taylor enjoys practicing yoga and pilates, and she dances and choreographs for Yale Dancers and the Yale Undergraduate Ballet Company.

Skill! ⇾ Ballet


Liz Pandolpho
Undergraduate Researcher
Liz is a senior in Pauli Murray College studying computer science and psychology. She is primarily interested in combining these two academic disciplines through building computational models in the realms of hierarchical and reinforcement learning. After graduation, she plans to continue exploring the ways in which computer science may teach us more about psychology, and vice versa. Outside the lab, Liz enjoys going for walks, trying new coffee shops, and spending time with friends.

Skill! ⇾ Calligraphy


Ophelia Pilkinton
Undergraduate Researcher
Ophelia is a senior in Pierson College majoring in Neuroscience. As an undergraduate research assistant in the ACT Lab, she enjoys expanding her understanding of the complex processes of learning and its implications in memory encoding. After graduation, Ophelia is looking to start medical school this fall. Outside the lab, she is on the Varsity Swim team and enjoys spending her time outside, or hanging out with friends.

Skill! ⇾ Swimming

Lab Alumni
Cameron BergAI researcher at Meta
Tabea BotthofProfessional hockey player based in Stockholm

The ACT lab is committed to equality, diversity, and inclusion, and in maintaining a fun, challenging, and supportive research environment for everyone.
If you are interested in joining the lab, please email Sam (see the Contact link at the top of the page for info) to discuss your interests and whether our group would be a good fit.