Dr. Sylvia Morelli is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Illinois at Chicago and Director of the Empathy and Social Connection Lab. She received her BA in Psychology from Princeton University and PhD from UCLA. Her work explores whether positive empathy (i.e., our ability to share and understand others’ positive emotions) promotes prosocial behavior, social connection, and well-being. She uses a combination of behavioral and neuroimaging techniques, including functional magnetic resonance imaging, laboratory experiments, daily experience sampling, and social network analyses. Overall, her research aims to broaden our understanding of empathy and demonstrate its critical role in promoting well-being and positive social relationships.    CV  |  E-mail 

Postdoctoral Researchers


Andrea Courtney received her PhD in Psychological and Brain Sciences from Dartmouth College in 2018 where she worked with Dr. Meghan Meyer in the Dartmouth Social Neuroscience Lab. Her graduate work related social closeness to the neural representation of self and others. Prior to that, she received her BA and MA in Psychology at Wake Forest University. She is currently working on a project that combines brain imaging, social network analysis, and personality metrics to better understand the formation of social networks and how well-being may depend on characteristics of the person and network. Andrea is broadly interested in characterizing the importance of social connection for mental health and well-being.


Mowafak Allaham received his BS in Computer Science in 2013 and his MA in Psychology from George Mason University in 2015 where he worked with Dr. Eva Wiese as a graduate research assistant at the Social Robotics Lab. Prior to joining the Empathy & Social Connection Lab as a PhD candidate, he worked with Dr. Bertram Malle and Dr. Joseph Austerweil at Brown University as a researcher to explore the cognitive representation of social norms. Currently, Mowafak is on a quest to understand the fabric of empathy. He hopes to develop a computational model to identify the core factors that contribute the most to our empathy for others. His additional research interests include social and moral norms, social cognition, and moral judgments.    CV  |  E-mail


Ian Kwok is a PhD candidate in the Clinical Psychology program. His research centers around the ways in which positive emotion and empathy can enhance peoples’ lives. Ian's current line of research involves developing and testing mental health interventions for both clinical and at-risk populations. In particular, he’s interested in exploring how such resources can be disseminated through novel channels — whether it’s in-person or online. Ian's broader goal is to understand how we can live better lives by improving the way we relate to ourselves and others.    E-mail


Tim Carsel is a PhD student working with Drs. Sylvia Morelli and Linda Skitka. His eclectic interests center on conflict and cooperation. Specifically, he is interested in the contingencies on the applications of moral norms, such as goal states and social perception. He believes that efficient and impactful research aims to understand basic scientific questions embedded in real-world problems and approaches each project with an eye toward understanding and application. Prior to UIC, he received his B.S. in Psychology from the Illinois Institute of Technology, and before that he served on active duty in the U.S. Navy.    WebsiteE-mail

Research AssistantS

Summer 2016


LAB Alumni

Staff, Students, & Postdocs: 
Rucha Makati
Josh Wondra
Frank Hu

Research Assistants: 
Samantha Rheins
Yaraly Andersen
Sophia Ou
Taelar Scott
Rachael Warren
Maria Jaramillo
Liz Deitemyer
Daniel Stopka
Humza Khan