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Three Universities with Phenomenal Psychology Faculty

For students with a thoughtful and intentional frame of mind, a career in psychology could be an ideal choice. Becoming a psychologist, whether practicing or degree-retaining, means cultivating skills that can help others with mental health issues, loneliness, trauma, or loss. As a research psychologist, one can help advance the understanding of the human mind. There are many psychology specializations that can be pursued—all of them with a view toward empowering others to better help themselves.

The benefits of attending a high-quality psychology program are numerous: access to university research materials, professional engagement with some of the field’s top minds, and a position on the cutting edge, where neurology, psychiatry, and psychology meet.

This guide profiles 15 phenomenal psychology faculty members at three outstanding institutions across the country for prospective students looking into first-rate psychology programs.

University of California, Los Angeles – Department of Psychology

The University of California, Los Angeles is a public research institution founded in 1919 that provides 337 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in all eminent professional disciplines. UCLA has consistently been named among the best public universities in the country, called a “Public Ivy” because it’s thought to offer a quality of education on par with Ivy League schools. Notable alumni include film composer John Williams, geography professor and author Jared Diamond, and Nobel Prize-winning chemist Richard Heck.

UCLA’s Department of Psychology spearheads many interesting research and study initiatives, such as the Children’s Digital Media Center and the Center for Scholars and Storytellers. It also operates a clinic that provides affordable services to patients in need, staffed by some of the school’s top-ranking researchers and professionals.


Dr. Elizabeth Bjork is a professor of psychology and senior vice chair of the Department of Psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles, where she has also chaired UCLA’s academic senate and received a Distinguished Teaching Award.

Dr. Bjork researches how the principles of learning discovered in the laboratory can be applied to real-world educational settings. Her main area of research has been the study of human memory. In particular, she’s an expert in the role that inhibitory processes—such as those underlying goal-directed forgetting and memory updating—play in creating an adaptive human memory system.

Dr. Bjork obtained her PhD in psychology from the University of Michigan and her BA in mathematics from the University of Florida.


Dr. Bridget Callaghan is an assistant professor of developmental psychology at UCLA’s Department of Psychology.

Dr. Callaghan’s research examines how early life experiences influence interactions between physical and mental health. She works in the Brain and Body Lab (BaBLab) where she and her team analyze behavior, neural systems, gastrointestinal health, and physiology. She is also actively collaborating with researchers at New York University, the University of New South Wales, and Sydney Children’s Hospital in Australia.

Dr. Callaghan holds She holds a BS in psychology, an MS in clinical psychology, and a PhD from the University of New South Wales, Australia.


Dr. Matthew Lieberman is a professor of psychology at UCLA focusing on social psychology, for which he is the chair. In 2007, he was awarded the Distinguished Scientific Award for Early Career Contribution to Psychology from the APA. He is also the founding editor of the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience.

Professor Lieberman’s lab uses functional magnetic resonance imaging to examine social cognition and social experience, persuasion, and emotion regulation from a neural perspective.

Dr. Lieberman holds a PhD from Harvard University. Notably, his former students are now on the faculty at Oxford, Carnegie Mellon, the University of Oregon, the University of Pennsylvania, Pomona College, and New York University.


Dr. Hongjing Lu is a professor of psychology at UCLA studying how humans reason and learn, as well as how intelligent machines can learn from us. She is interested in concepts of perceptual learning and language acquisition, action understanding, causal inference, and how humans often paradoxically succeed in making inferences from inadequate data.

Dr. Lu received her MA and PhD in cognitive psychology from UCLA. Prior to this, she did graduate work in Beijing at the Mechatronic Engineering Institute of Technology, receiving a BS and MS in engineering.


A. Janet Tomiyama is an associate professor of health psychology in the Department of Psychology at UCLA, where she explores social psychology. She has published in Psychoneuroendocrinology and the Journal of Health Psychology. Her research and teaching interests include eating behavior, obesity, stress, comfort eating, weight stigma, dieting, health disparities, and health behaviors.

Professor Tomiyama holds a BA from Cornell University and an MA and PhD from UCLA.

Emory University – Department of Psychology

A private research university located in Atlanta, Georgia, Emory University was founded in 1836 and ranks among the country’s 50 oldest private universities. EU operates a network of medical schools and seven teaching hospitals, overseeing Emory Healthcare, Georgia’s largest healthcare system, as well as special interest centers like the Winship Cancer Institute and the Confucius Institute.

The Department of Psychology conducts research in learning, cognition, memory, and social behavior, including the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of psychopathology. Its talented faculty devise inventive behavioral experiments and observational and questionnaire studies to guide discovery.


Dr. Patricia Bauer is the Asa Griggs Candler professor of psychology at Emory University, where she serves as the senior associate dean for research. She was formerly part of the Duke University faculty and the Institute of Child Development at the University of Minnesota. Dr. Bauer’s research focuses on age-related changes in memory, the development of memory, and the links between social, cognitive, and neural developments. She teaches courses in pedagogy and learning theory.

Dr. Bauer received her PhD from Miami University and was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, San Diego.


Dr. Gregory Burns is a distinguished professor of neuroeconomics and the director of the Center for Neuropolicy and Facility for Education and Research in Neuroscience (FERN). He teaches advanced courses and practicums in neuroimaging and neuroeconomics, the latter a field which he helped establish. The goal of Dr. Burns’s research is to understand how neurobiology places constraints on the decisions people make—in other words, the neurobiological basis for individual preferences and decision-making.

Dr. Berns received his AB in physics from Princeton, a PhD in biomedical engineering from UC Davis, and an MD from UC San Diego. He was in residency in psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh completed postdoctoral work in computational neuroscience at the Salk Institute before joining Emory.


Dr. Donna Maney is a professor of psychology at Emory University, where she teaches neuroendocrinology, neurobiology, hormones, behavior, the brain, grant writing, and hypothesis design. She is an affiliate of the Center for Behavioral Neuroscience and Emory’s graduate and undergraduate programs in neuroscience and behavioral biology. She has researched songbirds and received a series of grants for high achievement and research when she was just getting started in her career.

Dr. Maney holds a BA in biology from Cornell and a PhD in neurobiology and behavior from the University of Washington. She was also a postdoctoral fellow in the department of psychological and brain sciences at Johns Hopkins University from 1999 to 2002.


Dr. Lynne Nygaard is a professor of cognitive science at Emory University, where she teaches courses on language, perception, and action. She is affiliated with the program in linguistics at Emory University, as well as the undergraduate program in neuroscience and behavioral biology (NBB). Dr. Nygaard studies the perception of words and sentences, the processing of non-linguistic properties of speech, and human communication. She is also interested in the non-linguistic aspects of spoken language.

Dr. Nygaard holds a BA in psychology from Barnard College and a PhD in cognitive science from Brown University. She completed her postdoctoral fellowship in psychology at Indiana University.


Dr. Kim Wallen is the Samuel Candler Dobbs professor of psychology and behavioral neuroendocrinology in Emory University’s Department of Psychology. He studies the interaction between hormones and social context on the development and expression of sexual behavior in primates. He teaches courses in the behavioral neuroendocrinology of sex, psychobiology, and technical courses on Unix tools for behavioral research. Dr. Wallen has been the president of both the Society for Behavioral Neuroendocrinology and the International Academy of Sex Research.

Professor Wallen received his BA in biology from Antioch College and his PhD in neuroscience from the University of Wisconsin.

University of Miami – College of Arts & Sciences, Psychology

The University of Miami is a private research university in Coral Gables, Florida. The school was first chartered in 1925 by a group of citizens who wanted a university to strengthen their local economy. It has an acceptance rate of 32.1 percent, but that competition means that students have access to facilities and faculty that have helped produce world-class olympians, biologists, chemists, musicians, and actors.

UM’s Department of Psychology in the College of Arts & Sciences offers bachelor’s degrees, a master’s in applied behavior analysis, and doctoral degrees with overlap in neurology, sociology, and the humanities. The faculty secures over $17 million each year for their novel research methods to study emergent trends in psychology and brain science.


Dr. Barry Hurwitz is a professor of psychology, medicine, and biomedical engineering at the University of Miami. He also is the director of the Cardiovascular and Diabetes Behavioral Medicine Laboratory (CARDIA-BMED) and the associate director of the Behavioral Medicine Research Center.

Professor Hurwitz’s research interests include examining the biobehavioral bases of accelerated cardiovascular and diabetic disease pathophysiology seen in patients with a history or symptoms of Type 2 diabetes, HIV/AIDS, hypertension, obesity, heart attack, and heart failure.

Dr. Hurwitz earned his PhD in physiological psychology from the University of Florida, his MS in psychophysiology from Ohio University, and his BS in psychology and zoology from the University of Toronto.


Dr. Annette La Greca is a distinguished professor of psychology and pediatrics and the director of clinical training for the APA’s Accredited Clinical Program, where her research focuses on risk and resilience in the physical and mental health of youth. She has also studied the impact of peer relations and cyber victimization.

Notably, Dr. La Greca has published over 300 peer-reviewed articles and chapters and written or edited 16 books. She also received the International Scholar Award from the Australian Rotary Health Research Fund and the 2013 Distinguished Women Scholars Award from her alma mater, Purdue University.

Dr. La Greca received her PhD in clinical psychology from Purdue University after completing a clinical internship at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.


Dr. Phillip McCabe is a professor of psychology and biomedical engineering and chair of the psychology department at the University of Miami. Before this, he served as the director of the interdepartmental undergraduate neuroscience program. Dr. McCabe’s research examines the neurobiology of emotional behavior and the impact of social-emotional behavior on the development of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer. Since 1986, his research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation. He is a fellow of the Academy of Behavioral Medicine Research and was elected president of that organization in 2010.

Dr. McCabe received both his PhD and BS in neuroscience from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.


Dr. Kiara Timpano is the director of the Program for Anxiety, Stress, and OCD (PASO) and an associate professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Miami. She studies risk and vulnerability factors that play a role in the etiology, comorbidity, and maintenance of anxiety and obsessive-compulsive spectrum disorders. This includes research on vulnerability to anxiety disorders and hoarding disorder. She and her team also look at vulnerability factors from a transdiagnostic perspective.

Professor Timpano holds a BS in biochemistry from Whitworth University and a PhD in clinical psychology from Florida State University.


Dr. Lucina Uddin is an associate professor and the director of the cognitive and behavioral neuroscience division. She also runs the BCCL (Brain Connectivity and Cognition Laboratory), utilizing neuroimaging to study the link between brain connectivity and cognition. She teaches cognitive neuroscience, the basics of human connectomics, and about various neurodevelopmental disorders. She has been published in Nature Reviews Neuroscience.

Dr. Uddin earned a BS in neuroscience and philosophy and a PhD in psychology and cognitive neuroscience—both from UCLA.

Kenneth Parker

Kenneth Parker is a feature writer, poet, and musician living in the Pacific Northwest. His writing on remote work, education, and technology has been published by,, and other websites. His poetry, short fiction, and album reviews have appeared in Scifaikuest, Nanoism, and No Clean Singing. His background includes time spent as an associate editor, proofreader, private grammar instructor, freelance content editor, medical claims agent, and SEO consultant. He is a graduate of the University of Oregon, where he studied literature and worked as a composition tutor.