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Dr. Nathan Walter

Professor Walter’s research concerns the effects of mass media, evaluation of strategic health messages, analysis of communication ecologies, the persuasive power of narratives, and correction of misinformation. His most recent work, which is supported by the FDA, focuses on novel methods to debunk tobacco-related misinformation. Prof. Walter’s overarching research agenda revolves around the development of multilevel and ecological models that provide a nuanced approach to the study of communication-related phenomena.

Callie S. Kalny

Callie is the COM-PSI Co-Director and a doctoral candidate in the School of Communication at Northwestern University. Her research centers around persuasive communication and is motivated by an interest in how mediated messages influence attitudes and behaviors. Within the contexts of health and science, she studies the effects of uncertainty on decision-making, the influence of emotion and affect on communication processes, and the persuasive power of narrative storytelling. Her overarching research goal is to contribute to the development of communication tools and interventions that improve decision-making and promote the uptake of prosocial attitudes and behaviors. Callie is a graduate of Mercer University (BA, Communication Studies) and Wake Forest University (MA, Communication).

Rod Abhari

Rod is a fourth-year doctoral student in the Media, Technology, and Society program. His research uses computational methods to evaluate the influence of misinformation in online extremism. This has led him to study how partisan violence communicated in memes helped mobilize the January 6th insurrection, and how discredited scientific research has been used to support COVID-19 conspiracies. He holds an MA in Science and Technology Studies (Maastricht University), an MA in communication (University of Wisconsin – Madison), and a BA in Sociology (Middlebury College).

Beatriz Aguiar Fonseca

Beatriz is a Brazilian first-year undergraduate student and research assistant working in the COM-PSI lab. She is double majoring in Psychology and Communication Studies in the School of Communication at Northwestern University, and is also pursuing the Integrated Marketing Certificate at the Medill School of Journalism, Media, & Integrated Marketing Communications. Beatriz is currently a Senior Facilitator at the Latin American Leadership Academy where she develops educational curriculums and guides bootcamps focused on social impact and leadership for talented young Latin Americans. She is fascinated by the prospect of shaping media and communication dissemination processes to promote positive change and establish more healthy and empathetic educational environments worldwide.

Emily A. Andrews

Emily is a third-year PhD student in the Media, Technology, and Society program. She is broadly interested in exploring factors (e.g., narrative structure, trust in various institutions) that influence how/why people consume and understand different types of information (including misinformation and conspiracy theories). Additionally, she is interested in attitudes, beliefs, and promoting prosocial behavior. She graduated from SUNY Geneseo in 2019 (BA, Psychology) and SUNY University at Buffalo in 2021 (MA, Communication). When she is not working on research or teaching, she enjoys horror flicks, cappuccinos, and snuggling with her cat. 

Christopher M. Dobmeier

Chris is a doctoral candidate in the Media, Technology, and Society program. His research explores the psychological mechanisms that impact how people interact with entertainment and news media, paying particular attention to the role of cognitive biases and emotions in such interactions. In tandem, Chris is interested in the many ways in which we can leverage these media (be them late-night comedy, fictional sitcoms, traditional newscasts, or public service announcements) to facilitate beneficial attitude and behavior change. Outside of his doctoral research agenda, he serves as the co-chair of grants and as a tutor in the Northwestern Prison Education Program, and has consulted on entertainment-education research (data analysis). He holds a BA and MA in Communication from The SUNY University at Buffalo.

Valerie Gruest

Valerie Gruest is a Ph.D. candidate in the Media, Technology and Society program. In addition to her role in COM-PSI, she is a graduate student affiliate of the Center for Latinx Digital Media. She is interested in how the use of internet technology impacts people’s attitudes and behaviors. Particularly, her work explores the impact of new media on body image issues and eating disorders, the visibility of marginalized communities in digital media, and the evolution of contemporary art practices in online spaces. She holds an M.A. in Media, Technology and Society (Northwestern University), and a B.A. in Communication Studies with a double major in Art, Theory & Practice (Northwestern University). In addition to her scholarly research, she serves as an advocate for mental health and safe sport for aquatic disciplines in the Americas, given her background as an Olympic swimmer (Rio 2016 Olympic Games).

Camille Saucier headshot

Camille J. Saucier

Camille is a doctoral candidate in Northwestern’s Media, Technology, and Society doctoral program. Her research focuses on developing person-centered communication strategies to promote openness to accurate information and build resilience against misinformation. She leverages theories and techniques like self-affirmation, narratives, parasocial relationships, and humor to facilitate receptivity to health messaging. Her work also examines factors influencing people's willingness to fact-check dubious claims and methods to curb the appeal of conspiracy theories. Prior to joining COM-PSI, she worked as a research specialist with the Media Impact Project and Hollywood, Health & Society under the Norman Lear Center. She holds a B.A. in Psychology, an M.C.M. in Communication Management, and a Certificate in Sustainable Policy and Planning from the University of Southern California

Sapna Suresh

Sapna is a fifth-year doctoral student in the Media, Technology, and Society program. Her research interests center around message effects and persuasion, including how message features (e.g., emotion appeals, narrative format), the message channel (e.g., social media, television), and aspects of audiences (e.g., identity group, psychological attributes) interact to produce psycho-social effects. She hopes to channel her findings towards facilitating pro-social decision-making in the areas of health, science, and the environment. Sapna holds a BA from Rice University in environmental engineering and policy studies.

Jessica A. Zier

Jessi is a first-year doctoral student in the Media, Technology, and Society program. Her research explores the perceptions and impacts of algorithmically-driven content, and the productive and affective power this has on digital media users. She also explores how the actions and reactions of users alter their online behavior, thereby placing social power onto the algorithm itself, creating a human-algorithm feedback loop. She has lived and worked in ten countries across five continents, exploring digital innovation in various fields and contexts, which has inspired her academic path. She holds a BSc in Cognitive Neuroscience (Minerva University) and MA (expected September 2023) in Digital Communication (Vrije Universiteit Brussel/University of Salzburg).

Lab Alumni

Dr. John J. Brooks

John J. Brooks graduated from the Media, Technology, and Society program in June 2023 and currently holds a post-doc position in the Department of Communication at SUNY University at Buffalo. His research primarily pertains to mass communication in the context of health and politics—specifically, the use of entertainment-education to promote prosocial outcomes, the power of strategic narratives to shape public health, and the influence of mass media representations of contentious social issues—and has been published in leading outlets including Health Communication, Media Psychology, and Journal of Health Communication. In addition to research, John is an enthusiastic educator: he previously received the School of Communication’s “Outstanding Graduate Instructor” award and has worked extensively with the Searle Center for Advancing Learning & Teaching as a Graduate Teaching Mentor and Formative Feedback Partner. Previously, John completed a B.A. in Theatre/Gender Studies, an M.S. in Health Communication, and an M.A. in Media, Technology, and Society, all from Northwestern.

Dr. Stefanie Demetriades

Now an Assistant Professor at DePaul University, Dr. Demetriades' research areas are rooted in a fundamental interest in how individuals and publics respond to challenges in the context of technological, political, and social uncertainty. Studying these dynamics in the contexts of health, science, and politics, her research interests boil down to one simple question: how can we provide more effective and equitable care and services to vulnerable and marginalized populations in the U.S. and across the globe?

Dr. Christiana Robbins

Chris is a current postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health and Wellbeing (formerly a post-doc with COM-PSI). Trained in social network analysis, systems theory, and actor-network theory, she sees communication and public health issues as complex webs of interdependent forces best analyzed using a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods. As a neurodivergent, queer scholar, she works to incorporate diverse and often ignored perspectives into all of her work. She is particularly interested in gender issues, specifically reproductive rights and maternal mortality. She received her PhD and Master's in Communication from the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and her B.A. in both Communication and English, with an honors emphasis in philosophy from Pacific Union College.

Michael A. Spikes

Dr. Michael A. Spikes

Michael A. Spikes in a lecturer and director of Teach for Chicago Journalism in the Medill School of Journalism, Media, & Integrated Marketing Communications at Northwestern University. He also is an PhD candidate in the Learning Sciences in Northwestern University’s School of Education and Social Policy. His research focus concerns connecting cognitive, social, and learning environmental design theories to news media literacy education and interventions. Before coming to Northwestern, Michael worked for the Center for News Literacy at Stony Brook University where he developed curriculum and training in news literacy as the director of its Digital Resource Center and Illinois News Literacy & Civic Learning Project. Michael also held positions as a Media Studies and Production teacher in both public and public charter schools in Washington DC; as a member of the Newseum’s educational advisory team; and as a media producer and editor for numerous organizations including NPR, the PBS NewsHour, and the Kellogg School of Management.