Who We Are

Thomas D. Lyon, J.D., Ph.D.

Director

Thomas D. Lyon, J.D., Ph.D. is the Judge Edward J. and Ruey L. Guirado Chair in Law and Psychology at the University of Southern California.  His goal is to identify the most productive means of questioning children about abuse and violence. He is the Past-President of the American Psychological Association’s Section on Child Maltreatment (Division 37) and a former member of the Board of Directors of the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children.  His work has been supported by the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the United States Department of Justice, the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect, the California Endowment, and the Haynes Foundation.


Zsófia A. Szojka

Postdoctoral Researcher

Zsófia is a Postdoctoral Research Scholar at the USC Child Interviewing Lab. Her PhD research investigated the narrative coherence and credibility of children’s testimony elicited in multiple interviews. Zsófia’s current research interests include children’s concept of their own body, and the extent to which victims of child abuse provide elaborated accounts of their experiences in forensic interviews. Besides her work at the Child Interviewing Lab, Zsófia is also involved in research at the Lighthouse and Haven, an Investigative Interview Service in the United Kingdom designed on the basis of the Nordic Barnahus model.


Agnieszka Nogalska

Co-Lab Director

Agnieszka Nogalska is a Lab Director at the Child Interviewing Lab and oversees the work of the undergraduate research assistants, in addition to conducting a variety of research projects. Agnieszka graduated from USC in 2021 with a BA in Psychology with Honors and a minor in Forensics & Criminality. Her current research projects at the lab examine how adolescents express reluctance across interviews conducted by forensic interviewers, police officers and during courtroom examinations. She is also starting to examine courtroom testimony of adult rape victims. Agnieszka plans on pursuing a PhD in Clinical Psychology with a concentration in Forensic Psychology and hopes to pursue a career as a Forensic Psychologist.


Jina Hur

Co-Lab Director

Jina graduated from USC in 2021 with majors in Psychology and Philosophy. She primarily works on research projects related to question type coding and the language used in interviews. Some current projects and areas of interest include assessing how children elaborate in response to yes/no questions and investigating the linguistic intricacies of elliptical questions and the consequent difficulties in responding.


Jordan Sargent

Forensic Interviewer

Jordan Sargent graduated from USC in 2017 with a major in Psychology and a minor in Spanish. She became a Double Trojan (Fight on!) in 2021 when she graduated with her Masters of Social Work (MSW) with an emphasis in Children, Youth, and Families from the USC Suzanne Dworak Peck School of Social Work. Jordan focuses on clinical work in the lab by conducting forensic interviews with minors who have been sexually abused or commercially sexually exploited. Jordan’s research interests include what factors likely contribute to recantation and how to lower the risk of recant, how to effectively train helping professionals to ask non-leading, open-ended questions, and the impact of sexual abuse on a child’s mental health, including suicidality and suicidal ideation. As an undergraduate research assistant, Jordan conducted several studies at Edelman Children’s Court including Ask/Tell, IDK, Birthday 2.0, IDK 2.0, and Pseudotemporal studies. As Lab Director, she oversaw the undergraduate research assistants as well as the studies both at court and elementary schools. In the future, she hopes to help make the process of disclosing sexual abuse easier for children by providing mandated reporters and other helping professionals with the tools they need to conduct research-based interviews in a timely manner.


Owen Friend

Forensic Interviewer

Owen Friend is a Forensic Interviewer at the Child Interviewing Lab. He graduated from USC in 2021 with a BA with Honors in Psychology and a BS in Business Administration. Owen started at the Child Interviewing lab as an undergraduate research assistant where he particularly enjoyed interviewing children at dependency court for experimental studies as well as interviewing children for Dr. Lyon’s Child Interviewing Seminar. Owen hopes to pursue a PhD in Developmental Psychology and his research interests include examining specific linguistic deficits in children and how children’s abilities to understand ambiguous language develop over time. Owen conducted an Honor’s Thesis as a senior that examined children’s tendencies to misinterpret temporal language. In his free time Owen plays basketball, makes homemade pasta, and plays the guitar and banjo.


Hannah Siepmann

Legal Services Coordinator

Hannah Siepmann graduated from USC in 2021 with a degree in Law, History, and Culture. She is from McMinnville, Oregon but is an enthusiastic LA transplant. After spending two years as a research assistant during undergrad, she’s currently taking a year to conduct research in the Child Interviewing Lab before attending law school, where she will focus on public interest law. Her projects in lab focus on race and credibility, especially in legal cases involving child sex trafficking. Through question type coding and other coding projects, Hannah also studies patterns of questioning between attorneys and child witnesses in court proceedings. In her free time, she enjoys rock climbing, blasting Broadway soundtracks, crocheting sweaters, and exploring LA’s farmers markets and taco trucks.


Tianyu Wang

Post-Baccalaureate Research Associate

Tianyu graduated from USC in 2021 with a B.A. in Psychology and a B.S. in Business Administration. Tianyu was born in Qingdao, China, and spent her high school years in Utah before moving to LA for university. Tianyu joined the lab two years ago as an undergraduate student and is taking a gap year before attending law school next fall. She has enjoyed working on various projects including interviewing children at dependency court for experimental studies.


Scarlet Cho

Post-Baccalaureate Research Associate

Scarlet Cho graduated from USC in 2020 with majors in Neuroscience and Psychology and a minor in Forensics & Criminality. Scarlet’s current research projects in the lab investigate how adolescents equivocate and express resistance in interviews conducted by forensic interviewers, police officers, and attorneys in courtroom examinations. She is especially interested in studying special populations of adolescent victims, such as commercially sexually exploited adolescents, and in identifying best interviewing practices to better serve these populations. Scarlet plans to pursue her PhD, and is interested in studying criminal behavior from a biopsychosocial perspective. She hopes to pursue a career in academia and to conduct empirical research that has implications on the law and public policy concerning sentencing and treatment of individuals in the criminal justice system.


Aadhya Sivakumar

Research Assistant

Aadhya Sivakumar is a freshman double majoring in Neuroscience and Health and Human Sciences with a minor in Dance. She has a deep fascination with learning processes and development in children, and has big plans to attend grad school to be a child psychologist. She primarily grew up in India, where her mentor referred her to Dr. Lyon’s work. In her free time, she enjoys listening to music, reading and looking for dogs to hug. Outside of the lab, you can find Aadhya dancing with the Ballroom Dance Team, volunteering for LA Animal Rescue, and over-analyzing television shows.


Amanda Flores

Research Assistant

Amanda Flores is a senior majoring in Political Science with a minor in Juvenile Justice. She was born and raised in the greater Palm Springs, California area where the heat seemingly never ends, Amanda stayed true to her Southern California roots in choosing USC. In her free time, Amanda loves watching sports, particularly baseball – Go Yankees – as well as catching up on late night dramas. Amanda joined the lab after learning about Dr. Lyon’s work in a psychology and law class last year. She plans to attend law school and specialize in child advocacy law to help be a positive voice for children in the legal system.


Cara Burditt

Research Assistant

Cara is a senior majoring in Anthropology and Psychology. She grew up in Chico, California. She joined the lab because she is passionate about supporting children who have experienced trauma and plans to pursue a PhD in Psychology. Outside of the lab, Cara is president of Kicks for Kids, a student-run non-profit dedicated to promoting an active and healthy lifestyle for children with mental and/or physical disabilities in the Los Angeles area. She is also an active member of the Fisher Fellows, the USC Helenes, and the First Generation Student Union.


Hannah Fondacaro

Research Assistant

Hannah is a Junior majoring in Psychology with minors in Forensics & Criminality and Spanish. She was born and raised on Long Island, New York and hopes to return to the East Coast for graduate school. Hannah is passionate about social justice and enjoys learning about the ways in which psychology and the law influence one another.


Maddie Adams

Research Assistant

Maddie Adams is a junior majoring in Psychology and was born and raised in the Northern Virginia/D.C. area. She joined the lab to explore her interest in child psychology and better understand its connection to law. Maddie hopes to attend graduate school in the future and, in her free time, loves songwriting and listening to music. Outside of the lab, Maddie is the Director of Programming for the Black Psychology Student Association and is a member of WYSE, an organization dedicated to mentoring middle school-aged girls in the local USC area.


Mansi Guar

Research Assistant

Mansi Gaur is a junior studying Cognitive Science with the aim of bringing her interdisciplinary knowledge from her major to her future career in law. She was born and raised in Los Angeles, so as expected is a loyal Lakers fan. When Mansi is not working at the Child Interviewing Lab or studying for classes, she works at her local Community Center as a leader and counselor for underserved youth within the city. Mansi joined the Child Interviewing Lab because she knows it will give her more hands-on experience and greater insight into a career in the intersection of law, child development, and education which she is extremely passionate about.


Melanie Kwan

Research Assistant

Melanie is a junior transfer student majoring in Psychology, hoping to pursue a doctoral degree in clinical psychology. She was born and raised in Hong Kong. She joined the lab to deepen her understanding of how children communicate traumatic experiences and how such experiences may affect them. Outside of the lab, Melanie volunteers as a reading tutor for Teach for Los Angeles and Asian American Tutorial Project. In her free time, Melanie enjoys cooking, working out, and binge-watching true crime documentaries. 


Samantha Austin

Research Assistant

Samantha Austin is a sophomore majoring in Business with a minor in Psychology and Law. She joined the lab to further explore the inner workings of psychology and law beyond a classroom setting. Sammy was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia but always wanted to go to college on the west coast. She is also passionate about child education and is a member of Teach for Los Angeles, where she tutors students from neighboring schools on the weekend. Sammy wants to pursue a career in law and eventually become a judge so she can affect change on a national scale. 


Selin Yalcinkaya

Research Assistant

Selin Yalcinkaya is a senior double majoring in Psychology and French with a minor in Theater. She has been a research assistant in the Child Interviewing Lab since 2018, and is passionate about supporting at-risk children and adolescents. Her research interests include risk and resilience factors in at-risk adolescents and therapeutic interventions for youth with PTSD. Her work in the Child Interviewing Lab has inspired her to pursue a career in the child and adolescent clinical psychology field. Outside of the lab, Selin is the president of ART/EMIS, an intersectional feminist art production company. She is also a member of Troy Camp, USC Ski & Snowboard team and is heavily involved in student theater on campus.


Tristan Bulatao

Research Assistant

Tristan Bulatao is a senior studying Psychology and Legal Studies. She has lived in several places including Dallas, TX, Wichita, KS, Pebble Beach, CA, and London. She hopes to attend law school and work in child advocacy and social justice. Tristan joined the lab in order to gain more hands-on experience working with young people in the legal sector as well as to learn more about forensic interviewing. Tristan is passionate about advocating for children in the foster care system and spends her time volunteering with CASA of Los Angeles where she works with a team of social workers, attorneys, mental health professionals, and educators in order to best address the needs of the children on the case she is assigned. In her free time Tristan loves going to the beach, exploring, and listening to crime podcast.


Vedant Vamshidhar

Research Assistant

Vedant is a junior majoring in Intelligence & Cyber Operations with minors in Economics and Psychology & Law. He was born and raised in San Jose, California. He is planning to attend law school and work in either corporate or juvenile law. Outside of the lab, Vedant is a member of Model United Nations, Project RISHI, and the Southern California International Review. In his free time, he loves reading, listening to hip-hop, and watching soccer.