Who We Are
Thomas D. Lyon, J.D., Ph.D.
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
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.
Breanne E. Wylie
Breanne is a Banting Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Child Interviewing lab at USC. As a developmental psychologist, Breanne studies adult-child communication as it relates to children’s linguistic and socio-cognitive development. Specifically, she is interested in children’s developing ability to accurately report experiences of maltreatment when questioned by adults (e.g., lawyers, police officers, nurses). In addition to her postdoctoral work, Breanne is a Research Associate for the Canadian Child Interviewing Research Team; a national collaborative project that works with community partners to co-create evidence-based practices for obtaining honest and accurate reports from child witnesses.
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.
Cara Burditt graduated from USC in 2022 with B.A.s in Psychology and Anthropology. She first joined the lab as an undergraduate student, and discovered a passion for interviewing children in Dr. Lyon’s Child Interviewing Practicum. As a research assistant, Cara assisted with research examining the language in attorney and child interactions. Currently in the lab, Cara oversees the work of the undergraduate research assistants, and conducts and assists with forensic interviews of youth who’ve experienced sexual abuse. Cara’s research interest centers on child development following trauma, and she plans to pursue a PhD in Psychology. In her free time, Cara enjoys painting, baking, and kayaking.
Legal Services Coordinator
Amanda Flores graduated from USC in 2022 with a B.A. in Political Science and a minor in Juvenile Justice. Amanda was born and raised in the greater Palm Springs, California area where the heat seemingly never ends. She started in the lab as an undergraduate research assistant after learning about Dr. Lyon’s work with child witnesses from one of her law classes. She is currently taking a gap year before attending law school next fall, where she plans to specialize in child advocacy law. She hopes to be a positive voice for children in the legal system. Currently in the lab, she oversees the work of the undergraduate research assistants, research projects related to question type coding, and case management on court related matters. In her free time, Amanda loves watching sports, particularly baseball – Go Yankees – as well as catching up on late night dramas and rewatching classic sitcoms.
Bryneé Evans is a junior majoring in Psychology with a minor in Sociology. She was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, but has always had a love for southern California. Bryneé is intrigued by how harmful media depictions inform the self-perception and social cognition of underrepresented youth. She joined the lab to deepen her understanding of children’s cognitive and emotional development amidst traumatic events and to learn how to properly interview children about such experiences. In the future, she hopes to attend graduate school and earn a doctoral degree in clinical psychology. Outside the lab, Bryneé loves to explore nature and try out new restaurants. She also serves as the Director of Communication for the Black Psychology Student Association and Director of External Outreach for the USC Green Ribbon Club, a student-led cohort dedicated to extending mental health awareness and treatment.
Bernard is a sophomore at USC majoring in Business Administration. He joined the child interviewing lab after taking a class that introduced him to forensic interviewing. He grew up in the Bay Area and loves watching TV shows, movies, and being around his friends. He also loves the Golden State Warriors.
Daisy is a sophomore majoring in Psychology with a minor in Forensics & Criminality. She was born and raised in South Los Angeles, California, where she stepped on USC grounds before college as part of USC’s Cadet Leadership Program. There, she was introduced to criminal law, social justice, and youth advocacy, ultimately inspiring her to pursue graduate school for clinical or forensic psychology and implement it in the criminal justice system. She hopes to become a Victim Witness Advocate and to establish an organization in South L.A. that provides equitable mental health and at-risk-youth services. Daisy joined the Lab to explore and contribute to the research aspect of psychology and forensic fields.
Dominique is a junior double majoring in Philosophy, Politics & Law and Psychology with a Forensics and Criminality minor. She was born and raised in Orange County, California. She joined the lab to gain a better understanding of the intersection of law and child psychology, wanting to apply the knowledge she learns to her future legal career. With the goal of pursuing a career in public interest law, specifically in juvenile justice or rehabilitation efforts, she hopes to become a well-informed child advocate. Outside of the lab, Dominique is the Co-President of Helenes, a community service and spirit organization on campus. In her free time, she loves to go thrifting, play tennis, and be outdoors.
Gabby Biersach is a senior majoring in Psychology and minoring in Forensics & Criminality. She grew up in Honolulu, Hawaii, and loves spending time outdoors going to the beach and hiking. Gabby joined the Child Interviewing Lab because she is interested in the intersection of Psychology and Law, and is incredibly passionate about advocating for at-risk children and supporting those who have experienced trauma. She has plans to attend graduate school to become a forensic psychologist and hopes to work in the criminal justice system to continue supporting children both in and out of the system. Outside of the lab, Gabby is a member of Troy Camp and WYSE, which are both organizations that mentor children in LA. She is also the President of Surfrider, an ocean conservation and beach cleanup club.
Henry is a junior majoring in Psychology with a minor in Applied Analytics. He has lived in Georgia, Ohio, and spent most of his life growing up in Tampa, Florida. In his free time Henry likes to spend his time outdoors, reading a good book, or exploring LA. Henry joined the interviewing lab because he is interested in pursuing higher education in either law or psychology. He is passionate about social media and how it can affect people’s day to day lives, as well as long term. He hopes to research more on how children’s lives are different by being brought up with social media.
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 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.
Matthew Torres is a senior double majoring in Psychology and French with a minor in Philosophy of Law, Politics, and Economics. He moved around a lot when growing up, and attended 11 different schools throughout his K-12 education before living in Montreal for a few years and coming back to Los Angeles to attend USC. Matthew joined the lab because he is passionate about child developmental psychology and supporting children who have experienced trauma and abuse. Outside of the lab, Matthew is one of the founding members of the First-Generation Student Leadership Program, and the co-creator of the First-Gen Peer Mentorship Program. He is also involved with Questbridge, Alpha Phi Omega, and loves anything outdoors, like tennis, hiking, soccer, and snowboarding. He plans to attend law school after his undergraduate studies, where he would want to work in an area that would help give a voice to children and other vulnerable populations in the legal system.
Max Hartshorn is a senior transfer student studying Psychology, hoping to ultimately obtain his doctorate in school or counseling psychology. He was born and raised in San Jose, California, where he obtained his Associates Degree from De Anza College. It was here that Max found his love for psychology through his research in true altruism and empathy. After transferring to USC, Max found the Child Interviewing Lab to be a wonderful way to further explore his interest in adolescent mental health, allowing him to learn and support children through their experienced trauma. Outside of the lab, Max is also a Research Assistant at USC HEAL, where he is currently working on his personal research project concerning the cross-association of adolescent OCD symptoms and COVID-19 restrictions. Additionally, he is also a Research Assistant at CHLA, Photo Team Lead at Innovative Design, and a Mentor at USC Pre-College. In his free time, Max enjoys playing guitar, practicing photography, and collecting vinyl records.
Michelle Li is a junior majoring in Political Science and minoring in Sociology. She joined the lab because of her interest in advocating for at-risk individuals and providing support for those who have experienced trauma. Though originally from the Bay Area, Michelle has developed a great fondness for Southern California in college and aspires to make it her future home. On campus, she also works at the Center for the Political Future and is involved with Trojan Shelter and Prison Education Project. Upon graduating, Michelle hopes to attend law school with the goal of working in an area of law that will empower marginalized groups by representing their interests in the legal system.
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.
Samara is a senior majoring in Psychology with minors in Forensics & Criminality and Dance. She grew up in Oceanside, California, and followed in her dad’s footsteps in attending USC. Samara joined the lab because she wanted to learn more about how children can be effective, credible witnesses in their own cases of abuse. Outside of the lab, Samara dances at USC home basketball games with Trojan Dance Force, performs in biannual shows with Xpressions Dance Company, and leads Trojan Tap Project, an advanced tap dance club she started last semester. She also enjoys watching sports, working out, and watching the sunset at the beach.
Samantha Austin is a junior 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.
Valentina is a Junior double majoring in Psychology and Creative Writing, as well as getting her Master’s in Literary Editing and Publishing through one of USC’s Progressive Degree Programs. She is interested in studying the ways that children’s identities, mindsets, and beliefs develop, especially in regard to their mental health. After graduating, she hopes to get her Ph.D. and become a clinical psychologist working with children and adolescents. In her free time, she enjoys creative writing and rock climbing!
Taryn Buford is a junior majoring in Psychology, from Indianapolis, Indiana. She is passionate about pursuing a career in forensic psychology to address the glaring gap in the representation of Black women working in the legal system. Taryn joined the lab to broaden her experience and help pinpoint her interests in forensic psychology. Outside the lab, Taryn loves to explore new places, try out new restaurants, and travel!
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.