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Clinical PhD Program

Sarah Phillips

Sarah is from Middleton, WI and is a fourth-year student in the clinical doctoral program. She graduated with honors from St. Olaf College with a BA in psychology and a concentration in neuroscience. Her first exposure to forensic psychology occurred while volunteering at a secure state hospital in Madison, WI. Currently, her research interests include offenders' perceptions of stigma and public perceptions of offenders. Sarah has been involved in multiple projects within the lab. These include an empirical examination of the impact of ethical standards within the fields of law and psychology, and a recent book chapter that reviews the literature on risk-reducing interventions for justice-involved individuals. Sarah enjoys reading, crossword puzzles, dancing and exploring Philadelphia.


Rebecca Scheidel

Rebecca is a third-year student in the clinical PhD program. She is from Alexandria, VA and earned her BA with highest distinction in psychology and sociology from the University of Virginia. Before beginning graduate school, Rebecca worked as a research assistant/programmer at Mathematica Policy Research, a social policy research organization. Her current research interests include perceptions of offender maturity in the juvenile justice system and community-based interventions for offenders. Rebecca is also involved in the Reentry Project, a program that aims to reduce risk factors for individuals returning to the community after incarceration. Rebecca enjoys strength training, watching sports of all kinds, and dining out in Philadelphia’s many restaurants.

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Kelley Durham

Kelley Durham is a first year PhD student from Guilford, CT. She graduated from Boston College in 2012 where she completed an honors thesis on stress and emotional memory. After graduating, Kelley worked for two years as a research coordinator in the Depression Clinical and Research Program at Massachussetts General Hospital before moving to Philadelphia to attend the Master in Psychology program at Drexel University. Kelley studied under the mentorship of Naomi Goldstein, PhD, in the Juvenile Justice Research and Reform Lab and completed her Master's thesis on the relationship among depression, anxiety, suggestibility and false confessions. As a PhD student, Kelley plans to focus her research on risk assessment and management of justice-involved individuals with mental health needs. Kelley loves Boston sports, classic old movies, and time with family and friends.

JD/PhD Program

Benjamin R. Locklair

Benjamin is a sixth-year student in the JD/PhD program. He received his law degree from Drexel and passed the Pennsylvania bar exam in 2016. He is from North Carolina, where he received his BS in Psychology and his MA in Clinical Psychology from Western Carolina University. Before graduate school, Benjamin worked in non-profit community mental health and developmental disability services. His primary research interests are in the mathematical and statistical properties of forensic assessments, the practice of diversion for mentally ill and veteran criminal defendants, and the use of new technologies in psychological research. In his spare time, he is a runner, musician and general-purpose nerd.


Alice Thornewill

Alice is a 4th-year student in the JD/PhD Program. She is from Louisville, Kentucky, and she graduated from Grinnell College in 2011 with a BA in English. During her years at Grinnell, she volunteered with The Grinnell Prison Program and taught a literature course to inmates at the Newton Correctional Facility in Newton, Iowa. After graduating, Alice spent a year in Prague working as a proofreader at Havel, Holasek & Partners, an international law firm. Alice has also volunteered with Shakespeare Behind Bars at the Luther Luckett Correctional Complex in LaGrange, Kentucky. Her research interests include recidivism rates, prison reform, arts and education programs in prisons, and community-based alternatives to incarceration. At Drexel, Alice serves as coordinator for the Reentry Project, a comprehensive project designed specifically to meet the needs of offenders reentering the population after incarceration. In her free time, Alice enjoys reading novels, singing, theatre, doing crossword puzzles, watching good TV, doing Zumba, playing Settlers of Catan, and spending time with her friends and family.

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Victoria Pietruszka

Victoria is a third-year JD/PhD student from New Hartford, New York and graduated from the University of Rochester in 2013 with a BA in Psychology. During this time, she was a research assistant for the Laboratory of Interpersonal Violence and Victimization at the University of Rochester Medical Center Department of Psychiatry and completed an honors thesis investigating college adjustment and domestic violence. Her research interests include risk assessment, diversion and alternatives to incarceration, reentry and public policy. Victoria is a project coordinator for the Reentry Project. She is currently studying methodologies to measure bias and interventions to promote recognition, particularly for the bias blind spot. In her free time, Victoria enjoys reading, exploring the outdoors, video games, and cross stitching.


Madelena Rizzo

Madelena Rizzo is a first-year student in the JD/PhD program. She is from Ardmore, Pennsylvania, and she graduated from Bowdoin College in 2014 with a BA in Psychology. At Bowdoin she was awarded a summer fellowship to intern at a youth correctional facility in South Portland, Maine. Upon graduation, she spent two years immersing herself in Philadelphia's mental health and legal communities with engagements including developing a presentation about trauma for police officers, participating in prison workshops, and acting as administrator for the Philadelphia Restorative Justice Coalition. She also served as a research assistant for the "Crossroads Study" under Laurence Steinberg of Temple University, a longitudinal study examining the consequences of juvenile justice involvement. Her clinical and research interests are in rehabilitation programs in prisons, alternatives to incarceration, and criminal and juvenile justice system reform. She is particularly interested in reentry after incarceration, including ways to reduce recidivism and increase positive outcomes. In her free time, Madelena enjoys exploring anywhere and everywhere, running, spending time outdoors, solving cryptograms and being with family and friends.

MS Program

Joanna Thomas

Joanna is a first-year student in the Master in Psychology program with a focus on forensics. Her research interests include alternatives to incarceration, law and public policy, risk assessment, factors of resiliency after traumatic experiences, and reentry into the community. Joanna is from the Atlantic City, New Jersey area. Prior to beginning graduate school, she was employed by the National Center for Victims of Crime, where she worked in various capacities, including advancing laws and policies that created resources and secured rights and protections for victims at the federal and state levels, as well as provided technical support to attorneys representing crime victims in civil actions. Joanna graduated from the University of Virginia in 2012 with a BA in English Literature, where she was a member of the women's varsity swimming and diving team, as well as an Olympic trial qualifier.

Research Assistants

Na Young

Na Young (Nay) is a 2015 Drexel graduate with a degree in Psychology and a Minor in Criminal Justice. She joined the Heilbrun Research Lab in 2012 and gained valuable research experience in forensic psychology. She also has research experience in eating disorders, cognitive neuroscience, and brain imaging. Her primary interests include the assessment and treatment of high-risk behavior individuals, working with individuals who are deemed incompetent to stand trial (because of both legal and clinical implications), reentry and recidivism. She has been involved in several projects in this lab and completed her independent study under Heilbrun’s mentorship. Currently, she is the Forensic Research Coordinator and Database Analyst at Philadelphia’s Mental Health Care Corporation. She intends to pursue a JD/PhD in the near future with the hope of integrating her passion in data-science and forensic psychology for data-driven policy making and clinical practice. In her free time, she enjoys discovering new restaurants, traveling and participating in volunteer work around the City of Philadelphia.