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Psychological & Brain Sciences PhD Programs Set Students Up for Exceptional Placements

By Liz Waldie

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March 31, 2022

In February, 100 percent of eligible doctoral candidates in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences programs matched with exceptional internship placement sites. This included three out of the eight students matching with the VA San Diego/University of California, San Diego—one of the leading internship sites in the country.

“Matching to psychology internship sites remains a challenging process, with a sizable minority of applicants failing to match during the first round of the process,” Brian Daly, PhD, associate professor and department head of Psychological and Brian Sciences, explains. “Having a 100-percent round-one match rate is a testament to the talent of our PhD students, the rigorous training they receive during their time in the programs and the superb mentorship provided by faculty. Even more impressive, the matches were to some of the highest-rated and most sought-after internship sites across the country.”

The JD/PhD Program in Law & Psychology, which is jointly offered by the department and the Thomas R. Kline School of Law, prepares students right away for post-doctoral positions that lie at the intersection of psychology and law, by nature of its cross-disciplinary curriculum. Students exit the program with a better understanding of social issues than those who solely study one area or the other.

“The JD/PhD students are well prepared to make valuable contributions in positions that focus on psychology, public policy and law,” says David DeMatteo, JD, PhD, ABPP, director of the Law and Psychology program.

Graduates of the program have held positions in organizations such as the Federal Bureau of Prisons, mental health agencies that provide services to justice-involved individuals, correctional facilities that house individuals experiencing mental illness, and think tanks that address issues related to psychology and law.

Sarah Fishel, a doctoral candidate in the program, looks forward to her internship at UNC-Butner. “The training opportunities at Drexel, and specifically the clinical and forensic assessment work that I have been able to do with David DeMatteo and Kirk Heilbrun, allowed me to speak in a nuanced way about forensic psychology that not many graduate students at this level are able to do,” she says.

Madelena Rizzo, another JD/PhD student, echoes Fishel. “I have been amazed and thrilled by the opportunities that have been afforded to me. The unparalleled mentorship I have received and the courses I have taken paved the way for my acceptance at a well-regarded internship site,” Rizzo says, referencing her upcoming position with Holcomb Behavioral Health Systems.

Another selling point of the program is that its faculty are working professionals who are well connected and well known. Fishel recounts an interview in which her mentors came up in conversation: “My interviewer said, ‘Well, we know that coming from Kirk and Dave you have the skills to excel,’ and I agree! I feel prepared to work in the field, and therefore ready to stretch myself on internship in a way that I wouldn’t without the solid foundation I gained through my work here at Drexel.”

Personal interaction with faculty mentors is not exclusive to the JD/PhD program; it’s a trait that carries over into the other doctoral offerings as well.

“I am so thankful to my mentors and the program for providing me the training and framework to develop my individual identity as a psychologist,” says Michael Silverstein, a Clinical Psychology doctoral candidate who will continue his training with an internship at Kennedy Krieger and Johns Hopkins.

Developing an identity as a psychologist is a key component of the Clinical Psychology program, which allows students to elect a concentration in clinical child psychology, clinical neuropsychology, forensic psychology or health psychology. The program trains its students in the scientist-practitioner model to help graduates navigate both domains and gives them the skills to work in a variety of settings such as academia, medical centers, forensic settings and private practices.

“Many go on to complete prestigious postdoctoral fellowships and are employed at top-tier institutions where they obtain grant funding to conduct state-of-the-art research; train and mentor future professionals; and provide evidence-based treatment to varied populations,” Pam Geller, PhD, associate professor of psychology, Ob/Gyn and public health; director of the Clinical Psychology program and co-director of Mother Baby Connections, explains.

Lila Chrysikou, PhD, associate dean for research in the college and director of the Applied Cognitive and Brain Sciences program, notes that despite being founded only in 2013, it boasts many notable achievements. The program offers ample opportunities for training in the field, and students explore cutting-edge neuroscience methods including brain electrophysiology, structural and functional brain imaging, transcranial magnetic stimulation and transcranial electrical stimulation.

“Our graduates have all pursed successful neuroscience careers in academia or industry, including teaching and research positions at Drexel and the University of Pennsylvania, user experience research positions at Google, data science positions at Vettery and even founding their own companies,” Chrysikou says.

“The doctoral training in the scientist-practitioner model students received during their time at Drexel, combined with the excellent experiences they will receive on internship, leaves no doubt that our graduates will excel in their respective specialty areas of psychology by making impactful clinical and research contributions,” Daly notes. “They will become the future leaders in psychology who relentlessly address the significant mental health challenges we face as a society.”

View the full list of internship placements below:

Joanna Chen
VA San Diego/University of California, San Diego; San Diego, CA; VA Beh Med./VA Beh. Med Pain WT  

Kelsey Clark
VA San Diego/University of California, San Diego; San Diego, CA; UCSD Adult/Adolescent Eating Disorders 

Sarah Ross Fishel
University of North Carolina SOM - Clinical Psych; Chapel Hill, NC; Clinical Forensic  

Alison Hartman
University of Pennsylvania Dept. of Psychiatry; Philadelphia, PA; General adult track 

Claire Moore Lankford
Tuscaloosa VA Medical Center; Tuscaloosa, AL; Psychology Internship 

Madelena Rizzo
Holcomb Behavioral Health Systems; Exton, PA; Psychology Internship 

Michael Silverstein
Kennedy Krieger/Johns Hopkins/Behavioral Psych; Baltimore, MD; Peds Consultation Program  

Simar Singh
VA San Diego/University of California, San Diego; San Diego, CA; UCSD Eating Disorders Outpatient/Rady MBU