Star Lab Team


Stephen Gibson

Ph.D., Virginia Commonwealth University

Stephen Gibson, funded by fellowships from the National Science Foundation (NSF-GRFP) and NIH (NRSA-F31), received his degree in Developmental Psychology from Virginia Commonwealth University. A native of New Orleans, Louisiana, he received his M.A. in Educational Psychology from North Carolina State University and his B.S. in Psychology from North Carolina Central University. Stephen’s research interests include understanding the effects of Black caregivers’ parental contributions to Black youths’ positive development. Using various statistical and data analytic techniques, he seeks to understand how culturally relevant factors, such as parenting practices, racial identity, and coping strategies, serve as protective factors for Black youths’ developmental and educational outcomes.  Several organizations and agencies have funded his training, including the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Health, and the Search Institute.  In his free time, Stephen enjoys working out and cooking. 

Funding: Kirschstein Postdoctoral Individual National Service Award (NRSA, F32) 


Shedrick Garrett


Shedrick Garrett is a graduate student in the Developmental Psychology doctoral program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He received his B.S. in Psychology and Neuroscience, with an area of emphasis in Behavioral Neuroscience from West Virginia University in 2021. As an undergrad, he also worked as a summer research assistant at the University of Virginia. His research interests examine the role of social and digital domains on racially-ethnically marginalized youths’ socialization experiences and development. Additionally, he is interested in investigating how adolescents navigate and make sense of their digital environments. In his free time, Garrett enjoys reading, watching documentaries, and swimming.

Funding: National Science Foundation GRFP & Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship

A'zure Latimer


 A’zure Latimer is a graduate student in the Developmental Psychology doctoral program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She received her MA in Community Psychology from the University of Virginia and a B.A. in Psychology from Georgia State University.  Her research interests include ethnic-racial socialization, respectability as a psychological construct, and youth agency among Black girls. She seeks to use her research to benefit Black girls and their support systems (i.e., families and non-profit organizations centering Black girls. A’zure is a Hampton, Virginia native. She is part of a brilliant and resourceful community, on whom she draws for strength and hope.   

Funding: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Health Policy Research Scholars Fellowship

Margarett McBride


Margarett McBride, M.A. is a doctoral candidate from Saginaw, Michigan, in Developmental Psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She received her B.A. in Biopsychology, Cognition, and Neuroscience with a minor in Community Action and Social Change from the University of Michigan. Her research investigates how the neighborhood contexts (i.e., community violence, neighborhood support, gentrification) influence health outcomes and development for Black youth and families. Several organizations have funded her scholarship, including the National Science Foundation, Ford Foundation, UNC Violence and Injury Prevention Center, and the Carolina Center for Public Service. Margarett seeks to engage in participatory and community-engaged approaches in her work, leading her to internships with the Detroit Initiative, Telling It, Prison Creative Arts Project, and Cities United. In her free time, Margarett enjoys volunteering at community programs, creating art (, and writing children’s book stories about Black youth (stay tuned for “Dear Dad, Love Nelson” coming out late 2022 with Free Spirit Publishing).

Funding: National Science Foundation (NSF) GRFP & Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship

Janae Shaheed


Janae is a graduate student in the Developmental Psychology doctoral program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She received her B.A. in Psychology and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies from Wake Forest University. Janae uses an intersectional lens to examine the impact of social inequalities on the well-being and identity development of marginalized groups, particularly LGBTQ youth of color. Focusing on community contexts, she is also interested in researching how inclusive communities and social support can facilitate positive development. In her free time, Janae enjoys writing stories, moshing at concerts, and reading books in tea shops.


Mary Lizzie Booze


Mary is a post-baccalaureate student from Murphy, NC studying psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She received bachelor’s degrees in political science (Pre-Law) and Interdisciplinary Studies (Race, Gender, and Class) from North Carolina Central University. Before returning to academia, Mary worked as an administrator in the legal and non-profit sectors. Her research interests include investigating the impacts that race, culture, and economic factors have on parental styles. She is also interested in how those same factors impact BIPOC populations in rural areas and how psychological resiliency is built within community settings. In her free time, she enjoys listening to a good podcast and spending time with friends and family.

Dezja Ishmeal


Dezja Ishmeal is a junior and honors student at UNC Chapel Hill, majoring in Human Development and Family Science with a double minor in Education and Public Policy. She is originally from New Orleans, Louisiana, but was raised in Jacksonville, North Carolina. Her research interests primarily lie in exploring the intersection between marginalization and the process of achieving equitable access to education for youth, which she hopes to translate into careers in teaching and education policy. For hobbies, she enjoys spending time with her family, doing community service, and going to concerts/live performances.


Mariana Chavez Guerrero


Mariana Chavez Guerrero attends the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a double double-major in Psychology and Human Development and Family Sciences. She is originally from Mexico, but has spent the majority of her life in Arkansas before coming to study at UNC. Her research explores how ethnic-racial identity development influences positive risk taking behaviors among youth, and how this relationship can be used to promote educational equity and social justice. In her free time, Mariana enjoys playing the piano, exploring new places, spending time with loved ones, and doing escape rooms.


Jada Willse


Jada Willse is a research assistant and an undergraduate honors thesis candidate from Greensboro, North Carolina double majoring in Psychology (B.A.) and Statistics (B.S.) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her research investigates the predictive relationship of parental racial socialization and parental school involvement on Black students’ academic self-esteem. She plans to pursue doctoral-level training to continue examining educational research methods, assessment, and measurement. Outside of the lab, Jada is a Buckley Service Scholar dedicated to community service directed at academics and student support. In her free time, Jada enjoys arts and crafts, watching TV, and hanging out with her friends.




 Jelaina is a doctoral candidate in the Health Psychology PhD Program at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). She received her BA in Psychology, BS in Criminal Justice, and MA in Clinical Psychology at North Carolina Central University. Broadly, her research involves examining biopsychosocial and social-ecological factors that influence cardiometabolic health outcomes for Black individuals, with a special focus on Black youth (children, adolescents, and young adults). Funded by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD), her current work examines the role of sleep and socio-ecological supports in the association between racial discrimination and cardiometabolic risk among Black youth. Jelaina seeks to use community-academic partnerships to translate her work into culturally-relevant cost-effective prevention and intervention programs to address health disparities and improve health equity. In her free time, Jelaina enjoys reading, playing video games, watching anime, and trivia. 

Funding: Kirschstein Individual National Predoctoral Service Award (NRSA, F31)



Victoria is a graduate student in the Human Development and Family Science program at the University of Arizona. Victoria earned her B.S. in Family Life with a minor in Spanish at Brigham Youth University. Victorian uses a sociocultural lens to understand the factors that influence the academic achievement and well-being of Black children and youth. Additionally, she is interested in exploring Black fathering, parenting racial socialization, and belonging. Victoria enjoys hiking, quilting, journaling, and playing racquetball.


Alayna Bah

Alayna Bah is a high school sophomore from Winston-Salem, NC. She is a passionate advocate for minority girls’ mental health. She is also the founder of The Mental Teapot, which is a youth-led organization dedicated to bridging the gap between minority girls and mental health resources & education. Her interests include reading, baking & cooking, listening to music, fashion, and competitive volleyball. In the future, she aspires to study psychology as her undergraduate major.

Micah Smith

Micah Smith is a graduating High school student in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and is on track to study developmental psychology and neuroscience at North Carolina State A&T University.  He is an AP student, as well as a student ambassador on the equity council of the CHCCS school district.  Micah’s research interests include how unhealed/cyclical trauma factors into parenting styles and in turn, impacts adolescents’ worldview and idea of self.  He also intends to research the ways culturally degrading and stagnating stigmas are perpetuated in tradition, pop culture, and socio-economic environment, especially in BIPOC communities.  Micah has a vested interest in understanding how these ideologies are amplified in social and digital environments, through human behavior and interactions.  Micah is a tri-athlete, student, as well as a part time worker, but in his free time he delves into painting, sculpting, photography, fashion, and a good playlist.


Marketa Burnett


Marketa is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Human Development and Families Studies at the University of Connecticut. A former StarLab member and graduate of UNC’s Developmental Psychology doctoral program, she received her B.A. in both Psychology and African, African American, and Diaspora (AAAD) Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her research interests focus on the joint development of racial and gender stereotypes in Black adolescent girls and impacts on their STEM attitudes and outcomes. Additionally, Marketa is interested in exploring how Black fathers’ socialization practices may influence STEM attitudes and outcomes among Black adolescent girls. In her spare time, Marketa enjoys volunteering in the local community, watching Jeopardy, and trying out new recipes in the kitchen.

Nina Smith


Nina Smith is an Associate Professor in the Department of Human Sciences at North Carolina Central University. She oversees the department’s Child Development and Family Relations concentration area. Her research focuses on work-family balance, maternal and child health, and academic readiness of young children within the context of families of color. She also has interests in child care quality and early childhood teacher preparedness.