People

Dr. Z smiling in front of table with Loyola cookies

Dr. Z, Director

Dr. Zoe R. Smith (Dr. Z) is an assistant professor of psychology at Loyola University Chicago.

Pronouns: She/her

Office: Coffey Hall 204
Phone: 773.508.3015
Email: zsmith5@luc.edu
Twitter: @DrZoeRSmith, @ACCTIONLab
Instagram: ACCTIONLab
Faculty Webpage: Dr. Zoe R. Smith, Loyola 

Education and Training:

Research Interests:

Development of culturally-responsive assessments and interventions for adolescents, particularly adolescents with ADHD and sluggish cognitive tempo. 

I advocate through my research, teaching, and service for people from systemically oppressed backgrounds.

I also examine how motivation changes over time and through different contexts. 

I examine how measures are created and fit together statistically (psychometrics). 

My work is community-centered and healing-based. That means we focus on the strengths of the whole person and help to alleviate any distress. 

Recent Courses Taught:

What I do for fun:

I love listening to books on tape, going for walks, eating delicious food (particularly pizza), and exercising. I'm also starting to learn how to play pickleball and it is super fun! I love playing basketball, but I am hopeless at shooting baskets. 

Study Coordinator

Terumi Randle

Pronouns: She/Her

Education: Middlebury College, BA in Psychology

Research/Clinical Interest: I am interested in neuropsychology. I would like to work towards assisting with the treatment of neurodivergant and cognitive disorders. I’m especially interested in treatments and interventions that will greatly affect BIPOC communities. 

What I do for fun: Reading, writing, cinema watching, and trying new things!

Goals: Pursuing a PhD in Clinical Psychology and becoming an advocate for people of color that are chronically ill and living with conditions that greatly affect their cognition.

Graduate Research Assistants

Marcus Flax, M.A., HPRS Fellow

Pronouns: he/his/him

Education:

·      Montclair State University, M.A., Clinical Psychology

·      Rutgers University-Newark, B.A., Psychology

Status: 2nd Year Graduate student in the Clinical Psychology Ph.D. program

Research/Clinical interests: How adverse childhood experiences affect the development of African American youth, understanding the presentation of internalizing disorders in African American boys, addressing and breaking the stigma towards mental health within the African American community, and the development of new interventions to address the specific needs of Black and Brown youth.

What I do for fun: Chess, cooking, painting, being outside in nature, and spending time with family and friends.

Goals: I want to become a child/adolescent clinical psychologist so as to create a child study center at a university to progress youth research for BIPOC communities and inspire more students to become researchers.

Victoria Grant, B.S.

Pronouns: she/her/hers

Education: University of Florida, B.S., Psychology – Behavioral & Cognitive Neuroscience

Status: 1st Year Graduate student in the Clinical Psychology Ph.D. program

Research/Clinical interests: Explore how ethnic/racial identity formation, community connectedness, environmental stressors and resilience factors impact how Black and Brown youth/adolescents experience and interact with mental health care. Further working to develop accessible community-based interventions to promote positive adjustment and healing for marginalized and underserved communities living in urban settings.

What I do for fun: Read, go for a run, spend time in nature, explore new places and foods, and learn something new!

Goals: I hope to become a child and adolescent clinical psychologist working directly within community settings to help provide and advocate for equitable mental health resources and culturally-tailored interventions.

Lab Manager

Laurel Miskovic

Name: Laurel Miskovic 

Pronouns: She/Her

Education: Loyola University Chicago, B.S., Psychology 2025

Status: Junior, Honors Student 

Research/Clinical Interests: My personal research interests include exploring the intersectionality of individuals with ADHD who are also a part of the LGBTQ+ community as well the experiences of individuals with both ADHD and OCD. My clinical interests include the diagnostic testing of ADHD and Autism Spectrum Disorder in children as well as adolescent psychotherapy. 

What I do for fun: I love going for walks along the lake, crocheting, and re-watching comfort T.V. Shows.

Goals: My goal is to obtain my Ph.D. in clinical psychology or to become a school psychologist!

Undergraduate Research Assistants

Naima McRoberts

Pronouns:  she/her

Education:  B.S., Psychology, Spring 2026

Status:  Sophomore at Oberlin College majoring in psychology with an Africana studies minor and a concentration in global health.

Research/Clinical Interests: Working at the ACCTION Lab has greatly impacted my research interests. I have appreciated being able to broaden my developmental psychology knowledge and learn about how disparities in mental health diagnostic processes affect Black and/or Latine youth. I am also interested in trauma-informed and community/culturally responsive care practices, which I've learned much about while working on project CRAFT. Overall, this lab has modeled how to pursue research from a values and impact-driven standpoint, which will guide me as I continue on my academic and professional path.

What I do for fun: I love experiencing art and music with friends, spending time in nature, and sharing meals with loved ones.

Goals: I plan to attend graduate school and potentially pursue a doctorate in clinical psychology. I am excited to have this opportunity at the ACCTION Lab to advance my research experience and learn from Dr. Z and my fellow lab members about navigating the psychology field. 

Kayla Mkandawire 

Pronouns: She/her

Education: B.S Cognitive & Behavioral Neuroscience (2025) 

Status: Junior

Research/Clinical Interests: I am interested in understanding the effects of developmental trauma specifically in African American girls. My personal interest also involves advocating for victims of sexual assault and learning different treatments for survivors. 

What I do for fun: I enjoy bike riding along the lake and spending time by the lake. 

Goals: I am still figuring out my specific goals. I do have an interest in medicine and would like to learn more about MD/PhD routes. My life goal is to use science to help resolve some social justice issues affecting Black and Brown people. 

Anjo Okechukwu

Pronouns: they/them
Education: B.S in Psychology in 2026    Status: Freshman
Research/Clinical Interests: I am interested in a lot of things, but I am most interested about the impact trauma has in a child's development and how that could affect their life into adulthood.
What I do for fun: I spend most of my time reading or writing, but I also love taking long walks around Chicago—as a Southerner, there's nothing quite like a nice walk through the city.

Goals: Currently my goal is to make it through college and go to graduate school to pursue a PhD in clinical psychology. My overall goal is to work in therapy and provide one-on-one help to people!

Maria Orndorf

Pronouns: She/her

Education: Rising Junior at Loyola University Chicago

Major: BS Psychology

Minor: Business Administration

Research/Clinical Interests: The CAS USRE fellowship for ACCTION Lab is the first opportunity I’ve received to do hands-on research, so I’m grateful and excited to see what will follow. I have aspirations of becoming a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, as I enjoy helping and forming relationships with others, and have always found love and relationships so interesting. I also am interested in Clinical and I-Organizational Psychology.

What I do for fun: I love to try new things! For example, I love to check out new cuisines, shops, and events in Chicago. When I go back for the summer to my hometown near Milwaukee, WI, I enjoy outdoor activities such as visiting the beach, biking, hiking, and attending music festivals such as Summerfest.

Goals: The primary goal I am focused on as of now is to graduate a semester early, so my last semester at Loyola will be Fall 2024. Then, I hope to get a few years of work experience and start a master’s or doctorate program in psychology by the time I am 25/in 2028. I also aspire to pursue the business side of my degree. I have always felt called to be a part of the world of fashion business, so I am also considering pursuing a career in Fashion Buying or starting my own Fashion business one day. Otherwise, I hope to use my entrepreneurial skills to start my own private therapy practice once I am licensed.

Maddie Warrick

Pronouns:  She/her/hers

Education:  B.S. Psychology and B.S. Cellular/Molecular Neuroscience 

Status: Senior 

Research/Clinical Interests: I am really interested in understanding the molecular pathways in the brain and the ways in which they are affected and change through our experiences. I am really passionate about creating accessible, equitable mental and physical health care and that is something I am able to help cultivate everyday by working with ACCTION Lab. 

What I do for fun:  I love to hike, run, camp and be outside in general! When I have free time, I also enjoy reading and going to local farmer’s markets or second-hand shops. 

Goals:  Eventually, medical school! However, I am hoping to take a couple gap years after undergrad in order to let my mind rest, gain more professional experience and travel/spend more time outside. 

Sarah Ngonmedje

Pronouns:  she/they

Education:  Bachelor’s (University of Illinois at Chicago)

Status:  post-baccalaureate

Research/Clinical Interests: trauma and violence studies

What I do for fun:  cooking, baking, video and photo editing

Goals:  get into a clinical psych program and aid community with mental health services and    education 


Vanessa Barajas

Pronouns: she/her/hers

Education: Loyola University Chicago, B.S., Psychology 2024

Minor: Spanish

Status: Senior

Research/Clinical Interests: I am interested in exploring how adverse childhood experiences can affect the development of Latine youth, how the systemic approach can yield positive results in Latine families who are experiencing conflict (both internal and external stressors), how life transitions impact mental health, and the creation of culturally responsive interventions for youth and young adults.

What I do for fun: I enjoy running my art Instagram account about the importance of art therapy, reading Spanish short stories, taking walks out in nature, and learning Italian online.

Goals: I am currently open to exploring multiple career options in psychology. However, I do have a particular interest in clinical psychology. I hope to gain more research experience as a research assistant in different laboratories before committing to a master's or Ph.D. program that is right for me.

Mikayla Culter

Pronouns: They/them

Major: Cognitive & Behavioral Neuroscience

Minor: Biology

Status: Junior

Research/Clinical Interests: I am interested in understanding the visual implications in neurodivergencies. Additionally, I am fascinated by the molecular mechanisms regarding the brain’s capacity for neuroplasticity following a traumatic event, and what this means regarding how our body stores trauma.

What I do for fun: I like to go thrifting, collect Eyewitness books, get tattooed and cook with my roommates!  

Goals: My vision is to go to optometry school and practice as a behavioral optometrist. Behavioral optometry is a relatively new field, and I aspire to be able to contribute to the growing body of scientific evidence to support the pillars of the practice. Lastly, I hope to make behavioral optometry a more accessible form of therapy, as treatment is often very expensive and not covered under most insurance policies.

Megan McCarron

Pronouns: She/her/hers

Education: B.S Behavioral Cognitive Neuroscience 

Status: Junior

Research/Clinical Interests: I am fascinated by how and why people think the way they do, but more specifically with individuals impacted by neurodivergent and memory disorders. 

What I do for fun: When I’m not studying or in class, I love listening to music, playing video games, or dying mine or my friends' hair!

Goals: My goal is to go to grad school and help benefit research in either neurodivergent or memory disorders, and one day create a safe space for those impacted. Additionally, I want to understand these disorders in groups that haven't been researched, like women, so they can be diagnosed at an earlier age.

Deena Bahrami

Pronouns: she/her/hers

Education: B.S. Psychology, Minor in Neuroscience, August 2023

Research/Clinical Interest: I am interested in researching cognitive and clinical psychology in topics such as language, trauma, and social media, and I'm interested in working with adolescents and young adults. 

What I do for fun: In my free time, I like to read and crochet. I also love to bake and hang out with friends!

Goals: I wish to purse a doctorate in clinical or cognitive psychology. I'd like to pursue a career in research, teaching, and/or clinical work with adolescents and young adults.


Sarah Savani

Pronouns: she/her/hers

Major: Psychology

Research/Clinical Interests: My focus in mental health illness is directly regarding marginalized populations, including Black/Latino individuals. Distribution of resources and access to healthcare for psychiatric disorders is disproportionately distributed, especially neglecting communities of people of color. Without proper education or facilities, there is an incredible lack of awareness within these communities. My biggest goal is to reduce this disparity and promote equal access to resources that marginalized communities are unable to receive.

What I like to do for fun: I love reading books, listening to music, and spending time with people I love!

Goals: I aim to attend medical school after my undergraduate studies and practice medicine as a psychiatrist.  

Bhuvanasai “Bhuvana” Vejandla

Pronouns: She/her/hers

Education: Loyola University Chicago, B.S., Biology 2026

Major: Biology

Minor: Neuroscience and Chemistry

Research/Clinical Interests: My personal research interests include exploring the relationship between eating disorders and ADHD, specifically in adolescents and young adults. My clinical interests include the diagnostic testing of ADHD and its treatment regimens.

Goals: I plan on attending medical school and becoming a practicing Psychiatrist.

Postbacs

Eva Darow

Pronouns: She/Her
Education: B.S., Psychology, May 2022
Status: Post-bac
Research/Clinical Interest: I am interested in learning disabilities and behavioral disorders, specifically how they present during and after adolescence. I joined the ACCTION Lab to expand my research skills in the use of assessments and to learn about ADHD and SCT. I am so excited to be a part of this new lab!
What I do for fun: I enjoy playing my cello and spending time with my family and friends.
Goals: I plan to pursue a doctorate in clinical psychology.

Lab Alumni!

Graduate Research Assistants

2022

Jenny Phan: Child Psychology Intern at Lurie Children's Hospital

Genevieve Roth: Rising 3rd year at Loyola University Chicago completing neuropsychology externship at UIC Advanced Neuropsychology Practicum

2021

Adrien Winning: Pediatric psychology intern at Cincinnati Children's Hospital 

Kaleigh Wilkins

Pronouns: she/her/hers

Education:

Status: 6th year graduate student in the Clinical Psychology Ph.D. program
Research/Clinical Interests: exposure to violence and other life stressors present in urban communities; intergenerational trauma in and among ethnic-minority families; race-related stress; trauma-focused psychotherapy; disruptive behaviors in early childhood

What I do for fun: Biking, traveling, crafting/scrapbooking, eating at various Chicagoland restaurants and spending time with family and friends.

Goals: To become a child/adolescent clinical psychologist in an academic medical center conducting research and clinical work.

Undergraduate RAs

2023

CONGRATULATIONS RECENT GRADUATES :) 

Julliana Collazo Vargas: NYU Research Assistant

Matti Jentz:

Nina Frankovic: Masters in Counseling 

Logan Phensomophone:

Essie Humberston:

2022

Celia Acevedo:

Eva Darow: Nationwide Children's Hospital Study coordinator - we miss you!!

2021

Saniya Khan: Attending Midwestern University's PsyD program, congratulations!!

Mia Tyler: Applying to medical school for 2023!

Shakiba Kalantari

Logan Phengsomphone

Pronouns: He/Him/His

Education: B.S., Psychology 2023

Status: Senior

Research/Clinical Interests: I have a passion for building strong future generations, ACCTION Lab has provided me an opportunity to practice and develop my skills with children and adolescents. There are currently many disparities, inequities, inequalities, and burdens in the system that we live in today that deter individuals from reaching their full potential. ACCTION Lab aligns with my own ambitions as it provides a community-centered approach towards healing and liberation in Chicago for Black, and Latina/o/e youth with ADHD and SCT that I can later extrapolate into other populations to remove those systemic barriers. I follow wherever my curiosity leads me, and it has led me to provide help to the amazing, smart, and creative people with ADHD and SCT.

What I do for fun: In my free time, when the weather is nice, you can catch me spending my time outdoors, either running miles or playing tennis. When the weather is not so nice, I am indoors either listening to music or playing the piano. 

Goals: I plan to pursue a PhD in clinical psychology.

Celia Acevedo

Pronouns: She/Her

Education: B.S. in Psychology expected Fall 2022

Status: Fourth Year!

Research/clinical interest: Being a part of ACCTION Lab will be both rewarding and important work in which we spread resources to systemically oppressed populations and help advocate for their voices! I couldn't be more excited and proud to join this team!

What I do for fun: I enjoy diving into a good fiction book, taking care of my plants and garden, and spending time with my dog :)

Goals: I have plans to pursue a doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology with current work being completed in rape crisis counseling. My goals for this lab include diversifying my research interests and advocating for whosever voice I possible can!

Essie Humberston

Pronouns: she/her
Education: Loyola University Chicago, B.S., Psychology 2023
Status: Junior, Psychology major and Music minor
Research/Clinical Interests: I am so excited to be a part of the ACCTION lab because I think the work that it is accomplishing is extremely important and will help so many people, especially our youth. I am also excited that ACCTION lab recognizes the effects of systematic oppression and works to gain a better understanding of how this affects youth with ADHD. As someone with ADHD I am so excited to be a part of something that is working toward the betterment of lives of children and adolescents with ADHD today through research and therapy methods.
What I do for fun: I love playing guitar, singing, and hiking!
Goals: I am still figuring out what my specific goals for the future are but I really hope to have a career that is focused on understanding and bettering our society, whether that be with the environment, the use of technology, or mental illness (or all of the above).

Laurel Miskovic

Pronouns: She/Her
Education: B.S. Psychology
Expected Graduation Year: May 2025
Status: Sophomore
Clinal Interests: My personal research interests include exploring the possible relationship between academic burnout and ADHD as well as the effect that co-occurring disorders may have on ADHD development and severity of symptoms. My clinical interests include the diagnostic testing of ADHD and autism in children as well as adolescent psychotherapy. 
What I do for fun: I love going for walks along the lake and re-watching comfort T.V. Shows.
Goals: My goal is to obtain my Ph.D. in clinical psychology and work as a pediatric clinical psychologist. 

Nina Frankovic

Pronouns: She/her

Education: B.S. Psychology, B.A. Spanish, Expected graduation May 2023

Status: Senior, honors student

Research/Clinical Interest: I am thrilled to begin volunteering with all the talented members of the ACCTION Lab! I appreciate the importance of the research performed by this lab in advocating for children with ADHD who face systemic injustice. I am honored to be a part of the mission to support these youth. 

What I do for fun: Self-care in the form of playing piano, crocheting, and watching movies!

Goals: I intend to earn a doctorate in clinical psychology. I would love to focus my efforts on bettering treatments for survivors of domestic abuse and sexual assault. In the ACCTION Lab, I look forward to building relationships and practicing productivity with my fellow team members :)

Julianna Collazo Vargo

Pronouns: she/her
Education: B.S., Cognitive & Behavioral Neuroscience and Minor of Psychology, 2023
Status: Senior
Research/Clinical Interests: I want to work towards minimizing the misdiagnosis of neurodivergent youths within underrepresented communities. Within ACCTION Lab, I hope to help adolescents know they aren’t alone and have the support of the community and their families by providing information and resources on mental health.
What I do for fun: I spend most of my time baking for my friends and reading books by the lake. When I’m not studying, I love exploring local restaurants with my friends.

Goals: Currently, my goal is to obtain a PhD in Clinical Neuropsychology in hopes to curate treatments and interventions based on my research. Along with my peers, I want to help eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health and make treatments more accessible to the community.

Three ACCTION lab members hard at work making the lab space beautiful! Creating plants to put in the assessment room
Dr. Z winning the prestigious Sujack Family Master Researcher award for our work on project CRAFT! Dr. Z is standing in group of faculty winners.
Group of students and Dr. Z sitting around large conference table wearing masks and smiling

Our first ACCTION Lab meeting!