Lab Members

Lab Director, Dr. Lara Aknin

Hello! I’m Lara Aknin, a distinguished associate professor of Social Psychology at Simon Fraser University and former fellow at the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research. My research interests lie at the intersection of social psychology, positive psychology, economics and judgement and decision making. My research questions often include the study of what makes people happy, the emotional consequences of kind or generous behavior, and the well-being outcomes of specific spending choices. Most of the research I have conducted thus far examines people’s perceptions of the money and happiness relationship and whether people reap greater happiness from spending money on others (i.e. prosocial spending) than when spending the same amount of money on themselves.

Lab Manager, Angie Fan

Hi! My name is Angie, I recently completed completing my B.A. (Hons) in Psychology in 2022, under the supervision of Dr. Aknin. My honours thesis involved examining whether if engaging in prosociality can support retiring athletes' well-being as they complete their retirement transition. At SFU, I volunteered as a FASS Peer Mentor to support first year undergrad students and I continue to work as a figure skating coach—combining my passions for psychology, teaching, and sport. In the future, I hope to complete a graduate program in sport psychology. My research interests include athlete well-being, mental performance, and prosociality.

Graduate Student, Tiara Cash

Hi! My name is Tiara Cash. I am a graduate student at SFU where I work with Dr. Aknin on intersections of transitions, prosocial behaviors, and well-being outcomes. I hold a Master’s Degree (M.S.) from Western Illinois University where I studied Sport Psychology. There, my research focused on student-athlete retirement and the psychosocial factors related to the quality of well-being post-play. Previously, I earned a B.S. at Arizona State University in Exercise and Wellness. In addition to being a graduate student and researching in the lab, I own an organization focused on mindfulness, meta-awareness, and meaning where I conduct presentations, workshops, and consultations through an emerging framework: Equitable Mindfulness. My career interests include working with underrepresented and underserved populations, resilience training, and research on life transitions.

Adriana Kowalczyk

Hello! My name is Adriana Kowalczyk. I recently completed my B.A. in Psychology with a minor in Human Development & Counseling in June 2022. I am currently a research assistant for the Helping and Happiness Lab, where I assist with the iGen project. In the future, I hope to complete a graduate program in counselling psychology. My research interests include attachment theory, developmental psychology, positive psychology, counselling psychology, and expressive therapies such as play-based therapy and art therapy.

Angel Leung

Hi there! My name is Angel Leung (she/her) and I’m currently pursuing a major in Psychology and a minor in Counselling and Human Development. At the Helping and Happiness Lab, I’m doing my Research Engagement! My generally interests include social, developmental, and cultural psychology. Once I graduate, I hope to pursue a Master’s in Counselling Psychology or potentially an industry related job.

Erin Koch

Hello! My name is Erin. I'm currently pursuing a Psychology major and a Cognitive Science minor. After taking PSYC 260, I knew that I wanted to learn more about social psychology. In addition to this, I wanted to get involved in research, as my goal is to become a UX/UI Designer, where having these skills would be an asset. My interests in social psychology and research led me to becoming a part of the Helping and Happiness Lab. Currently, I'm interested in learning more about how technology affects our well-being.

Hilary Grist

Hi there! My name is Hilary Grist. I am a volunteer research assistant in the Helping & Happiness Lab. I previously completed a Bachelor of Music and spent many years performing, writing and teaching music. I am currently taking Psychology and Education courses at SFU with the future goal of attending graduate school in Psychology or Arts Education.

Ira Rishi

Hi! I'm Ira (she/her) and I'm majoring in Psychology and minoring in Gender, Sexuality, and Women's studies. I've been volunteering at the Helping and Happiness Lab since Fall 2020 and I hope to pursue graduate school in Psychology upon completing my degree. Some of my research interests include interpersonal relationships, adolescence, and mental health in South Asia.

Janaki Patel

Hello! My name is Janaki Patel. I am a Psychology and Health Sciences undergraduate student and I am currently doing my honours with Dr. Aknin. Some research areas I hope to pursue in the future include prosociality, biological and health psychology, and clinical psychology.

Kodi Rivera

Hi! My name is Kodi Rivera. I am currently in the process of completing my B.A. in Psychology. Afterwards, I aspire to advance my education to graduate school, and one day be able to teach at the university level!

Rachel Pham

Hello, my name is Rachel Pham and I am a fourth year Psychology student at Simon Fraser University. In addition to being a research assistant, I am also volunteering as a program assistant for Burnaby Family Life. My goal is to complete a graduate degree in Counselling in the future.

Scarlett MacPherson

Hi! My name is Scarlett, I’m currently working on my B.A. of Psychology. I am incredibly grateful to be able to volunteer as a Research Assistant in a lab filled with so many exceptional individuals. I spend my time outside of school volunteering with community outreach, art programs, and nature clean-up in my home community of the Sunshine Coast.

Kyle Bergh

Maya Beninteso

Graduate Student, Jason Proulx

Hello! My name is Jason Proux. I am a PhD student working with Dr. Aknin at SFU where I investigate how various interpersonal factors influence charitable behaviours and the downstream emotional consequences of giving. I completed my B.A. (Hons.) at the University of British Columbia on the social and emotional consequences of using smartphone technology; I am currently involved in several ongoing projects at UBC investigating the motivational role of shame in promoting self-change behaviours in clinical and non-clinical samples as well as the role individual differences play in impacting researchers’ statistical analyses. Additionally, I conduct research for a local charitable foundation, CHIMP (Charitable Impact) alongside an interdisciplinary team of researchers from Harvard Business School, UBC, and the University of the Fraser Valley. At CHIMP, I am investigating the longitudinal, causal impact of CHIMP’s community-based charitable education programs on students’ and youth athletes’ generosity, character development, and happiness. Beyond my current projects, I am generally interested in the role that technology and various social factors play in developing, enhancing, or hindering prosocial behaviours and emotional well-being. Relatedly, I am interested in using psychological science to inform the design and evaluation of interventions aimed at promoting prosocial behaviour or enhancing emotional well-being for people of all ages.

Anurada Amarasekera

Hello! My name is Anurada. I recently completed my B.A. (Hons) in Psychology in 2022, under the supervision of Dr. Aknin. I examined the features of gratitude notes that increase subsequent prosocial behaviour. My research interests focus on improving well-being and happiness in underrepresented populations. In the future, I plan to complete graduate training in clinical psychology.

Amanda Hodges

Hello! My name is Amanda, and I am a Psychology undergraduate student here at SFU. In addition to being an SFU student, I am a research assistant in the Helping and Happiness lab and a FASS peer mentor. Outside of school, I work part-time as a dance and gymnastics instructor. In the future, I hope to further my studies in Psychology by attending graduate school and conducting original research.

Burdett Kwon

Hello, my name is Burdett Kwon and I have completed a B.A. in Psychology. I am currently a research assistant for the Helping and Happiness Lab and the lab manager for the Relationship and Wellbeing Lab. In the future, I am hoping to complete a graduate program in experimental psychology. My research interests include developmental psychology, cultural psychology, and abnormal psychology.

Fiona Eaket

Hello, my name is Fiona! I am currently in my third year at SFU, working on completing my B.A. in Psychology. I am a volunteer research assistant in the Helping and Happiness Lab, and I also volunteer with Metro Vancouver East Community Corrections. Following the completion of my degree I hope to attend graduate school for Clinical Psychology. Some of my research interests include environmental psychology, violence and aggression, interpersonal relationships, and prosocial behaviour.

Devan Gill

Hello, my name is Devan! I recently completed my B.A. (Hons) in Psychology at Simon Fraser University in 2022. I am a volunteer research assistant in the Helping and Happiness Lab and completing my honours thesis on sleep, mental health and cognitive performance in the Translational Neuroscience Lab. In the future, I hope to complete my PhD in Clinical Psychology and help others improve their mental wellbeing.

Jacob Koochin

Hello, my name is Jacob and I am working on getting a B.A. (Hons) in Psychology. I also have enjoyed delving into Hellenic Studies at SFU. I am a research assistant in the Helping and Happiness Lab to help further my goal of changing the world and lifting each other up one step at a time. I have always loved helping build people up and desire to gain a career that can continue to offer me the same opportunity in a workaday world. My current research interests are surrounding the topics of ADHD and it’s many comorbidities, eating disorders and the binge purge subtype of Anorexia Nervosa, and how the ancient Greek world has influenced just about the entirety of what our culture is today. Aside from school, I very much enjoy watching a healthy amount of TV shows and movies with my wife and exploring the culinary arts in our own kitchen and the many kitchens beyond. We also like lots of naps!

Kalum Kumar

Hello, my name is Kalum Kumar. I am a research assistant for the Helping and Happiness Lab in my third year at Simon Fraser University. I am pursuing a B.A. in psychology and in the future, I aspire to attend graduate school. I have yet to find an area of psychology I dislike and hope to use this passion to fuel a career closely tied to the discipline.

Rachel Yapp

Hi! I'm Rachel. I am a third year Psychology major and minoring in Cognitive Science. I volunteer in both SFU’s Happiness and Helping Lab and Behavioural Endocrinology Lab. In my spare time I work as a research consultant for an interior design company focusing on how designed environments impact wellbeing. Many aspects of psychology interest me and I intend to pursue a graduate degree in the future.

Sophia Vennesland

Hi! I am Sophia Vennesland, a fourth year student majoring in Psychology and minoring in Counselling and Human Development. I am currently a volunteer research assistant in the Helping and Happiness Lab. I hope to go to graduate school for either clinical or counselling psychology following my undergraduate degree. My research interests include the well-being of children and adolescents, developmental psychopathology, mental health and positive psychology.

Former lab members:

Devan Gill
Marina Cummiskey
Celina Grewal
Christina Johnstone
Cassidy Ouldtata-Allan
Brenna Lee
Alyssa Greco
Emily Thornton
Armaghan Aliabadi
Angela Starnaman
Oksana Soychuke
Pavan Nahal
Nava Kisiri
Connor Macmillan
Jason Roh
Jessamyn Hung
Katherine Hanniball
Dr. Dylan Wiwad