Spring 2020

Joseph Austerweil

Associate Professor


As a computational cognitive psychologist, my research program explores questions at the intersection of perception and higher-level cognition. I use recent advances in statistics and computer science to formulate ideal learner models to see how they solve these problems and then test the model predictions using traditional behavioral experimentation. Ideal learner models help us understand the knowledge people use to solve problems because such knowledge must be made explicit for the ideal learner model to successfully produce human behavior. This method yields novel machine learning methods and leads to the discovery of new psychological principles.

Scientists, Postdocs, and Graduate Students

Jeff Zemla

Assistant Scientist

Jeff studies semantic memory and Alzheimer's Disease. He received his PhD from Rice University working with Mike Byrne. [Personal Webpage]

Mohsen Afrasiabi

Assistant Scientist

Mohsen is a data scientist with a PhD in Electrical and Computer Engineering and over 15 years of experience working in industry. He is returning to academia to pursue research in Machine Learning, Deep Learning and their application in Cognitive Psychology and Computational Neuroscience.

Elise Hopman

Graduate Student

Elise is interested in how language learning works and investigates this question with behavioral as well as computational research. [Personal Webpage]

Ian Johnston

Graduate Student

Ian is interested in modeling legal decision making. He received his J.D. from Harvard Law School.

Michael Payton

Graduate Student


Michael is a Ph.D. student in the Psychology Department. His work is primarily in Social Cognition where he investigates how we make deductions about unobservable traits like beliefs, desires and goals from observable behavior. His work touches on issues in Behavioral Economics, Social Psychology, Cognitive Science and Philosophy.

Yun-Shiuan (Sean) Chuang

Graduate Student


Sean is a Ph.D. student in the Psychology Department. He currently investigates children’s math cognition development via computational modeling with fMRI data. He also investigates the sense of number in artificial neural networks and compare it to human’s math cognition. He received his BS in psychology and neuroscience from National Taiwan University. [Personal Webpage]

Lanston Chu

Graduate Student


Lanston is a graduate student in the Electrical & Computer Engineering Department. His research mainly focuses on machine learning and computer vision, and he is currently working on a research project in the areas of face recognition and adversarial examples. Before coming to UW Madison, he was working as a pricing Actuary in Asia. he also hold a Bachelor degree in Mathematics and a MS Degree in actuarial science. [Personal Webpage]

Kesong Cao

Graduate Student


Kesong is interested in human cognition and behavior such as language and decision-making. He is exploring cognitive science and machine learning fields such as natural language processing and reinforcement learning.


Atulya Reddy

Undergraduate Researcher

Atulya is interested in the concept of learning from both psychological and computational perspectives. She is excited to be involved in research that fulfills her passion for coding and curiosity about human cognitive processes.

Anantha (Van) Rao

Undergraduate Researcher

Van is interested in the relationship between the perception of categories and causal inference. He is currently investigating if, when and how people use multiple category information in intuitive physical judgements about object dynamics.

Uday Malhotra

Undergraduate Researcher

Uday enjoys researching and exploring the links between memory and cognition. He hopes to continue researching topics at an intersection of his two majors and dive deeper into the world of NLP and become an effective contributing member of the lab.


Jie Ren

Visiting Instructor, Brown University; Visiting Professor, McGovern Institute for Brain Research at Beijing Normal University

​Jie's​ research is concerned with the biology and neurology of infant speech ​learning​. The research methods used in ​her​ research include behavioral measures of infant speech perception, functional neuroimaging (fNIRS) and computational modeling with ​machine-learning techniques. [Personal Webpage]

Boyoung Kim

Graduate Student at Brown University

Boyoung collaborates on modeling how people learn social norms..

Babak Hemmatian

Graduate Student at Brown University

I am a Ph.D. student of cognitive science, with a background in psychology, but a new-found love for computational modeling. I am most interested in integrating the computational models offered for different kinds of reasoning (inductive, causal, deductive, etc.), offering new such models (with an emphasis on causal reasoning) and comparing the proposals with regards to how well they capture the qualitative and quantitative aspects of human reasoning.


Sam Westby

Former Undergraduate Researcher

Sam is currently a graduate student at Northeastern University in Network Science. he is still interested collective behavior.

Kendra V Lange

Former Undergraduate Researcher

V is currently a graduate student at Northeastern University in Network Science.

Nicole Beckage

Former Assistant Scientist

[Personal Webpage]

Blake Chambers

Lab Manager

Blake recently graduated from the University of Wisconsin - Madison with a Bachelors of Science in neurobiology and psychology. His undergraduate research with Dr. Diane Gooding and the PATHS Lab focused on biobehavioral measures of at-risk populations for schizophrenia. Blake is interested in how deficits in semantic factors can be used in the identification of Alzheimer’s disease and MCI.

Shi Xian Liew

Former Postdoctoral Researcher


Xian graduated from University of Melbourne where he worked with Dr. Little and Dr. Howe. He investigates computational models of categorization. He is currently working under Ben Newell and Dani Nevarro at UNSW Sydney.

Jacqueline Erens

Former Undergraduate Researcher

Jacki has examined how people reason with features and relations using the Bayesian Generalization Framework in the domain of emojis. She is now exploring language production in the UIUC Language and Learning Lab under Jessica Montag.

Mark Ho

Former Graduate Student

Mark completed his PhD in December 2017. He is now a postdoctoral researcher with Tom Griffiths and Sanjit Seshia. [Personal Webpage]

Nolan Conaway

Former Postdoctoral Researcher

Nolan now works as a data scientist at Shutterstock. [Personal Webpage]

Ting Qian

Former Postdoctoral Scholar

Ting is now a data scientist at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

Yoed Kenett

Former Postdoctoral Scholar

Yoed is now a postdoctoral scholar with Sharon Thompson-Schill at University of Pennsylvania.

Mowafak Allaham

Former Post-Undergrad Research Assistant

Mowafak is now a graduate student in Psychology at University of Illinois-Chicago. He works with Sylvia Morelli.

Kendra Lange

Former Undergraduate Researcher

Kendra examines the interrelation between bilingualism, creativity, and intelligence. Specifically, she is examining whether reported advantages in creativity and intelligence due to bilngualism can be explained by properties of their representations.

Rebekah Manweiler

Visiting Undergraduate Researcher

Rebekah is an undergraduate senior from the University of Kansas in Lawrence majoring in Computer Science and minoring in Linguistics and Mathematics. She is interested in Computational Modeling and Machine learning and their applications to Psycholinguistics. Within Psycholinguistics, she is interested in the structure and method of access of the mental lexicon. She is working on research with Nicole Beckage over the summer to learn more about Cognitive Modeling and its applications. [Personal Webpage]

Sophie Sandweiss

Visiting Undergraduate Researcher

Sophie Sandweiss is an undergraduate at Brown studying Cognitive Neuroscience and Contemplative Studies. She is interested in human cognition, mental health and wellness and is in Madison studying semantic memory.

Elizabeth Pettit

Former Post-Baccularate Researcher

Elizabeth graduated from UW-Madison in the Spring of 2017, majoring in Psychology. She will be a PhD graduate program in Psychology at Miami University starting September 2018.

The Austerweil Lab thanks its previous and current funders.