Michelle Achterberg is an assistant professor at the Department of Psychology, Education and Child Studies (DPECS) at Erasmus University Rotterdam and affiliated with the Erasmus SYNC-lab. Her research line focusses on the nature, nurture and neural mechanisms of social emotion regulation in childhood and adolescence.

Michelle is a junior PI on the Leiden Consortium on Individual Development (L-CID), a large longitudinal twin study on brain development in childhood and adolescence. Within this study Michelle specifically focusses on longitudinal brain development and its relation to social information processing and behavioral control. Additionally, she has expertise on functional and structural brain connectivity and investigates how brain development is influenced by genes and the environment.

Michelle has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a Research Master’s degree in Neuroscience. During her masters, Michelle worked as a research intern at the department of child psychiatry, University Medical Center Utrecht, where she gained her first experience with neuroimaging in children. During the second year of her studies, she joined the Brian and Development Research Center at Leiden University as a research assistant.

Following her passion for developmental neuroscience, Michelle started her PhD project in 2014 as part of the Leiden Consortium on Individual Development at Leiden University under supervision of Prof. dr. Eveline Crone, Prof. dr. Marian Bakermans- Kranenburg and Dr. Anna van Duijvenvoorde. Michelle received her PhD “Nature, nurture and neural mechanisms of social emotion regulation” in 2020 cum laude. For her PhD research, she received the Dutch Neurofederation PhD Thesis Prize in 2021.

During her postdoc at the SYNC lab (2020-2022), Michelle aimed to bridge the gap between fundamental science and societal challenges by incorporating co-creation methods to her studies, such as brain storm sessions and living labs. As an assistant professor, Michelle remains involved in SYNC’s research projects and societal impact initiatives.

Suzanne van de Groep is a postdoctoral researcher in the SYNC lab. She studies the behavioral and neural development of prosocial behaviors in adolescence. Prosocial behaviors such as giving, cooperating, and helping are essential for forming and maintaining social relationships, which is an important developmental goal in adolescence. Suzanne’s work specifically focuses on the influence of social contexts and individual differences on the development of different types of prosociality, such as trust, reciprocity, and giving.

Suzanne works on an ERC consolidator project called ‘Brainlinks’, a longitudinal three-wave study in which 142 adolescents and their parents are followed over the course of several years. In this project, Suzanne uses a variety of techniques (e.g., fMRI, daily diaries, experiments, questionnaires, and brainstorm sessions) to behaviorally and neurally investigate adolescents’ prosocial behaviors, as well as how these are modulated by different social contexts (e.g., pertaining to beneficiaries and audiences) and individual differences in personality (e.g., in perspective taking).

Suzanne has a background in developmental psychology and completed her research masters in Leiden in 2016 (cum laude). In February 2022, she defended her PhD dissertation called ‘Growing in Generosity? Unraveling the effects of benefactor-, beneficiary-, and situational characteristics on the development of giving and its neural correlates in adolescence’, which was supervised by Prof. Eveline Crone and Dr. Kiki Zanolie. Apart from gaining a better understanding of prosocial development, Suzanne has a passion for connecting science and society, for example through science communication and citizen science projects, as well as mentoring, talent development, and recognition and rewards in academia.

Suzanne was awarded several grants and prizes, included a grant to visit UCLA during her PhD, two EGSH PhD Excellence Awards (best societal impact and best poster), a DPECS Dragon’s Den seed fund, and a NWA Science Communication Grant (together with her YoungXperts colleagues).