Kayla Green is a PhD candidate in the Erasmus SYNC Lab. Her work focuses on the behavioural and neural predictors of wellbeing during adolescence and young adulthood. She investigates the short- and long-term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on adolescents’ mental health: which vulnerabilities put some adolescents at risk to be disproportionably hit by the pandemic, and are there protective factors that might buffer against the negative impact of the pandemic on mental health? In addition, she leads the longitudinal Braintime project on brain development during adolescence. She aims to shed light on how structural brain development and neural activation in subcortical brain regions during adolescence may lead to greater wellbeing later in life depending on one’s social environment. 

She is co-founder and social media officer of the YoungXperts youth participation platform. She is passionate about connecting science to society and policy. Green uses living lab methods, like citizen science, to stimulate the combination of impact-driven research and more (fundamental) curiosity-driven research in the field of developmental cognitive neuroscience. 

Green is also a member of the Diversity & Inclusion office, where she works on projects that are aimed at increasing the proportion of underrepresented groups in higher education and improving the success and wellbeing of underrepresented EUR-students.

Green has a background in psychology (Utrecht University, 2015). After obtaining her bachelor degree, she continued with the research master Neuroscience & Cognition (2018) and the clinical master Neuropsychology (2017) at Utrecht University. She did her clinical internship at the Neurology and Geriatrics Department of the Spijkenisse Medisch Centrum, where is also obtained her BAPD (certificate in psychodiagnostics). 

Sophie Sweijen is a PhD candidate in the SYNC lab. She focuses on the behavioral and neural developmental trajectories of prosocial behavioral and societal contributions during adolescence.

Her work is part of the longitudinal ERC consolidator ‘Brainlinks’ project, in which 142 adolescents are followed over the course of three years. The project focuses on the development of prosocial behavior in young individuals, using a variety of techniques (e.g. fMRI, laboratory tasks and questionnaires). She also works on the Urban Rotterdam Project examining how the social environment interacts with individual characteristics on developmental outcomes. Here, she specifically investigates adolescents’ opportunities for prosocial actions during and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sophie completed her research master ‘Developmental Psychology’ at Leiden University in 2019. Her main interests lie in the social world of young individuals. During her studies, she assisted in multiple behavioral and fMRI studies investigating social learning, peer relations and risk taking in adolescence. For her master thesis, she focused on the developmental changes and individual differences in learning through social interactions.

Lotte van Rijn is a PhD candidate in the Growing Up Together in Society (GUTS) research program as part of the Rotterdam cohort. She is supervised by Eveline Crone, Lydia Krabbendam, and Anna van Duivenvoorde. Lotte is a member of the team coordinating data collection for the consortium in Rotterdam, collaborating with a team at VU Amsterdam. The project will focus on the impact of social and societal opportunities on individual, academic and social outcomes. The potential mediating or moderating role of self-regulation in these processes will be investigated as part of Lotte’s PhD project.

Lotte received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Leiden University in 2020. She then obtained her Research Master in Cognitive Neuroscience (Cum Laude) at Leiden University in 2023. Her thesis, supervised by Lara Wieringa, focused on gender differences in brain structure variance that could relate to gender differences in ASD prevalence. Afterwards, Lotte continued to work for the LCID study (Leiden Consortium on Individual Development), where she was part of a team conducting the 7th wave of data collection.

Ethell is a PhD candidate at the Erasmus SYNC lab, working on the GUTS project. Her research focuses on the developmental trajectories of trust in adolescents and the influence of their socio-economic status and ethnic backgrounds. Ethell is particularly interested in fMRI research and is intrigued by the development of youth from diverse socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds.

Ethell’s work is part of the Growing Up Together in Society (GUTS) project, a longitudinal study exploring how adolescents grow up in an increasingly complex society. The project encourages interdisciplinary research, and Ethell’s work combines developmental psychology with sociological perspectives.

As part of the first work package (WP1) in the GUTS project, Ethell’s research focuses on the influence of adolescents’ socio-economic status. Her research will address how adolescents’ trust in society develops and whether adolescent’s trust differs depending on their SES and ethnic background. To this end, she will employ a variety of methods including fMRI, questionnaires, behavioral assessments, and youth participation.

Ethell is part of the YoungXperts platform, which involves youth in science and amplifies their opinions. She is committed to making science accessible for young people and plans to implement YoungXperts’ methods of youth participation in her research.

Prior to her PhD, Ethell completed her master’s in Biomedical Sciences – Neurosciences at the University of Antwerp in 2023. Her master’s thesis focused on developing and assessing visual fMRI paradigms to engage brain regions involved in the perception of equilibrium and balance.

Ruth is a PhD candidate at the Erasmus SYNC lab. The title of her research project is ‘Teaching for Purpose: encouraging purpose development in adolescents through an integrated approach in classroom settings‘. Purpose is cultivated through a process of discovery and exploring unique interests, skills and values. One of the key developmental tasks during adolescence is developing this sense of purpose. The aim of Ruth’s research is to explore – together with students and teachers – how classrooms and schools can become an environment in which the development of purpose in adolescents is further encouraged.

Ruth has a background as a sociologist for developing countries, with a focus on education. Throughout her career she has been involved in working with beneficiaries to design projects and approaches that lead to positive youth development, mainly within educational settings. She has done this in various developing countries (Bangladesh, Vietnam, The Gambia) as well as in (international) schools.

What she thoroughly enjoys in these settings is the great emphasis on the involvement and participation of community members and beneficiaries, as well as the willingness to experiment and try new approaches in order to create a positive impact. In her work it has always been critical to bring in the most recent insights from research and connect it to the reality on the ground – an approach that aligns very well with that of the SYNC-lab.

Upon her return to The Netherlands Ruth started working as a school leader at the bilingual secondary school – Wolfert Tweetalig – in the centre of Rotterdam. In this position Ruth emphasised the need to develop an environment in which the socio-emotional development of young people serves as the foundation for a conducive learning environment. It is during this time – that Ruth developed the desire to take a deeper dive into this topic. From her own experience of teacher-training, as well as through research, it is clear that there is still a great gap between what is known about the development (and possibilities) of the adolescent brain and how this is translated into the training of our teachers and the practices in schools.

Ruth returned to teaching (Maatschappijleer & Global Politics) in the same school and approached the SYNC-lab to explore the opportunity of collaborating on a research project in which we can bridge the gap between knowledge and insights produced through research in adolescent neuroscience and the practice of education. Ruth managed to secure a grant to conduct PhD research ( the ‘NWO promotiebeurs voor leraren‘), whilst continuing to teach.