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Meet the Team

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Gerald Higginbotham

Assistant Professor of Public Policy, Lab Director

Gerald Higginbotham is the director of the CHIP lab and an assistant professor of public policy at the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy. Utilizing social and cultural psychological insights, he researches the imprint of history on people’s modern social perceptions and policy attitudes, and the psychological underpinnings of how people perceive history and its consequences. 

Before joining the Batten faculty in Fall 2023, Dr. Higginbotham was a postdoctoral research associate at the Batten School. He earned his Ph.D. in Social Psychology and M.A. in Psychology from the University of California, Los Angeles. He achieved his B.A. in Psychology with a minor in African & African-American Studies from Stanford University. 

Outside the lab, you can probably see him jogging (when warm), hear him learning how to play bass guitar (sorry in advance), or find him preoccupied at Charlottesville’s best taco spot (also sorry, can’t tell!).

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Alec Davis

Lab Manager

Alec Davis is the lab manager for both the CHIP Lab and the Motivation Science Lab at the Batten School. Before coming to UVA, he earned a B.S. in Psychology with minors in Athletic Healthcare and Disability Rights & Services at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he was a member of the Men's Rowing team.


Outside of the lab he enjoys being active, particularly climbing and training to complete a triathalon. He also enjoys spending time with friends, watching sports, and playing FC24.

Kyle Barrentine

Social Psychology PhD Student, 4th Year

Kyle Barrentine is a fourth-year PhD candidate in the Social Psychology program. He works primarily with Adrienne Wood in the Emotion Behavior lab. His primary focus is to unravel the causes and subjective consequences of social exploration. He is also interested in researching the interplay between our identities (such as being a Black male and a gun owner, e.g.) and how they shape our social networks and vice versa.  He looks forward to working with Gerald within the CHIP lab. Outside of academia, Kyle finds solace in journaling, watching anime, and playing video games.

Research Assistants


Jacob Frater

Jacob graduated from Baylor University with a BA in psychology and plans on pursuing a doctorate degree in clinical psychology in the future. Jacob is interested in researching the clinical implications of firearms and their effects on mental health and identity. He loves playing video games, watching movies, and playing sports.

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Selene Zeng

Selene Zeng is an international scholar, ethnographer, and writer, immersed in the study of cognitive science and public policy at the University of Virginia. She brings a distinct perspective to her work, characterized by a deep understanding of ethnography and a keen global awareness. Selene’s academic focus is centered on dissecting and conveying the intricate dynamics of culture and society, particularly as they relate to power structures and societal changes. Her involvement in the lab is more than academic; it’s a platform for her to explore real-world problems through the lens of social psychology and to contemplate enhancements to public policy that can positively impact the lives we care about.


Selene is also driven by a desire to capture and share the nuanced experiences of human existence across different cultures, particularly those undergoing contemporary changes. This passion for storytelling extends into her role as a digital content creator, where she weaves together her academic insights and personal observations into a compelling online narrative. Her multifaceted approach to understanding the world around her makes Selene a dynamic and insightful member of the academic community.

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Mira Hu

Mira Hu is an undergraduate economics major at the University of Virginia. She is particularly interested in the field of behavioral economics and is excited to explore how identity and social factors can collectively influence policy attitudes. In her free time, you can probably find her at a lacrosse game or the ice cream aisle in Kroger.


Sanjula Chitty

Sanjula Chitty is a second year Cognitive Science major interested in the intersection between Cognitive Psychology, Social Psychology and Public Policy. She hopes to research how a population’s attitudes and behavior affects policy decisions and how policy can affect behavior and beliefs. She is particularly interested in how research from psychology can be used to assist policymakers in constructing effective legislation. Outside of the lab, she is a volunteer with Madison House, a member of the Women in Computing Sciences Hackathon Committee, and a member of Student Game Developers. In her free time, she likes to read, listen to music, watch tv shows, and spend time with friends and family.

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Jay Lee

Jay is a third-year undergraduate student currently enrolled at the University of Virginia’s Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy, where he also works as a teaching assistant for a public policy course and an operations manager. He plans on applying to law school after completing his B.A.
Jay loves running, playing music, and filming videos in his free time.

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