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As a developmental psychologist, I always like hearing people's "origin stories." Here's mine: As an undergraduate at Pomona College, I worked with Drs. Pat Smiley and Jessica Borelli to develop novel ways to measure a key emotional process in parent-child relationships — parental empathy, or how much parents understood their children's emotional experiences. Empathy, we discovered, was a critical (but underappreciated) ingredient that supported children's secure attachment and emotional development. This idea motivated my doctoral work with Dr. Jude Cassidy at University of Maryland, examining the development of attachment, empathy and prosocial behavior, with a focus on African American mothers and young children's positive social development

Today, as a postdoctoral fellow at UVA (and an incoming Assistant Professor at Pomona College), I teach, research, speak, advocate, and write about close relationships as a foundation for mental health, brain development, and physical health from infancy through adulthood. Among the most exciting parts of this work are forging interdisciplinary research partnerships, connecting with amazing students, and working on a new line of community-based research on multigenerational families.


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Jessica Stern, PhD


2019 - 2023

University of Virginia

Postdoctoral Fellow, Psychology

NICHD National Research Service Award Fellow

2014 - 2019

University of Maryland

M.S. and Ph.D., Psychology

Flagship Fellow

2008 - 2012

Pomona College

B.A., Psychology

Summa cum laude

Grants & Awards

  • PEACE Grant, 2023-2024 (Co-I; Paul Condon, PI)
    2022 Samuel B. Hanser Visionary Grant designation
    Mind & Life Institute

  • Transformative Neurodevelopment Pilot Grant, 2022
    UVA Brain Institute and Baby Brain Initiative (BaBI)

  • National Research Service Award (F32), 2020-2022
    National Institute of Child Health & Human Development

  • Climate Impact Small Research Grant, 2020-2021
    Society for Personality and Social Psychology

  • Dissertation Research Award, 2018-2019
    Society for Research in Child Development 

  • Milton Dean Havron Social Sciences Award, 2018
    University of Maryland

  • Dean's Research Initiative Grant, 2018-2019
    University of Maryland

  • NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, 2015-2018
    National Science Foundation

  • Developmental Science Workshop Grant, 2016
    University of Maryland

  • Flagship Fellowship, 2014-2019
    University of Maryland

  • Dean's Fellowship, 2014-2015, 2018
    University of Maryland

  • Psychology Prize, 2012
    Pomona College

  • Distinction in the Senior Exercise, 2012
    Pomona College

"Understanding is love's other name."

-Thich Nhat Hanh

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