People – Research Associates

Current Research Associates

Richard Sosis

Senior Research Associate, 2008-2017

Anthropologist Dr. Richard Sosis is well known for his research on cooperation. He is particularly interested in identifying the evolutionary conditions for the emergence of cooperation within the ecology of human behavior. Recently he has focused his research efforts on the complex relationship among religion, cooperation, and trust. More information about Rich is available here.

F. LeRon Shults

Senior Research Associate, 2011-2018

Dr. F. LeRon Shults is Professor of Theology and Philosophy in the Institute for Religion, Philosophy and History at the University of Agder, Kristiansand, Norway. His many books and articles address religion and human life in the context of the contemporary human and physical sciences. He is working with the institute on extending the networks supporting the biocultural study of religion in a variety of research areas, including secularism, naturalism, compassion, and political and religious ideology. More information about LeRon is available here.

Catherine Caldwell-Harris

Senior Research Associate, 2011-2017

Catherine Caldwell-Harris, Associate Professor of Psychology at Boston University, has conducted research in several areas within the cognitive and behavioral sciences, including psycholinguistics, cross-cultural psychology and individual differences. She notes that everyday observations as well as research suggest that causes of individual differences in religious belief are a complex outcome of genetic temperamental predispositions, family upbringing, societal values, and idiosyncratic life experiences. In one of Dr. Caldwell-Harris’ studies, atheists reported finding as much meaning in life as did religious persons, but they eschewed terms related to supernaturalism (like ‘spiritual’), and focused their moral concerns on the pragmatic here-and-now. Dr. Caldwell-Harris has also studied low religious belief in individuals with Asperger Syndrome. Dr. Caldwell-Harris is developing a new project to study religious doubt in Turkey, a country where she has long conducted research on topics including bilngualism and individualism-collectivism.

Saikou Y. Diallo

Senior Research Associate, 2013-2018

Dr. Diallo is a Research Assistant Professor at the Virginia Modeling Analysis and Simulation Center (VMASC) of the Old Dominion University. He received his M.S. in Modeling & Simulation (2006) and his Ph.D. in M&S (2010) from ODU. His research focuses on the theory of interoperability as it relates to Model-based Data Engineering and Web Services for M&S applications. Dr. Diallo has authored or co-authored over fifty publications including a number of awarded papers and articles in conferences, journals and book chapters. He participates in a number of Modeling and Simulation related organizations and conferences and is currently the co-chair of the Coalition Battle Management Language drafting group, an M&S IEEE standard development group. Dr. Diallo works with IBCSR on the Simulating Religion Project.

Megan K. DeFranza

Research Associate, 2014-2017

Megan DeFranza (PhD, Marquette University) is a Christian theologian working in theological anthropology, sex, gender, and sexuality. Her first book is Sex Difference in Christian Theology: Male, Female, and Intersex in the Image of God (Eerdmans 2015). She has also collaborated with Susannah Cornwall (Univ. of Exeter, UK) et al. on Intersex, Theology, and the Bible: Troubling Bodies in Church, Text, and Society (Palgrave MacMillan) and contributed to Evangelical Postcolonial Conversations (IVP). She is working with Dr. Wesley Wildman and Dr. Patrick McNamara and a number of doctoral students on the Institute’s Sex Differences and Religion project.

Luke J. Matthews

Research Associate, 2014-2017
Postdoctoral Fellow, 2008-2012

Dr. Luke Matthews is an Anthropologist for the Rand Corporation. Formerly, he was Senior Scientific Director at Activate Networks Inc., a startup social network analysis company, and prior to that a Postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard University. He holds a PhD and MA in Anthropology from New York University, and bachelor’s degrees in Anthropology and Biology from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Matthews has studied biocultural inheritance in systems ranging from social networks of capuchin monkeys, to ancient human migrations and extant human cultural variation. His research has been featured in New Scientist, The Washington Post, The New York Times and other venues. His primary research interests include network and phylogenetic analysis, cultural dynamics, personality genetics, and applied social science. He worked on IBCSR’s Religious Violence Project as a post-doctoral fellow and is currently working on the Sex Differences and Religion Project as a research associate. Find out more about Luke here.

Ann Taves

Senior Research Associate, 2015-2017

Ann Taves is Professor of Religious Studies at the University of California Santa Barbara where she teaches courses in methods and theories in the study of religion and the history of Christianity, along with directing the Religion, Experience, and Mind Lab Group. Her books and articles address the role of unusual experiences in established religions and emergent spiritual paths, methods appropriate to the interdisciplinary study of anomalous experiences, and tools for bridging between the humanities and the natural sciences. She is a past president of the American Academy of Religion (2010), where she with Ted Slingerland co-founded the Cognitive Science of Religion Group, and the president elect of the International Association for the Cognitive Science of Religion. More information about Ann is available here.

Raymond F. Paloutzian

Senior Research Associate, 2015-2017

Ray Paloutzian (PhD, Claremont Graduate School) is Professor Emeritus of experimental and social psychology, Westmont College, and consultant to the Religion, Experience, and Mind (REM) Lab Group at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He was Visiting Professor at Stanford University and Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium. He is Fellow of the Association for Psychological Science, and of the American Psychological Association and its Divisions on Psychology of Religion, Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues, and International Psychology. Ray edited The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion (1998-2016). He co-edited Forgiveness and Reconciliation: Psychological Pathways to Conflict Transformation and Peace Building (Springer, 2010), the Handbook of the Psychology of Religion and Spirituality 2nd.ed. (Guilford, 2013), and Process of Believing: The Acquisition, Maintenance, and Change in Creditions (Springer, 2016).  His textbook Invitation to the Psychology of Religion (1st ed. 1983, 3rd ed. 2016, Guilford) helped establish the psychology of religion in its modern period. More information about Ray is available here.

Joseph Bulbulia

Senior Research Associate, 2015-2017

Joseph Bulbulia is an evolutionary scholar of religion. He is interested in how religious commitments and institutions co-evolved and continue to affect people. Bulbulia received his PhD from Princeton University in 2001 (Thesis: Before Eden, Religion and the Evolved Mind). Since 2000, Bulbulia has been member of the Religious Studies Programme at Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand, where he teaches courses on ritual, methods and theories in the study of religion, the psychology of religion, and the biology of religion. During 2014-2015, he was President of the International Association for the Cognitive Science of Religions, and is a core contributor to the New Zealand Attitudes and Values Study and Pulotu, a database of Pacific Religions. Bulbulia has been a co-editor of Religion, Brain & Behavior since 2015. For more information and links to Bulbulia’s publications see his website.

Uffe Schjoedt

Research Associate, 2016-2017

Uffe Schjoedt is a neuroscientist studying religion. He is Associate Professor in the school of Culture and Society, Department of the Study of Religion at the University of Aarhus in Denmark. Uffe is co-editor of IBCSR’s journal Religion, Brain & Behavior. website.

Phil Zuckerman

Senior Research Associate, 2016-2017

Phil Zuckerman is a sociologist conducting research and writing on secularism, atheism, and unbelief. He is Professor of Sociology at Pitzer College in Southern California. More information about Phil is available in his website.

John Sokolowski

Senior Research Associate, 2016-2017

John Sokolowski directs the Virgina Modeling, Analysis & Simulation Center at Old Dominion University. He works with IBCSR on unbelief research and computer simulation and modeling.

Former Research Associates

James P. Burns

Senior Research Associate, 2008-2010

Dr. James Burns is a counseling psychologist with a Ph.D in Counseling Psychology from Northeastern University’s Bouve College of Health Sciences. His research has examined the relationship between levels of anger and aggression in adolescent males and their levels of spirituality. At the Institute, he focuses on mental health issues in adolescence, particularly the relationship between executive control functions of the prefrontal lobe and religion and spirituality among youth in Catholic inner-city schools. Currently James works in the administration of Boston College.

Charles L. Nunn

Senior Research Associate, 2008-2012

Dr. Charles Nunn’s research addresses a wide variety of fundamental questions in evolutionary anthropology using phylogenetic methods, theoretical modeling, and field research. He is working IBCSR on phylogentic approaches to religious violence. More information about Charlie is available here.

Katherine Verdolini Abbott

Senior Research Associate, 2009-2011

Dr. Katherine Verdolini Abbott is Professor of Communication Science and Disorders in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh. Her research has addressed numerous issues relevant to voice. Recently, and in partnership with IBCSR, she is exploring the effects of relaxation and medition on vocal fold inflammation. More information about Kittie is available here.

Magda Giordano

Senior Research Associate, 2013-2014

Magda Giordano is full professor at the Instituto de Neurobiología from Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), located outside of Mexico City in the state of Queretaro (see here). She joined IBCSR’s lab during a sabbatical year, working on several papers related to the Neuroscience and Religious Cognition Project, and also testing participants in the research study. As a result of what she learned during her stay in Boston, she is starting a new line of research into the neural and cognitive basis of pragmatic language.

Kirk Wegter-McNelly

Research Associate, 2013-2014

Kirk Wegter-McNelly is a constructive theologian whose primary interest lies in rethinking various aspects of the Western Christian intellectual heritage in light of contemporary science. He takes theology to be an inherently interdisciplinary enterprise and sees in science a valuable conversation partner.

Andreas Tolk

Senior Research Associate, 2013-2014

Dr. Tolk is Professor for Engineering Management and Systems Engineering at the Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, United States. He also holds a joint appointment with the Modeling, Simulation, and Visualization Engineering Department. He received his Ph.D. in Computer Science (1995) and has a M.S. in Computer Science (1988) from the University of the Federal Armed Forces, Germany. Dr. Tolk’s research focuses on model-based systems engineering, which includes research on modeling and simulation interoperability challenges, in particular in the context of complex systems and system of systems. Dr. Tolk works with IBCSR on the Simulating Religion Project.

Ruben Mancha

Research Associate, 2013-2015

Ruben Mancha is an Assistant Professor of Information Systems in the Division of Technology, Operations and Information Management at Babson College. He received his M.S. in Management of Technology and his Ph.D. in Information Technology from the University of Texas at San Antonio, where he was a Presidential Dissertation Fellow. His research interests include analytics and cognitive simulation. Dr. Mancha works with IBCSR on the Simulating Religion Project. For more information about Ruben, see here.

Michael L. Spezio

Senior Research Associate, 2015-2016

Michael Spezio teaches psychology and neuroscience at Scripps College in Claremont, CA. He holds a visiting appointment at the Institute for Systems Neuroscience at the UKE in Hamburg, Germany. He is an affective and social neuroscientist specializing in the cognitive science of emotion, moral action, and mindfulness practice. In addition to his scientific research and peer-reviewed publications in science, his work presents novel ways to engage science, theology, and spiritual perspectives. He co-edited the Routledge Companion to Religion and Science; Theology and the Science of Moral Action: Virtue Ethics, Exemplarity, and Cognitive Neuroscience; and the forthcoming Habits in Mind: Ethics, Religion, and the Science of Virtue. Thanks to a year-long residential fellowship at the interdisciplinary Center of Theological Inquiry in Princeton, NJ, he is finishing work on a project entitled Mindful-Emotional Persons: From Cognitive Science and Virtue Theory to Character in Loving Encounter. Together with colleagues at Caltech and at the Fuller School of Psychology in Pasadena, CA, he is working on a project investigating the cognitive science of stable character in love, compassion, and care for others. His work is funded by generous support from the National Science Foundation, the Fetzer Institute, and the John Templeton Foundation. Michael has two doctoral degrees, one in systems and cognitive neuroscience from the University of Oregon, and one in biochemistry from Cornell University. He has a Master of Divinity degree from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is ordained as a minister of Word and Sacrament in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Michael Spezio has been Co-Editor of Religion, Brain & Behavior since 2015. For more information about Michael, see here.