Meet Our Team

Dr. Thomas Sy


Dr. Sy

Dr. Thomas Sy, having completed his Ph.D. at the University of Michigan, is a professor at UCR and has won numerous awards as a scholar. His research areas consist of leadership, followership, and teams, with a particular focus on schemas (implicit theories), emotions, diversity, and unconscious processes and biases.

His research is funded by three awards from the U.S. Army Research Insitute (2) and the National Research Foundation of Korea (1) and has been published in many outlets, including the Journal of Applied Psychology, Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Leadership Quarterly, Journal of Organizational Behavior, Journal of Vocational Behavior, Frontiers in Psychology, and the Asian American Journal of Psychology. 

In addition to teaching, Dr. Sy provides consulting, training, and coaching services. He has worked with many, including General Motors, Google, Zappos, Los Angeles County, Northrop Grumman, Salvation Army, EDS, Ford, Southern California Edison, Waste Management, Johnson & Johnson, Boeing, IBM, General Electric, U.S. Army Research Institute, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the United States Marine Corp Special Operations Command. 

Dr. Sy has also served in the U.S. Army Special Forces (Green Beret) and was the Distinguished Honor (Top) Graduate of the U.S. Army Leadership Program, U.S. Army Special Forces Program, and U.S. Army Egyptian Arabic Language Program.

Ph.D. Students

Laura Ashlock (2021-Present)

Laura ​​Ashlock

Laura is a graduate student in the LGD lab. She has a BA in Psychology from Pepperdine University and a Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy from USC. At UCR, Laura studies leader/follower identity and development. She enjoys mentoring undergraduate students and TAing for various psychology classes! If you hear a bark coming from our lab, that means she has brought our honorary lab member, Penelope, in for the day! 

Laura's LinkedIn

Merab Gomez (2021-Present)

Merab Gomez

Merab Gomez is currently a graduate student in the LGD lab. She is originally from San Antonio Texas where she received her BA in psychology at the University of Texas San Antonio. She also received her Masters's degree in psychological research at Texas State University in San Marcos Texas. During her time at UCR, Merab has studied modern leadership by examining social media influencers through a leadership lens while also serving as a TA and working with the RAs in the lab. Additionally, she is looking to expand her research to studying teams and work groups. In her off time she enjoys drawing/painting, working out, and traveling. 😀

Merab's LinkedIn

Paul McAvoy (2023-Present)


Paul McAvoy

Paul is a first-year graduate student in the LGD lab. Originally from Richmond, Kentucky, he earned his BA in Psychological Science and English with an emphasis in Creative Writing from Colgate University. While at Colgate, Paul served as a two-time captain of the men’s ice hockey team and later stepped into the role of assistant coach. His research there centered on leader communication and team cohesion within sports teams. At UCR, Paul’s research interests include leader emotion and communication, teams and group dynamics, and the interplay of status, hierarchies, power, and belonging within groups. Outside of the lab, Paul is passionate about tennis, creative writing, staying active, and holds a soft spot for miniature dachshunds!


PhD Students
Laura Ashlock (Left), Paul McAvoy (Center), Merab Gomez (Right)

Current Research Assistants

Lead RA Rina Ahuja ('24)

Rina is a 4th year psychology major. Currently, in the lab, she is working on a personal project examining the differences in ratings of Implicit Theories of Leadership Emotions (ITLEs) between supervisors and subordinates and understanding if these differences predict job satisfaction, working relationships, and performance. Some of her hobbies include listening to music, trying different coffee shops, and going to the beach! In the fall she will be starting a master's program at USC!

Kiara Rodriguez-Angulo ('24) 

Kiara is a 3rd-year Psychology major. Kiara enjoys creating research posters and learning R.

Nia-Allyn Ramirez ('24)

Nia-Allyn is a 4th-year Psychology major with a minor in Law and Society.

Jade Zuniga ('24)

Jade is a 4th-year Psychology major. Jade enjoys learning R and aiding in the creation and formatting of the questions on surveys.

Justin Tran ('24)

Justin is a 4th-year Psychology major.

Jennifer Amador ('25) (She/Her/Ella)

Jennifer is a 3rd-year Psychology and Global Studies major. She is currently working on her Honors project under the guidance of Dr. Thomas Sy and has previously presented at the R'PSYC undergraduate psychology research conference on Followers’ perceptions of Agency-Communion in Social Media Influencers. Her research interests encompass leadership dynamics in education, culture, gender, and self. In her spare time, she loves hiking, reading, and cooking.

Sia Bhakta ('26) (She/Her)

Sia is a 2nd-year Psychology major. She is actively involved in the SMI project in the lab and is currently working on a poster about Parasocial Interaction for the Research Symposium. In her free time, she embraces her passion for dance, reading, and loves being in nature.

Suhanee Malhotra ('25)

Suhanne is a 3rd-year Business Information Systems major with a minor in Psychology.

Camryn Pi ('25)

Camryn is a 3rd-year Psychology major. Camryn's favorite part of the lab is discussing articles, making their research poster, and having amazing & supportive mentors to work with.

Megan Silva ('25)

Megan is a 3rd-year Psychology major with a minor in Business.

Keefer Yip ('25)

Keefer is a 3rd-year Psychology major with a minor in Business.

Mady Young ('25)

Mady is a 3rd-year Psychology major.

Angel Tang ('26)

Angel is a 2nd-year Psychology Major.

Dawson Proof ('23)

Honorary Lab Members

Cinnamon Sy