ISSPD Student Section Committee Members

Sara Beth Austin

SSC Chair

Born in New York City, I grew up in the Midwest and completed my undergraduate degree at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (Go Badgers!).  I’m currently a Master’s student in the General-Clinical stream at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, B.C., where I work in Dr. Alexander Chapman’s Personality and Emotion Research Lab (PERL).  My research interests lie at the intersection of emotion and personality, and much of my work to date has focused on the etiology and treatment of associated psychopathology and maladaptive behaviours (e.g., non-suicidal self-injury). My Master’s Thesis employs a novel computer task to investigate emotion-related attentional processing in personality disorders.  In addition to my work with ISSPD, I’m founder and President of the Radically Open Dialectical Behavior Therapy (RO-DBT) Student Committee and have contributed to research and training related to that topic.  I’ve also begun engaging in advocacy work to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness with organizations such as Project True and the Academic Mental Health Collective. In my spare time, I love practicing yoga, reading, writing, dancing, and amateur photography (i.e., playing with filters on instagram). 
Vancouver DBT Centre: 

Benjamin N. Johnson

SSC Vice Chair

I’m a third-year graduate student in the Clinical Psychology program at Penn State.  I was born in Pomona, CA, but spent most of my life in the sunny South, near Atlanta, GA.  I attended Emory University in Atlanta for undergrad and double majored in Psychology and English.  Afterwards, I worked for two years as a Research Coordinator in the Emory Child and Adolescent Mood Program working with adolescents and young adults with symptoms of borderline personality disorder (BPD), which is where my interest in personality disorders really developed.  I’m fascinated by the complexity and difficulty of working with BPD. I’m specifically interested in latent variable modeling of BPD, in an attempt to understand the boundaries of the construct and the individuals who experience symptoms of the disorder.  I’m also interested in translational research on BPD and trying to understand its developmental trajectory. I’m currently utilizing both an attachment theoretical framework and ecological momentary assessment to examine BPD and its correlates.  When I’m not doing research or therapy, I cook or play piano and guitar, and spend the rest of the time just being barefoot.
The Personality, Psychopathology, and Psychotherapy Lab :
Personal website:

Salome Vanwoerden


Hi, my name is Salome Vanwoerden and I’m the Secretary for the ISSPD Student Section Committee. I am a third-year doctoral student at the University of Houston where I work with Dr. Carla Sharp. My research interests are broadly focused on the interpersonal basis of personality disorders. More specifically, I’m interested in how family dynamics during adolescence contribute to maladaptive social cognitive processes seen in borderline personality disorder. I am also involved in measuring treatment outcomes for an emotion regulation group for adolescents and their parents (Systems Training for Emotional Predictability and Problem Solving). I serve as the associate lab director for the Developmental Psychopathology Lab at the University of Houston and coordinate several graduate students as well as undergraduate and post-bac research assistants in multiple studies. I also enjoy ceramics and spending far too much time outside with my dog.

Emily Vanderbleek

Congress Liaison

Hi, my name is Emily Vanderbleek and I’m the Congress Liaison for the ISSPD Student Committee. I am a fourth-year student in the Clinical Psychology doctoral program at the University of Notre Dame, and I am currently doing research abroad in London. I am originally from the Chicago area (a longtime White Sox fan!) and received my B.A. in Psychology and English from Washington University in St. Louis. I work with Lee Anna Clark at the Center for the Advanced Measurement of Personality and Psychopathology, and my research primarily focuses on the conceptualization and assessment of personality disorder. My other interests include reading (especially mystery novels), video games, baking, and my dog.

Sharon Nelson

Social Media/Relations Chair

Hello! My name is Sharon Nelson, and I am currently the Social Media/Relations Chair for the ISSPD Student Section.  I am a fifth-year doctoral student at Eastern Michigan University.  Broadly speaking, my research interests are in personality disorders. More specifically, I’m interested in contrasting and integrating models of understanding pathological personality, different diagnostic systems, and thinking about developmental trajectories for individuals struggling with personality issues. I am also interested in what person-specific variables influence personality presentation (for example, attachment style or demographic variables), and how these may influence treatment outcomes. I am currently serving as the Editorial Assistant for the Journal of Personality Assessment. As a “non-traditional student” myself (being the mother of two…..rambunctious….boys, and the caregiver of someone with a disability), I have a strong commitment towards working on addressing areas of concern for underrepresented student groups and social justice issues within student populations. In my free time I enjoy spending time with my family and the [occasional] prank.

Laura Finlayson-Short


Hi, my name is Laura Finlayson-Short and I’m the Member-At-Large for the ISSPD Student Section Committee. I grew up in Perth, Western Australia and did my undergraduate study there at the University of Western Australia. I completed a double degree, resulting in a Bachelor of Arts (majoring in Philosophy and Political Science) and a Bachelor of Science (Psychological Studies and Physiology majors). I then moved to London where I interned at the Developmental Risk and Resilience Unit at University College London for over a year. Helping PhD students and postdocs working on psychopathy-related projects there cemented my desire to further study personality disorders. To this end, I took up a Masters degree at the University of Melbourne (UoM), using fMRI to investigate self-functioning impairments in BPD. I am now continuing that work as a PhD student at UoM from a slightly different angle. I’m using fMRI to look at the relationship between self-functioning deficits and personality disorder traits in healthy people, people with social anxiety disorder and those with major depressive disorder. When I’m not sitting at a desk or listening to the whirr of the MRI scanner, I’m knitting, gazing wistfully at antiques I can’t afford and trying to convince people at bars that no, I can’t read their mind just because I’ve studied psychology.