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Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Student Q&A: Stephanie Kielb, Clinical Psychology PhD Program

Stephanie Kielb

Stephanie Kielb, a third-year PhD student in Northwestern University’s Clinical Psychology Program, studies the cognitive and psychosocial changes that occur in normal aging and neurodegenerative disease. 

She is interested in identifying early symptoms of dementia to better plan treatments and design clinical trials. Keilb received her bachelor’s degree and a master of public health degree from The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. 


Where is your hometown?
I grew up in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, which is about one hour west of Philadelphia.

What are your research interests?

My research is focused on identifying the cognitive and psychosocial changes that occur in normal aging and neurodegenerative disease. The goal of this work is to facilitate the early identification of dementia, which is important for planning treatments and designing clinical trials. Specifically, I am interested in studying older adults who report decline in their cognitive abilities, but perform normally on objective cognitive tests. Their subjective concerns may represent the earliest symptoms of impending dementia, which are too subtle to be detected with standard assessment tools. I hope to quantify neurological and behavioral features of older adults with subjective cognitive concerns through the use of highly sensitive, computer-adaptive instruments.

What exciting projects are you working on?

I work on a very exciting project directed by Emily Rogalski, PhD, research associate professor in the Mesulam Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease Center (Mesulam CNADC), studying “SuperAgers”–adults over age 80 who have superior memory abilities. Our goal is to identify the biological and behavioral factors that have protected these SuperAgers from developing cognitive decline and dementia. We collaborate with the Foley Center for the Study of Lives to conduct life story interviews, which are analyzed for intrapersonal and narrative themes, including resilience and wisdom. Through this work, I hear many personal stories of intense struggle, loss, and accomplishment, which are so inspiring and show how truly super these individuals are.   

What attracted you to the PhD program?

I was initially drawn to the unique research and clinical opportunities available at Northwestern, which is one of only a few clinical psychology programs located within an academic medical center. I was also excited about the prospect of receiving both research and clinical training from my mentor, Sandra Weintraub, PhD, professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and Neurology.

During my interview at the Mesulam CNADC, I remember seeing social work offices located next door to a neuropathology lab. I realized then that the Mesulam CNADC was a rare and multidisciplinary environment that I wanted to be part of. 

What has been your best experience at Feinberg?

“AD Day” is always one of my favorite days of the year. Feinberg investigators and community members have the opportunity to learn about aging and dementia research within the University. I enjoy being able to share my research with patients and their caregivers, whose volunteer participation makes our research possible. The day is also a great showcase of the multidisciplinary mission of the CNADC, as presentations span from basic neuroscience to behavioral interventions. 

How would you describe the faculty at Feinberg?

Collaborative is a good word to describe the faculty at Feinberg. They have high expectations, but provide excellent mentorship and are enthusiastic about furthering my professional development.

What do you do in your free time?

I spend my downtime with friends and family. Playing basketball with my niece and nephews is definitely a favorite activity, but I also like to exercise, explore Chicago, and go to the beach on sunny days. 

What are your plans for after graduation?

I plan to complete a post-doctoral fellowship and eventually work in an academic medical center where I can practice clinical neuropsychology and conduct research on aging and dementia. 

Connect with Stephanie on LinkedIn.