2022 Outstanding Dissertation Award Winners

August 30, 2022
Each year, PAU presents an Outstanding Dissertation Award to a graduate from the PhD in Clinical Psychology program and to a graduate from the PGSP-Stanford PsyD Consortium.
Margot Paul
The Cheryl Koopman Outstanding Dissertation Award was bestowed upon Margot Paul for her dissertation “Virtual Reality Behavioral Activation: An Intervention for Major Depressive Disorder.” Paul is a doctoral candidate in the PGSP-Stanford Psy.D. Consortium.
Paul said she “was excited, proud, and deeply honored” with the Award. Her dissertation is in line with her research interests, including using technology as a method of delivering or augmenting evidence-based interventions. “This focus arose from my dedication to improving access to evidence-based care for all people,” she said. 
Paul described her dissertation further: “While there existed a plethora of literature on the evidence-based use of VR for disorders ranging from anxiety to psychosis, there was a dearth of research on the evidence of using VR to treat populations struggling with MDD [Major Depressive Disorder]. Thus, for my dissertation, I explored how VR could be used as a method of simulating behavioral activation (BA) for an MDD population and could thereby avert the common real-world obstacles patients face in receiving care or engaging in pleasant activities.”
She hopes to continue researching virtual reality-enhanced psychotherapy and would like to work with adults in an academic medical center or hospital. “I am excited to further my dissertation research next year as a postdoctoral fellow at the Stanford department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences,” Paul said.
Afik Faerman
The Murray Tondow Outstanding Dissertation Award was bestowed upon Afik Faerman for his dissertation, “The Role of Sleep Misperception in Daytime Cognitive Performance in Insomnia.” Faerman is a doctoral candidate in the PhD in Clinical Psychology program.
“I feel honored, humbled, and thankful for the award committee for selecting my research for the Outstanding Dissertation award,” Faerman said. “I am also grateful for the guidance, support, and care I received from my doctoral advisor, Dr. Tilman Schulte.”
Faerman described the observations that led to his dissertation: “From my clinical work in behavioral sleep medicine, I have noticed that the way people perceive their sleep quality is one of the most impactful clinical factors - that's the most likely reason they would seek treatment, and that's the variable by which they will evaluate treatment success. However, we do not have clear understanding of the cognitive processes that play a role in how we form these perceptions of our sleep. In my dissertation research, I found a shared mechanism between memory functions and the way we estimate how long we sleep. 
In the future, he would like to utilize behavioral approaches, neuroimaging, and noninvasive brain stimulation to test neurocognitive mechanisms in sleep, memory, and pain perception. “I am excited to begin my postdoctoral position at Stanford University, and continue to explore the clinical benefits of understanding the ways our brains form experiences. Ultimately, I would love to find a position in academia that would allow me to combine research, clinical work, and teaching!” Faerman said.