Our Team

Dr. Igor Yakovenko


Dr. Igor Yakovenko is an Assistant Professor and a licensed clinical psychologist in the Departments of Psychology & Neuroscience and Psychiatry at Dalhousie University, Nova Scotia, Canada. He completed his Ph.D. at the University of Calgary, a clinical residency at Yale University, and a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Alberta. His research focuses on the associated features and determinants of substance use, behavioural addictions including disordered gambling and video gaming, and co-morbidity of addiction and other psychiatric disorders. A major goal of his research is to account for real-world conditions of mental health treatment delivery, such as frequent co-morbidity, in order to generate clinical guidelines and recommendations for integrated care of addiction and mental health. Dr. Yakovenko is also an active member of the Canadian Research Initiative on Substance Misuse (CRISM), where his recent work has been invested in developing evidence-based public health interventions for cannabis use disorder including implementation of online platforms to increase access to substance abuse treatment.

Graduate Students

Jan Slattery

Ph.D. Student

Jan completed his masters in counselling psychology at McGill University and is currently completing his Ph.D. here at Dalhousie. His chief clinical and research interest involves understanding the pathology of disordered video gaming behaviours. Specifically, determining the profile of a healthy gamer, as what constitutes healthy gaming and unhealthy gaming is unclear. In a past life, Jan has worked in the engineering consulting world for eight years. His past experiences vary from yoga, drafting and designing principles in architecture and engineering to flying aircraft and helping map the fruit fly brain.

Jenna Bissonnette

Ph.D. Student

Jenna completed her B.Sc. at Mount Saint Vincent University and recently obtained her M.Sc. in psychiatric research at Dalhousie University. She is currently completing her Ph.D. in clinical psychology at Dalhousie. Her research interests include using electroencephalography (EEG) to identify potential biomarkers for psychosis as well as working towards a better understanding of the relationships between addiction, trauma, and psychosis. Outside of work Jenna likes to crochet, read, and spend time with her family.

Kitti Bessenyei

Ph.D. Student

Kitti Bessenyei has completed an M.Ba. as well as her M.A. in Psychology in Hungary, where she is originally from. As a Ph.D. student in clinical psychology, her current research interests broadly focus on the mind-body connection, modern technology’s impact on mental health and she is passionate about using technological advancements to improve healthcare. Her interests outside of psychology include dance and traveling.

Elijah Otis

Ph.D. Student

Eli completed his B.A. in Psychology at the University of British Columbia, where he wrote his undergraduate thesis on effort exertion in pursuit of rewards in bipolar and hypomanic individuals under the supervision of Dr. Luke Clark at the UBC Centre for Gambling Research. He has also worked as a research assistant with Dr. Lena Quilty at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health investigating personality differences across the spectrum of gambling involvement. Eli’s research interests lie in the role played by cognitive distortions in the etiology and maintenance of addictive disorders such as Gambling Disorder, as well as identifying the factors that contribute to high comorbidity between anxiety disorders and addictive disorders.

Karen Tang

Ph.D. Student

Originally from Calgary, Alberta, Karen (she/her) graduated in 2019 with a B.A. Honours degree in Psychology from the University of Calgary. Currently, she is a PhD student and Killam Scholar in the Clinical Psychology program at Dalhousie University. Her current research is on addictive disorders (primarily behavioral such as video gaming), as well as comorbid psychiatric conditions, and sociocultural factors (e.g., stigma, culture). Karen’s research is funded by CIHR CGS-M and SSHRC CGS-D. Her interests outside of psychology include traveling, painting, and being too active on Twitter (@KarenTang_).

Honours Students

Shizza Hassan

Honours Student

Shizza is a 4th year honours student in the Neuroscience program at Dal. Her research interests include cannabis and mental health. After her undergraduate degree, her aim is to pursue medicine and ultimately, psychiatry. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her friends, going for walks, and volunteering.

Heather Shaffer

Honours Student

Heather Shaffer completed her B.A. in Psychology and Sociology at the University of Manitoba. Currently, she is at Dalhousie University to upgrade her B.A. into an Honours degree in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience. Heather’s research interests include substance use, the manifestation of addiction and its interactions with other mental health conditions. Her Honours project focuses on the influence of trustworthy information sources on risk perception of vaping cannabis and the degree of use based on one’s beliefs. Heather anticipates continuing her education through graduate studies in Psychology.

McKendra Bond

Honours Student

McKendra graduated with her B.Sc. in Psychology at Dalhousie University. Currently, she is upgrading this to an Honours degree. This is McKendra’s second year with the lab, and her current research focuses on social media and mental health. She hopes to continue onto graduate studies in the field of School Psychology. Outside of research, she enjoys spending time in nature, volunteering for Kids Help Phone, and is an avid baker.

Research Assistants

Jacob Belliveau

Lab Coordinator

Born and raised in Nova Scotia, Jacob graduated in 2020 with a B.Sc. Honours degree in Psychology from Dalhousie University. Jacob completed his honours thesis on classroom behaviour management strategies. He hopes to continue onto graduate studies, with the end goal of becoming a clinical psychologist. Outside of psychology, Jacob’s main interests include gardening, drawing, and computers.

Ross Fraleigh


Ross Fraleigh is a 4th year student taking a double major in biology and neuroscience. His research interests revolve around the effects of drug abuse in psychiatrically effected populations. Besides this, Ross enjoys helping out with any task in the lab. Outside of school he can be found rock climbing, cycling, and playing pool.

Lucas Sangster


Lucas Sangster is a 4th year student in the Psychology and Neuroscience department at Dalhousie. In the psychology realm, his research interests include addictions and mental health. After his undergraduate degree, Lucas hopes to continue his education with a Masters degree or medical school. Outside of the lab, you can find him swimming, playing the ukulele, or spending time with friends.

Grace O'Connor


Grace O’Connor is a 2nd year Neuroscience and Biology student at Dalhousie. Grace is interested in the intersection of mental health and addictions. She hopes to continue studies and pursue a career in mental health. In her spare time, Grace likes to spend time with friends and family, go on hikes and attend concerts.

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