Degree: Ph.D. in Psychology
College/School: School of Integrated Science and Humanity, College of Arts, Sciences & Education
Michelle Pena is part of an FIU family. Like her siblings, she completed her undergraduate and graduate education at FIU, but she is the first to earn a Ph.D.
Her parents left Cuba and settled in Miami where they felt their children would have opportunities to be successful and be surrounded by their Hispanic culture. Michelle credits her family for listening to presentation rehearsals, reading her manuscripts and providing much-needed encouragement on her path to becoming Dr. Pena.
Michelle began her journey at FIU as an undergraduate research assistant in Nadja Schreiber Compo’s lab, where she developed a passion for legal psychology. She decided to pursue her Ph.D. at FIU where she could be part of one of the most competitive legal psychology programs in the country.
With her work, Michelle is closing the research-to-practice gap in law enforcement. She has developed an innovative research program to address how cognitive bias may affect different stages of an investigation. Research shows the expectations or prior beliefs police officers or forensic examiners may have can affect an investigation’s outcome. But Michelle is working closely with the Miami-Dade Forensics Bureau to develop methods that can be implemented in their lab to reduce the possible bias effect.
She has contributed to five published papers and completed 23 conference presentations. After graduation she is headed to Washington, D.C. to continue her research and work with private and government agencies to revolutionize the justice system.
By Ayleen Barbel Fattal
College of Arts, Sciences & Education