Sarah Vaynman: A Flair for Forensics

“I’m interested in the intersection of law with mental health.”

September 12, 2015

FROM Chicago

HIGH SCHOOL Ida Crown Jewish Academy

SEMINARY Machon Ma’ayan, Israel

MAJOR Psychology



I always did well in my psychology classes, and people kept telling me I’d make a good lawyer, so I’m combining the two through a career in forensic psychology. It’s a great middle ground; there are so many paths I can take with it—I could work in family court, mental health, as an expert witness giving testimony. I could give evaluations for competency to stand in trial, judge on the grounds of insanity, or test children to determine which parent should get custody. I’m actually leaning towards specializing in criminal law. I want to figure out why people commit crimes—what motivates them? How do they gauge risk? And what can we do to help them stop?

FAVORITE class: My online class with Professor Chaim Tarshish, Drugs and Behavior. I took Cognition and Memory with him last semester, and I really liked how thorough he is with the material. Last semester we learned about the mechanisms of memory—short term, long term, implicit, explicit… In fact, I wrote my term paper on dissociative amnesia. This semester, I’m writing on whether marijuana is a gateway drug. (If you’re interested, I don’t think it is. It’s a presumptuous theory. Marijuana users end up using harder drugs, but there’s no evidence that marijuana itself is a gateway drug. Correlation doesn’t necessitate causation.)