Current Members

Lab Director

Patricia Ganea, Ph.D.
Patricia Ganea, Ph.D.

My primary research area is early cognitive development. I investigate the processes involved in young children’s learning about the world through symbolic means, such as language, pictures, videos, and replica objects. I am especially interested in children’s use of language to think and communicate about what is perceptually not present. Developing the ability to communicate about absent objects and events is a major cognitive achievement, one that enables children to learn about the world indirectly. My research is focusing on the social, linguistic and representational factors that influence children’s learning about the world. I am also interested in how children develop an understanding of the pragmatics of language and of social cognition.

CV

Postdoctoral Fellow

Angela Nyhout
Angela Nyhout

My research explores how children think about and learn from alternatives to reality. In two lines of research, I study children’s developing ability to disengage from the here-and-now to (1) understand and imagine fictional worlds in stories, and (2) to reason about episodes that didn’t happen, but could have happened. Recently, I have been studying how children’s ability to entertain alternate possibilities supports their learning of science concepts and their scientific reasoning skills. I am also interested in the development of pragmatic language and communication, and am currently investigating how children understand the communicative intentions underlying storytelling.

Graduate Students

Sharon Chan
Sharon Chan

4th year PhD student in the SCCP program.

Sharon received her BSc in Psychology from the University of Toronto and MSc in Psychology from the University of Victoria. Her research interests are broadly within the domain of child cognitive development. Her previous research has focused on children’s use of memory strategies in novel problem solving contexts, and explored how training of such strategies transferred across different tasks. In her current program she is focusing on increasing knowledge in the assessment and treatment of children with special needs and developmental delay in hopes of one day practicing as a child psychologist.

Kadria Simons Ghafari
Kadria Simons Ghafari

3rd year PhD student in DPE program

Kadria received her B.A. in Hispanic and Italian Studies from the University of Victoria. After working overseas in Israel and South America, she completed her M.A. in Child Study and Education at the University of Toronto. At the Language and Learning Lab, her research is focused on children’s ability to distinguish fact from fiction in picture books and their learning and transfer of information from pictures to reality.

Alana Iannuzziello
Alana Iannuzziello

2nd year MA student in the CSE program

Alana received her BSc. in Psychology at the University of Ottawa and is currently enrolled in the M.A. Child Study and Education program.  Broadly, her research interests are in cognitive development and its application to education.

Nicole Larsen
Nicole Larsen
1st year PhD student in DPE program
Nicole received her Honours B.A. in Political Science and Social Justice and Peace Studies from the University of Western Ontario, and subsequently completed her Masters of Arts here at the University of Toronto in Child Study and Education. She is now pursuing a PhD in Development Psychology and Education. She is particularly interested in how children learn from picture books and the impact that books can have on their development and their social relations.
Ruth Lee
Ruth Lee

6th year PhD student in DPE program

Ruth is interested in how children process language while it is still unfolding, and what this can tell us about children’s mental representations of the events they hear about. Her thesis work uses real-time eye movement measures to ask how children interpret events in fiction that contradict their knowledge of the real world. She is also interested in the strategies used by older children on the autistic spectrum to make sense of fiction.

Begüm Özdemir
Begüm Özdemir

5th year PhD student in DPE program

Begum received her BA in Philosophy from Middle East Technical University and MA in Psychology from Bogazici University, Turkey. Her primary research interest covers how early development of cognitive and symbolic processes  enable children to acquire knowledge about and interact with the world around them. She is currently exploring individual differences in children’s ability to update their mental representations on the basis of verbal testimony from toddlerhood to preschool years. As a second line of research, she is interested in early social-pragmatic development, specifically, perspective-taking ability of children in their communicative interactions.

Ariana Simone
Ariana Simone

2nd year MA student in the SCCP program

Ariana received her BSc in Psychology and Biology from McMaster University. Her research interests lie broadly within the domain of cognitive development, and her previous research has focused on the cognitive deficits of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. At the Language and Learning Lab, she is currently focusing on early social-pragmatic development, and young children’s ability to make inferences about people and objects that are not perceptually present. Ariana has the ultimate goal of practicing as a psychologist for children and adolescents.

Vaunam Venkadasalam
Vaunam Venkadasalam

3rd year PhD student in DPE program

Vaunam graduated with a BSc in Biology and Psychology from York University. She received her MA in Developmental Psychology and Education from the University of Toronto. Vaunam’s primarily interested in the how young children acquire science knowledge and science skills.  Vaunam loves to dance and has been dancing since she was 6. She is also an avid sports fan.

Undergraduate Students

Kritleen Bawa
Kritleen Bawa

Kritleen is a third year student at University of Toronto doing a double major in Neuroscience and Immunology. I am very fascinated by the brain and I am very excited to be helping with psychology studies at the Language and Learning Lab, that will tell us more about the workings of the brain in children. I work with a lot of children in my neighbourhood as a tutor and a volunteer at the community arts council and I love it. In my free time I love painting, reading fictional novels, watching TV and trying new kinds of foods at various restaurants in Toronto with my friends. I am very interested in learning the therapeutic side of art and its effects on the brain and injury.

Ariel Chiao
Ariel Chiao

Ariel is a second year student pursuing a double major in Physiology and Human Biology. She currently teaches children piano at the Ryerson Community School, as a part of SolMusic. She also volunteered at the Telus World of Science in which she has learnt how to explain scientific concepts to children. Ariel is interested in exploring how children receive and interpret foreign scientific concepts. Outside of her academics, Ariel enjoys eating and playing music!

Jonta Kamara
Jonta Kamara

Jonta is a second year student pursuing a double major in Human Biology and Health Studies. In the past she has volunteered at the YMCA summer camps and the Ribfest Kidz zone and enjoys working with children. She also has a very keen interest in Maternal and Child Health Care. She hopes to learn more about communication and language learning in children, which she believes is important to improve their healthcare. Jonta hopes to learn more about research methods and how labs are conducted. In her free time, she enjoys travelling and listening to music.

Etri Kocaqi
Etri Kocaqi

Etri is a third year undergraduate student pursuing a Genetics Specialist at the University of Toronto. She currently volunteers in two applied psychology labs, where she inspires to mix genetics and psychology research. Etri is interested in learning about how children understand and apply increasingly difficult scientific concepts. Outside of the lab Etri enjoys writing and amateur stand-up comedy.

Noshin Ullah
Noshin Ullah

Noshin is a second year undergraduate student currently specializing in Psychology and majoring in Neuroscience at UofT. She enjoys reading, and volunteering with various organizations including local hospitals. She loves spending time with children and would like to know more about their interpretation of their surroundings. During her spare time she enjoys binge watching series, watching movies/Asian dramas and listening to Kpop.

Linke Yu
Linke Yu

Linke is a third year undergraduate student pursuing a specialist in psychology and a major in linguistics at the University of Toronto. She enjoys working with children and has volunteered at a Children’s Welfare Institute in China during the summers. She is interested in children’s cognitive and language development. In her spare time, Linke loves reading and listening to city pops.

Research Assistants

Aryana Chakravarty
Aryana Chakravarty

Aryana is a third year undergraduate student at the University of Toronto studying in the Life Science Program. She enjoys volunteering with the City of Toronto to help at risk youth. She is currently interested in learning how children are able to use technology to develop their cognitive and language skill.

Salima Hackeek
Salima Hackeek

Salima is a third year undergraduate student studying Neuroscience, Nutritional Science and Psychology at the University of Toronto. She is particularly interested in language acquisition and how children learn. She has loved her time at the Language and Learning Lab so far and is looking forward to learning more about child development. In her spare time, she likes to binge-watch Netflix, spend time with her family and explore the city with her friends.

Umang Khan
Umang Khan

Umang is a fourth year Neuroscience student at the University of Toronto. Her experience is mostly with children who have Autism Spectrum Disorder which has inspired her to further her studies so she can contribute to Autism research. She is particularly interested in the learning mechanisms involved in ASD to hopefully create a better educational experience for special needs children.

Hanna Lim
Hanna Lim

Hanna is a fourth year student majoring in Health and Disease. She has been volunteering with children for many years in various roles including teaching and tutoring, which she still continues to this day. She is very interested in understanding early childhood language and skill acquisition, and is always looking to learn more about child psychology in order to apply it to future endeavors. Her hobbies include martial arts, origami, and reading. 

Emilie MacDonald
Emilie MacDonald
Emilie graduated with her Honours BSc. in Mental Health Studies from the University of Toronto. She is majoring in this area as well as in Health Policy. Emilie spent over seven years working in residential and day camps and through this, discovered her passion for children’s learning experiences. She is particularly interested in how children from various socio-economic statuses and familial backgrounds can thrive in the right type of learning environment. Emilie has enjoyed her past experiences at the lab and looks forward to the new ones to come.
Lynn Nguyen
Lynn Nguyen

Lynn is a third year undergraduate student, pursuing a double major in Psychology and Neuroscience. She has a passion for working with children, which she has done through out the course of her life, including working with children affected by HIV/AIDs in Vietnam for 4 years. She is particularly interested in researching the most effective ways to teach children scientific concepts.

Stephanie Pereira
Stephanie Pereira

Stephanie is a third year Neuroscience and Psychology student at the University of Toronto. Stephanie enjoys working with children and is especially interested in how the brain develops and changes throughout a person’s lifetime. She is also interested in how learning occurs in children, how children gain new cognitive abilities, and how mental illness develops in young individuals. Her hobbies include taking long walks, spending time with friends, going to the gym, and baking sweets.

Katherine Pullella
Katherine Pullella

Katherine is a fourth year undergraduate student at the University of Toronto, completing a double major in Health and Disease and Biology. She enjoys working with children of all ages and is interested in learning more about maternal sensitivity and the impact it has on child development. In her free time, Katherine enjoys swimming and skating with her three siblings.

 

Krisma Saini
Krisma Saini

Krisma recently graduated from the Master of Arts ın Chıld Study and Educatıon program at the University of Toronto. She has specialized her understanding of child development in the areas of Early Childhood Education and Special Education. Krisma currently works on the Placental Health Predıctors of Cognıtıve Outcomes study, as well as Counterfactual Reasonıng and Mındset studıes.

Viktoria Sefcikova
Viktoria Sefcikova

Viktoria is a fourth year undergraduate student at the University of Toronto. She is majoring in psychology and genome biology, with a minor in physiology. She likes to apply her passions in her studies by volunteering in a genetics laboratory and at Mount Sinai hospital. She is interested in understanding more about the basis of language learning, as well as the neural underpinnings, starting with children of an early age. Outside of the lab, Viktoria enjoys learning different languages and exploring new cultures.

Hilary Sweatman
Hilary Sweatman

Hilary is a third year neuroscience student at University of Toronto. She has always been fascinated by psychology and the brain, and has enjoyed working with children for many years. By combining these areas of interest, Hilary is interested in studying how children acquire and apply language skills. Outside of school, she loves travelling.

Pavethra Yogeswaran
Pavethra Yogeswaran

Pavethra graduated with her BSc in Biochemistry and Health Studies from the University of Toronto. She has always been interested in how children perceive the world around them and wants to pursue a career in children’s education engagement and outreach. Pavethra has loved broadening her research experience with the Language and Learning Lab and is now working on recruitment and administrative responsibilities for the lab. She has also finally received her Hogwarts letter and is hoping to study there in the near future!