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 main research interests lie in children’s engagement in imaginative worlds, and how they represent, reason about, and learn through these imaginative worlds. Previously, my work has focused on children’s ability to represent information contained in fictional narratives, and on children’s early conversational interactions with parents when reading picture books. At the Language and Learning Lab, I am focusing on two primary lines of research. The first concerns children’s learning about science from picture books. The second concerns children’s developing ability to think counterfactually (i.e., to think about how past events could have turned out differently). Since joining the Language and Learning Lab, I have also become more broadly interested in children’s science learning and am interested in pursuing projects on different factors that promote children’s scientific knowledge, curiosity, and understanding.

Graduate Students

Sharon Chan
Sharon Chan

3rd 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

1st 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.

Ruth Lee
Ruth Lee

5th year PhD student in DPE program

Ruth is interested in how the ability to construct and update mental models of narratives – ‘situation models’ –  emerges and develops in childhood. Her thesis work concerns the implicit, online predictions and the explicit, reflective predictions that young children make in a narrative context.  She is also interested in the strategies used by older children on the autistic spectrum to make sense of fiction.

Begüm Özdemir
Begüm Özdemir

4th 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

1st year MA student in the SCCP program

Ariana received her BSc in Psychology and Biology from McMaster University. Her previous research focused on the cognitive limitations of the adolescent information processing system, as well as the cognitive deficits of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. At the Language and Learning Lab, she will continue to explore topics of child cognitive development, with the ultimate goal of practicing as a psychologist for children and adolescents.

Vaunam Venkadasalam
Vaunam Venkadasalam

2nd year PhD student in DPE program

Vaunam graduated with a BSc in biology and psychology from York University and with a MA in Developmental Psychology and Education from the University of Toronto. She is primarily interested in the how young children learn science concepts from media such as picture books. She is currently researching how children learn about falling objects from information narrative books and traditional informational books.  Vaunam loves to dance and has been dancing since she was 6. She is also an avid sports fan.

Undergraduate Students

Aryana Chakravarty
Aryana Chakravarty

I am a second year undergraduate student at the University of Toronto studying in the Life Science Program. I’ve been volunteering and working with children for the last 6 years. I was a camp counsellor for two years and I still babysit when I have free time. I love to travel and I am currently learning how to play guitar. I am interested in learning how children in this generation are able to use modern technology to develop their cognitive and language skill.

Claire Lauzon
Claire Lauzon

Claire is a second year student pursuing a neuroscience undergraduate at the University of Toronto. She has spent five summers working at an overnight camp in New Brunswick, where she developed a fascination with child development. She is eager for the opportunity to combine her passion for science with her interest in children, and hopes to work one day in pediatric medicine.

Shahbano Mustafa
Shahbano Mustafa

Shahbano is a second year undergraduate student studying Physiology and Immunology at the University of Toronto. She discovered a passion for cognitive development in youth after volunteering with physically and mentally impaired children. Shahbano is interested in children’s acquisition of fundamental concepts and skills, and the impact on their personal development and social relations. Her hobbies include reading and travelling.

Lynn Nguyen
Lynn Nguyen

Lynn is a second year undergraduate student in the Life Sciences program at the University of Toronto. 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 cognitive and language development. During her free time, she enjoys exercising, Netflix, and traveling.

Hilary Sweatman
Hilary Sweatman

Hilary is a second 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.

Research Assistants

Jayun Bae
Jayun Bae

Jayun is a second-year Neuroscience and Bioethics student at the University of Toronto. She has worked in children’s education and volunteered in an infant speech development lab. Jayun is particularly interested in child development and the brain, and is excited to work with the Language and Learning Lab.

Salima Hackeek
Salima Hackeek

Salima is a second year undergraduate student in the Life Sciences program at the University of Toronto. She enjoys volunteering and has volunteered at a pediatrician’s office as well as at a local hospital.  She is particularly interested in how children learn and the process of language development. She is looking forward to working with the Language and Learning Lab.

Umang Khan
Umang Khan

Umang is a 3rd 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.

Nicole Larsen
Nicole Larsen
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 particularly interested in how children learn from picture books and the impact that books can have on their development and their social relations.

 

Hanna Lim
Hanna Lim

Hanna is a 3rd 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 is in her final year of her Honours BSc. in Mental Health Studies. 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.
Stephanie Pereira
Stephanie Pereira

Stephanie is a second year undergraduate student who is doing a double major in neuroscience and psychology at the University of Toronto. She enjoys working with children at her amusement park job and babysits/plays with her baby nephew whenever she can. Stephanie is interested in the way children think, how they gain new cognitive abilities/skills, and the development of mental illness in humans. Her hobbies include reading, going to the gym, taking long walks, and baking.

Katherine Pullella
Katherine Pullella

Katherine is a second year undergraduate student at the University of Toronto, completing a major in Health and Disease as well as a double minor in Immunology and Physiology. She enjoys working with children of all ages and is interesting in learning more about early language and cognitive development. She is excited to have the opportunity to gain research experience while interacting with young children in the Language and Learning Lab. In her free time, Katherine enjoys swimming and skating with her three siblings.

Thahmina Rahman
Thahmina Rahman

Thahmina is a second year undergraduate student at the University of Toronto studying in the Life Sciences Program. She really enjoys working with children and has volunteered at the Toronto Public Library. She is interested in early cognitive development and language development. Thahmina is also interested in the way children form schemas. In her free time she enjoys reading and taking long walks around the city.

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 third 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.

Amanda Tallon
Amanda Tallon

Amanda is a second-year student at the University of Toronto, and is currently completing a double major in Health & Disease and Cellular Biology. She developed an interest in adolescent cognitive growth after observing her younger siblings use of electronics as a learning tool. Amanda is interested to discover the benfits of traditional books and e-readers in child development. When she’s not in the lab, Amanda enjoys hiking and exploring the great outdoors.

Shruthi Vaidyanathan
Shruthi Vaidyanathan

Shruthi is a second year undergraduate student in the Life Sciences program at the University of Toronto. She has volunteered with the Oakville Public Library’s reading programs and greatly enjoys working with children. Shruthi is interested in how children form mental representations of basic mathematical and language concepts. This has arisen from her observations tutoring young children in math and reading at Kumon. In her free time, she enjoys biking and collecting music.

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!