Lab Director

Patricia Ganea, Ph.D.

My primary research area is early cognitive development.  My research is focused on the social, linguistic and representational factors that influence children’s learning. I am especially interested in children’s ability to use language to communicate about things that are not perceptually present and their ability to engage in hypothetical thinking.  I am also interested in how children develop an understanding of the pragmatics of language and of social cognition.

Postdoctoral Fellows

Angela Nyhout, Ph.D.

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.

Myrto Grigoroglou, Ph.D.

My research explores how children and adults use language in communication. I am particularly interested in how the communicative system is formed in development and how it interacts with the semantic system as well as other, non-linguistic aspects of cognition (e.g., social or spatial cognition). In one line of research, I study children’s ability to tailor their speech to the knowledge and perspective of other people. In a second line of work, I look at how children use language to talk about space and motion cross-linguistically and how conversational principles, as well as non-linguistic conceptual representations affect language acquisition.

Graduate Students

Begüm Özdemir
7th 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 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 has studied young children’s ability to update their knowledge about absent objects based on verbal testimony. She also has some work on children’s understanding of conventionality. She is currently working on her thesis exploring children’s reasoning in situations where they are required to revise their existing beliefs in light of new evidence.

Vaunam Venkadasalam
5th year PhD student in DPE program

Vaunam received her Honours BSc in Biology and Psychology from York University and her MA in Development Psychology and Education from the University of Toronto. Vaunam is primarily interested in young children’s scientific understanding. Her research explores pedagogical strategies that promote science learning at home and in other educational settings.

Research Practicum Students

An Li
1st year Master student DPE program

An graduated from the University of Toronto with her Honours Bachelor of Science in Human Biology and Genome Biology. She enjoys spending time with children and working with them. She is interested in studying how children learn, how they acquire language and use it to communicate with others. In her spare time, she likes to watch movies and listen to music.

Arijit De
2nd year Master student DPE program

Arijit received his Honours Bachelors in Science (with Distinction) from the University of Toronto by pursuing the Psychologist Specialist Co-op program and the Neuroscience Major program. He is very interested in utilizing brain imaging and behavioural techniques to address nuances and questions present in specific areas of cognitive and development psychology such as memory, attention, facial recognition, learning and brain plasticity. In his free time he enjoys listening to music and reading interesting research articles.

Chang Liu
1st year Master student DPE program

Chang received her Bachelor of Arts from Tsinghua University, China. She is interested in how young children develop their understanding of social cognition. She hopes to explore more about children’s learning development.

Emily Veall
1st year Master student DPE program

Emily received her Honours BA in Psychology at Ryerson University, where she began studying early childhood cognition, and completed her thesis on the development of self-awareness. She is interested in discovering more about how children form their identities, use their imagination in everyday life, and learn through their exploratory experiences. Emily loves spending time outdoors on her bike, and working on creative writing projects. 

Research Opportunity Placement Students

Eric Fang

Eric is a second-year undergraduate pursuing a double major in computer science and human biology. He has taught local school children in both Hong Kong and Myanmar. He is interested in furthering methods for educating children on various subject matters. His hobbies include skiing and snowboarding.

Research Assistants

Alana Iannuzziello

Alana received her BSc. in Psychology at the University of Ottawa and has recently graduated from the M.A. Child Study and Education program.  Broadly, her research interests are in early science learning.

Ariel Chiao

Ariel is a fourth 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!

Elizabeth (Ruoyu) Mei

Elizabeth is a third-year undergraduate student at U of T, double-majoring in Immunology and Molecular Genetics and Microbiology. She works as a tutor and wants to find more ways to help students build scientific literacy. She is particularly interested in how children learn and apply scientific concepts. Elizabeth also likes birdwatching, BBC Nature and all kinds of food.

Livia Isnar

Livia is a fourth year undergraduate student at the University of Toronto, double majoring in Human Biology and Psychology. She enjoys volunteering with children with communication disorders and the elderly with aphasia. She wants to become a Speech Language Pathologist because it is her passion to help others find their voice.

Lydia Jia

Lydia is a third year student studying Psychology and the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology. She is also a volunteer ESL tutor of an immigrant mother. Lydia is interested in exploring how children develop their language and communication, as well as the capability of imagination. In her spare time, Lydia loves jogging and watching movies.

Lynn Nguyen

Lynn Nguyen is a recent graduate at the University of Toronto, where she achieved a B.Sc Honours in Neuroscience and Psychology. She enjoys working with children in research and clinical settings. At the lab, her work is focused on researching methods to teach children scientific concepts. During her free time, she enjoys reading and volunteering for mental health causes.

Marnie Wang

Marnie is a third year student, completing a Pharmacology specialist, Global Health major, and Psychology minor. She has a passion for children’s education and development, which she has pursued through volunteering as a tutor, helping young children overcome their literacy hurdles, and working as a camp counsellor. Marnie is particularly interested in how children learn science from picture books and videos. In her free time, she loves to travel, read, and hike.

Michelle Ou

Michelle is a third year undergraduate student at the University of Toronto studying psychology and human biology. She enjoys working with children and is interested in how children learn from picture books. In her spare time, she loves to explore the city with her friends.

Salima Hackeek

Salima recently graduated from the University of Toronto where she studied Neuroscience, Nutritional Science and Psychology. She is particularly interested in language acquisition and how children learn.
Salima has loved broadening her research experience with the Language and Learning Lab and is now working on recruitment and administrative responsibilities for the lab. In her spare time, she likes to binge-watch Netflix, spend time with her family and explore the city with her friends.

Shona Mistry

Shona is a current DPE M.Ed. student who graduated from McGill University in 2018. Having been a tennis coach for seven years, Shona loves working with children. She is interested in their cognitive development and counter-factual thinking. Shona completed her research practicum in 2019 under the supervision of Dr. Rhonda Martinussen in the Learning, Attention, and Engagement (LEA) lab at the Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study (JICS). Her project was on “The Differential Impacts of Math Anxiety Across Grade Level and Gender Within the Context of an Independent Elementary School”. In her spare time, Shona loves fiction writing, working out, and watching Netflix.