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

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
6th 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.

Nicole Larsen
3rd 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 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 social relations.

Vaunam Venkadasalam
4th 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

Arijit De
2nd year Master student DPE program

Arijit received his Honours Bachelors in Science (with Distinction) from the Univsersity 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.

Xiaoxu Zhou a
2nd year Master student DPE program

Xiaoxu completed her M.A. in Educational Policy at Arizona State University. Previously, she worked as an intern science teacher in elementary schools in China. She likes to work with young children and has some experience teaching them using different methods. She hopes to learn more about the development of children’s science learning ability and scientific reasoning skills.

Research Opportunity Placement Students

Elizabeth (Ruoyu) Mei

Elizabeth is a second-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.

Marnie Wang

Marnie is a second-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.

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 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!

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.

Hilary Sweatman

Hilary is a fourth 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.

Jinze Liu

Jinze is a third-year student specializing in Psychology and majoring in Neuroscience at the University of Toronto. In the past, she has volunteered with children who have Autism Spectrum Disorder and the experience inspired her to learn more about cognitive, social and mental disorders in children. She is currently part of a peer-support non-profit program and is also volunteering in the stem cell club. In her leisure time, she loves watching movies and traveling.

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 is a fourth 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.

Michelle Ou

Michelle is a second 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.

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! 

Qianqian Chen

Qianqian completed her Masters of Education program at Lakehead University. She is primarily interested in young children’s language understanding, and she likes to work with young children. Qianqian works as a supply teacher at the Trust Child Care Center and teaches English courses online to young Chinese children. She hopes to learn more about the development of children’s language learning ability at the Language and Learning Lab.

Rachel Crowther

Rachel graduated from U of T with an Honours  Bachelor of Science this past summer, double majoring in molecular biology and immunology and mental health studies. She loves working with children and is very interested in the social aspect of language development.

Salima Hackeek

Salima is a fourth-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.

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.

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.