Lab Director

Dr. Angeline Lillard

Dr. Lillard is a Professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia, and she is an elected Fellow of both the American Psychological Association (Division 7) and the Association for Psychological Science. She obtained her BA in English Literature from Smith College and her PhD in Psychology from Stanford University. Her primary research interests include pretend play and Montessori education, and her book, Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius received the Cognitive Development Society Book Award in 2006. Dr. Lillard is also interested in the development of theory of mind, children's executive function, children and media, neuroplasticity, contemplative practices, and culture and development.

Email Dr. Lillard
Dr. Lillard's CV
Dr. Lillard's Wikipedia

Lab Coordinator

Allyson Snyder

Allyson is the EDL's Lab Coordinator. She grew up in Wisconsin and graduated from Northwestern University with a BA in Communication Studies. She is interested in alternative methods of education and how different curricula might impact children's interest and learning outcomes.

E-mail Allyson

Postdoctoral Research Associate

Dermina Vasc

Dermina Vasc is a Postdoctoral Research Associate. She obtained her bachelor, master and PhD degrees from the Babes-Bolyai University in Cluj-Napoca, Romania, where she worked in the Developmental Psychology Lab. During her PhD she also completed a research stage at the Department of Developmental and Comparative Psychology from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany. Her PhD thesis investigated children's iconic gestural communication and pretend play. In addition to her research interests in children's gesture and pretend play, she is also interested in children's social learning and in how children enrolled in Montessori schools learn.

E-mail Dermina

Graduate Students

Sierra Eisen

Sierra is a fifth year graduate student, originally from Pinole, CA. She received her BA in Psychology with Honors from the University of California, Berkeley in 2013. Her current research focuses on how children think about and learn from interactive technologies, particularly educational apps. She is also interested in how children learn from stories and how fiction can advance children's moral development.

E-mail Sierra
Personal Website

Jessica Taggart

Jess is a fifth year graduate student, originally from Norwalk, CT. She received her BA in Psychology and English from Johns Hopkins University in 2012. She is broadly interested in our engagement with fictional worlds. Her main line of research focuses on children's interest and engagement in pretend play and real activities. Her other line of work explores whether exposure to prosocial fictional media can subsequently make children more empathetic and prosocial individuals.

E-mail Jess
Personal Website

Ian Becker

Ian is a second year graduate student. He grew up in the Twin Cities area Minnesota where he learned to appreciate humidity, cold, and the beauty of driving past farm fields. He graduated in 2017 from Whitman College in Washington state with a BA in Psychology. Ian's research interests lie in alternative education and what can be learned about inspiring interest and motivation in education systems like Montessori and Waldorf that directly seek to make these characteristics a fundamental part of school learning.

E-mail Ian

Abha Basargekar

Abha is a first year graduate student, originally from Navi Mumbai, India. She received her BA in psychology from St. Xavier's College, Mumbai and an MA in elementary education from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. She has experience working with non-profits in elementary education in India. She also has an MA in Social Sciences from the University of Chicago, where she concentrated in developmental psychology. Abha's main research interests lie in children's learning through self-initiated actions and motivation to learn, especially in Montessori schools. She is also broadly interested in cultural influences on learning and social learning.

E-mail Abha

Christina Carroll

Christina is a first year graduate student, originally from Stony Brook, NY. She received her BS in Psychology from Michigan State University. She taught middle-school science and social studies on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation in South Dakota for two years through Teach for America. She then attended the Montessori Institute of Milwaukee to obtain her elementary teacher certification through the Association Montessori Internationale. She has spent the past 10 years in elementary Montessori schools teaching children ranging from the ages of 6 to 12 years old.Christina's main research interests lie in examining the long-term impact of Montessori education upon former Montessori students and the impact of mindfulness practices in the Montessori environment.

E-mail Christina

Lee Leboeuf

Lee LeBoeuf is a first year graduate student from Dayton, Ohio. She received her BA in Psychology from Ohio Wesleyan University in 2017. After graduating, she taught at a public charter elementary school in one of Cleveland's most underserved communities. As an RA in the EDL during the summer of 2018, Lee became very interested in Montessori education. She is interested in researching the outcomes for Montessori students--particularly the potential Montessori education holds to "close the gap" between urban and suburban student populations.

E-mail Lee

Collaborators

Dr. Francesc Sidera

Dr. Sidera is a Professor of Psychology at the University of Girona in Catalonia, Spain. He obtained his bachelor and PhD degrees from the same university. He is interested in children's socioemotional development, particularly, in how children come to understand people's emotions. His collaboration with the Early Development Lab is framed within a project funded by the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness, and is aimed at studying children's implicit understanding of emotions.

Helet Botha

Helet is a Doctoral Candidate in Ethics at the Darden School of Business (UVA). She is originally from a small town in central South Africa you have never heard of! Helet completed a BA in Economics and Organizational Decision-Making; as well as an MPhil in Organizational Behavior at the University of Stellenbosch. She is interested in how pretense and experience with fictional worlds translate to (cognitive) development and performance. She also studies how children and adults recover and grow from different kinds of moral failure.

E-mail Helet

Research Assistants

Priya Batheja

Priya is a first year undergraduate student from Loudoun County, VA, majoring in Psychology. In the lab she is working with Dermina on her investigation of the effects of Montessori and conventional lessons on children's imitation and learning.

Maeve Berman

Maeve is a third year undergraduate student from Falls Church, VA, majoring in Psychology and minoring in French. In the lab, she is working with Sierra how children learn from apps.

Alexis Biltz

Alexis is a fourth year undergraduate student from Richmond, Virginia majoring in Psychology and working towards her masters in Elementary Education. In the lab she will be working with Ian to study how alternative education may inspire interest and motivation.

Sydney Bowden

Sydney is a second year undergraduate student from Fairfax, VA, majoring in Psychology and minoring in French. In the lab she is working with Sierra on her study investigating parent-child interactions while engaging with physical and digital spatial toys.

Amber Curran

Amber is a third year undergraduate student from Ashburn, VA, majoring in Biology and Psychology. In the lab, she is working with Sierra on her study on parent-child interactions while engaging with physical and digital spatial toys.

Caroline DiGiacomo

Caorline is a fourth year undergraduate student from Charlottesville, VA, majoring in Cognitive Science with a concentration in Cognitive Psychology. In the lab she is working with Abha looking at how children learn number concepts, and students' motivation to learn, particularly in Montessori classrooms.

Mackenna Gordon

Mackenna is a second-year undergraduate from Annandale, Virginia pursuing a major in psychology. She is interested in studying how various school and classroom settings aid or hinder child development.

Mary Kenzakowski

Mary is a second year undergraduate student from Richmond, VA, majoring in Spanish and studying on a pre-physician assistant track. In the lab, she is working with Jess on her study exploring the relationship between pretend play and children's self-efficacy.

Amber Liller

Amber is a first year undergraduate student from Virginia Beach, VA, majoring in Psychology and English. In the lab, she is working with Sierra on her study on parent-child interactions while engaging with physical and digital spatial toys.

Emily Moore

Emily is a first year undergraduate student from Blacksburg, VA, studying Psychology and Speech Communication Disorders. In the lab she is working with Ian on his project looking at children's concentration in Montessori classrooms.

Madhumita Napa

Madhu is a third year undergraduate student from Ashburn, VA, majoring in Biology with a Latin minor. In the lab, she is working with Jess on her study exploring the relationship between pretend play and children's self-efficacy.

Sydney Ploeger

Sydney is a second year undergraduate student from Virginia Beach, VA, majoring in Psychology and Biostatistics. In the lab, she is working with Sierra to investigate parent-child interactions while engaging with physical and digital spatial toys.

Rana Rahman

Rana is a third year undergraduate student from Centreville, VA, majoring in Cognitive Science with a concerntration in Neuroscience. In the lab, she is working with Dermina on her study investigating the effects of Montessori and conventional lessons on children's imitation and learning.

Sophie Ritt

Sophie is a third year undergraduate student from Philadelphia, PA, majoring in Psychology and Elementary Education. In the lab she is working with Ian on his project looking at children's concentration in Montessori classrooms.

Parsa Salehi

Parsa is a first year undergraduate student from Loudoun County, VA, majoring in Cognitive Science with a concentration in Neuroscience. In the lab, he is working with Jess on her study exploring the relationship between pretend play and children's self-efficacy.

Meimei Xu

Meimei is a third year undergraduate student from Herndon, VA, majoring in Anthropology and Cognitive Science. In the lab, she is working with Jess to investigate young children's perception of pretend play as opposed to real activities, and how these two types of activities are related to children's self-efficacy. She is also working with Dermina exploring the effects of Montessori and conventional lessons on children's imitation and learning.

Lab Alumni

Meet our Lab Alumni

Meet our Research Assistant Alumni

Meet our Summer Internship Alumni