Temple Infant & Child Laboratory | Post-Doctoral Fellows
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Post-Doctoral Fellows

ALPERDr. Rebecca Alper

Rebecca is a post-doctoral fellow and licensed speech-language pathologist working with Dr. Kathy Hirsh-Pasek on the Enhancing Communication Foundations project. Rebecca completed her M.A., Ph.D. and a graduate certificate in Biostatistics at the University of Iowa, where she was a Presidential Fellow under the co-mentorship of Dr. Richard Hurtig and Dr. Karla McGregor. Her research thus far has focused on the role of clinicians and caregivers as agents of early speech-language and pre-literacy intervention, with a focus on the impact of psychosocial factors on intervention gains. Additionally, Rebecca is interested in research methodology and data analysis for speech-language research.



Dr. Jeremy Sawyer

Jeremy is a post-doctoral fellow working with Dr. Kathy Hirsh-Pasek on the Philadelphia Playful Learning City project, which transforms urban public spaces to encourage playful learning and meaningful communication between children and caregivers. He received his Ph.D. in developmental psychology from the CUNY Graduate Center, investigating how sociodramatic play enhances children’s private speech and motivation to master new challenges. Jeremy is a certified bilingual (Spanish) school psychologist who worked in NYC public schools, and he explores bilinguals’ private speech in relation to emergent bilingual cognitive advantages. Jeremy is also interested in how social movements transform our implicit and explicit attitudes.



Dr. Kreshnik Begolli

Kreshnik Begolli is motivated to understand how humans learn and impart knowledge and the desire to advance science and education to promote positive social impact, Kreshnik’s research arena alternates between the laboratory, the classroom, and our communities. By blurring the line between the two, Kreshnik’s research draws primarily from cognitive research in analogical reasoning. After receiving his PhD in Education with an emphasis on Learning, Cognition, & Development from the University of California, Irvine in 2015, he joined Temple as an IES postdoctoral fellow.  His work focuses on the links between analogy making, math cognition, spatial thinking, and language – in hopes to discover effective learning techniques (in & out of school) that foster generalizable knowledge in mathematics.

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Dr. Cori Bower

Cori is a postdoctoral fellow working with Dr. Kathy Hirsh-Pasek on a project that explores the effectiveness of a spatial cognitive intervention and its implementation strategies to increase preschoolers’ spatial skills and facilitate math learning. She received her Ph.D. in developmental psychology from Penn State working with Dr. Lynn Liben on creating a spatial skill intervention with the goal of facilitating science learning. Cori’s research interests include creating and implementing embodied and spatial cognitive interventions in both formal and informal educational contexts as well as evaluating their effectiveness in facilitating STEM learning.



Dr. Andres Bustamante

Andres is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow under the Institute of Education Sciences “Network for Integrating Cognitive and Educational Sciences (NICE) Postdoctoral Research Training Grant Program.” He has a dual appointment in the Department of Psychology and the College of Education under the mentorship of Dr. Kathy Hirsh-Pasek and Dr. Annemarie Hindman. He earned a bachelor’s degree in developmental psychology from Emmanuel College, as well as a master’s degree and Ph.D. in developmental psychology from the University of Miami under the mentorship of Dr. Daryl Greenfield. His research focuses on early childhood science as an ideal context for fostering domain general learning skills like approaches to learning, executive functioning, and social emotional development. With Dr. Hirsh-Pasek, his focus has been on translating his research from the classroom to the community through the learning landscapes projects (e.g. a life-sized board game installed in parks targeting STEM and reasoning skills).



Dr. Brenna Hassinger-Das

Brenna is a research scientist working with Dr. Kathy Hirsh-Pasek on a series of projects designed to foster playful learning opportunities in home, school, and community settings. She received her Ph.D. in Education (Learning Sciences) from the University of Delaware, working with Dr. Nancy C. Jordan on developing number sense and mathematics vocabulary interventions for at-risk kindergartners. Brenna’s research interests include investigating the role of games in supporting learning as well as designing additional intervention studies in both language and mathematics.



LUODr. Rufan Luo

Rufan Luo is a post-doctoral fellow working with Dr. Kathy Hirsh-Pasek. She is working on the Enhancing the Communication Foundation (ECF) project, which aims to promote the quality of parent-child communication and children’s language development through center-based and home-based interventions. Rufan received her Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology from New York University in 2015, supervised by Dr. Catherine Tamis-LeMonda. Her dissertation examined preschool children’s language and literacy experiences in low-income, ethnically diverse families. In general, Rufan’s research interests include children’s home learning experiences, parenting, parent-child interaction, language and cognitive development, and sociocultural contexts.



Dr. Brianna McMillan

Brianna is a Postdoctoral Fellow at Temple University under the Institute of Education Sciences “Network for Integrating Cognitive and Educational Sciences (NICE) Postdoctoral Research Training Grant Program”, working with Kathy Hirsh-Pasek and Annemarie Hindman. She received her Ph.D. in cognitive psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Dr. McMillan’s research explores how children’s environments affect their ability to learn language. In her postdoctoral work, she is expanding her research focus beyond environments that might hinder language development, into environments that can facilitate language development and more general cognitive development.



NAZARETHDr. Alina Nazareth

Alina is a post-doctoral associate working with Dr. Nora Newcombe, on investigating individual differences in navigation ability across the lifespan.  She received her Ph.D. in Psychology from Florida International University, working with Dr. Shannon M. Pruden on the cognitive and experiential factors that affect adult mental rotation performance. Her dissertation investigated the different cognitive strategies as a function of the temporal properties of eye movement as recorded by the Tobii X60 eye-tracker. Alina’s research interests also include studying the role of cognitive strategy, gender beliefs and stereotypes, spatial activity experience, and spatial anxiety in explaining individual differences in spatial ability.



Dr. Molly Schlesinger

Molly Schlesinger is a postdoctoral fellow working with Dr. Kathy Hirsh-Pasek on a research project studying active and guided learning. She received her Ph.D. in developmental psychology from the University of California in 2017, where her research focused on young children’s social cognitive development, problem solving skills, and learning STEM content from educational media. Her dissertation focused on how young children’s self-perceptions and social cognitive perceptions about characters related to their solving STEM-related problems. Overall, Molly’s research interest include social cognitive perceptions, creative and divergent reasoning, and engagement with media.

Dr. Tamara Spiewak Toub

Dr. Tamara Spiewak Toub worked as a postdoctoral fellow with Dr. Kathy Hirsh-Pasek for 3 years before shifting into her current role as a Research Area Expert at the lab. Broadly, Tamara is interested in the promotion of children’s development through playful and other common activities and in the translation of research findings to application in children’s lives. Tamara continues to contribute her expertise to multiple projects she helped to lead during her fellowship years, including research on the use of adult-supported book-reading and playful learning activities to facilitate preschoolers’ vocabulary development. Similarly, she remains actively involved in the lab’s work examining how involvement in a theater program might benefit
children with autism. These inquiries into developmental benefits of playful experiences connect back to Tamara’s dissertation on the relation between preschoolers’ pretend play and executive function (i.e., self-control). Tamara earned her Ph.D. in developmental psychology at the University of Washington, supervised by Dr. Betty Repacholi and Dr. Stephanie Carlson (University of Minnesota).

Beyond the lab, Tamara consults on the designs of museum exhibits, curricula for educators, and child-oriented community events, and researches gaps between common practices and science-based guidance. Given such gaps, Tamara also leads professional development workshops and writes for general audiences to communicate findings from the learning and developmental sciences to the families, educators, and policy-makers affecting children’s lives.



Dr. Emily Hopkins

Emily is a post-doctoral fellow working with Dr. Hirsh-Pasek on the Language for Reading project: an IES-funded study aimed at developing methods to teach vocabulary in low-income preschool classrooms using stories and play. Emily completed her Ph.D. at the University of Virginia in 2014, working with Dr. Angeline Lillard on learning from pretend play and fictional stories in early childhood. Her primary research focus is understanding how we can leverage children’s interests in play, fiction, and fantasy to teach important academic content as well as help children develop key learning-to-learn skills.



Dr. Lauren Stites

Lauren Stites is a post-doctoral fellow working with Dr. Kathy Hirsch-Pasek. She completed her Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology at Georgia State University, where she was a graduate fellow in the Research in the Challenges of Acquiring Language and Literacy Initiative, supervised by Dr. Şeyda Özçalışkan. Her dissertation examined the relationship between children’s expression of metaphors in gesture and their acquisition of literacy. Lauren’s research interest include children’s acquisition of complex speech forms (such as narrative and metaphor) in speech and in gestures and the relationship between language and cognition in both typical and atypical learners.