Infant Language and Learning Lab

Current Members

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Sandrine Girard
Graduate Student
Sandrine Girard is a third year graduate student in the Thiessen lab. Her research investigates the neural processes that
support our ability to detect predictive relations among elements of the input, especially in relation to language development.
She graduated from the University of Washington in 2014 with a B.S. in Psychology and a minor in Spanish.
In her free time, Sandrine enjoys playing ultimate frisbee, doing yoga, and running.


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Cassie Eng
Graduate Student
Cassie is a first year graduate student in the Thiessen lab. Her research investigates the role attention plays in the acquisition of new knowledge and the
corresponding brain-behavior associations. In particular, she focuses on how children obtain information from various multimedia sources.
She graduated from Penn State in 2015 with a B.S. in Psychology and a minor in Neuroscience.
After, she completed a 1-year research fellowship at Virginia Tech. In her free time, Cassie works out.


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Kristen Boyle
Lab Manager
Kristen holds a Bachelor's degree in Psychology from McGill University as well as a Bachelor's degree in Elementary Education
from the University of Ottawa. She has experience teaching Pre-Kindergarten, French as Second Language, and music.
She enjoys doing yoga, baking, learning languages, and traveling.


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Alia Friedman
Research Assistant
Alia Friedman is a freshman Neuroscience major at CMU. She grew up in Philadelphia but has fallen in love with Pittsburgh.
She loves children, wants to be a pediatrician, and is fascinated by language acquisition. When not in the lab she enjoys reading and has a passion for history.


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Anjie Cao
Research Assistant
Anjie Cao is a conitive science major.
She is from Beijing, China. She used to want to be a whale when she grows up
but sadly Beijing doesn’t have a beach so she switched her dream into being a scientist.
Her favorite things include humans and hummus but she prefers humans because they acquire languages.
In her spare time, she loves to consume and produce written language. And also food.


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Rissa Lee
Research Assistant
Rissa Lee is a senior Cognitive Science Major with a concentration in Linguistics. Having grown up in a household that spoke
two languages, she is interested in bilingualism and the effect that early multiple language exposure has on children.
Rissa's hobbies include reading, morning crosswords, playing piano, and brewing strong coffee.


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Alice Zheng
Research Assistant
Alice Zheng is a senior Cognitive Science major.
She has always enjoyed working with children, and joined the lab in hopes of learning more about their development.
When not in the lab, Alice likes to listen to music, hike, draw, and play with dogs.


Simona Innocenti
Research Assistant
Simona is an undergraduate Neuroscience major. She is from Boston, MA, but the majority of her family still resides in Italy
and she grew up speaking only Italian for the first portion of her childhood. She joined the lab because of her fascination
with language and her own firsthand experiences with it. Outside of the lab, Simona can be found singing with her
acappella group, skiing, or cuddling her two cats Blueberry and Babyblue.


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Ruchira Ragavan
Research Assistant
Ruchira Ragavan is a student of Masters program in Applied Development Psychology. She wants to explore how language acquisition occurs in preterm infants and infants at risk of developmental issues. In her leisure time when she isn’t trying to solve environmental problems, she loves science fiction, music, plays with children and is a voracious reader.


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Bridget Tan
Research Assistant
Bridget is a rising junior in Electrical and Computer Engineering.
She enjoys mixing sound, celebrating Chinese culture, and playing video games.
This summer, she is working under Cassie to make an exergame based on the go/no-go task for preschoolers.


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Varsha Shankar
Research Assistant
Varsha is a freshman cognitive science major at CMU.
She joined the lab because of her interest in how children develop and how they acquire languages. She hopes to have a future working in the Artificial Intelligence field. In her free time, amongst other things Varsha likes to swim, travel and volunteer.


Alumni

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Lucy Erickson
Former Graduate Student
Lucy worked with Dr. Thiessen as a graduate student from 2009-2015.
She is currently a post-doc at the University of Maryland, College Park.