Lab Members

Graduate Students

Erik Herbst, M.A. 
EriksquareI am a first-year Master’s student in Psychology and recent member of the lab. I recently graduated from the University of Texas at Austin, where I had the privilege of working with Dr. Jacqueline Woolley to study how children make distinctions between fantasy and reality. My undergraduate thesis explored how children learn moral lessons from human and anthropomorphic animal characters in children’s television shows. I am particularly interested in studying the development of beliefs– particularly, the factors that determine how testimony leads children and adults to rationalize current beliefs or seriously consider alternative views. I enjoy writing, hiking, and scuba diving when I get the chance.


Julia Espinosa, M.A. 
EriksquareI recently completed my MSc in Animal Behaviour and Welfare under the direction of Dr. Lee Niel at the University of Guelph and the Ontario Veterinary College Companion Animal Behaviour and Welfare Lab. My research focused on how well humans are able to recognize and understand domestic dog fear behaviour. Before moving to Ontario, I completed a BSc in Neuroscience at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, where I had the opportunity to work with Dr. Barbara Smuts researching dog play behaviour and visual signalling. In 2015, I extended the scope of our research with a 6-month visit to the Clever Dog Lab and Wolf Science Center at the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna, Austria. As a new member of the lab here at U of T, I am looking forward to expanding my investigation of dog behaviour and cognition. In my free time, I enjoy Latin American dancing, cycling, photography, hanging out with Winnie the Corgi (photo featured), and going to see live dance and music performances.


Lab Manager

Kay Otsubo, Lab Manager 
JuliesquareI am a recent graduate of the University of Toronto, where I completed an Honours Bachelor of Science with a double major in Neuroscience and Cognitive Science. I have a strong passion for learning about the brain and the cognitive functions, and utilized it with opportunities of research at places like SickKids’ Peter Gilgan Research Centre. In addition, working at summer camps, like Camp Robin Hood, made me realize that I love working with kids. Joining this lab allowed me to combine my two passions and opened my eyes towards working in the field of Developmental Psychology. I volunteered for this lab during my undergraduate year and have then been promoted to lab manager. When I am not in the lab, I enjoy drawing in my sketchbook, hiking, and shooting some hoops.

You can reach me at

Theresa Pham, Assistant Lab Manager
I recently completed my BSc in Psychology and Linguistics at the University of Toronto. My research interest includes children’s learning abilities and the development of language. In the future I hope to pursue graduate school in developmental psychology or speech pathology. In the lab, I look forward to expanding my knowledge in field of developmental psychology, but I am most excited about working with children as well as learning from them!

Undergraduate Students

Olivia Arski, Research Opportunity Program Student
ShireenI am a second-year undergraduate student pursuing a specialist in psychology at the University of Toronto. In addition to my experience and enjoyment of working with children, I am passionate about research in numerous fields of psychology including those of causal learning, reasoning, and the development of cognitive functions. I am very excited to delve further into these interests as a ROP student at the Computational Cognitive Development Lab. In my spare time, I enjoy hiking, debating, soccer, and writing.

Nafisa Bhuiyan, Undergraduate
ShireenI am a third year student at University of Toronto studying Neuroscience, Biology and Psychology. I am fascinated with how children understand their environment and learn to reason after tutoring youth with learning disabilities in Japan, Thailand and Canada. I joined the Computational Cognitive Development Lab as a Research Assistant investigating the development of metacognitive processes and statistical reasoning in children when they make decisions about the social and physical world, and how it compares with that of adults’. I am also involved in work with Infant Hearing Screening at Mount Sinai Hospital, Visual Cognition at University of Toronto, and various clinical research studies in the Paediatric Research Academic Initiative in SickKids Emergency (PRAISE) Department . In my free time I love to swim, watch movies and read novels.

Aarushi Gupta, Research Opportunity Program Student
AmanadaI am a second-year undergraduate student pursuing a double major in physiology and human biology, with a minor in psychology. Growing up with a dog and being a long-term volunteer at the SPCA, I have always had a passion for dogs and working with animals! This research program is the perfect fit for me because I am extremely curious about the way dogs learn, think and reason. I am looking forward to discovering more about canine cognition and interacting with different types of dogs through the ROP program. Outside of the lab, I spend most of my time travelling, cinematography, going on adventures with my friends and family, and writing!.

Lucy Li, Undergraduate
I am a fourth year undergraduate student studying Psychology (specialist) with an English minor and a Linguistics minor. I love observing how young children collect information about the world and how they engage in pretend play. From my own experience learning English as a child I have an interest in language development and literacy, especially how children learn to make the link between real world situations and the symbolic nature of words. In my spare time, I love to read and try new foods.

Flora Liu, Work-Study Student
Flora Liu
I am a fourth year undergraduate student pursuing a specialist in statistics and a major in computer science. My major research interest involves data mining and machine learning. I‘ve always been curious about the learning process of human and how do machine learning techniques connect to it. This research assistant opportunity offers me a great chance to discover the secret behind cognitive development and I’m really excited about it. I’m hoping to pursue graduate studies in computer science and working in machine learning related field in the future. In my free time, I love doing yoga and playing the flute.

Sarah Marton, Undergraduate
SarahSarah is an undergraduate student at the University of Toronto in her third year of study. With membership at Trinity College, she is completing an Hons. B.Sc. with a double major in Psychology and Ethics, Society and Law. In her second year at the CoCoDev Lab, Sarah is currently an RA in the Canine Cognition Lab and previously served as an ROP student. In the past Sarah has worked with young children as an academic tutor and ski instructor, and has a love of both children and dogs. In her free time Sarah is a mentor for the Research Opportunity Program at the University, a sister of the Pi Beta Phi Fraternity for Women, and an avid traveller. She is also the proud new-owner of a Goldendoodle puppy, named Joey.

Melanie Mascarenhas, Research Opportunity Program Student

I’m a second year student pursuing a degree in Psychology and Cognitive Science. From a young age, I’ve been very indecisive about what I wanted to do until I stumbled upon the teachings of Psychology and Cognition. I found this Research Program opportunity and immediately knew it was the one I wanted to be involved with – Through experiences with being a camp counsellor, babysitter and a children’s choir leader, I discovered a love for children and for working with them. I intend to work more with children in the future and pursue a career in psychology that enables me to do so. A further plus is having the toddler study in connection to the canine study as I love working with dogs as well and for all these reasons, I was drawn to and intrigued by this particular research study. In my free time, I like singing, reading and cooking. I also recently got a puppy of my own and I love being a full time dog mom.

Pingki Mazumder, Undergraduate
AmanadaI am an undergraduate student studying Psychology, Health and Disease, and Immunology. Through working as a tutor and camp counselor for youth, I became interested in how children learn, reason, and use information from others to form their own opinions. Being a research assistant at a lab that intersects these interests is very exciting for me. I have been a member of the lab since May 2015, and I look forward to continuing to learn about cognition and psychology research.

Samantha Mekhuri, Undergraduate
image 5I am a fourth-year undergraduate student at the University of Toronto studying Human Biology and Psychology. I am interested in all aspects of psychology, especially human cognition. I also love interacting with children as I used to volunteer at the Hospital for Sick Children and had the opportunity to educate young students about the brain in the past. Being a research assistant has allowed me to observe how children learn about the world around them and I have gained insight into the process of research. It is very fascinating and perhaps in the future, I may pursue research as a future career! In my spare time, I enjoy watching movies, traveling, and learning new languages.

Amanda Nickerson, Undergraduate
AmanadaI’m a fourth year undergraduate Psychology student at York University. I’ve been extremely fortunate to find fellow animal lovers at York where we will be conducting a thesis on canine cognition. As part of this thesis I am training a service animal, Olive, who will become a certified therapy dog. In the future I hope to continue researching canine behavior as well as human-animal interactions and bonding. I spend most of my free time with my 3 dogs hiking the trails across the GTA.

Julia Pearce, Undergraduate
labI am a third year undergraduate student at the University of Toronto and am pursuing a specialist degree in Psychology. I have always loved working with children and my primary interest is in child development. I find how children learn and the different rates of their learning very fascinating. I’m very excited about being part of the research process and broadening my scope of knowledge. In the past, I have worked with children while teaching swimming lessons, working with individuals with developmental disabilities and through various volunteer experiences. In my free time I enjoy reading novels, cooking/baking, spending time with my dog, and boating in the summer.

Madeline Pelgrim, Research Opportunity Program Student
AmanadaI am a second year undergraduate student pursuing a double major in animal physiology and psychology, with an immunology minor. My main research interest lies in canine cognition. From a young age I have had a passion for animals, and I have always been interested in learning more about how they learn and think, and how those processes differ from our own. To expand on my love for animals, I’m currently a foster parent for the Toronto Humane Society, and an active volunteer with the Toronto Wildlife Centre. Outside of the lab and volunteering, I love to scuba dive, cook, read, and do yoga.

Jennifer Kate Toulmin, Mini-Thesis Undergraduate
jI am a third year undergraduate student in the Psychology Research Specialist program at the University of Toronto. My research experience has included NSERC-funded investigation of statistical reasoning in children and adults with autistic traits, Singlism, and teaching wisdom across private and public Ontario education. I am very excited to study toddlers in the Cognitive Development lab! I also volunteer at the CAMH hospital in the Bipolar Disorder Clinic and hope to pursue graduate studies in Clinical Psychology. My presentation experience includes my first guest lecture for the Introductory Cognitive Psychology course at The University of Toronto, in November 2016. I have also been a professional actress since I was a child, and have had the honour of performing such roles as Anne in ‘Anne of Green Gables’ and Sophie in ‘Mamma Mia!’ across Canada, the United States, the UK and Japan. In my spare time I enjoy gymnastics, running, painting and writing and helping grant wishes for the Children’s Wish Foundation.

Yvonne Wang, Undergraduate
AmanadaI am going into my second year at UofT. I wish to pursue a double major in Psychology and Molecular Genetics. I am still a bit indecisive on what I want to do in the future, but I am certain that I wish to continue working with the team after my ROP299 course is ended. Before coming into this lab, I have volunteered for three years in an organization which teaches skiing to children with disabilities. I love working with children, and have extra patience for them. I love, sometimes jealous of, their naive and curious characteristics. In my free time, I love singing and watching drama.

Lab Alumni

Dr. Emma Tecwyn
Julie Buthmann
Alyssa Payne
Undergraduate Students: Alessia Manzoli, Maliha Imami, Natalia Robert-Nunez, Nina Esmail, Stephanie Rizzetto, Surabhi Ojha, Christine Heighton, Shireen Parimoo, Elina Kadriu, Samuel Clarke, Leah Brainin, Aparajita Bhandari