Perfetti Lab

Meet the current members of our lab!

Principal Investigator

Dr. Charles Perfetti

I have an enduring interest in the nature of human language, which, in my research program, became focused on reading in its many aspects--from its connection to language, its universal properties, its variation with writing systems, its dependence on lexical knowledge, text comprehension, individual differences, and its neural bases. When I am not leading our lab of stellar researchers in behavioral, ERP, and neuroimaging studies of these things, I serve as Director of LRDC. I escape these duties for flyfishing when possible and sometimes when not. I have four terrific children including two in college, Angela (Penn) and Olivia (just starting at Michigan).

Graduate Students

Regina Calloway

I am a graduate student in Cognitive Psychology at the University of Pittsburgh. I received my B.A. in Psychology from the University of Maryland, College Park in 2013. My research interests include reading comprehension and second language acquisition. I am particularly interested in individual skill differences in reading comprehension and how individuals acquire new vocabulary words in a second language.

My other interests outside of Psychology are learning other languages and studying the history of various cultures. In my free time I like to quilt, bake, and watch soccer and martial arts competitions.

Xiaoping Fang

My central research interest is, how meanings from language input are represented in our brain. I have been using behavioral and neuroimaging techniques including ERP, fMRI, and hopefully MEG very soon. My most recent projects investigate how learning new word knowledge (i. e., meaning at word level) makes a difference on the existing network and the role of offline consolidation during the integration of new knowledge. Before coming to Pittsburgh, I obtained BS and MS in Psychology from Beijing Normal University, where I mainly worked on ERP and fMRI projects about sentence comprehension (meaning at sentence level) and idiom comprehension (meaning beyond language given).
If you are interested in knowing more about the projects or about me, please check out my personal website.

Lu Jiao

I am a graduate student in Psychology at the Beijing Normal University. I received my MS in Psychology from the South China Normal University in 2016. My research interests include the language switching processes in bilinguals and the relationship between language processing and cognitive control in behavioral and EEG approaches.

Erika Laing

Erika is a PhD student interested in the neural underpinnings of language processing. In addition to her graduate studies, focused on a systems level view of reading and language, she further pursues this goal through her clinical work at UPMC, where she develops the MEG Pre-Surgical Mapping Program to facilitate safer surgeries, and through her work at Carnegie Mellon, where she assists a team led by Dr. Tom Mitchell in the Machine Learning Department in building a predictive model of language representation. In her free time, Erika is an avid musician, playing trombone, trumpet, keys, musical saw and anything else you put in front, but her favorite is singing and original songwriting. Her primary band, Working Breed, plays all over Pittsburgh and recently went on regional tour; their music is available on iTunes and Spotify.

Joseph Stafura

I received my B.A. in Psychology from the State University of New York – Purchase College in 2007. After dipping a toe in the fields of marketing and new business development, I returned to academia as a Research Assistant working under Dr. Saul Shiffman at the University of Pittsburgh. Upon deciding that studying of the cognitive psychology of language processing was the career path I wanted to pursue, I had the overwhelming good fortune to be accepted to work under Dr. Charles Perfetti. My interests in the cognitive psychology (and neuroscience) of language are broad, but are currently focused on using multiple methodologies (Behavioral, EEG, MEG...) to understand the temporal dynamics and anatomical substrates underlying the lexical processing of words in isolation, as well as the integration of words into sentence and discourse contexts. I study these issues with an eye towards individual differences in lexical quality and comprehension skill. Additionally, the Perfetti lab has strong interests in second language acquisition and processing, an area in which I have begun to delve into through the use of computational modeling.

Lin (Zoe) Zhou

Ms. Lin (Zoe) Zhou is a graduate student at the Learning Research and Development Center at the University of Pittsburgh. She received her bachelor of engineering in software engineering from Hunan University in China, and her master of arts at Chinese University of Hong Kong. She is interested in language processes in the brain and the relationship between language and cognition.


Anne Helder

My research focuses on how the human brain constructs coherence out of texts. I received my PhD in the fall of 2016 at Leiden University, the Netherlands under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Paul van den Broek. My dissertation consists of a series of studies on coherence monitoring during reading of narrative texts. We used both behavioral and neuroimaging methods to examine coherence-break detection across development (ages 8 through 30). During my graduate education I spent 4 months at the Perfetti lab as a visiting scholar where I started collaborative ERP projects with great researchers at the Perfetti lab. In the fall of 2016 I had the great opportunity to come back to the lab, this time as a postdoc, where I now work on ERP/EEG studies focusing on the influence of global text factors on the integration of words into mental representation of texts.

Patrick Plummer

I am a cognitive psychologist primarily focused on the area of psycholinguistics. I received my B.A. in Psychology and African-American studies from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I received my Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology from the University of California, San Diego working under Professor Keith Rayner. My research examines the cognitive mechanisms and mental representations that underlie language comprehension using a combination of behavioral and EEG measures and computational approaches. Much of my work investigates the influence of linguistic context and sentence processing on word identification and various aspects of eye movement control during reading. More broadly, I am interested in how comprehension unfolds across various tasks and how semantic representations within the cognitive system (both symbolic and nonsymbolic) are stored and retrieved.

Collaborative Researchers

Marta Ortega-Llebaria

A phonetician by training, my research interest is in speech prosody. I study the perception and production of prosodic units such as word-stress, accent, tone and sentence intonation across languages and in different populations (adult, children and adult second language learners). I received my Ph.D. from Indiana University, Bloomington. I also hold an M.A. in Speech and Hearing from the same university and a post-doc from University College London where I worked on audio-visual speech perception. Currently, I am examining the perception of tone and intonation by native speakers of tonal and non-tonal languages in order to explore how the processing of supra-segmental features could be handled by current models of speech perception and word recognition. I work with both behavioral and ERP data. In my free time I love doing yoga and hiking in new places. However, being from the temperate Mediterranean, in cold weather I prefer cooking for friends and watching good movies.

Visiting Scholars

Lin Chen

I am Lin Chen, working for School of Chinese as a Second Language, Sun Yat-sen University, China. My main research focuses on Chinese reading involving behavior and ERP techniques, and how learning a new language changes our brain network. My goal is to understand how language is represented in the brain. I like hiking and playing badminton in my spare time.

Claudia Finger-Kratochvil

Bio coming soon!

Yulin Tzeng

My research works focus on Chinese reading acquisition in children with or without reading difficulties by using ERPs. In addition to the basic issue of reading development, I’m also interested in how training program could modulate the brain activity in dyslexic children and Chinese as foreign language learner.


Kim Muth

Lab Manager

I graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 2014 with a Bachelors in Psychology and a Minor in Neuroscience. In addition to being a part of the Perfetti Lab, I am currently enrolled as a Master's Student in University of Pittsburgh's Foreign Language Education, with a specialization in TESOL. I am interested in the area that connects second langauge aquisition, educational psychology, and cognitive science. Outside of the lab, I enjoy singing, and playing piano and ukulele. I also enjoy teaching ESL, glassworking, and traveling.

Elena Cimino

Research Assistant

I am currently a senior studying Italian, Arabic, and linguistics. I'm expecting to graduate in April 2017 and am hoping to work towards a degree in either Applied Linguistics, Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, or English Language Learning in graduate school. I'm interested in second language acquisition, cross-language speech perception, translation, and sociolinguistics. In my free time, I volunteer as an ESL tutor with the Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council.

Hannah Christine Legerwood

Research Assistant

I graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a B.S. in neuroscience and Chinese. I am currently earning my masters degree in biology from Chatham University. In the future I hope to pursue a medical degree and become a neurosurgeon. My research interests primarily include the cognitive processes that occur when native Chinese speakers process languages and cross language comparisons. Outside of the lab I enjoy long distance cycling and learning more about the human anatomy.

Austin Marcus

Research Assistant

I graduated from Carnegie Mellon in 2014 with a Bachelor's in Psychology. I'm currently working on a second Bachelor's in computer science at the University of Pittsburgh (2018). I'm interested in the role of internal representation, functional representational hierarchy and multimodal integration in higher-level cognition, especially involving language, music, memory, and mathematics, from both the cognitive and computational perspectives. I'm also interested in atypical cognitive function, such as in autism, and have a special focus on synesthesia; I hope to delve more into synesthesia's role in the relationship between sensory integration and perception in my career. Some day, I aim to develop a formal computational framework for synesthesia that can be leveraged to create powerful, human-like artificially intelligent systems that can achieve highly developed learning capabilites (and even realistic perception). Outside of research, I'm a serious music lover & language nerd; I enjoy yoga, cooking, hiking, and traveling, and am an aspiring software developer (starting with this website!)

Paula Pascual

Research Assistant

I am a recent graduate at the University of Pittsburgh where I received my Bachelors in the Biological Sciences and a minor in Chemistry. In the future, I’d like to enter graduate school for Physical Therapy. Compared to my undergrad the scope of the cognitive sciences is so different and exciting to me. I am really interested in the understanding of the cognitive and neural processes that help with language comprehension and production. Outside of the lab, I enjoy playing sports and keeping myself active with a slew of random activities. I’ve recently learned how to play racquet ball and squash, and would like to learn more on the practices of yoga and massage therapy.


Joseph Jaros

Research Assistant

I am a sophomore studying neuroscience, linguistics, and Spanish. I am planning to graduate spring of 2020, working towards a degree in cognitive science or possibly in educational neuroscience for graduate school. I’m interested in mental representations of second languages as well as South American indigenous language and culture. In my free time, I like to hike, attend concerts, and ride my bike on the trails around the city.

Jordan Mealy

Research Assistant

I am a sophomore at the University of Pittsburgh on a Pre-med track majoring in Neuroscience with minors in Chemistry and Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies. By doing research in the Perfetti Lab, I hope to learn more about how language processing occurs in the brain. In addition to being a research assistant with the Perfetti Lab, I have also done research in Microbiology to look for antibiotic-producing features found in bacteria harvested from soil. I am a volunteer in the cardiology department at UPMC Presbyterian, and I’m also a mentor for undergraduate pre-med students. In my free time I like to do yoga, bake, and play with puppies.