People

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PPEL Studies Team

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Faculty

Dr. Heather Bachman

Heather Bachman

Dr. Heather Bachman is an associate professor of applied developmental psychology in the School of Education at the University of Pittsburgh. She also has secondary faculty appointments in the Department of Psychology and the Learning Sciences and Policy program. Dr. Bachman has an extensive background in early academic and social development, family and classroom processes, and policy-relevant research with low-income families. She has been funded by the NICHD, NSF, the Spencer Foundation, and the National Center for Family and Marriage Research to examine key contextual factors in the home, classroom, and public policies that promote low-income children's well-being. Dr. Bachman completed her Ph.D. and master's degree in developmental psychology at Loyola University Chicago. She completed her postdoctoral training in multidisciplinary policy research at the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University. Dr. Bachman graduated from Wheaton College with a bachelor's degree in psychology. Outside of the lab, Dr. Bachman enjoys playing with her son and meeting with her fabulous Pitt book group.

Heather's School of Education profile

Heather's Department of Psychology profile

Dr. Melissa Libertus

Melissa Libertus

Dr. Melissa Libertus is an associate professor in the University of Pittsburgh Department of Psychology and a research scientist at the Learning Research and Development Center. Her research focuses on how young children think and learn about the world around them. She completed her Ph.D. in psychology and neuroscience at Duke University and her postdoctoral fellowship at the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Johns Hopkins University. She graduated from the University of Osnabrück in Germany with a bachelor's degree in cognitive science.

Fun Fact: When Dr. Libertus moved to Pittsburgh from Germany, she finally realized why her bike has 24 gears. She needs to use all of them for her work commute to get up and down the steep hills between Greenfield and Oakland.

Dr. Elizabeth Votruba-Drzal

Elizabeth Votruba-Drzal

Dr. Elizabeth Votruba-Drzal is a professor of psychology and a senior scientist at the Learning Research and Development Center at the University of Pittsburgh. She is also a faculty affiliate at the University of Pittsburgh's Center on Race and Social Problems. Dr. Votruba-Drzal's research focuses on how dimensions of socioeconomic status, including income and education, shape child and adolescent development. Additionally, Dr. Votruba-Drzal addresses a range of research questions with relevance for characterizing and addressing inequality in children's life chances. She received a Ph.D. in human development and social policy from Northwestern University. She graduated from Michigan State University with a bachelor's degree in social relations. Outside of her work life, Dr. Votruba-Drzal enjoys spending time with her family as well as reading, running, hiking, skiing, and practicing yoga.

Postdoctoral Associate

Leanne Elliott

Leanne Elliot

Leanne Elliott is a postdoctoral associate at the Learning Research and Development Center at the University of Pittsburgh. Her research focuses on how children's early academic and cognitive skills develop in diverse settings. Leanne also studies how parents support their children's academic skills before the start of school. She conducts secondary analyses of large, publicly-available datasets, as well as lab-and home-based research studies that include assessments, surveys, and interviews. Leanne received her Ph.D. in developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh. She graduated from the University of Delaware with bachelor's degrees in cognitive science and psychology. Outside of the lab, Leanne bikes on trails around Pittsburgh and spends time with her two puggles.

Research Associate

Portia Miller

Portia Miller

Portia Miller is a research associate on the PPEL studies. Her research goals focus on investigating how economic disadvantage impacts child and adolescent development, with a particular interest in examining factors that contribute to or can alleviate income disparities in school readiness. In pursuing these goals, Portia has studied how children's early contexts, like neighborhoods and child care, shape the academic and behavioral development of ethnically-diverse and socioeconomically disadvantaged children. She uses an interdisciplinary approach that integrates theories and methods from psychology, developmental psychopathology, economics, and sociology. Portia earned a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Pittsburgh. She also received a J.D. and a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of Pittsburgh. In her spare time, Portia enjoys reading and spending time with her family.

Students

Lorraine Blatt

Lorraine Blatt

Lorraine Blatt is a third-year doctoral student in the Developmental Psychology program. Lorraine's research examines how public policy and structural factors influence child development and how those associations interact with socioeconomic status and race/ethnicity. Lorraine received her master's degree from the University of Pittsburgh and a bachelor's degree from Grinnell College. Before attending graduate school, she conducted policy research at the Urban Institute. Outside of the lab, Lorraine enjoys spending time with her family, friends, and their pets.

Linsah Coulanges

Linsah Coulanges

Linsah Coulanges is a first-year graduate student in the Developmental Psychology program. Linsah's research focuses on identifying factors that can contribute to minority and socioeconomically disadvantaged children's academic achievement. She received a master's degree in psychology from Boston University. Linsah graduated from Rutgers University with a bachelor's degree in psychology and minors in Spanish and education. She is a current member of the Psychology Equity and Inclusion Committee (PEIC) in the Department of Psychology. In her spare time, Linsah enjoys traveling and cooking.

Shirley Duong

Shirley Duong

Shirley Duong is a second-year graduate student in the Cognitive Psychology program. Her research interests include identifying qualitative aspects of the home learning environment that influence children's math development and the relationship between math abilities and decision making. Shirley graduated from the University of New Haven with a bachelor's degree in psychology and minor in mathematics, and she is a current National Science Foundation Research Fellow. In her spare time, Shirley enjoys cooking and playing video games.

Danielle Fox

Danielle Fox

Danielle Fox is a first year student in the Cognitive Psychology program on the PPEL studies. Danielle recruits research participants, collects data, and transcribes videos. Danielle is interested in how the home learning environment impacts children's educational outcomes, specifically regarding math. Danielle earned a master's degree in teaching from the University of Pittsburgh and a bachelor's degree in political science and psychology from Duquesne University. Danielle has worked as an educator for eleven years. Fun Fact: Danielle can touch her nose with her tongue.

Natalie Heywood

Natalie Heywood

Natalie Heywood is a research assistant on the PPEL studies. She is currently attending graduate school at Boston University for a Masters in Children and Mental Health Counseling. She was previously a Hot Metal Bridge Program Fellow and enjoyed her time in the program! She is grateful to continue working on the PPEL team as a research assistant and working with families. Her research interests include children and mental health, proper access to mental health treatment in marginalized communities, and the social stigma surrounding health care. In her spare time, Natalie enjoys cooking, connecting with friends, and thrift shopping.

Tamara Podvysotska

Tamara Podvysotska

Tamara Podvysotska is a second-year graduate student in the Developmental Psychology program. Tamara's research focuses on how economic events influence children's health and cognitive development. She graduated from the Kyiv School of Economics with a master's degree in economics. In her spare time, Tamara enjoys traveling with her family, painting, and playing board games.

Staff

Margaret Isaacson

Margaret Isaacson

Margaret Isaacson is a project coordinator on the PPEL studies. She recruits participants and conducts home visits. Margaret's research interests include childhood learning in informal learning environments. She graduated from Northwestern University with a bachelor's degree in earth and planetary sciences and French. Margaret previously worked in environmental education and explored ways to engage audiences in science learning and nature play. Outside of the lab, Margaret enjoys camping, canoeing, hiking, and having fun in the outdoors.

Maggie Laird

Maggie Laird

Maggie Laird is a research assistant on the PPEL studies. She analyzes data from home visits and writes study web page content. Maggie received a master's degree in rhetoric from Carnegie Mellon University. She graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a bachelor's degree in psychology and English literature. Maggie previously worked as a research assistant at the Developmental and Motivation Research Lab at the University of Pittsburgh. Outside of the lab, Maggie enjoys spending time with her family and watching movies.

Taylor Montue

Taylor Montue

Taylor Montue is a research assistant on the PPEL studies. She recruits participants and conducts home visits. Taylor's research interests include pediatrics and childhood development. She graduated from Clarion University of Pennsylvania with a bachelor's degree in biology and an opioid treatment specialist certificate. Taylor previously shadowed at the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh. Outside of the lab, Taylor enjoys traveling and spending time with family and friends.

Erica Schweitzer

Erica Schweitzer

Erica Schweitzer is a research assistant on the PPEL studies. Erica recruits study participants, facilitates home visits, and administers time diaries. Erica graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a bachelor's degree in psychology and a certificate in children's literature. During her undergraduate career, Erica worked as a research assistant in Dr. Libertus' lab. Outside of the lab, Erica enjoys spending time with family, dancing, and crafting.

Olivia Sidoti

Olivia Sidoti

Olivia Sidoti is a research assistant on the PPEL studies. Olivia collects and analyzes data from home visits and parent time diary interviews. Her research interests include early childhood learning and school readiness. Olivia graduated from New York University with a bachelor's degree in applied psychology and a minor in American Sign Language. Fun Fact: Olivia has a cat named Houdini.

Lab Alumni

Laura Betancur

Laura Betancur

Laura Betancur is a sixth-year graduate student in the Developmental Psychology program. Laura's research examines how children's contexts shape their development. She focuses on disadvantaged populations in the United States and middle- and low-income countries. Laura graduated from Antioquia University in Colombia with a bachelor's degree in psychology. She received a master's degree in psychology from the University of the Andes and a master's degree in developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh. Outside of the lab, Laura enjoys spending time with her friends, hiking, and watching movies.

Juliana Kammerzell

Juliana Kammerzell

Juliana Kammerzell is the project coordinator on the PPEL studies. Juliana schedules and conducts home visits. Her research interests focus on how children's experiences impact their development. Juliana plans to further pursue these research interests in a clinical psychology graduate program. She graduated from the University of Michigan with majors in psychology and medical anthropology. As an undergraduate, Juliana worked at an adolescent psychology research lab and a child and family psychology clinic. Fun Fact: Juliana has 3 cats named Ernie, Ellie, and Darryl.

Monica Navarro

Monica Navarro

Monica Navarro is a fifth-year graduate student in the Learning Sciences and Policy Program in the School of Education. Monica's research examines the ways that structural factors and ecological contexts, such as families, schools, and neighborhoods, additively and interactively shape parenting and child development in Latinx communities. Monica graduated from St. Mary's University with a bachelor's degree in psychology. Monica is a current K. Leroy Irvis Fellow and a current Equity and Justice Scholar. Outside of the lab, Monica gardens and spends time with her bird, Squishy.