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Sherri Gilliland, Graduate Records



Department of Psychology 
125 Moore Building 
The Pennsylvania State University 
University Park, PA 16802-3106

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Research Labs and Projects

Below is a list of research labs supervised by developmental area faculty. Graduate study in Developmental Psychology at Penn State is laboratory-based. Graduate Students have a home lab in which they conduct most of their work, but all students are expected to conduct research in at least one other lab during the course of their graduate training. Trainees are listed under their current lab affiliations.

The Bilingualism and Language Development (BiLD) Lab

Janet van Hell, Director (email:

The Bilingualism and Language Development (BiLD) Lab studies the cognitive and neurocognitive processes related to language development, second language learning, and bilinguals' use of two languages. We combine behavioral, neuropsychological (ERPs), and linguistic techniques to study patterns of cross-language interaction and transfer in second language learners at different levels of proficiency, as well as neural and cognitive mechanisms involved in language-switching. We also study sign-speech bilinguals who use spatial and oral languages from two different modalities. A second research theme in the BiLD Lab focuses on language development in school-aged children with typical or atypical development, including children with dyslexia or with specific language impairment, and children who are deaf.

Post-Doctoral Fellows

Katharine Donnelly Adams, Rafał Jończyk, Eric Pelzl

Primary Graduate Students

Yushang Liu

Graduate Students from Other Areas/Departments

Fatemeh Abdollahi, Carla Fernandez, Daisy Lei, Holly Zaharchuk

The Brain Development Lab

Rick Gilmore, Director (email:

Research in The Brain Development Lab takes a cognitive neuroscience approach to understanding the development of perception, action, and memory. Our goal is to understand patterns of brain and behavioral changes in infants, children, and young adults. We use behavioral, EEG, and MRI methods in our research. We have several foci. One is the development of motion processing, specifically optic flow patterns associated with self- and object motion. A second concerns perceptual and brain mechanisms associated with the detection of symmetry.

Primary Graduate Students

Yiming Qian 

Challenge Zones and Children's Language Development

Keith Nelson, Director (email:

Keith Nelson's interests concern cognitive developmental theory and applied developmental psychology.  His research involves children's acquisition and use of language and art and creative thinking. He also works with microcomputer-multimedia applications in educational research aimed at improving communication, art, and thinking in normal and handicapped children. Another facet of Dynamic Systems theorizing deals with the ways that cognition, emotion, challenge, and motivation are intertwined in children's learning.  Projects are in the planning stage for interventions to bolster children's creativity and adults' creativity.

Programmatic research additionally has addressed similarities and differences in language-learning patterns across different subject groups, notably language-delayed, developmentally delayed, language-normal, autistic, and aphasic. Coupled to this are systematic experimental studies of different treatments. These sorts of systematic efforts are rare in the field of communication disorders and child language. Dr. Nelson's lab is one of a very few that has demonstrated highly specific learning conditions under experimental control that are causally associated with language acquisition gains by both language-delayed and language-typical children. He and his recent students are refining both theoretical accounts of the most effective learning conditions so far and new intervention procedures for varied groups that move toward further improvement of language and art intervention effectiveness. The current theoretical framework is termed Dynamic Tricky Mix Theory. Publications have included 12 volumes in the book series, Children's Language, as well as innumerable journal articles and book chapters.

The Cognition, Affect, and Temperament Lab

Koraly Perez-Edgar, Director (email:

At the Cognition, Affect & Temperament Lab, our research focuses on the ways in which emotion and attention interact to shape how individuals navigate through their social world. We do this through biological measures, self-report questionnaires, and observations of behavior in our laboratory. Our main focus is on the interaction between temperament, early appearing biases in emotion, and attention in children and adults.

Primary Graduate Students

Berenice Anaya, Kelley Gunther, Alicia Vallorani, Elizabeth Youatt

Post-Doctoral Fellow
Brendan Ostlund

The Cognitive and Social Development Lab

Lynn Liben, Director (email:

The Cognitive and Social Development Lab at Penn State, directed by Dr. Liben, houses research and teaching activities related to the way that individuals develop over their lifetimes. At the core, our projects are aimed at understanding how developmental progress comes about, whether that progress is in the cognitive arena (such as how people think about and represent their environments with maps), or in the social arena (such as how individuals develop identities and beliefs about social-group categories such as gender and race).

In addition, we conduct research that applies developmental psychology to education. We define "education" broadly, including not only education that goes on in school classrooms, but also education that goes on in families and in informal learning environments such as museums.

Primary Graduate Students

Kingsley Schroeder

The Context and Development Lab

Dawn P. Witherspoon, Director (email:

The Context and Development Lab (CDL) was established in 2010, under the direction of Dawn P. Witherspoon. The lab is affiliated with the Child Study Center at Penn State. Our research focuses on how adolescent social and emotional development as well as adolescent academic and risky behaviors are shaped by multiple settings (e.g., school, neighborhood, etc.). We are also interested in how these environments affect parenting. Our research seeks to elucidate the contextual supports available to families and adolescents in multiple geographies (i.e., rural and urban). Another area of interest for the lab is on cultural influences on youth outcomes. We examine how race/ethnicity and SES impact youth well-being.

Primary Graduate Students

Saskia Boggs, Daphney Chancy, Wei Wei

Graduate Students from Other Areas/Departments

Emily May, Ashley McDonald

Emotion Development Lab

Kristin Buss, Director (email:

The Emotion Development Lab (EDL) was established in 2001 under the direction of Dr. Kristin Buss at the University of Missouri. The lab is currently located at Penn State's University Park campus and is affiliated with the Department of Psychology's Developmental and Child Clinical training programs (see the department web page for more information).

Our research involves understanding the complex systems involved in the development of emotions, temperament, and personality in infants, toddlers, and young children. We are interested in understanding early emerging individual differences in social-emotional behaviors and the consequent developmental trajectories of different types of behavior.

Primary Graduate Students

Meghan McDoniel, Austen Trainer, Anna Zhou

Secondary Graduate Students

Frances LoboElizabeth ShewarkAlicia Vallorani

Graduate Students from Other Areas/Departments

Liu Bai

Gene Environment Interplay Across the Lifespan

Jenae Neiderhiser, Director (email:

The Gene Environment Interplay Across the Lifespan lab is currently engaged in three different studies. These include: (1) a prospective, longitudinal adoption study that follows adopted infants and their adoptive and birth parents through to the child's school entry (Early Growth and Development Study) ; (2) A study of twins who are parents of adolescents with data on the twin parents' and each twin's spouse and adolescent child (Twin and Offspring Study in Sweden); and (3) a longitudinal study of twins and siblings and their parents from nondivorced and stepfamilies followed from middle adolescence to young adulthood (Nonshared Environment in Adolescent Development). Each of these studies include extensive assessment of relationships among all family members (parent-child, sibling, spouse or romantic partner), normative development, temperament and personality and psychopathology. Currently, Dr. Neiderhiser is working to establish the The Pennsylvania Twin Registry (PAtwins), a database of multiple birth families that are interested in participating in research. DNA has been, or is currently being, collected participants in each of these studies. Work in Dr. Neiderhiser's lab will involve training in developmental behavior genetics and molecular genetics, family relationships and developmental psychopathology.

Post-Doctoral Fellows

Andrew Dismukes

Primary Graduate Students

Tong Chen, Chang Liu, Amanda Ramos, Elizabeth Shewark

Secondary Graduate Students

Berenice AnayaDaphney ChancyAnna Zhou

Graduate Students from Other Areas/Departments

Amanda Broderick

Laboratory of Developmental Neuroscience

Suzy Scherf, Director (email:

The Laboratory of Developmental Neuroscience studies a variety of topics in human brain development using both fMRI imaging and behavioral techniques. We are particularly interested in the development of face processing. The lab is located in Moore Building on the fourth floor.

Post-Doctoral Fellows

Chaia Flegenheimer

Primary Graduate Students

Junqiang Dai

Secondary Graduate Students

Yiming Qian 

Graduate Students from Other Areas/Departments

Jason Griffin, Brittany Woodruff

The Parent-Child Dynamics Lab

Erika Lunkenheimer, Director (email:

In The Parent-Child Dynamics Lab, we study ways that parenting and parent-child interaction patterns influence child development.  We use dynamic time series analysis to examine how parents and children coordinate their emotions, behaviors, and physiology, and how this coordination is related to the development of children's self-regulation and behavior problems in early childhood.  We also examine how parent-child interaction patterns relate to risk for child maltreatment, and how a better understanding of these patterns can inform the development and improvement of preventive interventions for stressed and overburdened families.  

Primary Graduate Students

Kayla Brown, Catherine Hamby, Frances Lobo, Amanda Skoranski

Graduate Students from Other Areas/Departments

Alex Busuito, Ulzimaa Chimed-Ochir

Parents and Children Together (PACT): A community-university partnership

Kristin Buss, Director (email:, Laureen Teti, Associate Director (email:, Dawn Witherspoon, Associate Director (email:

PACT Website

Funded by the Psychology Department, College of Liberal Arts, CSC, Human Development & Family Studies, College of Health and Human Development and SSRI, PACT is a collaborative university and community engaged research center. Multiple projects are conducted, in partnership with community organizations, which focus on developmental science across diverse populations and improving lives of underserved, low-income children, youth and families.

Primary Graduate Students

Saskia BoggsDaphney ChancyCatherine Hamby, Frances Lobo, Meghan McDonielAmanda SkoranskiWei Wei


Development, Risk, & Resilience Lab

Rina D. Eiden, Director (email: )

In the Development, Risk, and Resilience Lab, we are trying to understand when and under what circumstances developmental trajectories of children begin to diverge from normative trajectories among families who are struggling with substance abuse issues. We are also working to understand protective factors that promote resilience in children in the face of family or environmental adversity.  Our primary goal in all of this work is to develop and test early intervention or prevention programs that would enhance these protective factors.  For example, one current project involves a randomized clinical trial to examine the efficacy of a universal co-parenting program combined with brief intervention for heavy drinking for families with heavy drinking fathers who are expecting their first child.  This work is based on over 20 years of research with families with alcoholic/heavy drinking fathers.
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