Our Team

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  • Rachel Barr, Ph.D.Director

    Dr. Barr was trained as a developmental and clinical psychologist in New Zealand. Since 2001 she has been director of the Georgetown Early Learning Project. The ELP shows that babies, toddlers and young children pick up information from a variety of sources, from television, from books, from computers, from touchscreens, from siblings, and across contexts. There are still many open questions about how babies and young children learn and remember. Psychology Department webpage.

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  • Olivia Blanchfield

    Olivia Blanchfield graduated from Georgetown University in 2017 with a degree in Psychology. She became the lab manager of the Early Learning Project in the summer of 2017. Olivia’s work focuses on the Cognitive Flexibility study and projects with the Comprehensive Assessment of Family Media Exposure (CAFE) Consortium. Her interests include how media exposure affects development, the way in which pre-verbal infants transfer learning, as well as the mechanisms of resilience in childhood.

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  • Sylvia Rusnak

    Sylvia Rusnak is a third year Psychology PhD student. She is interested in the elements of social interactions that are important for young children’s learning and memory processes, particularly with respect to media sources. Sylvia is studying the neural mechanisms that underlie this learning using functional near infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS). She received her B.A. in Psychology and English, as well as a Minor in French, from Cornell University.

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  • Joscelin Rocha-Hidalgo

    Joscelin graduated from Berea College, KY in May 2016 with a double major in Psychology and Child & Family Studies with a concentration in Child Development and a minor in French. Her research interests are bilingualism and language acquisition as well as how children learn from media and technology. Joscelin started her post-college journey at the Early Learning Project in the Summer of 2016 as the laboratory manager.

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  • Hannah Ayasse

    Hannah Ayasse is a senior at The George Washington University majoring in Psychology and Dance. She came to Georgetown through a SOAR–Minority Health & Health Disparities fellowship and is conducting research on the Baby Elmo project, examining the relationship between incarcerated teen parents’ gender and the quality of their parent-child interactions. 

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  • Madeline Lui

    Madeline Lui is a junior in the College majoring in Psychology and minoring in Chemistry. She is also pre-med and is very interested in developmental psychology. Currently, Madeline hopes to pursue medical school and to become a cardiologist. Madeline is now working on her honors thesis in the Memory Flexibility Study, researching the differences in cognitive flexibility between monolingual and bilingual 18-month and 24-month olds.

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  • Nicholas Strautman

    Nicholas Strautman is a junior in the College majoring in Psychology. He is currently working on the Magnet Study, and is very interested in how children interact and learn. He hopes to further pursue psychology in graduate school.

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  • Julia Tonnessen

    Julia Tonnessen is a senior in the School of Nursing and Health Studies majoring in Health Care Management and Policy. She is working on the Media and the Mind study. After graduation, Julia will attend medical school and is considering pursuing a pediatric specialty.

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  • Maria Jose Rivera

    Maria Jose Rivera is a member of the class of 2019, majoring in Biology of Global Health, minoring in French, and pursuing the pre-med track. She joined the ELP in spring 2016 and has worked on various projects since then. Initially, she focused on the Cognitive Flexibility study. She currently works in the B3 Baby Elmo project.

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  • Sarah Connell

    Sarah Connell is a sophomore in the College majoring in Psychology. She hopes to go to dental school and to become a pediatric dentist. Currently, Sarah is working on the Memory and Cognitive Flexibility study, focusing specifically on puppet and animal rattle tasks.

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  • Emma Berk

    Emma is a sophomore in the College majoring in Psychology and Sociology. She is currently working on the Baby Elmo project and is interested in how psychology impacts the criminal justice system. Emma hopes to pursue a graduate degree in clinical psychology after graduation.

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  • Maggie Odier

    Maggie is a senior in the College double majoring in Psychology and Spanish. She hopes to pursue graduate school and to become a clinical psychologist. Maggie currently works as team leader for the 3-year-old and 5-year-old tasks for the Memory Flexibility study. She is very interested in the cognitive benefits of bilingualism.

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  • Lily Zino

    Lily Zino is a junior in the College majoring in Psychology and minoring in Business Administration. She works on the Cognitive Flexibility project and on the Media and the Mind study. She is very interested in developmental psychology and loves working with children.

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  • Jessica Roberts

    Jessica Roberts is a sophomore in the College majoring in Psychology and minoring in Spanish and Women and Gender Studies. Jessica is a member of the Baby Elmo Just Beginning team and has an interest in psychological development during early childhood and adolescence.

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  • Stephen Stearns

    Stephen Stearns is a sophomore in the College majoring in Mathematics with minors in Psychology and French. His academic interests are language acquisition and child development. He hopes to attend medical school after completing his bachelor’s degree.

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  • Andrea Motta

    Andrea Motta is a sophomore in the College majoring in Psychology and minoring in Cognitive Science. She is particularly interested in early childhood development, educational psychology, and on the effect of bilingualism on cognition. Andrea joined the Early Learning Project in the fall of 2017 and is currently working on the Memory and Cognitive Flexibility study.

  • Mariana Sadurni

    Mariana Sadurni is a sophomore in the College majoring in Psychology with a minor in Biology and STIA. She is pre-med student and hopes to go to medical school after graduating. Mariana is very interested in the effects of bilingualism on memory and cognition and is currently working on the Memory Flexibility project.

  • Olivia Mirek

    Olivia Mirek is a freshman in the College intending to major in psychology. She is currently working on the Baby Elmo Project and is interested in developmental psychology. She is grateful to be part of the Early Learning team early into her undergraduate career and is looking forward to learning more about psychology through research.

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  • Dani Feller

    Dani Feller is a sophomore in the College majoring in Mathematics and minoring in Biology. Dani is excited to study how children learn from different screen media sources, as well as observe the transfer deficit and selective attention in children. She aspires to have a career in pediatric medicine.