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UEL BabyDevLab

UEL BabyDevLab baby scientist in action!

The UEL BabyDevLab hosts a range of child development research projects, investigating all aspects of children’s early development. Meet our researcher team below!

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Principal Investigator

Sam Wass

Prof Sam Wass gained a first-class undergraduate degree in Experimental Psychology at Oxford University. He completed his PhD in London, at the Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development, before being awarded a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship, based at the Medical Research Council Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit at Cambridge University.

He was then awarded an Economic and Social Research Council Future Research Leaders Fellowship, for which he moved to the University of East London. In 2020 he was awarded a 5-year research fellowship from the European Research Council. He is leader of the BabyDevLab at the University of East London.

UEL BabyDevLab Manager

Emily Greenwood

Emily Greenwood previously worked as a Research Assistant in the Unit for School and Family Studies in the Psychology Department at Goldsmiths, University of London, working on a storytelling intervention for pre-school and primary aged children. She completed her psychology masters conversion course at UEL in 2020.

Her masters dissertation was completed with the BabyDevLab, looking at the relationships between parent and infant vocalisations.

Before this, and before a career break to look after her daughter, Emily worked in public policy; as a policy analyst for select committees in the House of Lords.

She also worked as an investigator for the Local Government Ombudsman, covering children’s services and special educational needs provision. Her undergraduate degree was in English Language and Literature from the University of Manchester, and she also holds a PGCert in Development Studies from Birkbeck/UCL.


Dr. Louise Goupil

Louise Goupil joined the UEL BabyDevLab in April 2020 as a post-doctoral researcher. Her current project, funded by a H2020 Marie Curie fellowship, investigates early social word-learning from a dyadic perspective, using a combination of behavioural methods and dual EEG.

Louise’s research focuses on the cognitive and metacognitive underpinnings of communication. She is interested in how sonic behaviours foster joint action and social learning in adults and young children, how communication and language emerge, which processes make this possible, and the extent to which metacognition (reading oneself) maps onto mindreading (reading others). During her PhD at the Ecole Normale Supérieure (Paris, FR), she investigated the development of metacognition and help-seeking behaviours in preverbal infants. She then joined IRCAM/CNRS (Paris, FR) as a post-doctoral researcher, where she conducted various projects focusing on vocal communication, and joint action in musical contexts.

Dr. Kasia Kostyrka Allchorne

Kasia gained a master’s degree from the Warsaw School of Economics. After moving to the UK, she completed a conversion degree in psychology at London Metropolitan University and worked as an assistant psychologist in a clinical setting. Following a career break to raise her children, Kasia returned to academia to start a PhD at the University of Essex. There she investigated the immediate effects of video editing pace on children’s attention and inhibitory control.

Kasia is now working as a postdoctoral researcher at King’s College London where she is co-ordinating three research projects. These projects relate to a core theme of examining the neural underpinnings of self- regulation during crucial developmental periods: infancy, early childhood and adolescence. This research is led by Prof Sonuga-Barke (KCL) and Prof Sam Wass (UEL) is the key collaborator involved in these studies.

Dr. Martin Holding

Martin gained his BSc in Psychology and Biology from the University of Stirling and his MSc in Computational Neuroscience and Cognitive Robotics from the University of Birmingham. He then undertook his PhD investigating neural oscillations in tinnitus at the University of Nottingham, where he worked with various neuroimaging and neurostimulation techniques to elicit reductions in the loudness of peoples perceived tinnitus. He has also previously worked at King’s College London, investigating changes in EEG microstates in people who meditate vs people who don’t.

In 2018 Martin joined the UEL BabyDevLab as a post-doctoral researcher on a project funded by the Rett Syndrome Research Trust. It aims to investigate the effects of arousal on autonomic nervous system activity (heart rate and respiration rate) and to understand the underlying cognitive abilities of children with Rett Syndrome using eye tracking.


Celia Smith

Celia Smith is a doctoral developmental researcher funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. Her PhD is on the intergenerational transmission of anxiety, which is based at the Institute of Psychiatry (King’s College London) in collaboration with UEL BabyDevLab. Before starting her PhD Celia worked at the UEL BabyDevLab in 2016 as a Research Assistant, supporting the development and running the testing of the BLAISE study (ES/N017560/1, PI Wass). The BLAISE study examines the effects of the urban environment on the development of stress and attention in infants.

Celia’s BA is from the University of Oxford and her MSc is from the University of East London. She has previously worked as in Assistant Psychologist in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services within the NHS, and in project management roles within mental healthcare management across the third and private sectors.

Megan Whitehorn

Megan Whitehorn is a PhD student supervised by Prof Sam Wass. She joined the University of East London in 2019, having completed a BSc Psychology at Queens University Belfast and an MSc Cognitive and Clinical Neuroscience at Goldsmiths. While studying an MRes Functional Neuroimaging degree at Birkbeck, University of London, she worked as a research assistant on the Unlocke Project, an fMRI investigation into the effects of cognitive training on maths and science learning. Her research focuses on the neural correlates of complex dyadic social interactions, with a focus on the development of empathy. She has previously published a review article in the Kent Student Journal of Neuroscience on the origins of altruistic empathy.

Ira Marriott-Haresign

Ira Marriott Haresign is a PhD student funded by Leverhulme Trust. His PhD is exploring the development of interbrain synchronisation, using cutting-edge EEG hyper- scanning techniques, under the supervision of Prof Sam Wass. Before starting his PhD Ira worked within the cognitive neuropsychology department at UEL as a Research Assistant with Dr Angela Gosling, supporting various students with the development and testing of their EEG research, as well as his own research examining the neural underpinnings of object processing. Ira gained his undergraduate degree in Psychology at the University of East London.

Emily Phillips

Emily Phillips is a PhD student funded by the Leverhulme Trust. Her research aims to investigate the influences of early parent-child interaction on child attention, learning and socio-emotional development, and how these influences are substantiated in the brain. Before joining the UEL BabyDevLab, Emily worked as a Research Assistant for John Duncan at the MRC, Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, Cambridge University. There she worked on a parent-child book-sharing training intervention for pre-school children, developed by Lynne Murray and Peter Cooper at the University of Reading. Prior to working at the CBU, Emily obtained a First Class Honours degree in Psychology from the University of York, before completing a Masters in Developmental Psychopathology at Durham University.

Zeynep Suata

Zeynep graduated from Hacettepe University, Psychology Department with the high honorary student diploma in 2015 and completed her Masters in Neuropsychology at University of Bristol. Now, Zeynep is a first-year PhD student at Department of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry at King’s College London under the supervision of Professor Edmund Sonuga-Barke (King’s College London) and Prof Sam Wass (University of East London). Her PhD is funded by a student scholarship from the Turkish Ministry of Education.

Her current research interest is emotions and how we learn to regulate them. To discover that, she focuses on the earliest stage of life which is infancy. Zeynep’s PhD aims to explore how babies initially react to emotional situations, how they deal with the emotional state caused by these events, and the time-related characteristics of these continuously changing emotional responses during infancy. She believes that if we can discover early indicators of problematic emotional responding, then we can determine children who are at risk.

Jolanta Golan

PhD student supervised by Dr Angela Gosling, Jolanta Golan joined UEL BabyDevLab in 2015, having completed BSc Psychology & MSc Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuropsychology at Birkbeck, University of London. She has carried out the Phase 2 of two large longitudinal projects: ELAS (Early Language, Attention and Social development study) and TALBY (Take a Look Baby!) led by Dr Elena Kushnerenko by exploring neural correlates of speech processing in infants and children from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds. Her research interests involve the developmental wiring and maturation of the brain as a result of the biological and environmental interplay.

Katie Daubney

Katie Daubney is currently undertaking PhD research into how stress affects auditory attention mechanisms in the first years of life as part of a doctoral training partnership between UEL and Birkbeck, University of London.

Previous research collaborations in the UEL BabyDevLab include looking at audiovisual speech perception and learning in pre-schoolers, as well as investigating the relationship between physiological arousal, behavioural reactivity and neural responses in cohorts of infants and school-aged children.

Initially graduating with a joint honours degree in French and English literature from Cardiff University, Katie embarked on a psychology MSc at UEL after working as an actor, teacher and journalist in France and the UK.

She now has two Masters degrees – the first being a psychology conversion, and the second being in clinical and community psychology – from the University of East London.

Gemma Goldenberg

Gemma Goldenberg is currently undertaking PhD research into the influence of a natural, outdoor setting on children’s cognition, behaviour and wellbeing. Her PhD is funded by the UBEL DTP co-funded and collaborative studentship and is supervised by Prof Sam Wass. Gemma is currently studying for her PhD on a part-time basis, whilst working part time for the Chartered College of Teaching as a research and learning specialist, and being a mum to three young boys.

Prior to starting her doctoral research, Gemma worked for 15 years in state primary schools in London, initially as a class teacher in Camden and then as a curriculum leader in Newham. She later worked as an Assistant Headteacher in Newham, during which time she did a part-time MSc in psychology at the University of East London for which she gained a distinction.

Gemma did her postgraduate teacher training at the UCL Institute of Education and has a first class BA in English and Media from the University of Sussex.

Marta Perapoch Amadó

Marta Perapoch is a PhD student supervised by Prof Sam Wass and funded by the European Research Council. Her research aims to investigate interpersonal synchrony during early learning exchanges and how the environment interacts and influences development.

Before starting her PhD, Marta worked at the Cambridge Baby Lab as a Research Assistant in The Brain Imaging for Global Health (BRIGHT) project. The BRIGHT project is a longitudinal, multi-method study that follows infants in the UK and the Gambia from birth to 24 months of age. Its aim is to establish brain function-for-age curves of infants in both these settings and gain an insight into developmental influences. Marta was responsible for the day-to-day project management as well as data collection in the UK.

Prior to working at the BRIGHT project, she obtained a bachelor’s degree in Psychology at the University of Barcelona and a Master’s degree in Neuroscience at the Autonomous University of Barcelona.

James Ives

James Ives is a PhD student supervised by Prof Sam Wass as part of an European Research Council grant. The research goal is to study infant-adult pairs in a naturalistic setting to understand how developing social brains dynamically interact during learning exchanges, how each member of the pair influences the other and the implications for attention and learning.

James’ research interests focus on the influence of neural social capabilities and dynamics on learning and attention in the developing infant and adult brain. James achieved a first class honours MPsych degree at Plymouth University, where his dissertations focussed on the impact of the motor area on lexical processing using an embodied psychology paradigm. During his time at Plymouth University James enjoyed a placement year as a research assistant in the EEG lab helping researchers investigate visual and lexical processing, social and embodied psychology, and the neural correlates of game theory.

Between undergraduate study and starting a PhD James became Editor and then Editor-in-Chief of News-Medical.net, an online medical and life sciences portal.

Masters Students

Olivia Sewell

Olivia Sewell is an MSc Psychology student at UEL, assisting with the ‘Dynamic Social Interactions’ project funded by the Leverhulme Trust. Olivia is interested in the role of manual action in pre-linguistic communication and parent-infant joint attention. Before embarking on the journey to retrain as an applied psychologist, Olivia completed bachelor’s and master’s degrees in History at Durham University and King’s College London and worked in education, health and social care and digital marketing.

Rebecca Mobbs

Rebecca is an MSc Psychology student at UEL, and is assisting on the ‘Dynamic Social Interactions’ project funded by the Leverhulme Trust looking at the mother-infant dyad. Her interests are in the development of attention in infants and children and she intends to undertake a PhD in Child Clinical Psychology in the future.

Dean Jacobs

Dean is a Master’s student and works as the Lab’s Technical Support. His primary areas of interest are developmental and transgenerational trauma, and he is currently researching how maternal attachment style affects parent-infant bio-behavioural synchrony. Following the MSc, Dean is planning to undertake a clinical-focused doctorate.

In the Lab, Dean assists with eye-gaze coding and running sessions for the Leverhulme project, and provides in-house technical support.

Prior to the Psychology MSc, Dean obtained a First-Class Honours degree In Management Studies with Spanish, and studied eight languages at undergraduate and Master’s level. He worked as a translator and interpreter for the UK Government, and was the founder and CEO of an EdTech company that helped children learn languages through video games.

Jennah Brewer

Jennah has recently obtained a First Class Honours BSc in Early Childhood and Special Education at UEL and upon graduating started her MSc in Psychology. She is involved currently in the BLAISE study assisting with data entry and MATLAB coding. Her current dissertation focuses on how duration and distribution of eye gaze can help to further understand concepts of cognitive theories related to interpersonal dynamics and audience effects.