A classroom of children with hands raised

Language, Experience, and Development (LEAD) Lab



Rachel Romeo headshot

Dr. Rachel Romeo (she/her/hers) is an Assistant Professor in department of Human Development and Quantitative Methodology within the College of Education at the University of Maryland College Park and the Director of the LEAD lab. She is also faculty in the interdisciplinary program in Neuroscience and Cognitive Science, holds a courtesy appointment in the department of Hearing and Speech Sciences, and is a member of the Language Science Center, the Field Committee in Developmental Science, and the Brain Behavior Institute. Dr. Romeo is interested in how children's early experiences influence their brain and cognitive development, and how we can leverage those findings to inform education, clinical practice, and social policy. Dr. Romeo received her BA in Psychology and Linguistics from the University of Pennsylvania in 2011, and then received a Fulbright Fellowship at University College London where she completed a MSc in Language Sciences. She earned her PhD in 2018 in the joint Harvard/MIT Program in Speech and Hearing Bioscience and Technology, during which she also completed clinical training in Speech Language Pathology at the MGH Institute of Health Professions. Dr. Romeo holds the Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech Language Pathology from the American Speech Language Hearing Association, and is licensed to practice in Maryland. She also completed postdoctoral training in neurodevelopmental disorders at Boston Children's Hospital, Harvard University, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology before coming to Maryland. Outside of the lab, Rachel is a slow-but-steady long distance runner, loves to try new foods but is an abysmal cook (just trust her), and is still trying to make her cats internet famous. She can be reached at romeo@umd.edu


Headshot of graduate student Gavkhar Abdurokhmonova

Gavkhar Abdurokhmonova (she/her/hers) is a second-year doctoral student in Human Development and Quantitative Methodology at the University of Maryland, College Park. She received her combined Bachelor’s and Master’s in Psychology from Lomonosov Moscow State University and her Master’s in Mental Health Counseling from Long Island University. Before coming to UMD, she worked as a project coordinator of an NIH grant with Dr. Beatrice Beebe running mother-infant interaction visits at New York State Psychiatric Institute. Gavkhar also worked as a research assistant with Dr. Kimberly Noble (NEED lab) coding mother-child interaction videos for the Baby’s First Years study and with Dr. Kathy Hirsh-Pasek (Temple Infant & Child lab) assisting with various projects on playful learning. Under the mentorship of Dr. Rachel Romeo at the LEAD lab, Gavkhar is interested in examining how early language experiences, and the quality of early caregiver-child interactions specifically, shape children’s neurocognitive skills essential for their academic success. She hopes to use these findings to inform interventions on promoting optimal learning for children from diverse SES backgrounds. In her free time, Gavkhar enjoys going on long walks, reading and chatting with her family in NYC and overseas. She can be reached at ga2541@umd.edu



Headshot of graduate student Victoria Alexander

Victoria A. Terry (she/her/hers) is a third-year student in the Human Development doctoral program and the Neuroscience and Cognitive Sciences certification program. She is primarily advised by Dr. Kelly Mix in the UMD Learning and Cognition lab, and co-advised by Dr. Romeo. Victoria is a first generation American of Caribbean descent. She grew up watching many of her peers discredit themselves from pursuing STEM fields within higher education. This has inspired her to find ways to build a bridge between socioeconomic status and academic achievement and to increase diversity within STEM fields. She is eager to explore the cognitive mechanisms involved in learning mathematics such as spatial reasoning and executive function, and to find creative ways to strengthen the cognitive skills necessary for academic success within mathematics. She is also interested in identifying ways the arts can be used to foster mathematical learning. In doing so, she hopes to enhance math learning and achievement especially among underrepresented populations. Victoria believes it is important to understand the neurological underpinnings and cognitive mechanisms involved in the aforementioned processes among diverse populations in order to better serve the next generation. Outside of academia, Victoria is a singer/songwriter, and loves to bake sweet treats with her friends. She can be reached at valexa@umd.edu


Headshot of graduate student Alexa McDorman

S. Alexa McDorman (they/them/theirs) is a fourth-year doctoral student in the Human Development program at the University of Maryland. Their research interests are focused on early childhood protective systems in families with low socioeconomic status. They work to parse out key positive and negative factors in young children's development, with the intent to inform strengths-based policy and intervention. Alexa is a first generation student who received their BS in Psychology from William & Mary. Before grad school, they obtained work experience implementing social policy for state agencies in West Virginia and Virginia as well as managing large educational data sets at the American Institutes for Research. Alexa has a grey tuxedoed feline named Mister who provides crucial support in the form of cuteness. They love to play games with friends, grow plants, and spend time with family, such as their THIRTEEN niblings between ages 0-13. They can be reached at samcdor@umd.edu


Headshot of graduate student Ellen Roche

Ellen Roche (she/her/hers; they/them/theirs) is a second-year doctoral student in the Neuroscience and Cognitive Science program at UMD College Park. She holds bachelors degrees in English and Music from University of Maryland and a Master’s in Education from Harvard University. Prior to joining the LEAD lab, Ellen worked for two years in the Early Learning Project lab with Dr. Rachel Barr at Georgetown University. At Georgetown, she primarily focused on a study of how infants built sensitive relationships with their socially-distant grandparents via Zoom during COVID-19. Ellen started her career as an educator, teaching Pre-K as well as middle and high school English/Language Arts, and most recently served as Executive Director of Trust for Learning, a philanthropic partnership working to support ideal learning environments for all children in publicly-funded programs, prenatal - eight. She also has eight years of experience as a researcher, writer, and strategist focused on progressive campaigns and candidates. Ellen hopes to advance antiracism and inclusion in scientific research, and is exploring the diverse ways children and families use language to support emotional development and regulation in the first few years of life. In her spare time, you might catch her singing, birding, or writing a sonnet. She can be reached at rochee@umd.edu

Headshot of professor Eliza Thompson

Eliza A. Thompson (she/her/hers) is an Assistant Clinical Professor in the Department of Hearing and Speech Sciences and first-year doctoral student in the Department of Special Education jointly advised by Dr. Jade Wexler. She received her B.S. in Speech & Hearing Sciences from The George Washington University, her M.S. in Communication Sciences and Disorders from Howard University and an Ed.S from The George Washington University. Eliza also obtained an Advanced Certificate in Bilingual/Bicultural Education from Teacher's College, Columbia University. She has had a long standing interest in the processes of communication with a focus on child language development and emergent literacy intervention. As a clinician and clinical supervisor, Eliza has worked in a variety of settings including public schools, private practice and hospitals. She has also served as a clinical supervisor and therapist overseas, specifically, Ghana, Haiti and Kenya. Eliza has previously  worked as a speech-language pathologist for the Montgomery County Infants & Toddlers Program as well as an adjunct faculty member and clinical educator at other Washington, DC area universities.

Eliza teaches Clinical Practicum, Principles and Methods in Speech-language Pathology, and Speech and Language Development in Children. Her specific clinical interests include bilingual language development, communication in cultural and linguistically populations, and language/literacy intervention.

Eliza is also founder and director of the department's premiere study abroad program, HESP-GPS. Global Perspective in Service-Learning (GPS) is a clinical training program for HESP students who seek a greater understanding of communication sciences and disorders in an international context. She can be reached at ethomps2@umd.edu

Headshot of postdoctoral fellow Alexus Ramriez

Alexus Ramirez (she/her/hers) is a postdoctoral research fellow under Dr. Rachel Romeo’s mentorship at the University of Maryland, College Park (UMD), funded by an NICHD NIH Diversity Supplement Award. She received her bachelor’s in psychology at the University of California, Merced, and earned her M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Delaware (UD). Broadly, Alexus is interested in researching how variation in children’s early language experiences relates to developmental outcomes. During her doctoral work at UD, she examined parents’ beliefs about using infant-directed speech, grandparent-grandchild interactions over video chat, and how discussing specific topics, such as math, animals, or colors, during toddlerhood relate to children’s school readiness with Dr. Roberta Golinkoff (Child’s Play Lab). At UMD, Alexus will investigate how children’s home environments and parents’ beliefs about language learning relate to how parents talk with children, and in turn, children’s development of language, executive function, and social cognition in monolingual and bilingual families. At leisure, she loves hiking, reading, and playing soccer. She can be reached at alexusgr@umd.edu

Ellie Taylor

Ellie Taylor (she/her/hers) is the LEAD Lab’s inaugural Lab Manager & Community Partnerships Specialist, and she is broadly interested in exploring how early contexts, experiences, and relationships impact infant and toddler neural and cognitive development, future wellness, and resilience. Ellie graduated from Johns Hopkins University with a Bachelor of Arts in both Cognitive Science and Writing Seminars and a minor in Psychology and from Georgetown University with a Masters in Educational Transformation with a concentration in Advocacy & Policy. Ellie is deeply committed to community partnership and science communications efforts and seeks to increase the accessibility of involvement in and engagement with scientific research. She aims to pursue a career at the intersection of research and advocacy after pursuing further training at the graduate level. Outside of the lab, Ellie loves spending time with her rescue beabull, becoming a regular at local restaurants and coffee shops, and enjoying a healthy balance of time in the great outdoors and the great indoors. She can be reached at ektaylor@umd.edu

Headshot of research affiliate Eusabia Mont

Eusabia Mont is an Associate Clinical Professor in the Department of Hearing and Speech Sciences at the University of Maryland, College Park. She is the director of the Cultural-Linguistic Diversity Emphasis Program for the MA in Speech and Language Pathology, and she leads the Mentorship Network. Her specific clinical interests include communication across the lifespan, emphasizing language development in children and dementia-related communication disorders. She is also interested in infusing diverse perspectives into course design and culturally responsive service delivery to reduce health disparities. Ms. Mont consults with the LEAD lab on the PLANES study (and others) on the ethical and appropriate assessment and analysis of language development in children from racially, ethnically, and socioeconomically diverse backgrounds, as well as culturally sensitive dissemination of findings to avoid biased and discriminatory findings for children from minoritized communities.