A classroom of children with hands raised

Language, Experience, and Development (LEAD) Lab

People

 

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 candidate 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 1-14. 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

Mariah Egerton headshot

Mariah Egerton (she/her/hers) received her undergraduate degree in Neuroscience (Cellular and Molecular Track) from the University of Maryland, College Park in May of 2023. She is interested in learning about how parenting styles and tools promote healthy brain development, specifically in the context of disability. She is very passionate about contributing to research that seeks to establish equity and empowerment for children with disabilities. She also works at the Maryland Neuroimaging Center as an MR Technologist where the LEAD Lab conducts their MRI visits. In her free time, she loves spending time with her adorable younger sister, exercising, and cooking!

 

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.  

Ben Rickles headshot

Ben Rickles  (he/him/his) received his undergraduate degree from Pitt in 2009, a master's degree from University of Oregon in 2017, and his PhD in 2023 from the NACS program at UMD. His home department is Human Development and Quantitative Methodology within the College of Education. His current research uses electroencephalography (EEG) to probe the biological mechanisms underlying narrative comprehension. His other research interests include the psychological phenomena surrounding word learning from context. He also recently designed a paradigm to utilize both eye-tracking and EEG to examine implicit relevance feedback in a virtual reality environment. As a research assistant in the lab, Ben helps out with programming experimental tasks, and data analysis. When he is not working he is cooking elaborate meals with his amazing partner, watching movies, tinkering with electronics, running a plastic recycling company, and riding his bike around the DMV.

Telise Arce-Reed headshot

Telise Arce-Reed (she/her/hers) is a junior Human Development and Criminology & Criminal Justice double degree at the University of Maryland. Within the LEAD Lab, she is interested in exploring adverse socioeconomic conditions that affect learning and development in children. As a first-generation college student of Honduran and African American descent, Telise has acknowledged the disparities among minority groups in the justice system. Therefore, she has found a personal passion in connecting educational equity to the implementation of early crime prevention programs. Outside of the lab, Telise loves anything, tattoos, piercings, and dying her hair. She also loves spending time with her friends, going to concerts, taking pictures, or watching any kind of cooking show competitions. 
 

Headshot of undergraduate Alex Haralanova

Alex Haralanova (she/her/hers; they/them/theirs) is a junior Neuroscience major and Human Development minor at the University of Maryland, College Park. She is a first generation American of Bulgarian descent. Her main interest in the lab is developmental psychology and cognitive development of children, but she would also like to explore the connection between parenting styles and mental health later in life. Most of her childhood and teenage years, Alex has been babysitting and working with kids, inspiring her to gain a deeper understanding on how childhood experiences affect individuals. She hopes to increase individuals’ chance of success through research generating insight on how to help kids with different backgrounds and experiences in school. Outside of the lab, she can usually be found painting, hiking, journaling, or working for the Grey Matters Neuroscience Journal.
 

Navleen Kaur headshot

Navleen Kaur (she/her/hers) is a junior Neuroscience major with a focus on cellular, molecular, and physiological neuroscience. In the future, she plans to pursue a career in medicine. Navleen has a keen interest in how early childhood development is affected by multilingualism and multiculturalism, stemming from her own experiences growing up as a Punjabi American. Beyond the scope of the LEAD lab, she loves to take care of her mind and body, whether it be through the form of a traditional Indian dance called "bhangra", volleyball, or self-care (her skincare collection is quite extensive).  

Headshot of undergrad RA Nicole Ostria


Nicole Ostria (she/her/hers) is a senior studying Psychology. She is of Dominican and Bolivian descent, and her research interests include studying how language and growing up multilingual affects early childhood development. Outside of the lab, Nicole enjoys going to cycling classes, singing, and spending time with her family and friends. She also loves spending as much time she can with her corgi, Gatsby.

 

Headshot of undergrad RA Fati Rosales-Lima


Fati Rosales-Lima (she/her/hers) is a senior Neuroscience major at the University of Maryland, College Park. She is a first-generation female college student and is thrilled to be in her final year of undergraduate. Her interests with the LEAD Lab are to explore more about how language can effect the development of children in their earlier years -- especially how language and cultural influences work together. Outside of the lab, Fati loves to do crafts, go to concerts, and explore new restaurants in DC.

 

Headshot of undergrad RA Fatou Sall


Fatou Sall (she/her/hers) is a junior Neurobiology and Physiology major on the pre-med track and business minor at UMD. Her research interests include studying the development of multilingual children as she grew up as a first-generation American to Senegalese parents. Her experience growing up has driven her to study how children are affected by two polar environments: home vs. the outside world. Outside the lab, Fatou loves to dance and is a part of a dance team on campus, loves to listen to music, and is fascinated by the outdoors and nature (she is a very happy plant mom). 

 

Headshot of undergrad Abria Simmons

Abria Simmons (she/her/hers) is a junior studying Psychology. Abria is interested in exploring how anti-bias and antiracism approaches can positively affect children’s development in the long run. Outside of lab, Abria enjoys reading, crocheting, and playing video games. In addition to working as an Undergraduate Research Assistant, Abria is also the lab's Hair Equity Specialist.

VIP = "Very Important Pets"

 

Photo of cat Shea Romeo

Shae Romeo came to the LEAD lab as a rescue in Dr. Romeo's first year of graduate school. She recently completed her doctorate in knocking items off desks with a certificate in sitting on keyboards. Once she even shut down an international zoom presentation by leaping straight into a computer monitor. She is currently learning how to fetch, but struggles with the "bring it back" part. She instantly loves everyone who has the potential to feed her and enjoys copious naps in inopportune places.

 

 

 

Photo of cat Maya Romeo in a box

Maya Romeo was also adopted into the LEAD lab during Dr. Romeo's first year of graduate school. She had a difficult early life on the mean streets of Boston, but she is the picture of resilience to adversity. Maya is currently working on her masters' degree in squeezing into impossibly small spaces, and has developed a remarkable new method of transforming herself into an aqueous state to slide under furniture with only inches of space underneath. Maya makes you earn her love, but once you're in her inner circle, it is incredibly rewarding. 

 

 

 

Photo of cat Mister McDorman sleeping by a rainbow pillow

Mister McDorman was adopted from City Dogs & City Kitties Rescue at the beginning of Alexa's first year in graduate school. She wears a fancy grey tuxedo and loves cuddling, playing, looking out windows, and generally lurking. She's shy of strangers, but adores her humans and prefers that they remain with her at all times.

 

 

Photo of dog Bonita Taylor-Robinette

Bonita Taylor-Robinette is a rescue Beagle/English Bulldog mix. As a nine-year-old beabull, Bonita is entering her golden years, and she knows exactly what she likes: Whimzees brand dental chews, long naps, walks through the snow, and lots of snuggles. Long before she was rescued by her current family, Bonita was named after A Tribe Called Quest’s 1999 hit “Bonita Applebum,” so her parents joke that her full name is Bonita “Gordita” Rosalinda Applebum Taylor-Robinette. Bonita is honored to be considered a VIP researcher.
 

Photo of Victoria Alexander's pet dog Happy

Oso Happy A. Terry is a rescue Labrador Retriever/American Staffordshire Terrier mix. He is learning a lot about the world still as a puppy, but he is very curious and eager to climb up the academic ladder. He’s probably the first dog you’ll meet with a middle name, but if you met him you’d understand exactly why “Happy” had to be included! His favorite thing to do is go to a drive though because he gets to observe new people and discover new smells. This VIP researcher takes his job seriously to motivate his human by snuggling up to her whenever she’s doing her work.

RigatoniRamirezHeadshot


Rigatoni Ramirez was adopted at the beginning of Dr. Ramirez’s postdoc. He takes pleasure in laying on the warmth of keyboards, napping all day, and zooming all night. Observing his water fountain brings Rigatoni immense joy and is his preferred pastime. Although initially timid, Rigatoni will show his affection through cuddles and making biscuits.
 

 

 

Zeus_Ramirez_Headshot

Zeus Madanat was also adopted at the beginning of Dr. Ramirez’s postdoc. He is actively pursuing his passion as a parkour enthusiast. Zeus finds delight in climbing on shoulders, chasing his tail, playing hide-and-go-seek, and pouncing on springy toys. Zeus is a sociable lad who warmly welcomes everyone he meets with gentle rubs and joyful purring.



 

 

Photo of Gatsby Ostria the dog


Gatsby Ostria is a 3 year old Corgi. His legs are small and mighty. Some of Gatsby’s favorite activities include playing with his brother, Max, and his cousin, Daisy, going on long walks, playing with his favorite ball, and going into the nearby creek to swim. Gatsby also loves being around people and always has a smile on his face.

Ama Arhin (she/her/hers), Undergraduate Research Assistant (2022-2023) 
Amy Carolus (she/her/hers), Research Assistant/Research Affiliate (2020-2023)
Ananya Devadiga (she/her/hers), Human Development Internship Student (2021-2022) 
Jun Ikeda (any pronouns), Undergraduate Research Assistant (2022-2023) 
Christina Kim (she/her/hers), Visiting PhD Student (Summer 2023)
Grace Kim (she/her/hers), HGSE Masters Student (2021-2022)
Klaudia Kulawska (she/her/hers), Research Assistant/Research Affiliate (2020-2022)
Daniel Pyo (he/him/his), Human Development Internship Student (2021-2022) 
Amanda Rosenberg (she/her/hers), Research Assistant/Research Affiliate (2020-2023)
Natalie Sharbin (she/her/hers), Undergraduate Research Assistant (2022-2023)
Casey Spelman (she/her/hers), Visiting PhD Student (Summer 2023)