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Dr. Marianella Casasola, Associate Professor

Director, Cornell Infant Studies Lab

Current Professional Activities:

Member, Society for Research in Child development Member, International Society on Infant Studies Member, American Psychological Association Member, Cognitive Development Society Guest Reviewer, Infancy Guest Reviewer, Child Development Current Research Activities.

My research program focuses on infant cognitive development and early word learning. I am particularly interested in the interaction between cognition and language acquisition during the first two years of development. In collaboration with colleagues and my students, I examine infants' ability to discriminate the spatial relations between objects as well as their ability to group these events into spatial categories. A portion of our research explores the degree to which infants' perceptual and cognitive abilities provide them with the meanings expressed across language-specific semantic categories. The goal of this line of research is to document not only which spatial concepts infants understand (and when they acquire these concepts), but also to delineate the processes that guide how infants acquire this understanding. We also are exploring how specific linguistic input can aid infants in forming spatial categories that they do not form in the absence of language. In related research, we also are exploring how language can direct infants' attention to the objects versus location in a dynamic event. More recently, we have begun to explore these issues with toddlers and preschool-age children. Finally, we have been studying whether infants learn to comprehend visual gestures as labels for objects earlier and more easily than spoken labels. In addition, my students and I are exploring whether presenting a visual gesture with a spoken word aids infants in comprehending the spoken word. In sum, my students and I are conducting numerous experimental studies that explore developmental changes in infant cognitive development, how these abilities are recruited in the acquisition of language, and whether language can influence how infants organize their world. In addition to studying how infants learn, I also enjoy running, swimming, playing piano and cello. Among my most favorite activities are spending time with my family.

Education
Ph.D. 2000 - University of Texas at Austin Psychology
M.A. 1995 - University of Texas at Austin Psychology
B.A. 1992 - University of California, Berkeley Psychology & Spanish Literature

Selected Publications

Courses Taught

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                                                 *Group Shot Spring 2008*

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                                                 *Group Shot Fall 2007*

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                                                   *Group Shot Spring 2007*

Current Undergraduate Research Assistants

Caroline Adelson
Major: Psychology, Minor in Business
Year of Graduation: 2017
Hometown: Tulsa, OK
Interesting fact: I am ambidextrous. 
Why I joined the lab: I am interested in exploring how spatial language and free play affect learning, as well as examining the relationships between socioeconomic status and cognitive development.
Studies: I have worked on transcribing videos of children at free play using the CLAN program.

Patricia Donskoy
Major: Biology and Society
Year of Graduation: 2016
Hometown: Hewlett, NY
Interesting fact: My eyes change color from green to blue.
Why I joined the lab: I'm interested in child development especially looking at language impact of developmental skills and the influence of language exposure.
Studies: I have worked on habituation studies with infants looking at spatial categorization. For the past year I have been working on a spatial cognition study with preschool children and even ran a branch in a NYC head start center for a summer.

Veronica Freyvert
Major: Biological 
Year of Graduation: 2018
Hometown: Poughkeepsie, NY
Interesting fact: I work for the Family & Children's Services of Ithaca.
Why I joined the lab: I am really interested in the effect of language, play, and social scaffolding on creativity. I also love working with kids, and I'm eager to learn how our studies will change the way families play with their children. 
Studies: I am working on the CLAN transcription of spatial play.

Angelica Gangemi

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Major: Spanish, Pre-Medicine
Year of Graduation: 2016
Hometown: Old Bridge, NJ
Interesting fact: I am on the Varsity Fencing Team and this summer represented the Big Red and Team USA at the World University Games!
Why I joined the lab: I love working with children and I am very interested in pediatric medicine! I joined the lab to explore how children learn, think and make decisions as a result of the language they are exposed to!
Studies: I began in the lab working on Toddlers Putting the Pieces Together. This past summer, I worked in New York City at the ABC/Graham HeadStart school on the Preschool Spatial Language Training Study and I am continuing my work with that study this semester.

 

Tiffany Guo

Tiffany Guo

Major: HBHS, Minors in Education and Human Development 
Year of Graduation: 2016
Hometown: Brooklyn, NY
Interesting fact:  I am an after school club teacher at DeWitt Middle School. I teach filmmaking to 6th graders!
Why I joined the lab: With a passion for teaching (especially younger grades!), I wanted to gain research experience in a field that explores how young children think cognitively and how their minds function, inside and outside the classroom. CISL provides me the opportunity to see how our studies can directly improve learning achievements and cognitive development. I believe we can expand our gained knowledge to create intervention programs and assist children with learning disabilities, cognitive delays and children of low socioeconomic status. 
Studies: Recently, I helped conclude the spatial language training project that took place in the last two years and participated in expanding the study to New York City. I also work on habituation studies with infants of 12 and 18 months of age involving spatial transformation. 

 

Emily Hagen

Emily Hagen

Major: Human Development, Pre-Medicine
Year of Graduation: 2017
Hometown: Woodmere, NY
Interesting fact: I love to write, and have written articles for several newspapers, including one in Africa and The Cornell Daily Sun.
Why I joined the lab: I loved Professor Casasola’s Human Development course about play, where I learned about research examining how certain types of play can facilitate different types of learning and the development of different cognitive skills. The course sparked my interest in child cognition. Specifically, I am interested in understanding how environmental factors, such as children’s SES and provided intellectual stimulation, can affect their spatial skills.
Studies: The spatial cognition study, specifically as a member of the NYC group that tested children at the ABC Graham School, a Head Start school this past summer. I am now helping to analyze and review the obtained data for the paper.

 

Rachel Murro
Major: Human Biology, Health and Society, Minor in Global Health
Year of Graduation: 2017
Hometown: Ardsley, NY
Interesting fact:  I am scuba certified!
Why I joined the lab: I'm really interested in health disparities, the differences between middle and low income children, and the emergence of cognitive setbacks. 
Studies: I have worked on Distractibility with Baby Games and the second Spatial Language Head Start study.

 

Christie Wang
Major: Operations Research
Year of Graduation: 2017
Hometown: Holmdel, NJ
Interesting fact:  I have the same birthday as my dad. 
Why I joined the lab: I have a general interest in human development and am intrigued by infant cognitive development and early language learning. 
Studies: I am working on transcribing videos of infant play. 

Past Graduate Students

2_Christopher Vredenburgh CISL

Christopher Vredenburgh.  I am a PhD student in Human Development.  My main research interests concern the development of social cognition in toddlers and preschoolers.  I am particularly interested in how a social capacity, namely joint attention, arises and is used by children to learn from others and achieve goals.  I am also more broadly interested in the development of logical and causal reasoning, and how their development impacts the way in which children interpret the actions and goals of others.  

Catalina Iricinschi. I am a third-year graduate student in the Psychology Department at Cornell University. My research interests focus on cognitive commonalities between spatial cognition and language processing. Data on prelinguistic infants' responses to spatial stimuli are relevant for they reveal cognitive processing in the absence of language. I am affiliated with Professor Marianella Casasola's infant lab that currently hosts my infant research.

Youjeong Park
Human Development graduate student
"I received my BA and MA degrees from Seoul National University, South Korea, in 2002 and 2006, where I studied Child Development and Family Studies. I also worked as a preschool teacher in the Child Care Center at Seoul National University before joining the Cornell Infant Studies Lab at Cornell University as a graduate student in 2008. My research interests include infants’ relational learning, categorization, and how language impacts relational learning and categorization. Studies: I am working on “Simplicity study” where I am exploring whether objects’ perceptual features matter for infants’ learning of a spatial category. I also have worked on Dr. Casasola’s cross-linguistic research project on infant categorization of spatial relations."

Elise Paul
Graduate Student in Human Development
After earning my B.S. in biological sciences at the University of California, Irvine, I moved to Berlin to teach fifth grade at an English language immersion school for a year.  After that I moved to New York City for an M.A. in Science Education and another year of developmental psychology coursework from Teachers College, Columbia University.  It was during a fellowship I had at a Bronx high school that I realized I wanted to study the impact of poverty on child and adolescent development, with the goal of directing policy with my work.  Within the context of poverty, I am interested in both characteristics of the home environment and parent-child interactions and their influence on mental health and academic achievement. 
Studies: I am currently involved in the Baby Games study as well as an analysis with Dr. Gary Evans’s longitudinal poverty study data.  I am writing my master’s thesis with Dr. John Eckenrode on mental health outcomes related to childhood psychological maltreatment using the LONGSCAN study data.  I also conduct interviews with the Cornell Research Program on Self-Injurious behavior headed by Dr. Janis Whitlock.

Pamela Pérez
Graduate Student in Human Development
I graduated from the University of Chicago with my Bachelor's in Psychology and Comparative Human Development. Currently, I am starting my doctoral studies in Developmental Psychology. I am primarily interested in  investigating the emergence of food categories and how food vocabulary documents how these concepts may be shaped by socioeconomic background and feeding practices.  In examining this relationship I hope to further understand childrens' reasoning about food and how that relates to diet. I am also interested in the emergence of bilingualism in children and how that alters cognition throughout development.
Studies: I am currently working on my independent study called “Food and Labels” where I explore whether preschool children can categorize different types of food as well as how they categorize and learn about unfamiliar foods. I am also collborating with Dr. Casasola’s on two other studies including “Spanish Immersion” where we explore how toddlers learn common words in Spanish through play and “New Word Learning” on how speaking both a native and non-native language to toddlers aids in language development.

Past Undergraduate Research Assistants

Kristin Marrese
Major: Human Biology, Health and Society
Year of Graduation: 2012
Hometown: Brookfield, CT
Interesting fact: My eyes are different colors
Why I joined the lab: I am interested to see how environment affects health and behavior and many of our studies look at the effects of culture, language and socioeconomic status on the cognitive development of infants.
Studies: I have worked on MARTHA coding, NSF XL, and Function Words. I am currently working on Emotion Inference and Understanding for Baby Games

Kelly Kubas
Major: Human Biology, Health and Society
Year of Graduation: 2012
Hometown: Brick, NJ
Interesting fact: I am a cheerleader for the Big Red!
Why I joined the lab: I enjoy working with infants and exploring how language and emotion affect learning.
Studies: I have worked on MARTHA coding, NSF XL, and Function Words. I am currently working on Emotion Inference and Understanding for Baby Games

Abbie Dinowitz
Major: Human Development
Year of Graduation: 2012
Hometown: New City, NY
Interesting fact: I bake and sell challah (braided egg bread) every week with Cornell’s chapter of Challah for Hunger - I am an expert at all kinds of braids!
Why I joined the lab: I was so excited to join this lab because I love babies and toddlers.  Chances to interact with little kids during college are sometimes rare, but working in this lab lets me do that all the time!
Studies: My first few years in the lab were spent Martha coding and working on Look and Learn.  Now, I am conducting an experiment for my Senior Honors Thesis, called Turn to Learn, the goal of which is to explore the influences on spatial abilities in preschool-aged children

Ryan Allen-Parrot
Major: Science of Natural and Environmental Systems
Year of Graduation: 2012
Hometown: Ithaca, NY
Interesting fact: I play the cello in a country/bluegrass/americana band.
Why I joined the lab: I am interested in how humans influence and are influenced by the built environment, which is one aspect of the Baby Games study.
Studies: Baby Games Study (2009-2012)

Manuel Davila-Molina
Major: Human Development
Year of Graduation: 2012
Hometown: Rye Brook, NY
Interesting fact: I am a certified USSF soccer referee
Studies: Spanish Immersion

Taylor Daugherty
Major: Nutritional Sciences
Year of Graduation: 2012
Hometown: Pasadena, California
Interesting fact: I beat box in my a cappella group!
Why I joined the lab: I’ve always loved babies and working with kids and I want to become a pediatrician. I am also very interested in how an infant’s development affects his/her trajectory later in life.
Studies: James Long Coding, now Dogs and Ponies 

Antonio A. James
Major: Psychology, Africana Studies
Year of Graduation: 2012
Hometown: Easton, PA
Interesting fact: I spent this past summer doing research in the Baby Lab
Why I joined the lab:  I joined the lab because I wanted to have the opportunity to understand how poverty has long term effects on educational development. I have always been passionate about correcting disparities in education that affect people in low income areas and CISL offered me an opportunity to gain a different perspective on environmental factors that exacerbate the effects of poverty.
Studies: Baby Games Study.

Gloria Appiah-Kubi
Major: Biology and Society
Year of Graduation: 2013
Hometown: Union, NJ
Interesting fact: I spent a year interning as a medical assistant with a Dermatologist, who is also a Cornell alumnus, in New York City. I helped with botox injections, face fillers, cyst removals and skin cancer-cell removals.  
Why I joined the lab: Due to the fact that my interest lies particularly in the field of maternal and child health, I have become very curious about the cognition and behavior of early development and how, if any, the social environment affects development at an early age.
Studies: NSFXL, Emotion Word Comprehension, and Function Words.

Abby Robinson
Major: Human Biology, Health and Society
Year of Graduation: 2013
Hometown: North Canton, Ohio
Interesting fact: I have a birth mark shaped like Africa on my foot. (interesting fact is always such a tough one!)
Why I joined the lab: I want to become a pediatrician or an OB/GYN and I love working with children! I think human development is a fascinating subject and am interested in how a child’s early environment affects his or her later life and health.
Studies: Baby Games

Ariel Hart    
Major: Biology and Society
Year of Graduation: 2013
Hometown: Pasadena, CA
Interesting fact: I played rugby at Cornell for two years!
Why I joined the lab: I have always loved working with children and was really interested in learning more about their emotional and cognitive development. In working with the Baby Games study I have become most interested in the interaction between environmental factors and a child’s health and development.
Studies: Martha coding and currently I am a Project Manager and RA for Baby Games

Hemavattie Ramtahal
Major: Human Development
Year of Graduation: 2013
Hometown: Schenectady, NY
Interesting fact: I spent this past summer backpacking through South Africa by myself.
Why I joined the lab: I originally joined the lab because I was interested in how smart infants were. I wanted to examine how and what affected their development. I never anticipated the extent that play and environmental interactions affected infant learning.
Studies: Martha Coding and the Baby Games Study

Joshua Jeong
Major: Human Development
Year of Graduation: 2013
Hometown: Closter, NJ
Interesting fact: I am studying abroading in Kenya this spring 2012 semester
why I joined the lab: I love studying development, and it fascinates me how infants are so intelligent and cognitively complex at such a young age.
Studies: Simplicity and habituation testing

Jill Hsia
Major: Human Biology, Health, and Society
Year of Graduation: 2013
Hometown: Old Westbury, NY
Interesting fact: I spent this past summer volunteering in hospitals and health clinics in Belize.
Why I joined the lab: I originally joined the lab because I have always loved working with children, and I thought it would be interesting to interact with them from the perspective of a researcher. However, I have become very interested in how a child’s environment affects his/her cognitive development.
Studies: Baby Games study

Marie Camerota
Major: Human Development
Year of Graduation: 2013
Hometown: Westchester, NY
Interesting fact: I spent last summer in Ithaca working full time in the lab and had lots of fun learning everything there is to know about the Baby Games study!
Why I joined the lab: I have always loved working with infants and young children and joining CISL allowed me to combine this interest with my passion for research. As an HD major, it is fascinating to see how the concepts we learn in class come alive in the research lab, leading to a greater understanding of cognitive and emotional development.
Studies: Baby Games Study.

Aarti Agarwal
Major: Human Biology, Health and Society    
Year of Graduation: 2013
Hometown: Middletown, NY
Interesting fact: I fell off a two-story building onto bicycles when I was three years old.
Why I joined the lab:  I joined the lab my sophomore year because I have a tremendous passion for children and wanted to learn more about their cognitive development. I plan to pursue pediatric neurology in the future and think the Infants Studies lab is a good base for my future knowledge.
Studies: Martha Coding, Novel Toy Study, and Abbie's Honors Thesis on Mental Rotation

Lauren Ritter
Major: Human Development
Year of Graduation: 2013
Hometown: Bridgeton, NJ
Interesting fact: I am a second-degree black-belt.
Why I joined the lab:  I joined the lab because I have always been interested in learning more about infant cognition. I also wanted the opportunity to gain experience working directly with people, so I am very excited to be a member of the Cornell Infant Studies Lab.
Studies: Food and Labels study

Emilie Stewart
Major: Human Development
Minors: Policy, Analysis and Management and Inequality Studies
Year of Graduation: 2014
Hometown: North Caldwell, NJ
Interesting fact: I volunteer with an education program at a prison.
Why I joined the lab: I am interested in how infants develop and learn from their surroundings. Similarly, I have also always been interested in how an individual’s environment impacts their development and behavior and many of our studies look at the effects which different aspects of infants’ environment (i.e. culture, SES and language) on their cognitive development.
Studies: I am currently working on the Dog and Pony study under Professor Casasola.

Ilana Beller
Major: Psychology
Year of Graduation: 2014
Hometown: Little Silver, NJ
Interesting fact: I took a gap year volunteering in Israel before I came to Cornell
Why I joined the lab: I spend a lot of time working with people in impoverished situations.  Trying to change these situations is something that I really care about.  I feel that the research that this lab does could have some really important implications for the awareness of the effects of poverty and the way that poverty is handled.
Studies: Baby Games Study

Esperanza Wilson
Major: Biology & Society
Year of Graduation: 2014
Hometown: Boston, MA
Interesting fact: I scuba dive every summer in New England and various parts of the Caribbean.
Why I joined the lab: The Spanish Immersion study caught my attention because I like the idea of incorporating my culture into research. Working with children was also a plus too.  
Studies: Spanish Immersion

Michelle Duong
Major: Human Biology, Health and Society
Year of Graduation: 2014
Hometown: Brookfield, CT
Interesting fact: I was named after Michelle Tanner in “Full House”.
Why I joined the lab: I thought it would be really interesting to work with infants. Infant cognition is such a mysterious arena of human development and I wanted to learn more in order to better understand the human psyche.
Studies: Dogs & Ponies

Heeyoung Yoo
Major: Development Sociology
Year of Graduation: 2014
Hometown: Jericho, NY
Interesting fact: I had lived in five different locations before entering the 6th grade.
Why I joined the lab: I have never done research with infants, so it’s a learning experience right now. I think it’s interesting to work on something a little outside of my major, so that I am able to expand my knowledge about different topics.
Studies: Baby Games

Daniel Suh
Major: Human Biology, Health and Society
Year of Graduation: 2014
Hometown: Flushing, NY
Interesting fact: I like making beats and music with my roommate.  
Why I joined the lab: I initially joined the lab, because I loved working with kids, but after taking a class on infanthood, I wanted to learn more about how children’s minds work and how they are different from that of adolescents or adults.   
Studies: Abbie’s Senior Honor Thesis

Allison Eatroff
Major: Human Development
Year of Graduation: 2014
Hometown: Short Hills, NJ
Interesting fact: I used to be a very competitive tennis player.
Why I joined the lab:  I joined the lab because I am extremely interested in the development of children.  I am interested in how their behaviors and knowledge at a young age affect them in the larger scheme of things.
Studies: Food and Labels study and Mental Rotations.

Katie Callaghan
Major: Human Biology, Health and Society    
Year of Graduation: 2014
Hometown: Malverne, NY
Interesting fact: I’m in the Cornell marching band and pepband.
Why I joined the lab:  I joined the lab because infancy is the most tremendous developmental period in one’s life. There is always something new to discover about infant cognition. The Cornell Infant Studies Lab also gave me the opportunity for a lab experience dealing directly with people, as opposed to dealing with pipets and petri dishes.
Studies: NSFXL, Emotion Word Comprehension and Function Words.

Jasmin Perez
Major: Human Development
Year of Graduation: 2014
Hometown: Camarillo, CA
Interesting fact: I love to cook!
Why I joined the lab: I am interested to see how socioeconomic status affects cognitive development of infants.  I want to be an obstetrician and believe it is important for me to understand how environment and socioeconomic status will effect the children that I will be delivering.
Studies: Baby Games Study