Dr. Lisa Oakes, Principal Investigator
Dr. Oakes received her Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin in 1991 and was a faculty member in the Department of Psychology at the University of Iowa from 1991 to 2006. She joined the University of California Davis community in 2006 and is a Professor of Psychology.
Aaron Beckner, Graduate Student
Aaron earned his B.A. in Psychology from California State University Sacramento, graduating Summa cum Laude in 2015. During his time there, he became involved in research investigating the neurobiology of emotional learning and memory as a member of Dr. Sharon Furtak’s laboratory, where he employed Pavlovian fear conditioning in rodents to study the neural mechanisms that underlie both how we learn to fear and how we learn that something we previously feared no longer signals a threat. More specifically, Aaron was involved in research investigating how features of a visual stimulus, such as its temporal continuity, affect the way in which it is processed in the medial temporal lobe memory system when that stimulus also predicts an aversive experience. It was at this time that Aaron became very interested in the ways in which environmental context can influence brain function. In particular, he began to discover a passion for research investigating the role that early experience plays in brain development. As a first year graduate student, he was involved in research investigating the process by which early sensory experience alters brain development through epigenetic mechanisms. Currently, he studies the development of visual short-term memory and attention in infants. Aaron joined the infant Cognition Lab in June of 2016.
Michaela DeBolt, Graduate Student
I am a second year graduate student studying cognitive development in Dr. Lisa Oakes’s Infant Cognition Lab at UC Davis and the Center for Mind and Brain. I graduated from the University of Minnesota with a BS in Psychology in 2014.
My substantive interests are largely centered on the development of visual attention and longitudinal methods. Specifically, I’m interested in how different contexts and experiences influence cognitive development and how researchers can best tease apart and measure factors that shape and mold infants’ developing minds over time.
Christian Harms, Graduate Student
Christian graduated Magna Cum Laude with her B.A. in Psychology from California State University, Dominguez Hills in 2019. She received several prestigious awards, including 2019 Undergraduate Psychology Student of the Year and was also a distinguished member of the MARC USTAR program, which promotes diversity in research.
Christian was inspired to pursue her Ph.D. in visual cognition while conducting eye-tracking studies with Dr. Paul Zak at the Claremont Graduate University. Additionally, a year-long internship with Dr. Helen Lavretsky at UCLA provided her with a significant research background in cognitive development across the lifespan. These experiences, along with her work in the Design Your Life course with Dr. Heather Butler at CSUDH were vital in shaping her passion for developmental research from a visual cognition perspective.
She joined the Oakes lab in 2019 as a graduate student and studies the ways in which parents scaffold infant cognitive development through joint attention during play. Additional projects include a study into the ways in which infants visually learn about the world around them and learn to interact with their environment.
Shannon Klotz, Graduate Student
Shannon earned her B.A. in Cognitive Neuroscience from Scripps College in May 2019 and joined the Infant Cognition Lab in June. While in Southern California, she was a member of Dr. Michael Spezio's Laboratory for Inquiry into Valuation and Emotion (LIVE Lab) and studied Theory of Mind using EEG. There, Shannon explicitly modeled mental representations during both the development and presence of stable cooperation via communication outcomes. This allowed for better understanding of the sophistication, or degree of mental coordination, involved in individuals' social perception and reasoning. In Fall 2021, she started her Ph.D. at UC Davis with the Infant Cognition Lab -- combining her passions for infant cognition and technologies that study mechanisms of the human mind, brain, and behavior.
Erim Kizildere, Graduate Student
Erim graduated summa cum laude with his B.A. in Psychology and Economics and earned his M.A. in Cognitive Psychology from Koç University, Istanbul. Inspired by how play develops shared spheres among humans, invokes happiness and imagination, and provides unique experiences to learn and reason about the world, Erim is interested in play with three main focuses: 1) how parent-infant interactions during play provides learning opportunities to infants to reason and learn about the world, 2) how parents tailor their input based on their infants’ developmental levels, and 3) how play is connected with children's socio-cognitive abilities.
During his master’s at the Language and Cognition Lab under the supervision of Dr. Tilbe Göksun, Erim was a coordinator of a longitudinal project and researched the bidirectional relations between parents’ sound symbolic and pretense input during play and infants’ vocabulary knowledge and pretend play skills. As a newcomer Ph.D. student to Infant Cognition Lab, Erim is currently interested in how the interaction of infants’ development in motor and language skills and parental input shapes infants’ learning in naturalistic play settings. Besides his academic pursuits, Erim loves playing role-play games, writing short narratives, running regularly, and getting to know new friends and languages.
Van Pham, Graduate Student
Annika Voss, Junior Specialist & Lab Manager
Annika graduated with a BA in Honours Psychology and a minor in French from the University of Waterloo in 2019. While at the University of Waterloo, she worked as the lab coordinator for both the Developmental Learning Lab and the Lab for Infant Development and Language, where she studied cognitive and language development in infants and young children. She completed her honours thesis in the Developmental Learning Lab under the supervision of Dr. Stephanie Denison, where she looked at how infants can integrate what they know about the physical properties of objects with their understanding of probability. This experience sparked her passion for researching cognitive development in infants, and this is the area in which she plans to pursue her graduate studies. She moved from Canada and joined the Infant Cognition Lab in October of 2019 to gain more experience learning about infant’s cognitive development.
Gabrielle Blanch, Junior Specialist & Lab Manager