Current Ph.D. Students

Xiaozhu An, Advisor: Curby |

Xiaozhu is in her first year in the doctoral program. Previously, she earned her B.S. degree in Psychology at Qingdao University, China in 2012. She then entered GMU’s ADP program and graduated with a M.A. degree in Psychology in 2014. In the M.A. program, she worked as a research assistant in Dr. Johannes Rojahn’s BADD Lab, focusing on the maladaptive behaviors of children with developmental disabilities. Her research interests include teacher-student interactions, classroom quality, and inclusive education.​

Liz Berke, Advisor: Curby |

My name is Liz and I'm a 4th-year PhD Student in the applied developmental psychology program. I started working in Dr. Rojahn's lab and I'm interested in children with developmental disabilities, and now I work with Dr. Curby. I have a B.S. in psychology from James Madison University with a minor in special education and an MA from GMU. I'm originally from Virginia beach, but I have been living in northern Va for the last 2 years. I worked as an applied behavior analysis instructor in The Ivymount School's Autism Program in Rockville MD.

Andrea Burchfield, Advisor: Rojahn |

I earned a BS in Psychology with a minor in Fine Arts from Radford University in 2006. I entered GMU's Applied Developmental Psychology program in 2010, and also aim to gain board certification as a behavior analyst. During the years 2006-2010, I worked as a Lead ABA Therapist at a center for children with developmental disabilities in the Roanoke Valley, where I spent the last 2 years providing consultation and recommendations for the Roanoke County Public Schools. I am interested in language development and social / self awareness in children with autism, as well as effective teaching methods for children with developmental disabilities.

Alex Moffett, Advisor: Winsler |

Alex is a fourth-year PhD (returning MA) student in Dr. Winsler’s lab and the ADP program. While getting a B.A. in psychology at the University of Denver, he was involved with a victim advocacy organization in Denver that allowed him to work with public elementary schools in low-income areas around the city. The experience helped shape his current research interests, which include language development and self-regulation in the context of education, and ecological instability (specifically school mobility) among children in poverty. His masters thesis was on the predictors of school mobility, and now he hopes to expand on this topic in his dissertation examining academic outcomes associated with school mobility.

Mandana Mohtasham, Advisor: Pasnak |

Mandana is a fourth-year doctoral student in Dr. Pasnak's lab. She received her MA under Dr. Denham's advisory where she first learned about executive functioning and social emotional development in young children in classroom settings. Her research studies will continue to expand on this knowledge and will examine the specific relationship between cognitive and emotional development in preschool children.

Mayra Parada, Advisor: Winsler |

Mayra is a second-year graduate student pursuing her PhD in ADP. She graduated with a BS in Psychology from Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in 2014. During her time at VCU, Mayra was a Research Assistant in the Clark-Hill Institute for Positive Youth Development working on various community-based participatory research projects, including a school-wide bullying intervention program in Richmond Public Schools and a strength-based family program to improve communication between adolescents in middle school and parents. After graduating from VCU, Mayra became a Research Trainee in the NIH/NIMHD-funded Minority Health and Health Disparities International Research Training Program. As a Research Trainee, Mayra had the opportunity to conduct research in Mexico City, Mexico at the National Institute of Psychiatry on the influence of social contexts on adolescent drug-use. Mayra’s current research interests include the effect of culture, race, and ethnicity (specifically with immigrant children) on academic achievement.

Ally Patterson, Advisor: Pasnak |

Ally is a third-year doctoral student working under the mentorship of Dr. Robert Pasnak. She graduated from Furman University in 2013 with a B.A. in psychology and communication studies. After graduation, she spent a year working at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody Research Institute on a meta-analysis project assessing effectiveness of youth programs. Ally is interested in cognitive development, particularly in early childhood and in those with developmental disabilities.

Courtney Ricciardi, Advisor: Winsler |

Courtney is a first-year PhD student in Dr. Winsler’s lab within the ADP program. She graduated from the University of Alabama in 2016 with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and a minor in Human Development. While at Alabama, her research focused on how the development of social and emotional skills in Head Start preschoolers impacted later school performance. Her current research interests involve school readiness in at-risk populations, specifically the influence of early factors on later school outcomes such as graduation and advanced course selection.

Alexa Roth, Advisor: Curby |

Alexa is in her first year of the doctoral program at George Mason. She received her MA in Developmental Psychology from Teachers College, Columbia University and BA in Psychology at Emory University. She has also served as a Special Education teacher in both elementary and high school settings. Alexa’s research interests include children’s social and emotional development within the school setting, specifically for children from low-income communities.

Max Shear, Advisor: Curby/McKnight |

Max Shear graduated from Wayne State University in Detroit, MI, earning a B.A. in Psychology and a B.F.A. in Fine Arts: Photography. Max is currently working in Dr. KcKnight's research lab. He has a passion for research, specifically fatherhood involvement, prevention and intervention-based programs (e.g. head start), and learning disabilities. Outside of school, he enjoys: art, his dog (Ozcar), Detroit sports, traveling, and photography.

Amber Shriver, Advisor: Pasnak |

Amber Shriver is a 4th-year PhD student in Dr. Pasnak’s lab. She graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park with a Bachelors of Science in Psychology with a concentration in Neuroscience. She also has a Master's of Education degree from George Mason University. Her research concerns patterning interventions in Kindergarten and the impact of those interventions on the students’ later academic progress.

Lucia Stillerova, Advisor: Curby |

Lucia is a second-year doctoral student working in Dr. Curby’s DISC lab within the ADP program. Previously, she earned her MA in Psychology from University of St. Cyril and Methodius in Slovakia. After graduating she has worked in a non-profit organization and in the school systems with children. This experience allowed her to learn many things about classroom environments, teaching strategies, and teachers' interactions with children. Her research interests are student-teacher interactions, classroom climate, and social- emotional development within the school setting.

Tanya Tavassolie, Advisor: Winsler |

I graduated from Franklin and Marshall College in 2011 with a B.A. in Neuroscience. While at Franklin and Marshall, my research focused on developmental and biological aspects of behavior using animal models. After graduating, I began working as a Faculty Research Assistant at the University of Maryland's Child Development Lab. While there, I worked on a project exploring neural correlates of action understanding in infants. My current research interests are mainly in school readiness and long-term academic outcomes of high-stakes testing in elementary school.

Brittany Thompson, Advisor: Pasnak |

Brittany is a first-year doctoral student in Dr. Pasnak’s lab. She graduated from St. Mary’s College of Maryland in 2012 with a B.A. in psychology with a minor in educational studies. While at St. Mary’s, she researched the impact of parental communication on self-esteem in emerging adulthood, and also assisted a professor with research on emotional regulation. Her current research interests include variables impacting social and emotional development in young children, especially those with developmental disabilities.

Reba Troxler, Advisor: Curby/Winsler |

Reba is a first-year doctoral student originally from North Carolina. Her background is in the areas of psychology, sociology and family studies. Her research interests include social-emotional development, school readiness, prevention/intervention both in and out of the classroom, and at risk populations.

Angelique Williams, Advisor: Winsler |

Angelique is a first-year graduate student pursuing her PhD in ADP. She graduated with her BS in Psychology from Morgan State University in 2016. While at Morgan State University, she worked as an NIH NIGMS-RISE undergraduate student researcher. As such, she examined the effects of social problem solving ability and perceived stress levels on academic performance. Her current research interests include autism spectrum disorders, academic performance, and self-talk.


Current M.A. Students

Kaitlin Burdette, Advisor: Pasnak |

Kaitlin is a first-year Masters student in the Applied Developmental Psychology program working in Dr. Pasnak's laboratory. She received her BA in Social Science from Hawai'i Pacific University. Kaitlin has worked as an ABA therapist in Hawai'i, Australia, and now works for a small non-profit in Virginia. Her research interests include children on the autism spectrum in typical classrooms and their interactions with peers.

Katrina Gagliano, Advisor: Pasnak |

Katrina is a first-year Master’s student currently working in Dr. Pasnak’s lab. She graduated from Frostburg State University this year with a B.S. in Psychology. Her undergraduate research experience in human cognition meshed with her background in early childhood education to produce an interest in early intervention for children experiencing developmental delays. She is particularly interested in emotional development and regulation, early literacy skills, and language acquisition.

Laura Lauderdale, Advisor: Pasnak |

Laura is a second-year Master's student under the supervision of Dr. Pasnak. She graduated from George Mason University in 2015 with a B.A. in psychology, spending her last six semesters working in the Cognitive Interventions lab alongside Dr. Pasnak. Her research interests include early childhood education and cognitive disabilities such as autism and Down syndrome. She looks forward to further developing and delving into her research interests.

Jerry Mize, Advisor: Winsler |

Jerry currently holds a BS in Psychology from Virginia Commonwealth University, from where he worked on multiple research projects. He is moving forward in academia by working with Dr. Adam Winsler as a graduate student in the ADP MA program at GMU. Jerry's research interests are in developmental psychology. Specifically, he is interested in the immediate and lasting effects that meaningful social relationships (e.g. relationships with teachers, parents, peers, mentors, etc.) have on children and adolescents. He is especially intrigued by traditional and non-traditional parenting factors and how they comparatively impact children, adolescents, and the social construct of the family. It is his goal to eventually earn a doctoral degree in this area, gaining training in both teaching and research.

Kaity Mumma, Advisor: Winsler |

Kaity is a second year Master's student working in Dr. Winsler's lab. She graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 2015 with a B.S. in Psychology and a minor in Spanish. In the past year at the Winslab, she has finished a manuscript on the interaction of home and school literacy environments, worked on various projects in the lab, submitted to and presented work at several conferences, and recently passed her thesis proposal. Her thesis focuses on the influence of elementary school quality on third grade academic outcomes of children who attended either public school pre-K, center-based care, or family child care early education programs. She is very passionate about improving the US education system and hopes that she can contribute to this cause through empirical research.

Katie Orth, Advisor: Curby |

Katie is a first-year Master’s student in the Applied Development Program in Dr. Curby’s lab. She graduated cum laude from Longwood University in 2011 with a B.S. in Psychology and Social Work. Since graduating, she has worked as an adoptions social worker at Roanoke County DSS. Her study of interest includes the social and emotional development of children in preschool and elementary school and the impact of trauma on development.

Brittany Pierceall, Advisor: Pasnak|

Brittany is a first-year graduate student seeking her M.A. in Applied Developmental Psychology under the direction of Dr. Pasnak. She graduated from Hood College in 2014 with a B.A. in Psychology and a minor in Gerontology. Brittany’s fascination with child development was sparked after working as a camp counselor at a summer camp for children with varying degrees of developmental disabilities. Her research interests include social-emotional development, emotion regulation, and early intervention among the special needs population, particularly those on the autism spectrum.

Laura Stokes, Advisor: Curby |

Laura is a second-year masters student in the Applied Developmental Psychology Program under the guidance of Tim Curby. She completed her undergraduate degree at Tulane University in New Orleans, LA where she majored in Marketing and Psychology and is originally from Sydney, Australia. Upon graduation, she was a research analyst and teacher's assistant at Tulane's A.B. Freeman School of Business. Laura currently focuses her research on a professional development method for teachers called Lesson Study.

Monica Yassa, Advisor: Pasnak |

My name is Monica Yassa. I was born in Cairo, Egypt and I immigrated to the United States with my parents when I was four years old. I earned my B.A in Psychology from George Mason, and I am a M.A student in the ADP program. I work in Dr. Pasnak's cognitive psychology lab which is currently looking at patterning in kindergarten students. I am interested in learning more about school readiness- what is successful or not successful in preparing children for entering school and how best they learn. I am also interested in learning more about social and emotional readiness in children entering school.