Lab Members

Dr. Jessica Church-Lang

Principal Investigator

Jessica_CL_20121022_01_cropDr. Church-Lang received her Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Washington University in St. Louis in 2008. She has a strong interest in how cognitive processes develop over age, and in how research on atypical development illuminates the vulnerable aspects of typical cognitive development. Research in the lab currently focuses on the development of cognitive skills such as task switching and reading in late childhood and early adolescence. Dr. Church-Lang is heading the neuroimaging arm of the Meadows and Vaughn Gross Center project on 4th grade reading intervention at UT Austin. We are interested in whether neuroimaging can reveal differences between struggling readers who respond to intervention and those who don’t, as well as in exploring differences between struggling and non-struggling readers during sentence comprehension. We’re particularly interested in how regions of the brain involved in attention relate to reading disorders.  As part of the reading-intervention project, as well as in additional research efforts, we are exploring the development of short-duration, rapidly-adjusting adaptive control brain networks, how they might be different in typical and atypical development, and how they interact over age with the rest of the brain. To address these questions, we use behavioral methods such as cognitive tests (where we measure reaction times, accuracy on tasks, or eye movements), neuropsychological assessments, neuroimaging (fMRI, resting-state fcMRI), and studies of patient populations (e.g. children with Tourette syndrome or dyslexia).

Curriculum vitae

Annie Zheng

Lab Manager

AnnieAnnie Zheng graduated from Colgate University with a B.A. in Cognitive Neuroscience. During her undergraduate career, she studied second language phonological acquisition in native English speakers using acoustic analysis methods. Currently, Annie is investigating the neural substrates of reading comprehension of struggling and fluent readers as well as the development of cognitive function in adults and children using a selective attention and task switching paradigm.



Laura Engelhardt

Graduate Student

Laura Laura graduated from Indiana University in 2011 with a BA in Psychology and Spanish. She worked as a lab manager for Dr. Kimberly Noble at Columbia University, where she helped to investigate the effects of low socioeconomic status on neurocognitive development across childhood. Laura will pursue this line of work at UT under the mentorship of Dr. Jessica Church-Lang and Dr. Elliot Tucker-Drob. She plans to research structural and functional brain development from a behavioral genetics perspective. She is particularly interested in the developmental trajectories of reading and executive function.

Mary Abbe Roe

Graduate Student

79Mary Abbe Roe graduated from the University of Rochester in 2013 with a B.S. in Brain and Cognitive Sciences. During her undergraduate career she worked as a research assistant in Dr. Bradford Mahon’s lab (University of Rochester) and Dr. Russell Poldrack’s lab (UT Austin) where she used fMRI and behavioral methods to study adults with and without brain disorders. Currently, in the Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience lab, Mary Abbe is investigating the neural correlates of reading comprehension in typical and struggling readers. She is interested in researching the atypical and typical development of executive functions, specifically inhibitory control.

Tehila Nugiel

Graduate Student

TehilaTehila graduated from Ramapo College with a B.A. in Psychology and from the University of Texas at Dallas with an M.S. in cognitive neuroscience. At UTD she worked with Dr. Mandy Maguire using EEG to investigate the neural correlates of language development. After earning her M.S. Tehila worked with Dr. Ingrid Olson at Temple University using diffusion tensor imaging to study the structural connectivity facilitating semantic control. In the Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience Lab, Tehila will investigate the neural correlates of reading and executive function in typical and struggling readers. She is especially interested in how connectivity in the developing brain facilitates complex skills such as reading.

Damion Demeter

Graduate Student

DamionDamion Demeter graduated from Chapman University with a BFA in Film and Television Production and from Pacific University with a MA in Counseling Psychology. For the past two years, Damion has worked as a research assistant in the Fair Neuroimaging Lab at Oregon Health & Science University under the mentorship of Dr. Damien Fair. His previous training focused on resting state functional connectivity processing and analysis techniques, with his primary research exploring the influence of stimulant medication on functional network trajectories in adolescents diagnosed with ADHD. As a graduate student in the Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience lab, Damion hopes to continue to explore and identify functional network organization trajectories throughout various stages of childhood brain development in typical and atypical populations, while developing robust skills in task-based Neuroimaging techniques.

Matthew Larsen

Undergraduate Research Assistant


Matt is a junior at UT Austin pursuing a B.S. in biology with a focus in neurobiology. He is also a member of Synapse, a UT student organization focused on neuroscience research. He previously worked in Dr. Anslyn’s lab, helping to develop sensing arrays to detect differences between varietals of wine. Matt joined the Church Lab to gain experience doing cognitive neuroscience research, which is where his primary research interests lie. He is also interested in the biology behind neurodegenerative and mental disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and bipolar disorder. After finishing his undergraduate studies, Matt hopes to attend graduate school and pursue a Ph.D. in neurobiology.

Mackenzie Mitchell

Undergraduate Research Assistant

MackenzieMackenzie is in her fourth year at UT, studying Neuroscience and Early Childhood Development. Her primary interests lie in the development of mental health disorders in young children, and she joined the Church Lab to gain experience with neurological research. Previously, she worked as a research assistant in Dr. Su Yeong Kim’s lab, which researches the effects of language brokering in adolescent populations. Mackenzie has spent the past two summers as a teaching assistant in the Priscilla Pond Flawn Child and Family Lab working with toddlers. She hopes to attend medical school to become a pediatric neurologist and eventually work in public policy to reform early childhood education practices.

Tiffany Wang

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Tiffany WangTiffany is a junior at UT Austin pursuing a B.S.A. in Neuroscience with a minor in Radio-Television-Film. She is a peer learning assistant in the Chemistry Department and has previously worked under Dr. Neal Rutledge studying the efficacy of different CT perfusion modalities in treating stroke patients. Her future goals include going to medical school and working with medically underserved communities.




Lea Ann Thomas

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Lea AnnLea is a fourth year at UT, pursuing a B.S. in Communication Studies with a minor in Psychology. She has previously worked as a research assistant in Dr. Barath Chandrasekaran’s SoundBrain Lab, which studies the neurobiological computations that underlie speech perception and learning. Her primary interests lie in studying the cognitive processes of children with developmental disorders, and she joined the Church Lab to gain experience in neurological research. Lea hopes to attend graduate school to pursue a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and specialize in Neuropsychology.




Jessie-Raye (Bodenhamer) Bauer, M.A.







Leonel Olmedo, Lab Manager                             Joel Martinez, Research Assistant

Leonel OlmedoJoel2

Alyssa Hernandez, Undergraduate RA           Louisa Angly, Undergraduate RA



Lauren Deschner, Undergraduate RA             Rawand Abdelghani, Undergraduate RA



Jess Graves, Summer Research Intern            Lynee Herrera, Summer Research Intern

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Joshua McBride, Undergraduate RA               Afra Huda, Undergraduate RA



Uday DuttHigh School Volunteer               Lisbet Avila, Undergraduate RA


Monica Rodriguez, Undergraduate RA         Sneha Joshi, Undergraduate RA



Kevin Helgren, Undergraduate RA


Lab Events (more lab photos and shenanigans)

Church Lab, UT Austin, December, 2016