Lab Members

Jessica Church-Lang, Ph.D. – Principal Investigator

Dr. Church-Lang grew up in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan, got her B.A. at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, and 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 cognitive development pathways. Research in the lab currently focuses on the development of executive functions and reading in late childhood and early adolescence. Dr. Church-Lang is head of the Austin neuroimaging site of the Texas Learning Disabilities Research Center project on reading intervention and brain change ( We’re particularly focused on how networks of the brain involved in task control relate to academic skill development and skill improvement over time.  As part of the reading-intervention project, as well as in our other research efforts in children with attention and learning disorders, we are focusing on brain and behavioral changes over two time periods: over the course of an intervention, and over the course of early puberty. To address these questions, we use behavioral methods such as cognitive tests (where we measure response times, accuracy on tasks, or eye movements), actigraphy (where we measure activity levels during sleep and wake), pubertal hormone assessments, neuropsychological assessments, neuroimaging (fMRI, resting-state fcMRI), and studies of patient populations (e.g. children with Tourette syndrome, ADHD, or dyslexia).

Curriculum Vitae


Mackenzie Mitchell, B.S. – Lab Manager

Mackenzie graduated from UT in May 2017 with Bachelor’s degrees in Neuroscience and Human Development & Family Sciences. Her primary interests lie in the development of mental health disorders in young children. Previously, she worked as an undergraduate research assistant in Dr. Su Yeong Kim’s lab, which investigates the effects of language brokering in adolescent populations. Mackenzie has spent the past three summers as a teaching assistant in the Priscilla Pond Flawn Child and Family Lab working with children ages 2-6. She hopes to attend graduate school and contribute research to inform early childhood education practices.


Laura Engelhardt, M.A. – Graduate Student

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 has continued this line of work at UT under the mentorship of Dr. Jessica Church-Lang and Dr. Elliot Tucker-Drob. Together, they investigate the paths by which children’s backgrounds interact with their genetic potential to impact brain development and academic achievement. She is particularly interested in the heritability of brain activity related to executive functions.

Mary Abbe Roe, B.S. – Graduate Student

Mary 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. In the Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience lab, Mary Abbe is investigating the neural correlates of reading comprehension in typical and struggling readers. She is also researching the atypical and typical development of executive functions throughout puberty, with a specific interest in disorders such as ADHD and ASD.

Tehila Nugiel, M.S. – Graduate Student

Tehila 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, M.A. – Graduate Student

Damion graduated from Chapman University with a BFA in Film and Television Production and from Pacific University with a MA in Counseling Psychology. He worked as a research assistant under the mentorship of Dr. Damien Fair (OHSU) focusing 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. 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.

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.




Emily Barnes – Undergraduate Research Assistant

Emily is a senior majoring in Psychology and Plan II Honors. Her research interests include neuropsychological and cognitive psychology, particularly in children. In the past, she has worked under Dr. Jacqueline Woolley, researching children’s imagination and cognition, and Dr. Susan Carey, studying executive functioning and conceptual learning. She is completing her senior thesis in the lab, investigating executive functions and how they are affected by disorders of cognitive control and behaviors such as sleep. Emily hopes to attend graduate school and pursue a career in clinical child psychology.


Nikita Batra – Undergraduate Research Assistant

Nikita is a junior at UT Austin pursuing a BSA in neuroscience with a certificate in the business of healthcare. She is interested in the mechanisms of learning in adolescents with developmental disorders and is passionate about the importance of STEM learning, especially among populations with low socioeconomic status. She joined the Church Lab to study cognitive function and gain experience with neuroimaging. Nikita hopes to attend medical school and specialize in clinical genetics or neurology.



Delayna Bradshaw – Undergraduate Research Assistant

Delayna is a  junior at UT  Austin pursuing a B.S. in Actuarial Mathematics on a Pre-Medicine track. She was a peer learning assistant in the Chemistry Department at UT, and has a history working with children in daycares and after-school programs. After she graduates, she hopes to attend medical school to pursue her dream of becoming a Pediatric Cardiologist.




Madison Tuazon – Undergraduate Research Assistant

Madison is a senior at UT, studying Biochemistry and Finance. She is also completing a Bridging Disciplines certificate in Children and Health. Previously, she worked as a research assistant in Dr. Jennifer Beer’s lab, which studies motivational influences on how people perceive others. Currently, she works at Girlstart with 4th to 8th grade girls to increase their interest in the STEM fields. She joined the Church Lab to learn about cognitive development in children and adolescents. After finishing her undergraduate studies, she hopes to attend medical school to become a pediatrician.



Marie Vu – Undergraduate Research Assistant

Marie is a third year at UT, pursuing a Biology BSA with a Business Foundations Certificate. She has previously done research in the Functional Genomics Lab with Dr. Bagchi and currently serves as a research mentor for freshmen there. Having prior experiences as a summer camp counselor for children with developmental disorders, she joined the Church Lab as a UGRA to gain further insight for the cognitive processes of such children. Her future career goals include attending medical school and specializing in pediatrics.



Anushka George – Undergraduate Research Assistant

Anushka is a sophomore at UT Austin pursuing a B.S.A in neuroscience and a certificate in Bridging Discipline Intervention and Vulnerable Children. She joined the Church lab to amass experience in neuroimaging and to study cognitive development in children. She is a mentor at UT Austin and she has had many experiences working with children in after school programs, volunteering with children in hospitals, and providing care to children while executing mission work in different countries. Anushka hopes to pursue her dream of becoming a Pediatrician as well as providing care and relief to victims of human trafficking around the world.


Julissa De Los Santos – Undergraduate Research Assistant


Jewels is a junior at UT Austin pursuing a B.S.A in Neuroscience, a minor in English, and a certificate in Pre-Health Professions and Creative Writing. She is an officer for Global Medical Brigades, a non-profit organization that provides access to medical/dental care to underserved communities in Ghana, Nicaragua, Panama, and Honduras, and is passionate about global health and development. Previously, she worked in Dr. Ellington’s Practical Molecular Sensors Lab stream where she performed SELEX protocols to produce sequences of nucleotides that bind to specific targets. Jewels joined the Church Lab to develop a better understanding of cognitive development and to acquire experience with neuroimaging; additionally, she aspires to eventually attend medical school and pursue her dream of becoming a cardiothoracic surgeon.


Jessie-Raye (Bodenhamer) Bauer, M.A.









Annie Zheng, Lab Manager (PhD Student, Washington University)

Leonel Olmedo, Lab Manager

Joel Martinez, Research Assistant (PhD Student, Princeton University)

Funmi Osofundiya, Research Assistant

Matt Larson, Undergraduate RA

Lea Ann Thomas, Undergraduate RA

Alyssa Hernandez, Undergraduate RA (Psychometrician)

Louisa Angly, Undergraduate RA

Lauren Deschner, Undergraduate RA (MD, UT Health Science Center)

Rawand Abdelghani, Undergraduate RA (Masters in Social Work, UT Austin)

Jess Graves, Summer Research Intern (Masters in Statistics, University of Pittsburgh)

Lynee Herrera, Summer Research Intern

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