The NEED Team
© 2015 Neurocognition, Early Experience, and Development Lab   |   212-678-3319   |   Teachers College, Columbia University
  • Current Members
  • Past Members
  • Collaborators

Kimberly Noble, MD, PhD – Principal Investigator
Dr. Noble is a developmental cognitive neuroscientist and pediatrician who studies socioeconomic disparities in children's neurocognitive development. She received her undergraduate, graduate, and medical degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and trained at the Sackler Institute for Developmental Psychobiology at Weill Cornell Medical College. She completed her pediatrics residency at Columbia University Medical Center/Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital of New York Presbyterian. She is now an Associate Professor of Neuroscience and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University.

Elaine Maskus, BA- Lab Manager
Elaine graduated in 2015 with a BA in Neuroscience & Behavior, and Psychology from Wesleyan University. While at Wesleyan she worked as a research assistant in the Cognitive Development Labs, and as a student coordinator for an after school tutoring program in MIddletown, CT. Since graduating she has worked as a resident researcher for New Visions for Public Schools and as a volunteering for the Getting Ready for School project. She is pursuing a Masters degree in Neuroscience and Education at Teachers College and is excited to learn about and investigate how developmental neuroscience research can be used to implement change in education policy.

Ana Leon, BA- Lab Manager
Ana graduated in 2016 from Providence College with a B.A. in Biology and Psychology.While at Providence College she worked as a research assistant in the Kid Think Lab, where she studied how children learn through pretend play and their understanding of ownership. Ana is currently pursuing a degree in Neuroscience and Education. She is excited to join the NEED Lab and explore how early experiences affect neurodevelopment.


Natalie Brito, PhD– Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Natalie Brito received her PhD in psychology from Georgetown University, where her graduate research focused on how early experience with multiple languages influences memory during the first two years of life. As a CUMC Sackler Institute Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Natalie plans to continue examining how early environmental variations shape the trajectory of cognitive development by connecting her previous work in memory and bilingualism with research into socioeconomic disparities and neurocognitive development. She enjoys traveling, running, and volunteering with the Make-A-Wish foundation. 

Alexandra Ursache, PhD– Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Alexandra Ursache received her PhD in Developmental Psychology from New York University in 2014. Her doctoral research focused on the development of self-regulation in early and middle childhood, particularly within the family and school contexts of children from lower-income families. As a postdoctoral fellow in the Neuro-Epidemiology Training Program, Alexandra plans to expand her work to understand the neurobiological mechanisms of socioeconomic disparities in neurocognition with a focus on stress as a mechanistic pathway leading to differences in executive functioning and emotion regulation. She also plans to examine the role of children's neighborhood contexts.

Emily Merz, PhD– Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Emily Merz received her PhD in clinical and developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh. Her graduate research focused on executive function in children adopted from institutions (i.e., orphanages). Building on this work, her subsequent research focused on early experience in relation to the executive function and self-regulatory development of socioeconomically disadvantaged preschoolers. As a postdoctoral fellow in the NEED Lab, Emily plans to further explore the neurobiological pathways linking early socioeconomic adversity and self-regulatory difficulties.

Luciane Piccolo, PhD– Visiting Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Luciane is a visitor scholar at Teachers College, Columbia University. Originally from Brazil, she received her PhD in Psychology in 2014 with a concentration in Cognitive Neuropsychology from Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS). Her researches focuses on how early childhood experiences can affect cognitive development, especially memory, language and executive functions. As a postdoctoral fellow in the NEED Lab, she plans to expand her researches by investigating how early socioeconomic disparities shape the brain's structure.

Mayra Lemus Rangel, BA– Research Assistant, Baby's First Year Project
Mayra graduated from UCLA in 2014, and is currently in her second year as a graduate student at Columbia University in the Dual Degree Program for the Masters of Public Health and Masters of Science in Social Work, where she is focusing on health disparities and clinical work. Last year, she interned at a middle school in the South Bronx providing social work and mental health services, and before that she was involved in the creation and implementation of a training program for parents who had children with speech delays. She hopes to eventually work in Maternal Child Health, specifically around early childhood interventions and educational programs.

Elsia Obus, BA– Research Assistant, Getting Ready for School & BabBLE
Elsia, who is better known to her friends, colleagues and 4-year-old Frozen fans everywhere as "Elsa," graduated from Brown University in 2013 with a BA in Cognitive Science. Before coming to the NEED lab, Elsa taught at Match Charter High School in Boston, MA and was an au pair in Padova, Italy. She is currently applying to doctoral programs in Clinical Psychology and hopes to work as a clinician with adolescents from urban areas. She loves singing, playing the guitar and eating tiramisu! 

Jennifer Lee, BA– Graduate Research Assistant, BabBLE
Jennifer is a Clinical Psychology student at Teachers College. She graduated in 2013 with a BA in Psychological Brain & Sciences from Johns Hopkins University. She has worked at the National Eating Disorders Association as a facilitator and at the Helpline, and is currently working at the Depression Evaluation Services at the NYS Psychiatric Institute. She has a strong interest in the social determinants of health, particularly in terms of relationships between socioeconomic status, neurocognitive development, and emotion regulation in children. She enjoys working with youth to help them comprehend the significance of body health and to become active members of their communities. 

Maritza Morales-Gracia, BA– Graduate Research Assistant, BabBLE
Maritza is currently a student in Developmental Psychology at Teachers College, and received dual Bachelor's in Psychology and Human Development from CSU-San Bernardino in 2013. She is also a research assistant in The National Center for Children and Families. Throughout the course of her academic career she has worked on various projects examining relationships between SES, parenting practices, and child outcomes. Her interests are in parenting discipline techniques, child development, differences across cultures/groups, and effectively informing family policies. She enjoys extreme sports, dancing, traveling, exploring new cuisines, and family gatherings.

Kristen Gillaspy, BS– Graduate Research Assistant, BabBLE
Kristen is a student in the Neuroscience and Education program. She earned her BS at the University of Utah in Human Development. She also studied Communication Disorders at Utah State University, where she assisted with research at the School Aged Language and Literacy Lab. She has worked as a lead teacher and family advocate for Head Start, which sparked her interest in early brain and language development and how these processes are impacted by socioeconomic status and stress. After completing her MS, she plans to continue studying early brain development and neuroscience in a PhD program. She enjoys dancing, photography, and exploring the city.

Min Young Lee, BA– Graduate Research Assistant, BabBLE
Min is a second year MA student in the Developmental Psychology program at Teachers College. She graduated from Emory University in 2013 with a BA in Psychology and Sociology. Prior to joining the NEED lab, she worked as a research assistant at the Children’s and Mother’s Emotions lab, studying maternal depression as an early life stressor for infants. She also worked at the Spatial Cognition lab at Emory University studying infant transitive inference and spatial cognition. Min is interested in the effects of parenting and social determinants on children’s cognitive development, especially their learning outcomes. She is over the moon to be a member of the NEED lab.



Sam Melvin, Lab Manager, summer 2013-spring 2016

Julissa Veras, Project Coordinator, summer 2014-summer 2015

Emily Dries, Research Assistant, summer 2015

Michelle Ritz, Research Assistant, fall 2014-spring 2015

Michelle Jamison, Residency Fellow, fall 2014-spring 2015

Jessica Calihan, Research Assistant, spring 2014-summer 2014

Katherine Nash, Medical Student Scholar, summer 2014-fall 2014

Matthew Dye, Research Assistant, fall 2013-summer 2014

Amy Ralbovsky, Research Assistant, fall 2013-summer 2014

Emily Polidore-Reese, Doctoral Student, fall 2012-summer 2014

Gloria Chang, Research Assistant, fall 2013-spring 2014

Bianca Calderon, Medical Student Scholar, summer 2013-fall 2014

Samantha Moffett, Research Assistant, spring 2012-fall 2013

Laura Engelhardt, Lab Manager, summer 2011-summer 2013

Elizabeth Kaufman, Research Assistant, summer 2013

Georgia Gerike, Research Assistant, summer 2013

Lauren Sanlorenzo, Postdoctoral Residency Fellow, fall 2011-spring 2013

Suzanne Beinfeld, Research Assistant, summer 2012

Rebecca Abraham, Research Assistant, fall 2011-spring 2012

Rachel Mirkin, Research Assistant, fall 2011-summer 2012

Luke Mack, Project Coordinator, summer 2011-spring 2013

Libby Nail, Project Coordinator, summer 2011-summer 2012

Maria Quincy, Research Assistant, summer 2011

Eric Mallack,
Research Assistant, summer 2011

Laurel Bunse, Research Assistant, summer 2011

Paula de los Angeles, Research Assistant, summer 2011

Liz Victor, Research Assistant, fall 2010-summer 2011

Howard Andrews, PhD
Affiliation: Columbia University
Rachel Barr, PhD
Affiliation: Georgetown University
Adam Brickman, PhD
Affiliation: Columbia University
Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, PhD
Affiliation: Columbia University
Helena Duch, PsyD
Affiliation: Columbia University
Greg Duncan, PhD
Affiliation: University of California, Irvine
Amy Elliott, PhD
Affiliation: Sanford Health
William Fifer, PhD
Affiliation: Columbia University
Nathan Fox, PhD
Affiliation: University of Maryland
Lisa Gennetian, PhD
Affiliation: National Bureau of Economic Research; New York University
Herb Ginsburg, PhD
Affiliation: Columbia University
Cassie Landers, EdD
Affiliation: Columbia University
Katherine Magnuson, PhD
Affiliation: University of Wisconsin-Madison
Fred Morrison, PhD
Affiliation: University of Michigan, Albert Einstein College of Medicine
Michael Myers, PhD
Affiliation: Columbia University
Charles Nelson, PhD
Affiliation: Boston Children's Hospital
Brad Peterson, MD
Affiliation: Columbia University
Virginia Rauh, ScD, MSW
Affiliation: Columbia University
Elizabeth Sowell, PhD
Affiliation: University of Southern California
Ezra Susser, MD, DrPH
Affiliation: Columbia University
Amanda Tarullo, PhD
Affiliation: Boston University
Martha Welch, MD
Affiliation: Columbia University
Robin Whyatt
Affiliation: Columbia University
Hirokazu Yoshikawa, PhD
Affiliation: New York University