Lab Staff

Portrait of Anna Bechner

Anna Bechner, Research Laboratory Manager
B.S. Ed., Marian College (Early Childhood Education)

My background includes teaching and research experience with families and young children in childcare, preschool, and the elementary school level. As a teacher I became very interested in understanding how children’s emotional experiences affect learning, behavior, and socio-emotional development. In my current role, I manage laboratory projects focused on examining early life stress and poverty, and the effects these emotional experiences have on child development, with the goal in mind of developing intervention strategies for at-risk children and families.


Saideeka Jones, Research Specialist
BA 2022, Rutgers University (Psychology)

I am interested in how children’s upbringing, socio-economic status, and culture play a part in their long-term outcomes in life. Most know that certain circumstances make it harder for some children to succeed than others, but what is less clear is what allows some to reach expected life markers versus others who seem to fail and/or develop mental disorders due to a lack of emotional wellness. I hope to work towards unearthing more information on this subject.


Abbie Klein, Research Specialist
B.A., 2020, University of Chicago (Psychology & Comparative Human Development)M.A., 2021, Northwestern University (Clinical Psychology)

My goal is to bridge the gap between developmental-clinical research and policy application. I am interested in translating knowledge about the mechanisms and socio-contextual factors that influence adverse mental health outcomes and resiliency into trauma-informed interventions for at-risk youth. Specifically, I aim to engage in research that optimizes the way children and their families interact with welfare agencies and the justice system.



Tingyan Liu, Research Specialist
B.S., 2022, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (Psychology)

I am interested in researching how parental traits and early childhood experience exert positive and negative impacts on children’s emotional development with the goal of providing the best support for caregivers and creating environments that foster healthy child development. In addition, I intend to focus on how the field can disseminate and increase access to research findings on children’s emotional development to the general public through traditional and social media.


Ashley Ruba, Postdoctoral Fellow
B.A., 2013, Duke University (Psychology)
Ph.D., 2019, University of Washington (Developmental Psychology)

I am interested in how emotion concepts develop throughout the lifespan, particularly in infancy and early childhood. My current research examines (a) what infants and young children understand about others’ emotions, and (b) how language-dependent and language-independent learning processes influence emotion concept development. Overall, my research aims to bridge gaps between affective science and developmental psychology.


Portrait of Karen Smith

Karen Smith, Postdoctoral Fellow
B.A., 2011, Univeristy of Chicago (Psychology)
Ph.D., 2018, University of Chicago (Psychology)

I am interested in understanding individual differences in psychophysiological responses to stress, especially experiences of early life stress. Specifically, my research centers on elucidating the role of reciprocal interactions between physiological processes and affective states in children’s responses to stress, with a focus on how children’s perceptions of environmental demands shape their responses to stress. This work aims to identify protective factors that can aid in the development of targeted, effective interventions for at risk children and families, through enabling a more comprehensive understanding of the mechanisms contributing to individual differences in responses to stress.