Lab Director

Deena Weisberg, Ph.D.

biopond portrait

✿ Dr. Weisberg is a Senior Fellow in the Department of Psychology and the principal investigator of the Cognition & Development Lab. She earned her Ph.D. from Yale University and completed postdoctoral training at Rutgers University and Temple University. Dr. Weisberg’s primary research interest is in the development of imaginative cognition. Her research investigates the nature of young children’s interactions with pretend games, fictional stories, and hypothetical scenarios, as well as the role that these imaginative processes play in development. Specifically, her current projects explore how children’s imaginative capacities can aid their nascent scientific reasoning skills. Dr. Weisberg additionally studies children’s and adults’ understanding of scientific explanations and the nature of science at the Penn Laboratory for Understanding Science.

Graduate Student

Jordan Taylor

✿ Jordan is a graduate student at Penn’s Department of Philosophy. Prior to arriving at Penn he earned a Master of Philosophy degree from the Department of Cognitive Science at Macquarie University. His main interests are the philosophy and psychology of perception and emotion, and the philosophy of cognitive science more broadly.

Lab Coordinator

Elysia Choi

✿ Elysia graduated from New York University in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology. She is interested in how children learn about the world and hopes to pursue a PhD in cognitive development in the future. In her free time, she likes to run, explore new restaurants, and go camping with her friends.

Research Assistants

Matthew Dong

✿ Matthew is in the class of 2017 at the University of Pennsylvania majoring in Psychology. He is planning to attend graduate school, but in the meanwhile is trying to take as many psychology courses as he can. He plays rugby, breakdances, and enjoys biking in the city. He is also a member of Penn Hawaii Club, Penn Faith and Action, and Penn Benjamins Peer Counseling.

Sabrina Elkassas

✿ Sabrina is pursuing a major in Earth Science with a concentration in Geology and a minor in Music at the University of Pennsylvania, graduating in 2018. She plans to attend medical school to become a physician. At the Cognition & Development Lab, she is working on a study that examines public understanding of Darwin’s Evolutionary Theory. She is on the Varsity Penn Fencing Team and in the Penn Tea Society. She enjoys listening to and playing music, calligraphy, and geology jokes – she thinks they rock!

Kelly Kennedy

✿ Kelly is a member of the class of 2017 at the University of Pennsylvania, pursuing a major in Psychology and a minor in Philosophy. Eventually she would like to work in the field of experimental psychology. In her free time, Kelly enjoys sparking intense conversation amongst her friends and dabbling in a diverse selection of music and sarcasm. She is currently the Philanthropy Chair for her sorority, Alpha Delta Pi, and an outreach coordinator for Building Bridges to Wealth, a free financial literacy and entrepreneurship course offered to Philadelphians, held at the Wharton School.

Emily Marucci

✿ Emily is in the class of 2018 studying psychology. She loves her community service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega, and especially enjoys tutoring young children. She also dedicates her time to hosting prospective Penn students through the Kite and Key society as well as consulting for non-profit social impact companies through 180 Degrees Consulting. When she is not working, she loves to run, read for pleasure, spend time with friends, and listen to music.

Joyce Pan

✿ Joyce is in the class of 2018 and pursuing a major in Nursing to hopefully become a nurse anesthetist in the future. Besides nursing, her interests also lie in Sociology and Psychology, so she hopes to learn more about each area through classes and research. At Penn, Joyce is mainly involved in SPEC Concerts, and in her free time, she loves to catch up on missed TV shows, attend concerts to explore new music, and spend time with friends.

Janis Ripoll Garriga

✿ Janis is in the class of 2019 and thinking of pursuing a major in Biological Basis of Behavior and a minor in Japanese. As an international student, she is hoping to integrate academics with the novel experience, and learn as much as possible. At Penn, she is an active member of the Shotokan Karate Club. In her free time she likes to cook and spend time with friends, as well as go for runs to stay active.

Elena Schiavone

✿ Elena is in the class of 2018 majoring in Psychology and minoring both in Biological Basis of Behavior and Religious Studies. After graduating, Elena plans on pursuing either a doctorate degree in Psychology. On campus, she serves on the executive board of service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega and is a mentor in Big Brothers Big Sisters. In her free time Elena enjoys cooking, reading, and spending time with her friends and family.

Past Staff

Jane Reznik                           Emily Hopkins, Ph.D.                                                                                                                                                Lab manager                           Post Doctoral Researcher                  


Past Research Assistants

Jill Castellano, 2016               Sirmina Dremsizova, 2017      Anjeli Elkins, 2016


Lody Friedman, 2016            Carla Hernandez, 2015           Gilana Jaffe, 2015


Candace Mariso, 2016          Connor McLaren, 2016           Divya Ramesh, 2016  


Natasha Rivera, 2015            Nate Stauffer, 2016                 Phoebe Wang, 2015


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