Research Group

ChangShereen Chang works on philosophical issues in nonhuman animal cognition research, and in particular, what we can learn from nonhuman animal minds about concepts and cognition more generally. She’s especially interested in the cognition of birds, with special emphasis on parrots, who share many social and cognitive traits with humans and other primates. One of my current research projects investigates the status of single-subject studies in cognitive ethology, in which exemplary animals perform impressively complex tasks. I suggest that there are various ways in which local facts extracted from research in the cognition of individual animals can be resituated as general knowledge into other domains. You can learn more about Shereen here.

Choi Elysia

Elysia Choi is the research coordinator for the Penn Laboratory for Understanding Science. She also coordinates Dr. Deena Weisberg’s developmental psychology lab, the Cognition & Development Lab. She 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.

ElkassasSabrina Elkassas 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!

EsserSteve Esser received an MA in philosophy from the University of Pennsylvania in 2014.  His research interests include causation, scientific explanation and the philosophy of biology.



KennedyKelly Kennedy 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.

KovakaKaren Kovaka’s research areas are philosophy of biology, philosophy of science, and environmental ethics and policy. In the philosophy of biology, she is interested in the foundational concepts and processes of evolution, most particularly in debates about the concepts of inheritance and biological individuality. She also studies the interface between science, science policy, and public understanding of science, including how public opinion about environmental issues such as climate change may be sensitive to widespread misconceptions about the nature of science. Learn more about Karen here.

MetzEmlen Metz is a 5th year doctoral student in psychology working with Jon Baron and Angela Duckworth on the development of actively open-minded thinking in adolescents, particularly how they think about conflicting ideas. She is interested in how people use multiple frameworks of explanation and evidence for deciding what to believe and how to live, and wants to develop tools to help people manage their multiple frameworks more effectively. Public conceptions of evolution offer a particularly compelling case study of conflict between two frameworks of explanation that offer two different origin stories, Creation and Natural Selection. In hopes of better understanding the similarities and differences between lay, scientific, and philosophical epistemic frameworks, she is also pursuing a concurrent Masters in philosophy. Learn more about Emlen here.

PatelRaj Patel is a PhD student in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, PA. He received an MPhil in the History and Philosophy of Science from the University of Cambridge in the UK in 2014. Before that, he worked at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in Washington, D.C. on issues relating to privacy and security, amongst other things. Some of this work culminated in publications that can be found herehere, and here. His research interests are in the history and philosophy of science and technology, and political philosophy. He’s particularly interested in issues at the intersection of these two research areas. Learn more about Raj here.

SantanaCarlos Santana is a philosopher of science working in the philosophy of linguistics and the philosophy of biology. He studies in particular: How those sciences use and misuse formal and computational models, what linguistics and biology have to contribute to the study of cultural evolution, and the relevance of scientific theories to important practical questions, such as the role biological science should play in environmental conservation. Learn more about Carlos here.


Matt Bateman

Wiebke Deimling

Scott Edgar

Alkistis Elliot-Graves

Javier Guillot

Kory Johnson

Matthew Katz

Richard Lawrence

Emily Parke

Jane Reznik

Shijian Yang


Steven Kimbrough

Tania Lombrozo

John Matthewson

Ryan Muldoon

Ken Reisman

Daniel Singer

Deena Weisberg