ELSS Lab Members

Current Lab Members A - Z

Aisling 2.jpg

Aisling Davies

Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Aisling Davies is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow on the Children's School Lives longitudinal study of Irish primary schooling. Aisling's PhD on mind wandering, sustained attention, and perception was carried out at the UCD School of Psychology and was funded by the Irish Research Council. She graduated with First Class Honours for her BA in Applied Psychology from University College Cork, Ireland. On Children's School Lives, Aisling is working as a Data Scientist to coordinate and process large scale, complex survey and observation data. She is also analysing the ORACLE systematic observation behavioral data on children's momentary engagement in classrooms, with a focus on how children concentrate in different learning environments. Aisling's Postdoctoral Research Fellowship is supported by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA). 


Andrea Maynard

PhD Researcher

Andrea Maynard is a New York State permanently certified school counselor with an interest in student engagement and the development of wellbeing in the classroom. She received her B.Sc. in Psychology from St. Lawrence University,  MS. Sc. in the Psychology of Sport (with distinction) from the University of Stirling, and her Ms. Ed. in School Counseling from the State University of New York at Plattsburgh. Andrea then dedicated several years to working with middle school and high school students as both a school counselor and as a coach. Andrea is now pursuing her Phd in Children and Youth Studies at University College Dublin. For her PhD research, Andrea is investigating the impact of the Young Social Innovators' Social Innovation Education program on adolescent students' sense of purpose, civic engagement, and wellbeing. Andrea's PhD studentship is funded by the Irish Research Council's employment based fellowship programme in partnership with Young Social Innovators. 


Elizabeth Tobin

PhD Researcher

Elizabeth Tobin received her undergraduate degree in English from Fordham University in 2009.  She then dedicated her career to education working as an educational fundraiser and kindergarten teacher in Pennsylvania and New York City.  Elizabeth graduated with an MSc. in Children & Youth Studies from University College Dublin in 2018.  She completed her thesis on the “Impact of screen viewing time on Irish 5-year-olds school adjustment after the pre-school to primary school transition in Ireland” using secondary data from the Growing Up in Ireland national longitudinal study Infant Cohort.  Elizabeth is now pursuing her PhD in Children and Youth Studies at University College Dublin and is a researcher on the Children School Lives national longitudinal study. Elizabeth is co-supervised by Jennifer Symonds and her primary supervisor is Dr Seaneen Sloan. Her PhD research is on the transition from pre-school to primary school. Elizabeth's PhD scholarship is supported by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA).


Dr Giulio D'Urso

Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Giulio D’Urso is a developmental psychologist with experience in educational, clinical, and forensic psychology. He holds a PhD in Social Inclusion in Multicultural Contexts, a M.Sc. in Clinical Psychology cum laude, and a BA in Psychological Sciences, from the Kore University of Enna, Sicily, Italy; and a Postgraduate Diploma in Forensic Psychology from the Institute for the Study of Psychotherapy, Rome, Italy. His research interests concern risk and protective factors in adolescence, bullying, sexual minorities, and social inclusion. Giulio was a visiting PhD scholar at the ELSS-Lab between December 2018 and April 2019. He received the Award for Best Scientific Article 2018 from the Academy of Social and Forensic Psychology in Rome. He is a reviewer for international journals and is the Associate Editor of the Journal of Child and Family Studies. In the ELSS Lab, Giulio is conducting secondary analysis of Growing Up in Ireland and Children’s School Lives data. His Postdoctoral Research Fellowship on bullying in Irish school contexts was awarded by the Irish Research Council. 


Dr Jennifer Symonds

Associate Professor of Education

Jennifer is a developmental psychologist of education with a keen interest in helping people engage in learning, schools and societies. Jennifer holds a PhD and MPhil in Educational Research from the University of Cambridge, UK and a BA in Biological Anthropology with a minor in the History and Philosophy of Science, from the University of Auckland, New Zealand. She is a chartered psychologist with the British Psychological Society and a qualified middle school teacher. Her interdisciplinary approach facilitates cross-disciplinary collaboration with colleagues and gives her a culturally infused, biologically grounded perspective on developmental science. At the University College Dublin School of Education Jennifer is the Director of Research on the Doctorate in Educational Psychology Programme. She enjoys teaching modules on statistics, student engagement, student wellbeing and the science of learning. 

Katherine 2.jpg

Katherine Lynch

DEd Psych Researcher

Katherine received a BSc in Psychology, Queen’s University Belfast, her research explored ‘Can Shared Picture Book Reading Accelerate Pre-schoolers’ Language?’. She completed a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE), Middlesex University, teaching in mainstream and Special Education. She received a Masters in Counselling Skills & Therapeutic Communication, Ulster University (Distinction). Katherine works as an Associate Psychologist in Clinical Psychology (Children with Disabilities Service) while pursuing her Doctorate in Educational Psychology, University College Dublin. Katherine's is designing and studying the impact of an anxiety reduction intervention for children with intellectual disabilities. 

Meghan 2.png

Meghan Tuohy

DEd Psych Researcher

Meghan Tuohy is an Educational Psychology doctoral candidate. She holds a Bachelor of Education degree from Mary Immaculate College in Limerick and a degree in Psychology from Dublin Business School (DBS). The focus of her research in DBS was handedness and laterality and their relationship to general and creative intelligence. Meghan has worked as a primary school teacher and Special Education Teacher (SET) for six years in rural and urban schools in Ireland, including DEIS schools serving low-income communities. She also worked in schools of different cultures and patronages. Meghan’s research interests focus on handedness, laterality, school engagement, intelligence and social disadvantage. Meghan is taking a socio-cultural perspective on the associations between school engagement and social disadvantage. 


Tamsyn Blue

Lab Manager

Tamsyn Blue previously studied at Minnesota State University and has a background in physical and cultural anthropology. She was a volunteer for the YWCA program “Ready to Learn” which works to prepare children of immigrant and refugee families for kindergarten in Mankato, Minnesota.


Tamsyn is a research assistant on the Children School Lives (CSL) national longitudinal study of primary schooling, where she is involved in data management and processing. Tamsyn also manages the ELSS Lab, and is centrally involved in organising the Dublin 2022 conference for the European Association of Research on Adolescence (EARA). Previously, Tamsyn managed data and assisted with fieldwork on the PROSPER project. Tamsyn is interested in interventions aiming at improving children’s confidence and engagement in school.

Emeritus Lab Members A - Z


Dr Abbie Cahoon

Research Associate

Dr Abbie Cahoon is a Cognitive / Developmental Psychologist with a particular focus on child development and early childhood education. Abbie is a Research Associate at Ulster University investigating the impact of the home numeracy environment on early mathematical development on a global context. She is interested in the ways that children engage with and learn from their environments (i.e. home and/or school) and how these interactions and learning opportunities develop across educational transitions. Abbie’s doctoral thesis was titled, “Early mathematical learning: As easy as 1, 2, 3?” which focused on how pre-school children develop mathematical skills over time during their transition from pre-school to primary school education, considering social and cognitive factors that may influence mathematical development.




Allison Richards

MSc in Children and Youth Studies

Allison Richards earned her B.S. in Family Science at Towson University in May 2019. Her undergraduate research area was gender and interpretive phenomenological analysis. She is now pursuing her M.Sc. at University College Dublin in Children and Youth Studies. For her research dissertation at UCD, Allison applied feminist theory and intersectionality to the Factors Influencing Teaching (FIT) Choice model to explore why student teachers are motivated to choose teaching as a career. 


Dr Benjamin Torsney

Assistant Professor in Psychology Science in Education

Dr Ben Torsney worked with Jennifer on the Professional Student Programme for Educational Resilience project funded by the Irish Research Council between 2017 and 2019. Ben is currently Visiting Assistant Professor at Temple University, Philadelphia, USA. 

Karen Stack.jpg

Dr Karen Stack

Educational Psychologist

Karen completed her Master’s in Applied Psychology at University College Cork in 2015 and received her undergraduate degree in psychology from the Open University in 2012. She has worked as an assistant psychologist in a service for young people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) as well as in an adult mental health service. Her masters’ thesis on WISC-IV Profiles of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder in a Specialist Autism Service was published in 2017. For her doctoral research, Karen worked with multiple stakeholders to investigate the experiences of children with ASD who transition from primary to secondary school.


Nora Strasser-Burke

Student Advisor

Nora takes a social justice approach in working towards positive mental health with young people. She received a BA in Psychology from McGill University and an MSc in Child and Youth Studies from UCD. Her research at UCD was situated within the PROSPER educational intervention at local schools. The questions she explored centred on how role models might impact adolescents' conceptions of their own identities. Since completing her studies she has helped develop a more diverse and inclusive youth programme for the European Parliament. Currently she is working with adolescents in a learning and social support context, within a secondary school.

Michelle Kearns.jpg

Dr Michelle Kearns

Research Manager

Dr Michelle Kearns is currently a Research Manager with the International Rescue Committee, working on education projects targeting out-of-school adolescent girls. Prior to this she worked as a postdoctoral research fellow in the School of Education at UCD, where she collaborated with NGO Concern Worldwide on the Safe Learning Study; an evaluation of an integrated education program in West Africa. Michelle graduated with a PhD in Psychology from the University of Limerick, where she worked with Pieta House on a project focused on suicide prevention, mental health, and help-seeking in community settings. She also spent time working in the University of Queensland, Australia and Utrecht University, the Netherlands. Her research interests include social issues, group dynamics, mental health and wellbeing, stigma, gender equality and education in developing contexts.

Roisin Flanagan 2.jpg

Dr Róisín Flanagan

Educational & Child Psychologist

Róisín is an Educational & Child Psychologist working on an Early Intervention Team in a Child Disability Service (HSE). Before her professional training in UCD, Róisín earned a first class honours Bachelors degree in Primary Education and Psychology, as well as a Post Graduate Diploma in Special Education and Inclusion. Róisín also gained varied and valuable experience working as a mainstream class teacher, special education/resource teacher and as a teacher in a special class for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. As part of her teacher training, she undertook volunteer work as a teacher in Manzini in Swaziland, Africa. This experience was personally enriching and highlighted for her, the value of systemic and curricular development in education. Róisín is keenly interested in educational and developmental research. As part of her undergraduate studies in Limerick, Róisín received a ‘highly commended’ award for her research at the National Congress for Psychology Students in Ireland in 2014. This research examined the developmental trajectories of emotional perceptions and emotional responses to music across childhood. Her postgraduate research examined the effectiveness of cognitive behavioural based intervention in boosting children’s self-esteem. Roisin’s doctoral research investigated children’s use of self-talk as a strategy for coping and motivational resilience during learning. She submitted two articles for publication in 2020.


Dr Sachita Suryanarayan

Educational Psychologist

Sachita Suryanarayan graduated from UCD with a Doctorate in Educational Psychology in 2019. She has a background in Applied Psychology, with a Bachelors and Masters from University of New Delhi, India. Sachita has had research and clinical experience working in an organization providing services to individuals with autism in New Delhi. She has been an active part of programmes that promote social and inclusive education opportunities for young people with disabilities. Sachita’s doctoral research explored South Asian immigrant families’ perceptions of services for their children with disabilities, living in Dublin. Currently Sachita is working as an Educational Psychologist with the Dyslexia Association of Ireland. Outside of professional interests, Sachita is a member of an intercultural choir and enjoys travelling and hiking.

© 2019 by Jennifer E. Symonds. Home page image courtesy of Kat Jayne. 

  • Twitter
  • UCD_Image