Abbie Cahoon is a cognitive and developmental psychologist with a particular focus on child development and early childhood education. She is interested in the ways that children engage in schools and the environments around them, children’s rights and well-being and how these develop across educational transitions. Abbie’s doctoral thesis “Early mathematical learning: As easy as 1, 2, 3?” 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. Abbie received her B.Sc. (Hons) in Psychology from Ulster University.
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. In her current research, Allison is working collaboratively with Andrea Maynard on a study of teachers' perceptions. Allison's focus is on the connections between creativity, flow, and motivation in secondary school classrooms.
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. Andrea is supervised by Jennifer Symonds and is working to promote student engagement and wellbeing through the enhancement of the PROSPER intervention.
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.
Dr Jennifer Symonds
Associate Professor of Education
Jennifer is a developmental psychologist of education with a keen interest in helping young 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.
DEd Psych Researcher
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 is working with multiple stakeholders to investigate the experiences of children with ASD who transition from primary to secondary school.
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 is interested in hearing the voice of vulnerable young people and intervention development. Katherine enjoys learning to climb, cold water swimming and exercise.
DEd Psych Researcher
Róisín received a first class honours B.ED. in Education and Psychology from Mary Immaculate College in Limerick. As part of her undergraduate studies in Limerick, she 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. Róisín has varied and valued working experience in rural, urban and specialist education settings having worked as a mainstream class teacher, special education/resource teacher and as a teacher in a class for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Róisín also has experience working as an Assistant Educational Psychologist; tutoring children with specific learning difficulties and in preparing and providing study skills courses for children with dyslexia entering second level education. Her doctoral research investigates children’s use of self-talk as a strategy for emotion regulation and engagement during learning.
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.
As a research assistant, Tamsyn is mainly involved in the Children School Lives (CSL) national longitudinal study of primary schooling, for which she is entering and organising data. She has also 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 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.
Giulio D'Urso received a M.Sc. in Clinical Psychology cum laude and is now attending a PhD course at Kore University of Enna in Social Inclusion in Multicultural Contexts, supervised by Prof. Ugo Pace. During Giulio’s undergraduate studies, he focused on the attitudes toward sexual minorities and the cognitive schemas of sexual offenders. Now, he is specializing on developmental and educational psychology and social-forensic psychology. His research interests concern the analysis of risk and protective factors connected to atypical behaviors (e.g., bullying, problematic eating behaviors, new addictions, sexual offense) and typical ones (school transitions), especially in adolescence. He has developed different inter-disciplinary studies collaborating with researchers and experts from different universities (e.g., University of Palermo, Sapienza University of Rome, LUMSA, and University College Dublin). Giulio was a visiting PhD scholar at the ELSS-Lab between December 2018 and April 2019.
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.
Dr Michelle Kearns
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.
Dr Sachita Suryanarayan
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.