Lara Pierce, Ph.D.

Lab Director

Lara Pierce (she/her) is the director of the Pierce Experience & Development Lab and an Assistant Professor of Psychology at York University. She received her Ph.D. from McGill University and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Boston Children’s Hospital/Harvard Medical School. Lara uses developmental cognitive neuroscience tools to explore how variation in the early environment impacts the development of neural systems, particularly those supporting language. She aims to a) identify mechanisms by which specific variables (e.g., those associated with socioeconomic variation and early life stress) shape both early neurodevelopment and the early language environment, and b) explore the role that individual differences play in the development of language and cognitive abilities, and c) uncover variation in early neurodevelopment contributes to later learning. She uses tools such as electroencephalography (EEG/ERP), language recordings, and behavioural assessments in infants and children to address these questions. Lara is also a mom to the world’s most patient developmental science teacher and EEG pilot participant.

Developmental Science graduate program

Ana Badal, MA Student

Ana Badal is a master’s student in the Developmental Science area of the Graduate Psychology program at York University. She received a bilingual specialized honours BA in psychology with a concentration in neuropsychology at York University’s Glendon Campus. Ana’s research interests are focused on the neuropsychological development of infants and children from disadvantaged environments. She started working with Toronto’s homeless shelter system in 2019, building rapport with the community in hopes of developing future research projects and inspiring the innovation of current social programs. Ana is currently a research assistant for the Cognitive Health Center at York, creating a guide for young francophone volunteers helping dementia patients across the country. Ana is also collaborating with St. Micheal’s Hospital to develop protocols to better engage minority patients partaking in psychiatric treatment

Heala Maudoodi, MA student

Heala Maudoodi (she/her) is a graduate student in the Pierce Experience and Development Lab at York University. She received her HBSc from the University of Toronto, specializing in neuroscience and psychology. She recently completed her undergraduate honours thesis on how conditioned inhibition develops under varying experimental conditions while examining the neural substrates that are activated using immunohistochemistry and cFos, in the rodent model. Prior to this research, Heala completed an independent project partnered with ManyBabies, focusing on the social and moral evaluation of infants. Her current research will investigate how early language experiences and variation in socioeconomically diverse contexts shape children’s developing neurophysiology – particularly cognitive functions like memory and attention – by using electroencephalography and behavioural assessments. Besides research, Heala enjoys spending time with family and friends, cycling in newly discovered trail parks, and reading novels.

Yara Odeh, MA Student

Yara Odeh is an M.A. student working with Dr. Lara Pierce in the Pierce Experience & Development Lab. A York native, Yara has completed a B. A Specialized Honours of Psychology at York University and is now furthering her academic career at York. Throughout her beginning university years, she has always had an interest in language and developmental science with a focus on neurodevelopmental disorders such as ADHD. This led her to specialize in her bachelor’s in developmentally based fields while taking numerous language courses. Throughout the years, however, Yara, who has ADHD, has made a personal discovery on the effects ADHD has on language, as she has personally found differences between herself, who is bilingual, and individuals with ADHD who are monolingual. Through her literature review, she has found Dr. Lara Pierce. With similar interests and a shared focus, Yara has joined Dr. Lara Pierce in her work and hopes to be able to contribute to the many mysteries found within the language and developmental science field.

Rhonda Baker

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Rhonda Baker (she/her) earned her B.A., Specialized Honours Psychology degree from York University in 2022. Her thesis examined associations between early life stress, caregiver responsiveness, and child language development, and was completed under the supervision of Dr. Lara Pierce. In addition to her love for developmental science and its applications, Rhonda has a background in dance education and performance. She is a Lieutenant Governor Masterworks Arts Award Winner (2016) for her contribution and performance in an ensemble work called Canvas 5 x 5 and was nominated for a Dora Mavor Moore Award in 2014. Her dance training history includes the Martha Graham technique, Gaga Movement Language, Countertechnique, and Axis Syllabus. 

Prisha Jain, BSc

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Prisha Jain (she/her) is in her fourth year of her B.Sc., Specialized Honours Psychology degree from York University. As an undergraduate research assistant, she attends weekly meetings, gives journal presentations, and participates in EEG training techniques. She collaborates with other members of the lab to contribute to various projects in the lab.

Diana Pombo

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Diana is in her fourth year of the Bachelor of Arts specialized honours program in psychology. She has been working in Dr. Lara Pierce’s lab since January 2022 and has been working on an individual project in the lab. She is looking at how associations between socioeconomic status (SES) and language are moderated by infant temperament or frustration reactivity. In addition to her project, she is being trained to run EEG studies on infants. Diana hopes to pursue a future in clinical-developmental psychology, looking at how environments (e.g., family, education, etc.) affect children’s mental health.

Nazanin Rahmani

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Nazanin Rahmani is a fourth-year Specialized Honours Psychology student at York University. She is volunteering in three different labs at York University as a research assistant. In one lab, run by professor Cindel White, she is coding open-ended data and conducting a literature review about different types of positive emotions. The second lab is an EEG lab run by professor Lara Pierce. In the third lab, she is coding qualitative data from student surveys in professor Jorida Cila’s lab. Nazanin has a plan to continue her studies to be a clinical psychologist. She is also interested in doing research in terms of developmental psychology.  

Honey Savla, BSc

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Honey Savla (she/her) is a Research Assistant working for Lara Pierce, director of the Pierce Experience and Development Lab. Born in 2002 in Mumbai, India, Honey is a 3rd-year international student currently working towards a Bachelor of Arts (Hons.) in Psychology. She uses her strong research ability to work on literature searches aimed at exploring protective factors buffering against the effects of early life stress on neurodevelopment. She also assists in EEG data collection from infants and young adults.

Additional Lab Members:
Terrell Brown (Visiting Student Research Assistant), Angelina Heidebrecht (Undergraduate Research Assistant), Neda-Sadat Hosseinian-Ghamsari (Undergraduate Research Assistant), Reece Rabanal (Undergraduate Research Assistant), Ciara Siggins (Undergraduate Research Assistant)