Lab Researchers

Lab Song!

Lab Director and Professor

Martha W. Alibali

I conduct research at the interface of developmental psychology, cognitive psychology, and mathematics education. My primary line of research investigates mathematics learning and development, with a special focus on the role of gesture in mathematical thinking and knowledge change. I am also interested in the role of gesture in thinking and communication, particularly in educational settings.

Contact information:

Department of Psychology and Department of Educational Psychology,

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Office: (608) 262-0837


Graduate Students

Andrea Marquardt Donovan

Andrea is a doctoral student in the Department of Psychology. Her research is at the intersection of Psychology and education, with a particular interest in math cognition. Her work focuses on how children use representations, specifically their bodies, as well as manipulatives with their bodies, to learn, and how they communicate their knowledge through action and gesture. She is also interested in what information children and adults glean from other people’s bodies during learning via observation of action and gesture.


David Menendez

I’m a fifth year graduate student advised by Martha Alibali and Karl Rosengren. My research broadly centers on conceptual development. More specifically, on children’s understanding of the natural world, and how visual representations aid or hinder learning about biology. I am also interested in how socio-cultural factors influence cognitive development.


Lauren Anthony 

I am a second year graduate student co-advised by Martha Alibali and C. Shawn Green in the Cognition and Cognitive Neuroscience area. As an undergraduate at UCLA, I studied problem representation in mathematics and memory strategies. My current research investigates how students engage with patterns in mathematical contexts and the extent to which experience with patterns affects both procedural fluency and knowledge about mathematical relationships.


Victoria Jay

I am a first year developmental psychology PhD student advised by Martha Alibali. I’m a Wisconsin native who got my B.S. in Psychology & Neurobiology here at UW-Madison, and am excited to be back after receiving my M.S. in Psychology from the University of Illinois. Broadly, my interests lie in the development of systems and representations that underlie our abilities for more formal mathematics.


Rui Meng

I am a sixth year graduate student advised by Martha Alibali and Percival Matthews. My research focuses on cognitive development and cuts across cognitive, developmental, and educational psychology. In particular, I study how young children and adults understand and interpret covariation data, and its connections with other numerical and mathematical concepts.


Anna Bartel

I am a fifth year cognitive psychology PhD student advised by Martha Alibali. My current research revolves around how visual and data representations influence student understanding of algebra and statistics. Some of my most recent projects include: (a) assessing different error patterns in algebraic symbolization as a function of different diagram types, (b) investigating how graphical and textual framing cues influence problem solving accuracy and strategy use on constant change problems, and (c) exploring the effects of graphical depictions of variability in how people interpret graphs. You can find me tweeting about math, stats, and beyond at @annabartel_ .


Nicholas Vest

I am a second-year graduate student advised by Martha Alibali. My current research investigates numerical cognition with a focus on the development of abstract mathematical concepts such as zero. Additionally, I am interested in gesture and action and how our motor behaviors influence learning. Prior to graduate school, I obtained a B.S. in Psychology at Indiana University where I also worked as a lab manager for two years. You can find me on Twitter @nicholas_vest.


Emily Szkudlarek

I am a post-doctoral scholar at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research working in both the Cognitive Development and Communication lab and the Mathematics Education Learning and Development Lab with Dr. Percival Matthews. Before coming to UW-Madison, I received a B.S. in Psychology from the University of Connecticut and a PhD in Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania working with Dr. Elizabeth Brannon. I am interested in how children and adults can build mathematical understanding from concrete depictions of numerical and arithmetic concepts. Specifically, I investigate how we can perform intuitive, non-symbolic math operations as children before formal mathematical instruction, and situations where adults already expert in symbolic calculation persist in their use of intuitive strategies to solve math problems. My research explores how strong arithmetic concepts can support advanced mathematical reasoning.


Daniel Alcaraz Carrion

I am a post-doctoral fellow funded by the Séneca Foundation in Murcia, Spain, as well as a member of the Little Red Hen Lab and the Daedalus lab (University of Murcia, Spain). Before coming to UW-Madison, I received my PhD in Linguistics and English Language from Lancaster University, UK advised by Prof. Christopher Hart. My work focuses on how speakers communicate and understand abstract concepts, such as time, number and abstract magnitude, through both speech and other multimodal devices such as gestures or graphic representations. To do this, I analyze large quantities of textual and audiovisual data extracted from a TV news repository to detect speech-gesture patterns. During my time at UW-Madison, I will specifically focus on how certain speech and multimodal patterns may affect the comprehension of temporal concepts in instructional settings, as well as exploring the relation between temporal and numerical cognition in multimodal communication.


Post-Doctoral Researchers

Project Managers

Elena Silla

I am one of the project managers in the lab. The projects I am working on investigate how children think about math and whether the use of tools such as diagrams and manipulatives enhance student understanding. I am a former teacher and am now interested in developing research-based tools and techniques that can be used by educators to improve student education and hope to pursue this in later graduate studies. 


Olympia Mathiaparanam

I am a new project manager being advised by Martha Alibali and Karl Rosengren. Our research broadly investigates how visual diagrams help children learn about biological variation and aid in their understanding of biological concepts including metamorphosis, inheritance, and evolution.


Undergraduate RAs

Xinyi Liu

Shivali Zala

Zach Buehler

Hannah Alpert

Tyler Tommasi

Jessa Snower

Kylie Robinson

Grace Sutton

Sonja Lin Vaintrub

Jenna Morris

Makayla Petersdorff

Kai Sylte

Madilyn Michels

Holden Manhart

Nour Sabbagh

Lauren Smith

Lauren Kresser

Other People in the CDC Lab

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Lab Alumni (Graduate Students and Post-Docs)

Graduate Students 

Bethany Rittle-Johnson, Professor, Psychology and Human Development, Vanderbilt University

Nicole M. McNeil, Professor, Psychology, University of Notre Dame

Autumn Hostetter, Professor, Psychology, Kalamazoo College

Richard Prather, Associate Professor, Human Development, University of Maryland

Shanta Hattikudur, Associate Professor of Instruction, Educational Psychology, Temple University

Noelle Crooks, Assistant Professor, Broward College

Annie Riggs, Assistant Professor, Psychology, Western Washington University

Andrew G. Young, Assistant Professor, Northeastern Illinois University

Pooja G. Sidney, Assistant Professor, Psychology, University of Kentucky

Sarah Brown, Postdoctoral Researcher, Boston University

Amelia Yeo, Postdoctoral Fellow, National Institute of Education

Postdoctoral Researchers 

Matthew Wolfgram, Senior Researcher, Wisconsin Center for Educational Research

Rebecca Boncoddo, Associate Professor, Psychological Sciences, Centeral Connecticut State University

Virginia Clinton, Assistant Professor, Education, Health, and Behavior, University of North Dakota

Jennifer Cooper, Assistant Professor, Psychology, Stonehill College

Emily Fyfe, Assistant Professor, Psychological and Brain Sciences, Indiana University Bloomington

Christopher Osterhaus, Postdoctoral Research Associate, Munich Center of the Learning Sciences

Jose Gutierrez, Assistant Professor, Education, Culture, & Society, University of Utah

Andreas Obersteiner, Professor, Mathematics Education, Freiberg University of Education

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Lab Alumni (Undergraduate)

Undergraduate Researchers

Jaclyn Psenka (Fall 2019-Fall 2020)

Benjamin Barmore (Spring 2018-Spring 2020; Senior Thesis)

Vanesa Meneses (Fall 2017-Spring 2020)

Gill-Helene Schomaker (Spring 2018-Spring 2020)

Sarah Desch (Fall 2019-Spring 2020)

Ruby Paisner (Spring 2018-Fall 2018; Fall 2019)

Nicole Koshevatskiy (Fall 2019)

Devin Deegan (Fall 2017-Spring 2019)

Erin Condon (Spring 2017-Spring 2019)

Shaolong Xue (Spring 2019-Spring 2019)

Nadine Jessup (Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019)

Vaughn Collins (Spring 2017-Spring 2019; Senior Thesis)

Vijay Marapudi (Fall 2017-Spring 2019; Senior Thesis)

Adele Posner (Fall 2017-Spring 2019; Senior Thesis)

Helen Huang (Fall 2018-Spring 2019)

Kathryn Anderson (Fall 2016-Spring 2019)

Erika Stauss (Spring 2017-Spring 2019)

Delaney McCabe (Spring 2018-Spring 2019)

Carmen Krug (Fall 2017-Fall 2018)

Hannah Kubicki (Spring 2018-Fall 2018)

Elizabeth Moellers (Fall 2018)

Delaney Twing (Fall 2017-Fall 2018)

Morgan Gald (Fall 2017-Spring 2018)

Maggie Kotecki (Spring 2017-Spring 2018)

Nel Siemsen (Fall 2017-Spring 2018)

Jaspreet Singh (Fall 2017-Spring 2018)

Ruohan (Crystal) Xia (Fall 2017-Spring 2018)

Sarah Her (Fal 2017-Spring 2018)

Xiaoning Zhang (Spring 2017-Spring 2018)

Colleen Bruckner (Spring 2017-Spring 2018)

Hallie Martens (Spring 2017-Spring 2018)

Nidhi Deepu Rajan (Spring 2017-Spring 2018; Senior Thesis)

Alexis Hosch (Fall 2016-Spring 2018)

Haley Beers (Fall 2016-Spring 2018)

Morgan Pagenkoph (Fall 2017)

Li Cai (Spring 2017-Fall 2017)

Yanchi Gu (Fall 2015-Spring 2016, Fall 2017)

Megan Schmitt (Spring 2017)

Eartha Zhang (Spring 2017)

Sydney Bibicoff (Fall 2016-Spring 2017)

Kayla Knowles (Spring 2016-Spring 2017)

Bobbi Aubrey (Fall 2016-Spring 2017)

Yang Liu (Spring 2016-Spring 2017)

David Singer (Spring 2016-Spring 2017)

Feier Yang (Spring 2016-Spring 2017)

Cher Yang (Spring 2016-Spring 2017)

Min A Kim (Spring 2016-Spring 2017)

Aleska Kresovic (Fall 2016-Spring 2017)

Mariah Ferri (Fall 2015-Spring 2017)

Victoria Jay (Fall 2014-Spring 2017; Senior Thesis)