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

I am interested in cognitive development and mathematical learning in children. My current research investigates the role of manipulatives in children’s mathematical learning and conceptual understanding of equations, and how children express new knowledge in performance, speech 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.


Post-Doctoral Researchers

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.


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

Brendan Risen

Jessa Snower

Yicheng (Tom) Tang

Shivali Zala

Zach Buehler

Kylie Robinson

Grace Sutton

Sonja Lin Vaintrub

Jenna Morris

Makayla Petersdorff

Tyler Tommasi

Lauren Kresser

Madilyn Michels

Kai Sylte

Mingke Wang

Megan Haas

Junyan Zhu

Holden Manhart

Other People in the CDC Lab

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Lab Alumni

Graduate Students 

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

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

Autumn Hostetter, Associate Professor, Psychology, Kalamazoo College

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

Shanta Hattikudur, Assistant Professor, Educational Psychology, Temple University

Noelle Crooks, Assistant Professor, Broward College

Annie Riggs, Assistant Professor, Psychology, Western Washington University

Andrew G. Young, Postdoctoral Fellow, Thinking Lab, Occidental College

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 

Rebecca Boncoddo, Assistant Professor, Psychological Sciences, Center 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

Undergraduate Researchers

Benjamin Barmore

Vanesa Meneses

Gill-Helene Schomaker

Sarah Desch

Ruby Paisner

Jaclyn Psenka

Adele Poser

Collen Bruckner

Delaney Twing

Devin Deegan

Eartha Zhang

Erika Strauss

Erin Condon

Kathryn Anderson

Li Cai

Morgan Gald

Morgan Pagenkopf

Olivia Borglin

Vaughan Collins

Vijay Marupudi