Brianna McMillan, Graduate Student

B.S., 2008, University of Arizona (Psychology)

M.S., 2012, University of Wisconsin-Madison (Psychology)

I am interested in the dynamics that both hinder and facilitate early word learning in children. Currently I am studying how children learn words in environments where there are multiple people talking. While it is not uncommon for children to learn words in a complex auditory environment, the extent to which this complexity hinders or helps the development of language still remains uncertain.

Chris Potter, Graduate Student

B.A., 2008, Stanford University (Psychology & Spanish)

M.S., 2012, University of Wisconsin-Madison (Psychology)

I am interested in the differences in acquiring first and second languages, particularly with respect to individual variability in learning. How does adults’ learning differ from children’s? Why is it that some adults seem to have a harder time than others when they try to learn a second language and how does this ability relate to other cognitive skills?


Tianlin Wang, Graduate Student

B.S., 2005, Nankai University (Physics & Psychology)

I am interested in how infants use phonological cues in language learning. My current research focuses on how babies and adults behave when they are in language environments that are linguistically different from English, i.e., a tone language. I am co-advised by Jenny Saffran and Mark Seidenberg.


Jenny Saffran, Principal Investigator

College of Letters & Science Professor of Psychology

Ph.D. 1997, University of Rochester

How do children acquire their native language? My research focuses on the kinds of learning abilities required to master the complexities of language. Three broad issues characterize my work. One line of research asks what kinds of learning emerge in infancy. A second line of research probes the biases that shape human learning abilities, and the relationship between these biases and the structure of human languages. A third issue concerns the extent to which the learning abilities underlying this process are specifically tailored for language acquisition. Related research concerns infant music perception, and the relationship between music and language learning.

Phone: (608) 262-9942
Office: 528 Psychology

Ron Pomper, Graduate Student

B.A., 2011, Stanford University (Human Biology)

M.S., 2014 University of Wisconsin, Madison (Psychology)

Word learning involves more than just being able to identify an object.  For example, apples can be eaten, are fruits, grow on trees, and come in different colors.  I am interested in studying how children learn these other dimensions of a word’s meaning.  My current work focuses on whether children have difficulty flexibly shifting between these different dimensions of a word’s meaning and if this difficulty relates to other developing cognitive skills like attentional control.

Martin Zettersten, Graduate Student

1st St.ex., 2013, Heidelberg University (Mathematics, Linguistics, Psychology)

M.S., 2014 University of Wisconsin, Madison (Psychology)

Children learn about the world in a rich social environment where they are constantly interacting with other adults and children. How does growing up in a social world help children learn language? How does social interaction structure language input and motivate children to learn to communicate using language? In my research, I explore how social context and children's learning mechanisms and biases work together in language development. I am co-advised by Jenny Saffran and Gary Lupyan.

Janine Mathee, Undergraduate Student

I am a senior this year, majoring in Communication Sciences and Disorders with a certificate in Education and Educational Services. I hope to eventually go on to grad school and become a Speech-Language Pathologist, and of course work with kids! My main interest in speech and hearing sciences has to do with the incredible and fascinating ways that children acquire language. And I am especially interested in how children with intellectual/developmental disabilities and/or hearing loss overcome those challenges and learn language in their own unique ways. I'm looking forward to learning from everyone in this lab and from these fascinating children and their incredible abilities.

Viridiana L. Benitez, Postdoctoral Research Associate

2008 University of Houston, B.S. (Psychology)

2013 Indiana University, Ph.D.  (Developmental Psychology)



Learning about the world requires making sense of the large amount of information that surrounds us. How do we attend to the right kinds of patterns that promote learning? How does this process change how we learn new information?  My research focuses on understanding the interaction between attention and learning processes in infants, children, and adults. I study this interaction in the context of word learning, and by examining how learning experience and development change attentional abilities. 

Allison Hare, Undergraduate Student

I am a junior majoring in Psychology and Biology, with a certificate in global health. I hope to go to graduate school in a psychology- or biology-related discipline one day, or to medical school to become a pediatrician. I have always loved working with children in many areas of my life including volunteering at schools, day cares, churches, or children’s hospitals, so the Infant Learning Lab seemed like the perfect opportunity to combine my interest in psychology with my love of children. I hope to make the most of my time here at the lab both through learning as much as I can about how children accrue knowledge of language and their language abilities, as well as contributing to what we already know about this area of developmental psychology.

Sarah Oakley, Undergraduate Student

I am a junior majoring in Psychology with a certificate in Criminal Justice. I have always loved working with kids, especially in my roles as a nanny, summer camp director, and a research assistant in the Infant Learning Lab! As for my interest in language development, I am interested in the acquisition of sign language in infants and young children. After graduation, I plan to attend graduate school in hopes of earning my Ph.D. in psychology. My career aspirations include conducting developmental research in psychology and working with juveniles in the criminal justice system.

Lizzie Hoff, Undergraduate Student

I am a junior double majoring in Psychology and Sociology. Following my undergraduate years, I plan to further my education in clinical psychology, specifically with children. I have worked with children of all ages with a range of abilities. Through my work as a nanny and many volunteer opportunities, I have developed a deep interest in the development of children. I look forward to being actively involved in research at the Infant Learning Lab!

Rachel Reynders, Lab Manager

B.A., 2015, University of Wisconsin-Madison (Psychology)

Phone: (608) 263-5876


Office: 501 Waisman Center

Jackson Stearns, Undergraduate Student

I am a junior majoring in Psychology with a certificate in Criminal Justice. I am also a United States Army ROTC Cadet, and when I am done with my undergraduate schooling I will be an officer in America's military. I have worked as a lifeguard and as a 2nd and 3rd grade Sunday school teacher, and in all of my experiences with children I have always been surprised at how intelligent and capable they are. I look forward to continuing to explore the capabilities of children as a research assistant here at the Infant Learning Lab.

Kayla Gardner, Undergraduate Student

I am a sophomore double majoring in Psychology and Human Development & Family Studies. I plan on attending graduate school after undergrad and I want to work with kids! I have always been fascinated by children and love observing the way they interact with their environment, particularly infants who are learning new information at such a rapid rate. The Infant Learning Lab is my first step into the world of psychology research and has been a great experience. I love watching the senior lab members discuss their projects and get excited about what they are working on. It also gives me ideas of aspects of child development I may want to study in the future!

Jaclyn Johnson, Undergraduate Student

Hello! I am a junior studying Communication Sciences and Disorders with a certificate in Leadership. I have always had a passion for children and I am especially interested in how they learn and acquire language! In the future, my goal is to become a Speech Language  Pathologist in a hospital setting.  I am very excited to be apart of the Infant Learning Lab to further my interest in children and gain hands-on research experience! 

Xuechun Liu, Undergraduate Student

I am a junior majoring in psychology and statistics. I love spending time with kids and I am always fascinated by the "magical" thoughts they come up with. I may pursue further education in social psychology or applied psychology and I believe the patterns adults use to communicate with others can always be related to his/her thoughts in childhood or babyhood. Babies express themselves by interacting with other people or the environment and language learning is a big and important part of the interactions. The Infant Learning Lab is the start for me to closely get involved in psychological research. I am looking forward to devoting my enthusiasm and exploring babies' incredible capabilities together in the Infant Learning Lab.

Ariadna Arias, Undergraduate Student 

I am a Sophomore majoring in Psychology with a certificate in Chicano and Latino Studies. My current plan involves me going to grad school to become a Clinical Psychologist. Since I am at the beginning of furthering my education post high school I am exploring different options I have going into the psychology field. I hope to learn about language acquisition and how to conduct research. I am very excited to be a part of the Infant Learning Lab Team!

Ellen Breen, Graduate Student

B.S. 2015, University of Wisconsin-Madison (Communication Sciences & Disorders)

From a very early age, infants are able to track patterns and make sense of their auditory environment. I’m interested word learning and the mechanisms that allow babies to learn the sound structure of their native language. I worked in the Infant Learning Lab as an undergraduate research assistant and am thrilled to return as second year graduate student in UW’s speech-language pathology program.