People

Faculty

YUKO MUNAKATA

  • Psychology, Center for Mind and Brain
Yuko Munakata is an elected fellow of the Association for Psychological Science and the American Psychological Association. Her work on child development has been funded by the National Institutes of Health since 1998, and has been published in top scientific journals and featured in The Atlantic, The Today Show, and Parents Magazine. Dr. Munakata co-edited two books on brain and cognitive development, and co-authored two editions of a textbook on computational cognitive neuroscience. She served as Associate Editor of Psychological Review, and has received awards for her research, teaching, and mentoring. She received her B.A. in Psychology and BS in Symbolic Systems from Stanford University. After earning her Ph.D. in Psychology from Carnegie Mellon University and the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition (CNBC), she conducted postdoctoral research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Brain and Cognitive Sciences. She was an Assistant and Associate Professor at the University of Denver and Associate Professor and Professor at the University of Colorado Boulder before moving to UC Davis.

​Postdoctoral Researcher

JESSE NIEBAUM

  • Center for Mind and Brain
Jesse is interested in the development of cognitive control, especially when and how children and adults decide to exert cognitive control or avoid doing so. He is currently working on projects exploring whether children and adults pay attention to how difficult cognitive tasks are, how hard they are thinking, and whether being aware of difficulty and effort influences decisions about which cognitive tasks to take on. His other projects explore whether children and adults adapt problem-solving strategies to how much mental effort potential strategies require. He’s also a proponent of open science research practices, acting as an ambassador for the Center for Open Science (osf.io/q5bnp). Jesse has a B.A. in Literature from the University of Kansas and an M.A. in Cognitive Psychology from the University of Colorado. He previously worked at the Building Blocks of Cognition Lab at the University of California-Berkeley and spent time as a visiting researcher in the Connected Minds Lab at the University of Amsterdam.

ALLISON ZENGILOWSKI

In her research, Allison is interested in how people learn, integrating cognitive, motivational, and socio-emotional perspectives for investigations of learning processes in in-person and online environments. Paying particular focus to students’ identities and lived experiences, she often employs qualitative methods in her work. She also has a passion for teaching, conducting research in her courses to help improve her pedagogy. Currently, she is working on projects with Spark Math, a multi-institutional project to develop a comprehensive system of supports for sixth grade math instruction for students from historically disenfranchised groups. Allison earned her B.A. in psychology and peace & conflict studies from Colgate University. At the University of Texas at Austin, she earned her M.Ed. specializing in quantitative methods and her Ph.D. in educational psychology, concentrating in human development, culture, and learning sciences.

Graduate Student

WINNIE ZHUANG

  • 5th year, ​Psychology​
Winnie joined the Cognition in Context Lab as a graduate student in Fall 2017. She received her B.S. in Biopsychology from Tufts University, her M.A. in Experimental Psychology from the College of William and Mary, and was most recently the Lab Manager at the NYU Infant Cognition and Communication Lab. Her past research interests included eating behaviors in adults and cognitive development in infancy. Going forward, she seeks to integrate those areas and explore the mechanisms underlying self-regulation and its development. When not in lab, Winnie can be found jogging, biking, drawing, or exploring new cuisines.

DIEGO PLACIDO

  • 3rd year, Psychology
Diego studies the heterogeneity in neurocognitive functioning (i.e., components of executive functions) and associated phenotypic behaviors by incorporating a focus on the dynamic interplay with experiences, environmental influences, and genetic biases. He is using functional and structural MRI techniques to observe adaptations in brain development across the lifespan and plans to apply computational modeling approaches to further delve into the development of certain cognitive processes related to emotional and behavioral regulation. Prior to joining the lab, Diego graduated from Brandeis University in 2015. He then continued research at Brown University to study the development of executive functions and visual attention in children and adolescents. Currently, Diego is being co-advised by Drs. Yuko Munakata and Susan Rivera.Diego studies the heterogeneity in neurocognitive functioning (i.e., components of executive functions) and associated phenotypic behaviors by incorporating a focus on the dynamic interplay with experiences, environmental influences, and genetic biases. He is using functional and structural MRI techniques to observe adaptations in brain development across the lifespan and plans to apply computational modeling approaches to further delve into the development of certain cognitive processes related to emotional and behavioral regulation.  Prior to joining the lab, Diego graduated from Brandeis University in 2015. He then continued research at Brown University to study the development of executive functions and visual attention in children and adolescents. Currently, Diego is being co-advised by Drs. Yuko Munakata and Susan Rivera.

JADE YONEHIRO

  • 4th year, ​Psychology
Jade’s work focuses on understanding how executive functions are influenced by various social and environmental factors. Her current work includes investigations into the role of parent’s scaffolding behaviors in the development of children’s executive functions, methods for supporting children’s inhibitory control across development, and the development and evaluation of social paradigms for measuring cognitive abilities.  Jade received her B.A. in Psychology and her M.S. in Experimental Psychology from Arizona State University. You can learn more about her and her research on her website: http://jadeyonehiro.com/

Lab Manager

JACK WHITE

Jack graduated with distinction from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2019 with a B.A. in Psychology and History. Prior to joining the Cognition in Context Lab in the summer of 2019, he studied the development of biases and ways to mitigate those biases at Dr. Kristin Shutts’ Social Kids Lab and Dr. Patricia Devine's Prejudice and Intergroup Relations Lab. In addition, Jack researched the development of morality through an interdisciplinary lens under Dr. William Aylward. He is interested in social and moral psychology and developing interventions to improve individual attitudes and behaviors about others and issues in society. In his free time, he likes to snowboard, surf, and skateboard. 

Research Assistant

ARHANA AATRESH

  • High School Research Assistant
Arhana joined the lab in the summer of 2021 and is currently a junior at Saint Francis High School in Mountain View, CA. She is interested in the relationship between psychology and neuroscience, especially the neural mechanisms behind psychological phenomena, as well as social and moral psychology. One of her current interests is why people interpret or react differently to language. In college, Arhana hopes to study cognitive neuroscience. Outside of the lab, Arhana is editor-in-chief of her school newspaper and is a member of the school’s leadership council, which currently addresses student mental health on campus through initiatives In her free time, Arhana enjoys hiking and biking, tending to her plants, playing piano, reading, and cooking new dishes!

YASMIN AREF

  • Undergraduate Research Assistant (2nd year), Cognitive Science Major, Political Science minor
Yasmin joined the lab in Fall 2021 and is a Cognitive Science major and Political Science minor. She is interested in learning more about cognitive development and the external factors that shape it. She hopes to apply the knowledge she gains as an RA to future roles. In her free time, she enjoys cooking with friends, tennis, and watching terrible movies.

JOYAN CYRUS

  • Undergraduate Research Assistant (junior), Psychology and Sociology
Joyan is a junior, psychology and sociology double major at UC Davis and joined the lab in the fall of 2021. Motivated by his life experiences—a former social worker who lived and worked among refugees in different countries—he very much desires to pursue a doctoral degree in clinical psychology or social psychology to empower culturally-diverse and economically-disadvantaged populations. His current research interests are centered around advancing understanding of the implicit impression, implicit biases, and impact of prolonged exposure to stress and the related neurochemicals, such as cortisol, in individuals' cognitive abilities and executive function. Joyan's chief diversions are reading, watching movies, hiking, drinking herbal tea, contemplating, and making meaningful conversations. These activities eventually will lead him to experience the state of flow. By doing so, he expects to liberate himself from deterministic concerns and to create exceptional moments.