Lab Director

Dr. Caroline Hornburg

Dr. Caroline Hornburg, an Assistant Professor of Human Development and Family Science at Virginia Tech, is the director of the Learning and Development Lab. Dr. Hornburg is also the Vice President of the New River Valley Chapter of VAAEYC (the Virginia Association for the Education of Young Children). Dr. Hornburg received her Ph.D. in May 2017 under the direction of Dr. Nicole McNeil in the Cognition Learning and Development Lab at the University of Notre Dame.  Following her Ph.D., she completed two years of postdoctoral training in the Cognition and Learning Lab at Purdue University.

Graduate Research Assistants

Jisun Kim is a PhD candidate in Virginia Tech’s Department of Human Development and Family Science. She earned her bachelor's and master's degree in Human Development and Family Studies at Seoul National University. She also worked as a lead teacher at a childcare center in Seoul, Korea. Jisun is interested in children's use of interactive media (smart speakers, video chat, eBooks, etc.) in a learning context and how to support children's effective learning with media, which is closely connected to her work at the CoDeS Lab. Combining her experience at both the L&D Lab and CoDeS Lab, she explores in her dissertation how AI smart speakers can support preschoolers' learning of mathematical language through shared book reading activities.

Isabel Valdivia is a second year PhD student in the Human Development and Family Science, Child & Adolescent Development concentration, program. She graduated from Pontificia Universidad Catolica, Chile, where she majored in Biology. After that she taught in a high school as part of Teach for Chile, part of the Teach for All network. Hoping to know more about the learning process, she went to Harvard University and got a MEd in Mind, Brain, and Education. She then opened a PK-12 charter school in a rural area of Chile meant to serve low-income students and prepare them to succeed in college by achieving academic excellency and developing socioemotional skills. Being a former Vice Principal in that school led to broadening her interest from practice to research in order to better understand how executive functions interplay with emotions throughout the learning process in childhood and adolescence.

Maegan Reinhardt is a Graduate Research Assistant in the Learning and Development lab. She is a first year Ph.D. student at Virginia Tech, studying Human Development and Family Sciences with a concentration in Child and Adolescent Development. She earned her M.S. in Speech-Language Pathology from Vanderbilt University and B.A. in English and Spanish from McDaniel College. Previously, she served public school students in pre-K through 12 grade as a speech-language pathologist, where she developed an interest in the interplay between language and development of other cognitive skills. In the Learning and Development Lab, she hopes to explore approaches that help caregivers and educators support cognitive-linguistic development in typically developing children, as well as children with disabilities.

Undergraduate Research Assistants

Elisa Lee is a junior majoring Childhood Pre-Education and seeks to pursue a career in elementary education. She plans to attend Virginia Tech's Graduate School program. She has always loved working with children and has been looking to pursue this career since she was in High School, working with many children through volunteer opportunities and jobs. This is her first year in the lab and is excited to see the differing procedures that will be taken to test different questions and theories on childhood education in the topic of Math.

Rachel Thompson is a senior majoring in Psychology and Human Development. During her third year, she voluntarily taught kindergarten at a local elementary school through a human development class. Her interest in working with children and in Cognitive Psychology drew her to the Learning and Development Lab. After graduation, she hopes to pursue a Psychology Doctorate in Clinical Psychology and later begin a career to treat families and children. 

Taylor Tuck is a junior double majoring in Human Development and Psychology with a minor in Adaptive Brain and Behavior. She joined the L&D lab because she wants to expand her knowledge of cognitive development in children and is interested in how working in a social science lab is.  After graduation, Taylor plans to attend grad school studying Occupational Therapy, and hopes to work as a pediatric occupational therapist.

Alexis Whitfield is a junior majoring in Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise as well as minoring in Disability Studies. She wanted to participate in the Learning and Development Lab at Virginia Tech to get a deeper understanding of cognitive development in children. After Undergrad, she hopes to attend graduate school in efforts to pursue a career in occupational therapy specializing in pediatrics. 

Rachel Castro is a senior double majoring in Cognitive and Behavioral Neuroscience and Psychology, with a minor in Literature. She joined the L&D lab because she is interested in working with children and learning how their cognitive processes develop. After graduation, she hopes to work towards a PhD program in Clinical Psychology or to go to law school. 

Brinn MacLellan is a senior majoring in Cognitive and Behavioral Neuroscience with a minor in Leadership and Social Change. She joined the L&D lab to expand her knowledge on cognitive development After graduation, she sees the possibility of attending graduate school to study the field of Educational Neuroscience. Her aspirations are to redesign the American education system in a more logical and effective manner in order to best cater to the needs of all students.

Lilly Nelson is a senior majoring in Human Development with a minor in Adaptive Brain and Behavior. She joined the L&D lab to expand her understanding of children's cognitive processes and the role of their environment in these processes. She is passionate about working with children and hopes to pursue a career in pediatric medicine.

Lab Alumni: Undergraduate Research Assistants

May 2023 Graduates

Saba Ahmed '23. Saba is attending graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania to get her Master's in Education.

Ninie Asad '23. Ninie is joining Dr. Geetha Ramani's lab at the University of Maryland, College Park as a lab manager.  

Gabrielle Elardo '23. Gabrielle is attending the University of North Carolina at Wilmington to pursue a Master of Social Work.

Hailey Foster '23. Hailey is taking a gap year and working at a preschool. Then, she plans to pursue her Master’s in School Counseling to become an elementary school guidance counselor.

Yullie Kwak '23. Yullie is working as a research assistant in education statistics at American Institutes for Research (AIR). 

Hannah Madren '23. Hannah is going to the University of Virginia to attain her M.Ed. in Communication Sciences and Disorders to pursue a career as a Speech-Language Pathologist.

Julia Nathanson '23.  Julia is attending Boston University to get her Master's in Child & Adolescent Mental Health Counseling.

Katie Quinn '23. Katie is pursuing her Master's in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at Fairleigh Dickinson University.

December 2022 Graduates

Marie Costanzo '22. Marie has been continuing to work as a medical scribe in the emergency department of a hospital in her hometown. She is applying to law school in the fall of 2023 to pursue Health Law.

May 2022 Graduates

Christine Berry '22. Christine is working as a Special Education Instructional Assistant in Northern Virginia, before applying to School Psychology graduate programs.

Gina DeLeo '22. Gina is attending graduate school at Virginia Tech for Elementary Education.

Katherine D'Ercole '22. Katherine is taking a gap year to focus on research experience to prepare her for a career in clinical psychology.

Beth Marsico '22. Beth is attending graduate school at Virginia Tech and getting her MAEd in Curriculum and Instruction. 

Maddi Walker '22. Maddi is working toward becoming a first-grade teacher in Georgia and planning on getting her master's in education.

Caroline Patey '22. 

Mimi Rainey '22.

Fatima Rana '22.

December 2021 Graduates

Maria Hirt '21. Maria has been working for Strategic Therapy Associates based out of Roanoke, VA. She is an Intensive In-Home Clinician. 

Elise Jensen '21. Elise is attending graduate school to receive her Master's in Clinical Mental Health Counseling.

Maria Meara '21. Maria is attending the University of Virginia's Master of Teaching in Elementary Education program.

Bri Whitmore '21. Bri is continuing her studies at Radford Carilion in their Physician's Assistant program.

May 2021 Graduates

Madison Backer '21. Madison has been accepted to VT's Counselor Education Master's program.

Kelly Brents '21. Kelly is starting coursework to continue working with children in a medical setting.

Rachel Fairchild '21. Rachel hopes to work with a non-profit or attend graduate school to pursue a career to make a positive impact on the lives of others. 

Leyao Huang '21. Leyao is getting her Master's degree in Elementary Education at Virginia Tech.

Grace VanDerMeid '21. Grace is gaining more experience before applying to a graduate school program for therapy. 

May 2020 Graduates

Lauren Bolyard '20. Lauren is a graduate student in Industrial/Organizational Psychology.

Lab Alumni: Graduate Research Assistants

Caroline Begley, M. A. (Fall '21 - Spring '22)

Dr. Shawnice Johnson (Fall '20 - Spring '21)

Dr. Sami Simpson (Fall '20 - Spring '21)

Dr. Katarina Krizova (Fall '20)