Our Director


Ece Demir-Lira, Ph.D.

Director - Development, Experience and Neurocognition Lab

Assistant Professor - Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences/Pediatrics

Dr. Demir-Lira received her PhD from the University of Chicago and completed her postdoctoral work at the University of Chicago and Northwestern University. Her research program is aimed at understanding how early environmental and biological factors interact in predicting children's academic outcomes - in both typically-developing children and children with atypical developmental trajectories. Her work leverages a diverse array of methods, including naturalistic parent-child observations, experimental designs and neuroimaging methods (MRI, fMRI and fNIRS). Representative publications can be viewed on GoogleScholar.

Email: ece-demirlira@uiowa.edu
Office: PBSB 275
Résumé/Curriculum Vitae: PDF icondemirlira_cv_aug22.pdf



Research Coordinator

Laura Evans

Laura is the Lab Coordinator for the DEN lab. She graduated from the University of Iowa with a degree in neuroscience. She hopes to pursue a career in researching how different native languages shape social interactions. In her free time, she enjoys drawing, dancing, jiujitsu, singing and songwriting.

Graduate Research Assistants

Ying Li

Ying is a PhD student in the cognition program. She is interested in better understanding the mechanisms underlying neural synchronization between children and their caregivers, especially fathers. She used to do research with monkeys in her master's program- so she posted the photo of a cute monkey and a tiny herself. Another picture was taken in the Forbidden City - her favorite place in Beijing. In her free time, she enjoys swimming, reading, and spending time with friends and family.

Email: ying-li-1@uiowa.edu

Paige Nelson

Paige is a PhD student in the individualized training program, with a focus in developmental science. She is interested in studying plasticity in the developing brain and specifically neurocognitive development in children born premature. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, reading, and spending time with friends and family. 

Email: paige-nelson@uiowa.edu


Francesca Scheiber

Francesca is a Ph.D. student in the clinical psychology program. She is interested in studying socioeconomic differences in early childhood experiences that influence children’s academic, cognitive, and socioemotional outcomes. In her free time, she enjoys time with family and friends, travel, and yoga. 

E-mail: francesca-scheiber@uiowa.edu


Ashby Martin

Ashby is a first-generation graduate student pursuing his PhD at the University of Iowa. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in Neuroscience and Behaviors at the University of Notre Dame, and he is driven by a passion for aiding others and extending aid through scientific inquiry and research. He has a specific targeted research focus on neurocognitive  development in disadvantaged populations across the lifespan as well as on bilingualism. In previous years, he has been involved in animal model work for WNT-targeted Alzheimer's Disease research (at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile) as well as Rare Disease Research (specifically Leukocoria-related diseases and limited but recent work on PP2R5D-related disorders). 

Email: ashby-martin@uiowa.edu

Undergraduate Research Assistants

Sabrina Brown

Sabrina is a neuroscience major with a minor in gender, health, and health care equity. She is planning on going to graduate school and pursuing a career in neuroscience research. In her free time, she enjoys reading and listening to music.




Hayley Bassett

Hayley is pursuing a BA in Psychology on the Pre-Medicine Track with a minor in Sports Studies. In her free time, she enjoys playing sports, travelling, and spending time with her family and friends. 

Isabelle Farmer

Isabelle is pursuing her B.S. in Neuroscience. She is interested in research of the brain, especially with the usage of brain imaging techniques.  Being the eldest child in her family on all sides, she has been surrounded by children ever since she can remember! She is very excited to work with the DEN lab to interact with children and learn more about the brain/behaviors. In her free time, she likes to golf or play with her dog, Daisy!

Callahan Morton

Callahan is a sophomore pursuing her B.S. in Psychology with a minor in French. She is interested in studying maternal and infant mental health. She plans to go to graduate school for Psychology. Callahan can’t imagine not working with children! She loves spending time with family, babysitting, reading about the brain, and baking when she isn't studying. She is overjoyed to be a member of the DEN Lab!

Isabel Goetz

Isabel is an undergraduate at the University of Iowa pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience with a minor in Psychology. She is on the pre-med track and hopes to attend medical school for neurology or neurosurgery. Isabel has been volunteering with people of all ages for as long as she can remember and is excited to continue this passion at the D.E.N. lab. In her free time, she enjoys watching movies, listening to music, baking, hanging out with friends and family, participating in outdoor activities, and playing with her three dogs and cat.

Paras Bassuk

Paras Bassuk (they/them) is pursuing a Psychology B.S., Human Rights Certificate, and Spanish minor. They are interested in the psychology of gender, developmental disparities, bilingual psycholinguistics, and DEI in research. In their free time, Paras is involved in LGBTQ+ community organizing and advocacy, photography and videography, and playing music.

Talia Halleck

Talia is pursuing a BS in psychology and minors in human relations and philosophy. She currently plans on going to graduate school for psychology.  In her free time, she enjoys watching movies (usually at FilmScene), reading, and playing the clarinet.

Bedoor Alasfoor

Bedoor is an international first-generation student from Kuwait who received a Bachelor of Science in Psychology with a minor in Human Relations from the University of Iowa. Outside of the DEN Lab, Bedoor advocates for survivors of sexual violence. She is planning on going to graduate school to pursue a career in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. In her free time, she enjoys reading and hanging out with her cat Desmond.



We also have many wonderful research collaborators:

  • Bob McMurray (University of Iowa)
  • Kelli Ryckman (Indiana University)
  • Dan Tranel (University of Iowa)
  • Allison Momany (University of Iowa)
  • Lane Strathearn (University of Iowa)
  • Amy Conrad (University of Iowa)
  • Jing Jiang (University of Iowa)
  • Ilaria Berteletti (Gallaudet University)
  • Tilbe Göksun (Koç University)
  • Aylin C. Kuntay (Koç University)
  • Susan C. Levine (University of Chicago)
  • Susan Goldin-Meadow (University of Chicago)
  • Steve Raudenbush (University of Chicago)
  • Steve Small (University of California - Irvine)
  • James R. Booth (Vanderbilt University)

Graduates of the DEN Lab

We are proud of and miss our RAs who graduates from the DEN and went on to accomplish bigger and better things!:

  • Haley Laughlin (PhD Student, University of Houston)
  • Nateshia Wilson (Doctorate of Medicine, Meharry Medical College, Nashville, Tennesse)
  • Raquel Gomez (Doctorate of Medicine, Stony Brook University)
  • Julianne Maxwell (PhD Student, Indiana State University)
  • Sam  Clingan-Silverly (PhD Student, University of Iowa, College of Education)
  • Megan Schumer (Research Technician Associate, University of Michigan, Department of Psychiatry and Neuropsychology)
  • Annamaria Iarrapino (Masters Student, Chicago School of Psychology)
  • Emily Sones (Masters in Counseling, University of Iowa) 
  • Alexis Potocki (Recruiter, Motion Recruitment)
  • Andrew O'Neill (Digital Marketing Specialist, Clickstop Inc.)
  • Shania Enriquez (Direct Support Professional, Independent)
  • Stephanie LeBlanc