Current Lab

Post Docs and Graduate Students

Maria Marcus


» Postdoctoral Researcher

– Engaging Engineering Experts: Facilitating Family STEM Learning in Museums and Libraries through Narrative Storytelling and Object Based Inquiry Activities
– Advancing Early STEM Learning Opportunities through Tinkering and Reflection


Raedy Ping

» Postdoctoral Researcher

– Cognitive and Neural Indicators of School Based Improvements in Spatial Problem Solving
– Neural and cognitive strengthening of conceptual knowledge and reasoning in classroom based spatial education
– Middle School Math Achievement and Spatial Skills



Emily Hollenbeck

» Sixth Year Graduate Student in Psychology

– Emily is studying the impact of the Geospatial Semester (GSS) on students’ higher-level spatial reasoning. She is particularly interested in studying the impact of geospatial technologies on spatial thinking and reasoning. Her current research examines whether participation in a year-long course on problem-solving with Geographic Information Systems promotes spatial thinking skills.



David Miller

» Sixth Year Graduate Student in Psychology

» David’s research focuses on social psychological aspects of spatial thinking and the role of spatial thinking in STEM fields. Website

    – Can a bridging visualization help chemistry students integrate observable and molecular views?
    – Removing stereotype threat substantially boosts women’s spatial performance: A meta-analysis.
    – Can spatial training improve long-term outcomes for gifted STEM undergraduates?

Naomi Polinsky

» First Year Graduate Student in Cognitive Psychology

» Naomi is interested in the way young children learn about STEM outside of the classroom, in places like museums, libraries and at-home. Currently, she is working on a collaborative project with Loyola University Chicago that takes place at the Tinkering Lab at the Chicago Children’s Museum. This current project explores how children learn to think like engineers within these spaces!
» Ongoing Research in the Lab:

Learning Engineering and Physics Through Building and Playing with Objects



Jue Wu

» Third Year Graduate Student in Learning Science

» Jue is interested in underrepresentation in STEM education. Currently, she is working on two separate but related projects:

Investigating learning experiences related to students’ decision to study STEM subjects investigating identity development of women in  computer science by looking at their participation in a student organization and how that organization supports their learning.



Yanning Yu

» Yanning is studying the role of spatial thinking in calculus understanding and problem solving, and how that might differ for experts and novices. She is particularly interested in math understanding. Learn more about Yu and her publications here.

» Ongoing Research in the Lab:
– Exploring the development of spatial and mathmatical thinking through the game of Go.



Research Assistants

Camille Msall

» Research Assistant Coordinator (2017-present)

» Camille began working for Dr. David Uttal after completing her Bachelors of Arts in Psychology at Cornell College in the Spring of 2017. She has worked as a research assistant previously over the summer of 2016, assisting with the STEM joiner’s project and the Tinkering Lab at the Children’s Museum. Her work with Dr. David Uttal primarily involves his project with Sheryl Sorby on middle school math achievement as well as his projects on the geospatial semester. Camille is specifically interested in cognitive developmental psychology and pleased to have the opportunity to explore psychology research in the Uttal Lab while deciding about graduate school.


Courtney Skula

» Third Year Undergraduate Student

» Courtney Skula is a third year undergraduate student in the Weinberg College of Arts in Sciences at Northwestern University. She is currently majoring in biology with plans to go on to dental school, and minoring in psychology. She is the secretary and director of programming in her Panhellenic Sorority, and also mentors young girls once a week. She loves to be challenged and is passionate about everything she does. Courtney began working in the Uttal lab in June of 2017, and she is excited to see where this research takes her.



Monica Juarez


» Second Year Undergraduate Student

» Juarez is a sophomore Biological Sciences major at Northwestern. She is involved in a couple different ways on campus. She love running with the Track Club, singing at Sheil Catholic Center, and getting involved with the Medical Decoder. One of her favorite subjects is psychology, so Juarez found working at the Uttal Lab as a perfect opportunity to further explore her interests in this field.



Maegan Ramchal


» Third Year Undergraduate Student

» Maegan Ramchal is a junior at Northwestern University, double majoring in biology and psychology and is on the premed track. She began working in the Uttal lab in June of 2016. She has worked on several projects, including the STEM joiner project, and the work at the Tinkering Lab at the Children’s Museum.



Lucy Kim


» Second Year Undergraduate Student

» Lucy Kim is a sophomore at Northwestern, studying Psychology, Economics, & Flute Performance. Always passionate and hardworking, she constantly seeks for opportunities that help her grow, and hopes to go further into research in psychology or to enter the business world in the future. Originally from San Jose, California, she likes to go hiking or the beach with her friends and family in her free time.

Cynthia Padilla

» Fourth Year Undergraduate Student

» Cynthia is a senior majoring in Psychology and minoring in Global Health, and on the pre-med track. She began working in the Uttal lab in Spring 2018 as part of an independent study project. Padilla has done psychological research for the Department of Medical Social Sciences at the Feinberg campus since the summer of 2017. She is a child specialist intern for the When to Worry Lab, where they investigate early identification of mental health problems beginning in infancy, characterizing atypical patterns and neural bases of ittitability in the first years of life. She aspires to be a child psychologist or neonatologist.


Risa Roth

» Second Year Undergraduate Student

» Risa is a sophomore at the University of Minnesota majoring in Child Psychology and Sociology: Law, Crime, and Deviance. She has been passionate about the field of psychology since she was in sixth grade. She is most passionate about anti-bullying efforts and hopes to open her own psychology practice after graduate school where she will mainly focus on helping current and past bully victims with their traumatic experiences and their healing process. During the school year, Risa enjoys going to the club Active Minds which helps combat the stigma of mental illness, hammocking with her friends, writing music, and going to the Mall of America.