Our Team

Dr. Ioulia Kovelman : Principal Investigator

Dr. Ioulia Kovelman


Principal Investigator

Dr. Kovelman is a developmental cognitive neuroscientist, and an Associate Professor of Psychology, interested in how bilingual children learn language and literacy. Her research program includes both behavioral as well as brain imaging studies of language and literacy acquisition, in typically developing children, as well as children with learning difficulties.

Visit Ioulia's Website


Dr. Xiaosu (Frank) Hu : Research Investigator

Dr. Xiaosu (Frank) Hu


Research Investigator

Frank is a research investigator at the Center for Human Growth and Development. He received his Ph.D. at Pusan National University (Korea) in Cogno-Mechatronics Engineering. His research interests include biomedical signal processing, fNIRS/EEG based brain signal detection and brain engineering (BCI). His applied work uses fNIRS to study human daily behavior accompanied brain responses, including pain evoked human brain response, different mental states while people are driving, and the pediatric brain responses during language acquisition.

He currently works for Language & Literacy Lab and Headache & Orofacial Pain Effort Lab as a Research Investigator.

Visit Frank's Website here


Valeria Caruso : Research Investigator

Valeria Caruso


Research Investigator

Valeria is a research investigator at the Center for Human Growth and Development. She received her PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience at SISSA (Trieste, Italy) working on auditory perceptual learning. She has done research at Duke University concerning 1) how the primate brain encodes spatial visual and auditory cues that help localize objects and guide movements, and 2) what encoding mechanisms allow processing multiple cues simultaneously and 3) whether similar information encoding mechanisms support language perception in humans (ongoing research). She is also interested in looking at language processing and acquisition from a developmental perspective.



Research Staff

Isabel Hernandez : Bilingual Lab Manager

Isabel Hernandez


Bilingual Lab Manager

Isabel has been working in the past year as Research Assistant and as Principal Recruiter for the Language and Literature Lab. She received her bachelor’s degree from Universidad de las Americas-Puebla UDLAP (Puebla, México).
Isabel is interested in understanding the cognitive, language processing and brain development especially in bilingual kids and her responsibilities of Research Assistant includes conducting assessments as well as other research-related task like data entry, collecting and analyzing data and as Recruiter plans and coordinates recruiting, determining the applicant qualifications by performing phone interviews with candidates, maintaining accurate records of interviews, safeguarding the confidentiality of participants, as necessary and building strong, long term, mutually beneficial relationships with the participants and the Lab.


Jessica Kim : fNIRS Lab Manager

Jessica Kim


fNIRS Lab Manager

Jessica is the current lab manager for the fNIRS laboratory. She received her Bachelor's Degree in Information with minor in Applied Statistics at UM School of Information in 2017 and has experience in data analysis and visualization. She currently assists researchers in data collection and data analysis in fNIRS.


Kehui Zhang : Bilingual Project Manager

Kehui Zhang


Bilingual Project Manager

Kehui received her B.S. degree in Environmental Engineering from Penn State University and a Master’s degree in Educational Studies from University of Michigan. She is broadly interested in bilingual literacy acquisition, children’s cognitive development and effects of early childhood interventions.



Graduate Students

Rebecca Marks :

Rebecca Marks

Rebecca is a graduate student in the Combined Program in Education and Psychology.  She graduated with Latin honors from Washington University in St. Louis in 2013, and spent a year teaching middle school math with Teach For America.  Her research focuses broadly on academic outcomes among bilingual youth.


Xin Sun :

Xin Sun

Xin is a graduate student in the Combined Program in Education and Psychology at UM. She received her B.S. in Psychology from Beijing Normal University in 2016. She is broadly interested in learning processes and language and literacy.


Nia Nickerson :

Nia Nickerson

Nia is a first year graduate student in the Combined Program in Education and Psychology. She graduated from the University of Maryland College Park with her B.A. in Psychology in the spring of 2018. Her current research interests include the influence of socialization and culture on cognitive development, brain development, and academic achievement in young children.


Alexa Ellis :

Alexa Ellis

Alexa is a graduate student in the Combined Program in Education and Psychology Program at UM. She received her B.A. in Psychology with a minor in French from UM in 2014, and her M.S. in Psychology from UM in 2015.  Her research interests include understanding the different factors that impact mathematical achievement and the cognitive processes behind mathematical development.




Dr. Neelima Wagley :

Dr. Neelima Wagley

Neelima received her Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology at UM in 2019. She conducted research in bilingual language and reading development using multimodal neuroimaging methodologies as a PhD student at UM. For her dissertation, she investigated how bilingual social context, dual-language use, and language proficiency influence children's emerging literacy skills and brain development. Currently, she is working with Dr James Booth as a postdoctoral fellow at Vanderbilt University to study language and brain development.


Dr. Maria Arredondo :

Dr. Maria Arredondo

Maria recievedher Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology from the University of Michigan in 2017. As a doctoral student, she primarily studied attention and reading development in bilingual children, using developmental cognitive neuroscience and psycholinguistic methodologies. She is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the University of British Columbia, working with Janet Werker to study infant bilingual language acquisition.

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Dr. Silvia Bisconti :

Dr. Silvia Bisconti

Silvia was a postdoctoral research fellow in the Language and Literacy Lab. She graduated from University of Padua (Italy) with a Bachelor’s and Master's Degree in Developmental and Educational Psychology. She received her Ph.D. in "Ultrastructural and Molecular Imaging" at University of L'Aquila (Italy). Her research interests include the study of the neural correlates underlying the language development in typical and atypical populations.



Want to get involved? Email kovelman@umich.edu.