Brain Science Speakers
Read more about the experts that comprise ReadyNation's Brain Science Speakers Bureau
Professor of Psychiatry; Professor of Psychology; and Director, Psych Location: UNC Hospitals - Chapel Hill
Dr. Aysenil Belger, PhD is Professor and the Director of Neuroimaging Research in Psychiatry, and Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Adjunct Associate Professor in the Radiology Department at Duke University and the Duke-UNC Brain Imaging and Analysis Center. Her research focuses on studies of the cortical circuits underlying attention and executive function in the human brain, as well as the breakdown in these functions in neuropsychiatric and neurodevelopment disorders such as schizophrenia and autism. Dr. Belger combines functional magnetic resonance imaging, electrophysiological scalp recording, experimental psychology and neuropsychological assessment techniques to explore the behavioral and neurophysiological dimensions of higher order executive functions. Her most recent research projects have focused on electrophysiological abnormalities in young autistic children and children, adolescents and adults at high risk for schizophrenia. Her research also examines changes in cortical circuits and their physiological properties in children and adults at high-risk for psychotic disorders.
Education and Training:
- B.S., Psychology, Ege University, Izmir Turkey
- M.A., Physiological Psychology, University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana
- Ph.D., Physiological Psychology, University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana
- Postdoctoral Training, Yale University, School of Medicine, Department of Neurosurgery and Biophysics, Biochemistry and Biomedical Engineering
Daniel Busso is a psychologist and researcher at the FrameWorks Institute, where he uses social science research to investigate patterns of public thinking about social and political issues, including child development, adolescence, health, and the economy. His past research used cross-disciplinary approaches to explore the social determinants of mental illness in children and adolescents. He focused on emotional, cognitive, and neurobiological mechanisms that underlie the association between childhood maltreatment and child and adolescent mental disorders.
Earlier, Daniel worked as a secondary school teacher in the United Kingdom and as an educational consultant in Uganda and the United States. He holds a BSc in Psychology from the University of Bath, England, an MSc in Cognitive Science from University College London, and master’s and doctoral degrees in Human Development from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Joel M. Evans, M.D., a board-certified OB/GYN and international physician educator, is the Founder and Director of The Center for Women’s Health, where he practices Integrative Gynecology and Functional Medicine. He is also the Chief Medical Officer of HealthPointe Solutions, which specializes in the use of Artificial Intelligence in Health Care. Dr. Evans was honored to speak at the United Nations in March 2013 on the topic of Prenatal Origins of Violence, and he serves as UN Representative and Chief Medical Advisor for OMAEP – World Organization of Prenatal Education Associations. His book on the holistic approach to pregnancy, The Whole Pregnancy Handbook (Gotham, 2005), has received widespread critical acclaim and media attention.
Dr. Evans is currently the Medical Director of the Association for Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Health. He was an Assistant Clinical Professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Women’s Health at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine from 2002 to 2014. He is a Founding Diplomate of the American Board of Holistic Medicine and is recognized as the first physician in Connecticut to be Board Certified in both Integrative Medicine and Obstetrics and Gynecology. He has a special interest in Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer, and as a National Speaker for both Phenogen Sciences and Myriad Genetics, brings the latest information on cancer risk assessment and prevention to his patients.
Dr. Evans serves as a peer reviewer for the journals Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine and Global Advances in Health and Medicine and served on the editorial advisory board of Bottom Line/Women’s Health for its entire publication run. He is a member of the senior faculty of two of the most recognized and prestigious teaching institutions in integrative medicine: The Center for Mind/Body Medicine and the Institute for Functional Medicine. In 2011 he was the external lead physician in the creation of the IFM Advanced Practice Module in Hormone Health and continues to serve in that role. He is a former Director of two nationally known organizations focused on pregnancy, Childbirth Connection and the Association for Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Health. Dr. Evans also helped create a clinical study at Columbia University Medical Center on the use of the herb black cohosh in breast cancer, which was presented at the 2001 Annual Meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncologists and later published in their journal. He recently co-authored (2014) a chapter in the textbook Women’s Mental Health across the Lifespan.
Having pursued studies in spirituality, metaphysics, and personal transformation for many years, Dr. Evans has recently created a core curriculum designed to share ancient spiritual wisdom with others in order to help bring health and happiness into their lives.
Professor, Division of Neonatology
Director, Center for Neurobehavioral Development
Neonatologist, Institute of Child Development
Michael K. Georgieff, M.D., holds the position of Professor of Pediatrics and Child Psychology, Director of the Division of Neonatology and Executive Vice Chair of the Department of Pediatrics. He received his M.D. from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. He served his internship and residency at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. He followed with a residency in neonatology at the University of Pennsylvania and at the University of Minnesota.
In addition to attending on the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Dr. Georgieff is director of the NICU Follow-up Clinic and director of the Center for Neurobehavioral Development. Dr. Georgieff’s research focuses on fetal/neonatal nutrition, specifically, the effect of fetal/neonatal iron nutrition on brain development and neurocognitive function. He has published in numerous journals, including American Journal of Physiology, Pediatric Research, Journal of Nutrition and Journal of Pediatrics. He has written and contributed to a number of book chapters and has over 200 published papers.
- Medical School, Washington University
- Residency, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
- Fellowship in Neonatology, University of Pennsylvania, University of Minnesota
Jamie Hanson is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Pittsburgh. He earned his Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he combined information from the fields of child development, biology, education, and clinical psychology. After finishing his degree in Wisconsin, Jamie received additional postdoctoral training at Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is interested in understanding how children and adolescents learn about their environment, how the brain circuitry involved with learning may be impacted by stressful experiences, and how these brain changes may confer risks for negative outcomes.
Jamie’s interest in learning was in no small part inspired by his mother, Helen Hanson. Helen was a Philadelphia public school teacher for over 40 years, working primarily with special education students in low-income communities. Dr. Hanson’s primary goal is to increase knowledge about the neurobiological effects of early life stress, with that hope that such information could aid in predicting and preventing stress-related, negative outcomes in education and mental health.
Brenna Hassinger-Das, Ph.D., is a postdoctoral fellow with Dr. Kathy Hirsh-Pasek in the Department of Psychology at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She received her Ph.D. in Education from the University of Delaware under the mentorship of Dr. Nancy C. Jordan.
Her research examines children’s play and learning in home, school, and community contexts, particularly for children from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. Her areas of expertise encompass executive functioning, early number sense, and vocabulary acquisition. She is particularly interested in investigating the role of play and games for learning. She is committed to translating her research for use by the public through community-based research projects as well as blog posts and commentaries featured in outlets such as The Huffington Post, NewsWorks.org, and as well as additional local outlets.
Sloka S. Iyengar, Ph.D.
Sloka S. Iyengar, PhD is a neuroscientist, and has investigated mechanisms that cause neurons to generate and sustain spontaneous seizures. For her graduate work, Sloka used electrophysiology to study epileptic circuits; as a postdoctoral fellow, she studied neurogenesis (the birth of new neurons in the adult brain) in the hippocampus. She also conducted clinical trials for people with epilepsy. Sloka is also a science writer and contributes regularly to websites to make neuroscience research more accessible to non-scientists. She also advocates for increased neuroscience funding on Capitol Hill. Presently, she works as a healthcare consultant at Boston Strategic Partners, and as faculty at the American Museum of Natural History. Sloka is also a professional dancer, and loves to swim.
Laura Jana, MD
Pediatrician, nationally-acclaimed author, educator and health communicator, Dr. Laura Jana finds connections across disciplines and crystallizes big ideas into far-reaching, real world applications.
In her current role as Associate Research Professor at Penn State Prevention Research Center, as well as consultant to numerous academic, government, nonprofit, and corporate clients, Dr. Jana is committed to and has become highly skilled at navigating the traditionally siloed worlds of academia, medicine, publishing, and commerce. What she’s seen is a bevy of great minds circling the same topics from different angles. As a translator of ideas and facilitator of dialogue, she’s on a mission to change the public conversation about both the skills and the strategies needed for success in the Digital Age.
Having first received a BS Degree in Cellular-Molecular Biology, Dr. Jana earned her MD from Case Western Reserve University and completed her pediatric residency at UCSF and Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital. After several years in private pediatric practice, she co-founded The Dr. Spock Company – one of the first online health sites – in the late 1990’s, and subsequently her own company – Practical Parenting Consulting, which has since become Jana Ventures, LLC and broadened its scope. She most recently served two years as Director of Innovation at the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s College of Public Health.
Dr. Jana is nationally recognized for her more than two decades worth of ongoing efforts to promote healthy lifestyles for children and practical parenting advice to new and expectant parents. Currently a contributing blogger for US News and World Report, she has appeared on The Today Show, CNN, NPR, Good Morning America, ABC News, NBC News and Fox News and has been quoted extensively in outlets such as Time, People, WebMD, Parents magazine, The New York Times and USA Today. Dr. Jana serves as a media spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics, and has served on their national Executive Committee for Early Education and Child Care.
Increasingly, Dr. Jana has been dedicated to innovatively addressing the earliest and most urgent needs of children locally, nationally, and globally – especially those living in poverty. Dr. Jana is particularly focused on collective impact, technology-driven innovations in health and education, social impact finance, and fostering cross-collaborations to improve the well-being of children, families and communities. She serves as a strategic consultant for and collaborates with such entities as the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, ReadyNation, the All Children Thrive Network, and MIT Media Lab’s Emerging Worlds initiatives.
Dr. Jana served as founder and 9-year owner/operator of Primrose School of Legacy – a premier 200-student educational child care center in Omaha and was the recipient of a 40 Under 40 Business Award. She has authored six books, including her latest titles, The Toddler Brain: Nurture the Skills Today That Will Shape Your Child’s Tomorrow (DaCapo, Feb 2017), and a companion children’s book, Jumping into Kindergarten (NCYI, July 2017). Previous titles include two award-winning parenting books published by the American Academy of Pediatrics - Heading Home with Your Newborn: From Birth to Reality and Food Fights, as well as three children’s books - It’s You and Me Against the Pee; Melvin the Magnificent Molar (NCYI) and Amazing Me: It’s Busy Being Three (for the CDC’s Learn the Signs. Act Early campaign). She is also well recognized for her many years as parenting expert for Omaha’s NBC affiliate, WOWT-6, the Omaha World Herald, and Omaha’s top-rated drive-time morning talk radio program, as well as her involvement in the community.
- Assistant Professor in the Linguistics and Cognitive Science Department at the University of Delaware, and Research Scientist at Haskins Laboratories.
- Post-Doctoral Research Fellowship at Haskins Laboratories affiliated with Yale University working with Dr. Nicole Landi and Dr. Ken Pugh.
I am fundamentally interested in the neural mechanisms that support language (monolingual or bilingual, signed or spoken), reading and cognitive development across the lifespan. My research asks questions such as how does early life experience change the brain’s capacity for language and learning? I use MRI and functional Near Infrared Spectroscopy (fNIRS) neuroimaging technology in combination with genetic and behavioral analyses to gain new insights into the biological underpinnings of language, reading, and human cognition.
My research also develops novel data analysis approaches to functional neuroimaging data. My work uses combinations of multivariate statistics and modeling to quantify developmental changes among interacting brain systems that give rise to language and higher cognitive functions.
- PhD in Psychology and Neuroscience, University of Toronto (Advisor: Dr. Laura-Ann Petitto)
- Research internship with National Science Foundation Science of Learning Center - Visual Language and Visual Learning Center (VL2) - Brain and Language Laboratory (BL2) at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C.
- MA in Linguistics, University of Western Ontario
- BSc in Biology, University of Toronto
Susan Huganir Magsamen is a learning sciences expert. She has created social impact programs and products for private and public sector ranging from birth to aging adult populations. Susan has over 35 years of experience bringing academic research to practice to maximize learning, health and wellness through scalable initiatives. Additionally, Susan is an entrepreneur who has founded and sold two learning companies to publicly traded companies. ￼
Susan Magsamen is currently the Senior Advisor on Community Partnerships at the Science of Learning Institute at Johns Hopkins University. She guides and advises the institute on developing and maintaining strategic partnerships to advance the mission of connecting science to practice. Susan’s approach to creating effective learning models—at home, after school, and in the community—combine interdisciplinary, evidence-based research with practical, applicable ideas and programs. She brings together scientists, educators, parents, psychologists, advocates, policymakers, educational media, technologists, and others to share their perspectives and expertise on education, family life, and other topics. Then, through a series of communications platforms (books, radio programs, websites, workshops), Susan shares this insight and ideas to inform and inspire families. Her most recent project, Curiosityville, is a personalized digital learning world for young children and their families.
Catherine Monk, Ph.D
Dr. Catherine Monk is Associate Professor in the Departments of Psychiatry and Obstetrics and Gynecology at Columbia University, where she is also Director of Research at the Women’s Program. Dr. Monk earned her PhD in clinical psychology at the City University of New York and completed a NIMH postdoctoral fellowship in the Psychobiological Sciences. She spends the majority of her time doing research and also sees patients experiencing perinatal depression, anxiety, or other emotional challenges related to pregnancy and parenting.
Dr. Monk’s research focuses on the earliest influences on a child’s development, those that happen in utero, and the potential for early prevention of mental health problems. Her work concentrates on the intersection of perinatal psychiatry, developmental neuroscience, and developmental psychobiology. Several of these projects are funded by the National Institute of Mental Health.
She has received many professional awards including the Scholar Award from the American Psychosomatic Society, the Scientist Research Award from the Sackler Institute, and the Klerman Honorable Mention for Outstanding Research from the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression.
Dr. Monk’s research has been published in many top tier science journals including Biological Psychiatry, the American Journal of Psychiatry, Journal of Child Psychiatry and Psychology, Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Infant Mental Health Journal, Archives of Women’s Mental Health, and Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology. She has also contributed chapters to books including The Oxford Handbook of Perinatal Psychology. Her work has been featured in many mainstream news outlets such as Time Magazine and The Washington Post.
￼Dipesh Navsaria, MPH, MSLIS, M.D. is an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. He practices primary care pediatrics at a federally-qualified health center in South Madison. He is the founding medical director of Reach Out and Read Wisconsin and the founder and director of the Pediatric Early Literacy Projects at the University of Wisconsin.
With respect to education, Dr. Navsaria is heavily involved in advocacy training for the pediatric residents and medical students and is frequently involved in medical student and physician assistant education from the clinical arena through myriad small group and lecture formats. He is also the director of the MD–MPH program at the University of Wisconsin. He regularly writes op-eds on health-related topics, does radio and television interviews, and frequently speaks locally, regionally and nationally on early brain and child development, early literacy, and advocacy to a broad variety of audiences. He also has a modest professional presence on social media.
Born in London, England and raised in New York City, Dr. Navsaria attended the Bronx High School of Science. His undergraduate education was at Boston University, majoring in Biology and English Literature. He completed a Master’s in Public Health at Boston University and Physician Assistant training at The George Washington University in the District of Columbia. He practiced as a pediatric physician assistant in East Central Illinois before attending medical school at the University of Illinois in Urbana. During his time there, he also completed a master’s degree in library and information science at the University of Illinois, focusing on children’s librarianship. He then completed his residency in pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics.
Dr. Navsaria also does some work in the common-sense, intelligent application of technology to practical projects and situations. As a devoted user of Apple hardware for over twenty years, Dr. Navsaria also cares deeply about visual presentation and typography — information should be clear and beautiful in how it is passed on. He lives in Madison, Wisconsin with his family. He has a lovely, supportive wife and two children. They not only put up with his sense of humor, they encourage it! Well, at least his wife does — his teenage children now just roll their eyes.
Committed to understanding how basic science can translate into busy primary-care settings via population health concepts and policy initiatives, Dr. Navsaria aims to educate the next generation of health care providers in realizing how their professional roles include being involved in larger concepts of social policy and how they may affect the cognitive development of children.
Soojin Oh Park is an assistant professor in Early Childhood and Family Studies at the University of Washington (UW) College of Education. She is a core faculty member of the Learning Sciences and Human Development and the Education, Equity, and Society programs, and an affiliate faculty of the West Coast Poverty Center.
Her work seeks to advance educational policy and practice that address issues of racial and socioecnomic equity in early learning opportunities for children from low-income, immigrant, and nondominant communities. Dr. Park studies the effects of early childhood programs and public policies on children’s development. Her work is centered on improving the process features of quality in early learning environments that promote cognitive and language skills, and examining how these mechanisms of program impact differ for children from diverse socioeconomic, linguistic, and cultural backgrounds. She draws on theories and methods from psychology, sociology, and public policy to refine understanding of “active ingredients” for early learning and development—the nature and quality of the relationships children have with their parents and other important people in their lives.
Early childhood quality improvement efforts often include attention to classrooms but much less on the role of families and communities. Jointly funded by the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (# 90YR0049/02) and the Julius B. Richmond Fellowship from the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, she conducted a secondary analysis of a large-scale randomized study of Head Start of a nationally representative sample of preschool children. To this work, she examined parental investment in early learning and family routines as mechanisms for explaining program impacts on children’s learning. An interesting finding from this study was the larger impact of Head Start for Latino parents of Spanish-speaking DLLs, and the mediation effects of program on vocabulary and reading differed by children’s language status.
Applying her work to global contexts, she collaborated with Hirokazu Yoshikawa, the Yale Child Study Center, and UNICEF to conduct a process evaluation of the implementation of a multisectoral early childhood policy in Cambodia, and co-authored a policy brief on the systemic challenges to expanding access and improving quality in early care and education, at scale. Policy recommendations from this brief was incorporated in the Royal Government of Cambodia’s inaugural National Action Plan on Early Child Care and Development.
During her tenure on the Editorial Board for the Harvard Educational Review, she has chaired a special issue, Immigration, Youth and Education (Fall, 2011) and co-edited a book, Education for a Multicultural Society (2011). Exploring the intersection of developmental psychology and public policy, she co-authored chapters for the volumes Handbook of Early Childhood Development Programs, Practices, and Policies (Wiley, 2016), The Impact of Immigration on Children’s Development (Karger, 2012), and Handbook of Early Literacy Research (Guilford, 2010).
Prior to her faculty appointment at UW, Dr. Park completed a summer research fellowship at the National Research Center on Hispanic Children and Families. She holds a BA and a M.S.Ed. from the University of Pennsylvania, an Ed.M. and an Ed.D. from Harvard University.
- Ed.D., Human Development and Education, Harvard University, Graduate School of Education
- M.Ed., Educational Policy and Management, Harvard University, Graduate School of Education
- M.S.Ed., Early Elementary Education with Pennsylvania State Grades PreK-4 Teacher Certification, University of Pennsylvania, Graduate School of Education
- B.A., Psychology, University of Pennsylvania
￼ Jennifer M. Zosh, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Human Development and Family Studies at Penn State University’s Brandywine campus where she received the Distinguished Teaching Award. As the Director of the Brandywine Child Development Lab, she studies how infants and young children learn about the world around. Her areas of expertise and publication include playful learning, the impact of technology on children, working memory, mathematical cognition, and language acquisition. Notably, she was a co-lead author on a recent (2015) publication in Psychological Science in the Public Interest about putting education back in educational apps through the application of research in the science of how children learn. She presents at professional meetings including: the Society for Research in Child Development, International Congress on Infant Studies, National Academy of Sciences Children and Screens colloquium, International Mind Brain and Education Society, and others.
A major driving force in her career is dissemination and translation of scientific discoveries to the public via blogging and media appearances. This translational work has appeared on The Conversation, PBS Parents, The Huffington Post, the Brookings Institution, the Joan Ganz Cooney Center, NPR Radio Times, Fox29 news, and beyond. She is also involved in the dissemination of developmental research through her involvement with Living Laboratories embedded in children’s museums and her roles on advisory boards for organizations (e.g., Ultimate Block Party, Urban ThinkScape). She received her Ph.D. in Psychological and Brain Sciences from Johns Hopkins University.
- Zosh, J.M, Hirsh-Pasek, K., Golinkoff, R.M., & Dore, R.A. (2017). Where learning meets creativity: The promise of guided play. In. R. Beghetto & B. Sriraman (Eds.). Creative contradictions in education: Cross disciplinary paradoxes and perspectives (pp. 165- 180). New York, NY: Springer International Publishing.
- Zosh, J.M., Hirsh-Pasek, K., Golinkoff, R.M., & Parish-Morris, J. (2016). Learning in the digital age: Putting education back in educational apps for young children. In Encyclopedia on Early Childhood Development.
- Zosh, J. M., Hassinger-Das, B., Toub, T. S., Hirsh-Pasek, K., & Golinkoff, R. (2016). Playing with mathematics: How play supports learning and the Common Core state standards. Journal of Mathematics Education at Teachers College, 7, 45–49.
- Zosh, J.M., Verdine, B., Fillipowitz, A. Golinkoff, R.M., Hirsh-Pasek, K., & Newcombe, N. (2015). Talking shape: Parental language with electronic vs. traditional shape sorters. Mind, Brain, and Education, 9, 136-144.
- Hirsh-Pasek, K., Zosh, J.M. (*joint first authors), Golinkoff, R., Gray, J., Robb, M., & Kaufman, J. (2015). Putting education in “educational” apps: Lessons from the Science of Learning. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 16, 3-34.
- Zosh, J.M. & Feigenson, L. (2015). Array heterogeneity prevents catastrophic forgetting in infants. Cognition, 136, 365-380.
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