University of Illinois at Chicago
Department of Psychology
1007 W Harrison St, Rm 2044  (M/C 285)
Chicago IL, 60607

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Kate Zinsser, Ph.D.

Principal Investigator

Dr. Kate Zinsser is an Associate Professor of Psychology. She received her B.A. from Smith College in Northampton Massachusetts and her Ph.D. from George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. She currently teaches in the Community & Prevention Research doctoral training program at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Dr. Zinsser’s research focuses on the quality of early childhood environments, especially the ways by which adults promote young children’s social and emotional competence and well-being. Her work examines early childhood teacher-child interactions, classroom processes, instruction quality and emotion socialization practices that promote children’s social success, positive development, and achievement. She is especially interested in studying systems and policies that impact young children’s learning (e.g., recent preschool expulsion legislation, child care providers’ workplace experiences and well-being, and equity and inclusion in quality care). She is a former post-doctoral fellow of the National Academy of Education, former Associate Editor of Early Education & Development, and was named a Rising Star by the Association for Psychological Science. Her work has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Institute for Education Sciences, the Spencer Foundation, and the Society for Community Research & Action. Dr. Zinsser has also consulted with the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), and the PBS Kids Network.

 

When not in the lab, Dr. Zinsser enjoys spending time with her family cooking, hiking, and exploring Chicago.

Tito Ponce

Project Coordinator

Tito currently serves as the Project Coordinator for the UIC SETL lab. He obtained his bachelor’s degree from UIC in 2017 with a major in applied psychology and minors in Spanish and public policy. His research interests broadly lie at the intersection of cognitive science and design; specifically, how physical and experiential design can influence learning, well-being, and social policy. When he’s not trouble shooting a technical issue or beautifying a PowerPoint, Tito enjoys jogging along the lake or drinking a glass of wine while testing out a new Korean sheet mask.

Courtney Zulauf, A.B.D.

Graduate Research Assistant

Courtney is a doctoral student in Clinical Psychology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her research focuses on evaluating pathways to peer victimization and aggression. She is especially interested in the role of SEL to decrease this problem behavior. Before coming to UIC she worked in the pediatric psychopharmacology department at Massachusetts General Hospital and earned an honors degree in psychology and applied statistics from the University of Michigan.

Vinoadharen Nair Das, M.A.

Graduate Research Assistant

Vinod is a doctoral student in Social Psychology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. His research focuses on methods to improve teaching and learning using Social Emotional Learning (SEL). Taking into account how this type of research is limited in higher education, his future goal is to fill that particular gap. For example, he measures students' academic development and their social & emotional well-being by incorporating interventions such as personalized feedback and much more. Vinod graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, he enjoys playing soccer and giving people unsolicited life advice.

Callie Silver, M.A.

Graduate Research Assistant

Callie is a doctoral student in Community Psychology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her research interests are focused on understanding and enhancing various facets of early childhood education in attempts to improve future child and family outcomes, especially in low-income and disadvantaged populations. More broadly, she is interested in studying the long-term benefits of quality education and social and emotional learning interventions to inform policy. She graduated from Cornell University with a major in human development and minors in law and society, policy analysis and management, and inequality studies.

Luz Torres, M.Ed.

Graduate Research Assistant

Luz is a doctoral student in Community Psychology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She is interested in learning more about education policy, teacher preparation programs, and family involvement in the preschool setting. She is also interested in learning more about teacher resilience, job satisfaction, job attitudes and current emotional regulation strategies in classrooms. She obtained her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). As an undergraduate student, she majored in psychology and minored in nutrition. Following that, she returned to UIC to obtain her master’s in early childhood education and Professional Educator License (PEL) with special education and English as a Second Language (ESL) endorsements. During her spare time, Luz enjoys cooking, running outdoors, encouraging others and reading on personal development.

Christen Park, M.A.

Graduate Research Assistant

Christen is a doctoral student in Community Psychology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her broad research interests are studying the contextual and relational influences of children and youth development to advocate for the well-being of children, their families, and the communities they grow up in. Currently, she is interested in asking the question of what practitioners do well with children that create real and lasting change. Before coming to UIC, she worked at the Erikson Institute with the New Schools Project. She obtained her bachelor’s degree from Miami University of Ohio in psychology and a master’s degree in child development from the Erikson Institute.

Qaswa Hussaini

Graduate Research Assistant

Qaswa is an incoming doctoral student in Community Psychology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She received her bachelor’s degree from UIC in 2018, with a major in applied psychology and a minor in philosophy. Her research interests center around the relationship between teachers' self-awareness, mindset, and perception of control on the emotional well-being of both teachers themselves and also students. Coming from a family of teachers, Qaswa understands the profound impact that teachers have on their students. Qaswa enjoys watching foreign movies and cheering for the winning soccer team.

Ruby Toledo

Post-Baccalaureate Research Assistant

Ruby currently works as a Teaching Fellow for the Department of Psychology at UIC. She graduated in 2018, receiving her bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago with a major in psychology and a double minor in sociology and criminology, law and justice. She hopes to further her education in psychology in order to work with servicemen, women, and their families. When not at UIC, she enjoys being with her family, reading, and baking.

Janette Zaragoza-Estrada

Post-Baccalaureate Research Assistant

Janette recently graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago with a major in psychology and a minor in economics. Her interest in developmental psychology was peaked after growing up with younger siblings and cousins and working at a daycare during the summer. She is interested in learning more about teacher and student emotional well-being and its implications for the student’s future. Janette enjoys spending time with family and friends, listening to music, and taking walks during her free time.

Rebbeka Carmona

Post-Baccalaureate Research Assistant

Rebbeka recently graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago with a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in applied psychology. She hopes to pursue a master's degree in clinical counseling or pursue a Psy.D. in clinical psychology. She would like to work with adults to understand more about emotion regulation and mindsets. Her leisure activities include playing tennis, practicing yoga, and reading. 

Velisha Jackson

Post-Baccalaureate Research Assistant

Velisha recently graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago with a Bachelor of Arts majoring in psychology. She transferred to UIC after earning her Associate of Arts at Harold Washington College. She aspires to become a school counselor to help youth create a strong socioemotional foundation that they can build upon throughout their lifetime. She also has a passion for the mental health of marginalized populations and aims to spark change in those communities. Her hobbies include listening to music, playing video games, and reading Facebook comments.

Uli Solovieva

Post-Baccalaureate Research Assistant

Üli is a recent Neuroscience graduate from UIC. She is thrilled to implement insights from social emotion development research into her early education teaching practice. She is fascinated with the power of mindset and meditation to transform emotional reactions and hopes to go into Clinical Child Psychology in the future. Outside the lab you can find Üli writing poetry, doing yoga, and painting outdoors.  

Amber Singh

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Amber is a third-year student at UIC majoring in psychology on the pre-med track. Her research interests lie in interpersonal relationships built between families, students, and teachers along with the profound impact they have on learning experiences. In her own life, learning has always been held at a high regard because of her parent’s placement of significant value on education. As immigrants, her parents view education as a gateway to an abundant amount of opportunities they did not have, but their children can end up having. Without their endless support in all school-related endeavors, Amber and her siblings would be directionless. In her free time, Amber enjoys watching all sorts of movies, listening to Billie Holiday, and spending time with her family.

Caroline Lee

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Caroline is a third-year student at UIC studying pharmacy. She is interested in learning more about the psychology of young children, especially those who may be going through difficult situations like foster care or suddenly being put in adoption centers, and how it affects their future. She hopes to be able to apply this to further research into medicines or drugs that are used for children. In her free time, she enjoys baking and is always on the lookout for a new bakery or café to try.

Danalyn Garcia

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Danalyn is a fourth-year student at UIC majoring in psychology and minoring in disability and human development. She plans to go to graduate school for occupational therapy where she would like to become a pediatric OT focusing on children with autism, developmental/learning disabilities, and/or children's mental health. Further in the future, she wants to get her Ph.D. in disability studies in hopes of doing more research/educating future minds on creating a more inclusive society and ultimately help people with disabilities live more independently. In her free time, she likes to read books, eat out with friends, and play with her dog!

Mary Jacobson

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Mary is a third-year student at the University of Illinois at Chicago majoring in psychology. She is interested in research in psychology involving emotional health and is eager to learn more about social and emotional well-being in children, which she understands is a key part of healthy development. Beyond her research interests, she enjoys making art and experiencing the city.

Monica Estrada

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Monica is an undergraduate student at DePaul University studying Psychology with a concentration in Human Services and a minor in Spanish. Her main research interest includes social and emotional learning in youth and education. She looks forward to studying clinical child psychology or developmental psychology in a doctoral program after she graduates from DePaul.

Lab Alumni

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