Our Team

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.

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-emotional learning & teaching research into her early education classes, teaching theater, math, and Russian. She is also fascinated with the power of mindset and meditation to transform emotional reactions and stories we tell ourselves. In the future, she hopes to go into Educational & Community Psychology to further support parents and early educators. Outside of 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 interests include teacher demographics and the influence it has on SEL in preschool settings. She is also interested in the ways schools can incorporate SEL into lesson plans to promote growth in children. Besides helping out at the SETL lab, Amber also volunteers at UI Health and works as a CNA at an assisted living facility. Her spare time is spent exploring the city, going to concerts, and hanging out with her family and friends.

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!

Amy Terry

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Amy is a third-year student at the University of Illinois at Chicago majoring in Psychology with a minor in sociology. After graduating, she intends to get her master’s degree in developmental psychology in order to become a pediatric developmental psychologist. She is interested in the mental health of children and wants to work with children with developmental disabilities. When not busy with classes, research or work, she enjoys watching scary movies with friends and reading books.

Marriah Williams

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Marriah is a third-year psychology student at UIC. She is interested in the ways that adults impact childhood development, particularly how we cultivate leaders and active members of society. Another interest of hers is how various sources of information received by children impact their well-being and decision making processes throughout life, especially in a time that is increasingly technologically centered. She believes that this is crucial to building a better world that can be continually improved by future generations. Outside of the lab Marriah loves to explore new places and try new food.

Kareena Shah

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Kareena is a first-year student who is majoring in Urban Education and minoring in Psychology. Over the summer, she works as a teacher's assistant for children ranging from 15 months to 6 years old over the summer at a Montessori. Kareena is ambitious and self-determined in different ways of her life. She is very keen to see how to apply the various techniques in the lab such as how to form interpersonal relationships with both her students and their families. As a first-year, she hopes to implement the things she learns in her future classroom. She knows that each individual is different and that one size does not necessarily fit all. Beyond her research interests, she is found reading, writing, hanging out with family, or getting a meal with a friend.

Lab Alumni

Monica Estrada

Emily Shi

Vanessa Adan

Rebbeka Carmona

Mary Jacobson

Claire G. Christensen, Ph.D.

Taylor Koch

Shruti Kumar

Ana Mandrapa

Taylor Duke

Raveena Kingra

Laura Nicholson

Phil George

Stephany Rico

Julia Bates

Samantha De Souza

Lynn Weishaupt

Kristina Nguyen

Mayson Trujillo

Tania Rodriguez

Diamond Harris

Nikki Magnuson

Xue Jiang, M.A.

Jasmina Ejupovic

Elana Thomas

Want to Join the Team?

Research Opportunities

UIC Undergraduate Students

If you enjoy spending time with children, have a strong work ethic, and are in good academic standing, think about joining our energetic team.

Email setl@psch.uic.edu 

Prospective Graduate Students

Dr. Zinsser will be accepting applications for graduate students in the UIC Ph.D. program for Fall 2018.

Email Dr. Zinsser for more information or check out the program web page. Students with interests in applications of child clinical psychology in educational or family settings are especially encouraged to apply. 

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

©2018 by SETL Lab. Proudly created with Wix.com