Trainees (2023–2024)

Hayes Brenner

Hayes Brenner is a PhD student in the ecological psychology department at UConn. His research interests are focused on modeling rhythm perception using nonlinear dynamics, and determining differences in rhythm perception and production between Autistic and Neurotypical populations. He received his Bachelor’s from Vanderbilt University in 2017 with a double major in Engineering Science and Psychology. He enjoys playing guitar, reading, and rock climbing.

Richard Dube

Richard Dube is a senior at the University of Connecticut pursuing dual degrees in mathematics and physics, as well as a master’s in mathematics. He is especially passionate about High-Energy Particle Physics (HEPP) and Physics Education Research (PER). He is currently developing python-based learning modules to teach high-school and undergraduate students about the data analysis methods used in HEPP experiments. In his free time, he enjoys baking, chess, and keeping fish tanks.

Sarah Gilmore

Sarah Gilmore, originally from Scotland, UK, is a Doctoral student in Educational Psychology, and is also working towards a Graduate Certificate in Cognitive Science. Sarah has 15 years of international elementary teaching experience, a Masters in Educational Leadership and Management, and extensive experience in teacher learning and professional development. With a background in technology integration and transdisciplinary, concept-based curriculum and instruction, Sarah is interested in supporting educational access, equity, and teacher research engagement through mixed-methods research into adult learning through technology and instructional design.

Fun Fact: Sarah has two young children, studied Music at undergrad, and used to be a professional Thai boxer.

Andrew Henreid

Andrew Henreid, MPH, EMT-B is a Ph.D. student in the Perception, Action, and Cognition (PAC) program of the Department of Psychological Sciences at UConn. He is chiefly interested in the cognitive systems that shape human behavior, especially in the contexts of education, health care, and public health. The goal of his research is to develop and utilize theories of psychology and cognitive science to investigate the role of perception, motivation, and intelligence (human & machine) in behavioral processes across multiple disciplines.

Jie Luo

Jie completed her Master’s degree in Developmental and Educational Psychology at the State Key Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience and Learning, Beijing Normal University in July 2021. She is currently pursuing a PhD under the supervision of Prof. Fumiko Hoeft. Her research interests lie at the intersection of cognitive neuroscience, clinical psychopathology and translational work in education. The driving force behind her involvement in the Transcend programme stems from a deep-seated desire to bridge the gap between cognitive neuroscience and educational practice. Her primary goal in joining the Transcend programme is to receive training in educational neuroscience and to develop skills that will enable the effective translation of research findings into accessible knowledge for the general public. By acquiring these skills, she intends to make a meaningful contribution to the learning disability community, which holds an important place in her academic pursuits.

Kristin Simmers

Kristin (Kris) Simmers is a PhD student in Learning Sciences. Her research interests how findings from Mind, Brain and Education (MBE) can inform teacher education and preparation. She holds an M.S. in Elementary Education, M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction, with specializations in multilingualism and learning support. Kris taught for 16 years in Central America, Europe and Southeast Asia prior to joining UConn. 

Michael Vaccaro

Mike began his journey at the University of Connecticut as an undergraduate civil engineering student in 2017 and later continued as a graduate student in 2021. Now, Mike is a 3rd-year Ph.D. student in Structural Engineering. His pursuit of a graduate program was driven by his life-long passions for teaching and learning and, even though his engineering research is largely focused on structural dynamics, Mike’s passion and ultimate career goals lie within academia and teaching. His passion for education has led him to join his advisor, Dr. Arash E. Zaghi, in artificial intelligence (AI)-based research promoting new paradigms for learning with the ultimate goal of making STEM education more accessible to all types of learners.

A lifelong learner himself, Mike’s interests push beyond the conventional boundaries of civil engineering, AI, and the educational sciences and extend far into other fields, including meteorology. Throughout his life, he has nurtured a fascination for education, weather, and structures. Ultimately, his career aspires to uniquely integrate these three interests with the goal of making unparalleled contributions to academia as a multi-disciplinary researcher and a devoted educator.

Martina Villa

Martina is a graduate student in the Landi Lab where she tries to detangle the genetic and environmental mechanisms by which we (fail to) learn to read. When looking at the role of neural development in these mechanisms, she’s interested in integrating multiple imaging techniques to observe brain functioning at a high temporo-spatial resolution.
Having dyslexia, she cares that research on reading disabilities is accessible to those who struggle to read and she engages in outreach and community building activities.
On a Sunday, you can find her enjoying my favorite band: Harshana and the Dysclaculic Trio.

Faith Wariri

Faith Wariri is a Ph.D. student in computer science and engineering at UConn. Her research interest focuses on using AI and Machine Learning to solve real-world problems such as enhancing learning experience of children with mental health challenges and neurodiversity. Faith holds a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from University of Benin, Nigeria and master’s in data science from City, University of London, UK as a fully funded Chevening scholar. She is a 2018 Mandela Washington fellow and a Changemakerxchange fellow amongst others. Faith combines academic excellence with a desire to make a positive difference in society. Other things about Me: In 2016, Faith founded an organisation aimed at mentoring and empowering adolescent girls to pick up interest in STEM as well as build their confidence. She has mentored over 1000 girls both physically and virtually. She co-authored a book with her husband.

Ty Wrenn

Ty (he/him) researches social learning in rats and is interested in everything to do with memory, learning and social contexts that promote learning. He loves science outreach, reading, soccer and is very passionate about his community.