Lab Alumni

  • Allison Aaron

    Speech Language Pathology

    Allison Aaron was part of the Vanderbilt Music Cognition as a Speech-Language Pathology graduate student at MGH Institute of Health Professions. She graduated from Bucknell University in May 2016 with a B.A. in Vocal Performance and Psychology. At Bucknell, she completed a thesis on vocal health research at undergraduate institutions. She was a member of the Bucknell Opera Theater, President of Beyond Unison, co-ed a cappella, and a member of the Camerata choir. 

    In addition to working in the Music Cognition Lab in 2016/2017, she was a member of the Nashville Symphony Chorus, the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine’s a Cappella group, the Radial Grooves, and she taught Hebrew school at West End Synagogue.

  • Jason Antwi


    Jason Antwi was part of the lab as an undergraduate student at Vanderbilt. He studied Neuroscience with a minor in Corporate Strategies. With nearly 16 years of music training and experience and a curiosity in cognitive processes, the Music Cognition Lab sits at the intersection of both of his passions. Jason hopes to attend medical school after his undergraduate career. He enjoys playing the guitar, bass, drums, and soccer in his free time.

  • Peter Bamikole

    Medical Student

    Peter Bamikole was an M.D. candidate at Meharry Medical College. He graduated from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario with a B.Sc in Psychology, Neuroscience and Behaviour (Music Cognition specialization), completing a thesis on the role of amplitude envelope in audiovisual integration. During his time in Hamilton, he served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserves as a musician with the band of Her Majesty's Canadian Ship (HMCS) Star. Peter's interest in the shared neurocognitive resources between music and language led him to the Music Cognition Lab. And here he is investigating how musical training influences grammatical development in children. In his spare time, he enjoys reading and getting better at cooking.

  • Sara Beck


    Sara Beck was a PhD student in Psychology and Human Development, whose research interests focus on how children's prosocial behavior is shaped by engagement with active music making. She's particularly interested in how interpersonal synchrony and lyrical content contribute to children's behavior. Her primary advisor was Dr. John Rieser in the Dynamic Action, Perception, & Representation Lab (D-Par), and she served as a graduate RA for the Music Cognition Lab. 

  • Scott Blain

    Cognitive Sciences

    Scott Blain graduated in 2016 and was a cognitive studies major, researcher, and pianist during his time at Vanderbilt University. His research focused on how individual differences in experience, emotion, and embodiment impact the way humans perceive and interface with the social world. His work seeks to transcend traditional diagnostic categories and levels of analysis, addressing a variety of questions: How are music, language, and social cognition related? How do alexithymia and anxiety modulate social cognition? When do the connections between physiology and cognition break down? How can we better predict and influence pro-/anti-social behavior? 

    Scott collaborated with Dr. Sohee Park, Dr. Blythe Corbett, and Dr. Reyna Gordon. In the Music Cognition Lab, he developed an auditory working memory task for an EEG study on children with SLI and played an instrumental role in the Program for Music, Mind, and Society through social media and public dissemination efforts. 

    Scott is now a Ph.D. student at the University of Minnesota.

  • Olivia Boorom, CCC-SLP

    Speech-Language Pathologist-2
    Hearing and Speech Sciences

    Olivia Boorom graduated in 2018 from East Carolina University where she received her M.S. in Communication Sciences and Disorders, and she is thrilled to have completed her clinical fellowship as a speech-language pathologist. Her primary area of interest is emergent language and social communication in children on the autism spectrum, and she completed a master’s thesis related to emergent literacy skills in preschoolers with autism. In 2016, she received her B.A. in Political Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is a Tar Heel born and bred. In her free time, she loves hiking and (attempting to) cook.

  • Leah Boyd

    Music Education in Voice and Piano

    Leah Boyd was part of the lab as an undergraduate at Mississippi State University pursuing a Bachelors of Music Education with a double concentration in voice and piano. She was active on campus as a collaborative pianist, a member of the State Singers chamber choir, a participant in opera and theater productions, and working as a psychology research assistant. Aside from music, she is passionate about education, reading, linguistics, and Zaxbys. 

  • Peyton Boyd

    Neuroscience and Medicine, Health, and Society

    Peyton Boyd is a second-year undergraduate at Vanderbilt University who is double majoring in Neuroscience and Medicine, Health, and Society. He recently started working with Dr. Lense to further explore the relationship between the social behaviors of young, developing children and how they interpret various musical qualities including rhythm. He currently plans on applying to medical school after his junior year and hopes to be able to specialize within the pediatric field. When not in the lab, Peyton loves to perform musical theatre, watch movies, and explore the Nashville area with his friends!

  • Michael Burchesky is a first year graduate student at Vanderbilt University, earning a doctorate of audiology (Au.D).  His undergraduate background is in Psycholinguistics, an interdisciplinary major achieved at Hamilton College in upstate New York.  As a passionate musician (french horn, piano, guitar, and vocals), he is eager to apply his musical knowledge to the realm of Audiology and Hearing Science in order to improve others’ hearing, speech, language and quality of life.  This led him to spend the month of June, 2016 volunteering in the Music Cognition Lab.  With skills in video production and editing, he assisted in the creation of visual stimuli to be used in research experiments for SERENADE.  He is now a member of the lab and is continuing to help in audio/video projects while he pursues his Au.D.

  • Alyssa Burkhalter

    Musical Arts and Psychology major, Baroque Performance minor

    Alyssa was an undergraduate research assistant with majors in Musical Arts and Psychology and a minor in Baroque Performance. She is interested in discovering the many ways in which music and other art forms can act as a tool for physical, psychological, and emotional healing. Alyssa will be getting her Masters of Music in double bass performance at the New England Conservatory.

  • Alex Chern

    4th Year Medical Student

    Alex Chern was an M.D. candidate at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. He graduated from Yale University with a B.S. in Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, and studied violin with Kyung Yu at the Yale School of Music. In the Music Cognition lab, Alex examined how musical rhythm influences grammatical performance in children with cochlear implants, children with SLI, and children with typical development. In his spare time, he enjoys cooking and dancing.

  • Kevin Cho

    MHS Major, Piano Performance minor

    Kevin Cho is a second-year undergraduate student from Los Angeles, California. He is majoring in Medicine, Health, & Society with a minor in Piano Performance, and has interests in pursuing careers in pediatrics and music education. In the lab, he is administering language tasks coupled with musical primes to children for the Timing Study to study the relations between language and rhythm phenotypes (and also runs the beautiful lab website!). He has played classical piano since the age of 4 and has regularly participated in competitions and concerts throughout high school and uni. Outside of the lab, he enjoys reading, binging TV shows, and finding new recipes to become the next more-or-less Gordon Ramsay.

  • Peyton Coleman grew up in Cary, North Carolina. She graduated summa cum laude in 2020 from Temple University with a B.S. in Neuroscience and a minor in Music. She began her education in Music Therapy and completed internships working with clients with dementia, cognitive disabilities, and psychiatric illnesses before switching to neuroscience. Her work in the lab focuses on the genetics of musicality.

  • Zoe Crawley

    Cognitive Studies & Child Development Major

    Zoe Crawley is a recent graduate of Vanderbilt University, where she obtained her master's degree in Quantitative Methods. She from Alexandria, Virginia, and studied Cognitive Studies and Child Development in her undergrad with a Creative Writing minor. She is especially interested connecting experience with the arts with emotional development in early childhood, and hopes to pursue a career in clinical psychology with a focus on music cognition. In the future, she plans to engage in graduate work that integrates music and arts therapy into clinical practice. Outside of the lab, she enjoys singing and writing music, baking, and spending all the time she can outside. 

  • Danielle Dai


    Danielle Dai was part of the lab as an undergraduate student at Vanderbilt. She worked on projects with Dr. Miriam Lense. She is interested in the potential benefits engaging in and producing music has on emotions, development, and psychopathology. Her goal is to attend graduate school for clinical psychology. During her free time, she enjoys singing, volunteering, and all types of water sports. 

  • Nikki Diaz


    Nikki Diaz was an undergraduate student at Vanderbilt University studying Neuroscience and Medicine Health and Society. She was involved with many performing arts groups on campus, including Vanderbilt Off-Broadway and the Vanderbilt Performing Arts Community. She hopes to go to medical school and eventually study either Psychiatry, Pediatrics, or maybe both! 

  • Kacie Dunham


    During her time in the lab, Kacie worked on projects with Dr. Miriam Lense and PhD student, Sara Beck, and was active in the Music, Mind, and Society program. Her interests included the influence of musical training on emotion, perception, memory, and social cognition for children with developmental disorders and adults with neuro-degenerative disorders.

  • Rebecca Embalabala

    Biology and Piano Performance

    Rebecca Embalabala graduated with a B.S. from Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion, Indiana. Double majoring in Biology and Piano Performance, she enjoys learning about all fields related to biology and or music.  Passionate when it comes to research, she is hoping to eventually pursue a graduate degree. She loves studying and performing classical music, and enjoys playing in chamber and orchestral ensembles when the opportunity arises. In her free time she also loves traveling globally and experiencing new cultures.

  • Nia Goodman

    Cognitive Studies and Human & Organizational Development

    Nia Goodman was part of the lab as an undergraduate student double majoring in Cognitive Studies and Human & Organizational Development. She is interested in seeing the effects of different musical interventions on sensitive populations such as the mentally ill. After graduation, Nia plans to attend law school and ultimately become a lawyer. In her free time, Nia enjoys playing the piano and baking with her sister.

  • Recipient of a Bachelor’s Degree from Belmont University with a Major in Neuroscience and Minor in Education, Sammie Gould spent three years performing lab research at Belmont and Vanderbilt Universities specific to neuroscience studies. Her experience solidified her passion for better understanding children’s abilities and desire to learn. Honored to work with the Music and Cognition Lab, she spent time with children of varying understandings of the world.

    She started volunteering in the lab in June 2016, assisting with the initial learning of new software, creating questionnaires, acquiring background information, and assisting where needed. She hopes to attend Vanderbilt University for Graduate School in the future, but until then, she will continue spending her days doing what she loves and putting smiles on children’s faces.

  • Kristin Gummersheimer


    Kristin Gummersheimer was part of the lab as an undergraduate at Vanderbilt. She majored in Neuroscience with a minor in Percussion at the Blair School of Music. Kristin hopes to attend grad school and pursue a career researching the relationship of music and the brain. She enjoys learning, kayaking, board games, and chocolate.

  • Gloria Han


    Gloria Han was involved in the Music Cognition Lab during her time as a Clinical Psychology PhD student at Vanderbilt University. With her primary advisor, Dr. Andrew Tomarken, her research focused on count data modeling and best practices for addressing count (discrete) data in clinical psychology research. Gloria also studied autism spectrum disorder (ASD), specifically understanding socio-emotional development and the unique affective and social experience of individuals with ASD. Gloria became involved with the Music Cognition Lab to contribute to the language and clinical assessment process for the Rhythm and Grammar Study. She also shares Dr. Gordon’s enthusiasm for understanding music and the brain. As a Nashville transplant, Gloria enjoys indulging in the Nashville music scene. Her musical background consists of numerous years of playing classical piano and violin.

  • Catherine Hobbs

    MHS Major, Spanish & Neuroscience minor

    Catherine Hobbs is a fourth-year undergraduate student from Villanova, Pennsylvania. She is majoring in Medicine, Health, & Society with minors in Neuroscience and Spanish, and she plans on attending medical school after graduation. She has been working in the lab for a year, studying eye-gaze patters in children with and without ASD, as they relate to musical stimuli and exposure. Outside of the lab, she enjoys running, exploring Nashville, and writing and performing her own songs.

  • Katherine Jones

    Speech-Language Pathology

    Katherine Jones worked in the Music Cognition lab while pursuing a M.S. in Speech-Language Pathology program. Previously, Katherine received a B.A. in Psychology from Carleton College and a M.A. in the Cognitive Neuroscience area of Psychology from Michigan State University. Katherine was able to pursue her interests in music, language, and the brain as a graduate research assistant in the Music Cognition Lab. Her research involved investigating the influence of speech rhythm on word learning in children with specific language impairment. 

  • Erin Koo

    Neuroscience and Violin Performance Major, Oberlin College and Conservatory

    Erin Koo is a third year undergraduate student from Hong Kong. She is pursing a dual degree in Violin Performance and Neuroscience at Oberlin College and Conservatory. She is particularly interested in theories of grammar within the field of linguistics and how they relate to music. At the lab, she helped with a longitudinal study of musicality and health. Erin enjoys working at Oberlin's student newspaper, the Review, shooting film photos, and knitting.

  • Brett Koolik is a third-year undergraduate at Vanderbilt who is majoring in Biomedical Engineering. He recently joined the lab and will be working on the Infant Study. He plans on taking a gap year after his senior year before applying to medical school.  He is a fun, collaborative, energetic thinker. He is an accomplished singer songwriter/producer and manages the Curb recording studios. Brett enjoys playing basketball, soccer, and going to the beach.

  • Kylie Korsnack


    Kylie Korsnack was involved in the Music Cognition Lab while pursuing a PhD in the English Department. Her work focused on postcolonial studies and contemporary Anglo-World Literatures and her research interests include global and transnational studies, utopian studies, theory of the novel, and more specifically, the development of genres such as the bildungsroman, cyberpunk, and postcolonial science-fiction in the post-modern era.  She has also done some scholarly work in the field of Rhetoric and Composition.  In the Music Cognition Lab, Kylie worked with Dr. Reyna Gordan to create a set of test stimuli using Dr. Seuss books.

  • Genevieve Kupsky

    Medicine, Health, and Society (Pre-Medicine)

    Genevieve's interdisciplinary interests in music and medicine led her to the Music Cognition lab where she studied the genetic links between rhythmic aptitude and speech & language impairments. Her other interests include socioeconomic health disparities and music therapy. In the future, she hopes to attend medical school.

  • Ximena Leon

    Rotating Graduate Student
    Interdisciplinary Graduate Program

    Ximena Leon is a doctoral student in Nicole Creanza’s Lab in the Department of Biological Sciences at Vanderbilt where she studies the evolution of syntax and rhythm in birdsong. She is a recipient of the National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship, and she spends much of her time participating in STEM outreach and education programs and serving as a mentor for both high school and undergraduate students. She graduated from The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with Honors in Biology and a Chemistry minor. Outside of her studies, Ximena enjoys art, watching true crime documentaries, volunteering in her hometown, and spending time with her dog, Asher.

  • Kate Margulis

    Speech Language Pathology

    Kate Margulis was a graduate student in the M.S. in Speech Language Pathology program at Vanderbilt University. She received her B.A. in psychology from Smith College in 2014, where she focused mainly on the role of language in cognition. She then spent two years as a lab coordinator at the Temple University Infant & Child Lab, where she worked on projects looking at language, play, and spatial skills.

    She is interested in the relationship between music and language, and she worked on the MILEStone study, using violin lessons as an intervention for children with Specific Language Impairment. 

  • Nick Markman


    Nick Markman assisted Dr. Miriam Lense in studying the relationship between music and social communication, especially in children with developmental disorders. He hopes to continue working with music in either scientific research or a corporate setting.

  • Maya Martin-Gonzalez grew up in Western Massachusetts, and is currently a third year undergraduate at Vanderbilt University where she is studying Neuroscience and Piano Performance. She is a transfer student from McGill University in Montreal, Canada. Maya is exploring her interests in research and is hoping to pursue topics relating to rhythm perception. In her free time, Maya enjoys climbing, cooking, playing piano, and going to concerts!

  • Mari McCarville

    Psychology and Music

    Mari McCarville was an undergraduate music and psychology major at the University of Denver. Mari studies flute, piccolo, cello, and piano at the Lamont School of Music, and she hopes to study cognitive science in graduate school. Beyond music and the mind, Mari has broad interests in sustainability, languages, leadership, and ethnomusicology. When she is not playing music or studying, Mari loves to paraglide, bike, and backpack in the Rocky Mountains.


  • Mine Muezzinoglu


    Mine graduated from Vanderbilt University in 2020 and is from Istanbul, Turkey who studied Neuroscience and French. She wants to pursue a graduate degree in Neuroscience in the future and explored her interest in research working with Dr. Lense. She is interested in the connection between rhythm and development and how music can be used in more than one way to improve the social skills and lives of kids with disabilities. She has played piano and kanun, a Turkish string musical instrument, for many years, and she is interested to see how music affects brain development and social skills. In her free time, Mine enjoys hiking, watching movies, and knitting.

  • Valerie Munoz

    Research Analyst

    Valerie Munoz was born and raised in Northern California where she attended Modesto Junior College. She graduated in 2017 with her B.S. in Cognitive Science after transferring to U.C. Santa Cruz (Go Slugs!). During her time at UCSC, she worked in Dr. Jean E. Foxtree’s Spontaneous Communication Lab studying sarcasm in written communication. Her main research interests include language development, motivation and decision making, and creativity. In 2014, she spent 10 months as a Corps Member with AmeriCorps NCCC travelling around the Midwest with her team of volunteers in a 15-passenger van, doing various service projects. On her off time, she enjoys playing tennis, hiking, eating farmers’ market samples, and finding the best breakfast burrito in the city.

  • Brett Myers

    PhD candidate in Interdisciplinary Studies

    Brett Myers was a member of the Music Cognition Lab as a graduate student in the Interdisciplinary Studies (Prosody, Music, and Language). Brett was also a speech-language pathologist at the Vanderbilt Voice Center. He received his M.A. in Communication Sciences and Disorders from The University of Iowa, and he received his B.A. in Psychology and Voice & Speech from McDaniel College. 

  • Mary Nevins


    Mary was part of the lab as an undergraduate student at Vanderbilt University studying Psychology. She is interested in understanding how musical training can improve the language of those with developmental disorders or who have suffered neurological brain damage. Mary plans to earn a Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology after her undergraduate career. In her free time, Mary enjoys writing music, hiking, and trying new coffee shops.

  • Michaela Novakovic

    Harp Performance | Cellular & Molecular Biology

    Michaela Novakovic graduated in 2016 with a double major in Harp Performance and Molecular & Cellular Biology. She is interested in investigating the genetic basis for rhythm and language skills. For fun, she enjoys reading, knitting, and convincing herself that running is, in fact, an enjoyable activity.

    Michaela is now a PhD student at Northwestern University.

  • Lia Okenkova

    Cognitive Studies and Human & Organizational Development

    Lia Okenkova was part of the lab as an undergraduate student at Vanderbilt University. She is from Naples, Florida majoring in Cognitive Studies and Human & Organizational Development. She is passionate about arts integration with an educational focus and loves to sing and act. She hopes to pursue a graduate degree where she can build upon and explore the ways in which the arts can impact and improve learning and development. In her free time, she enjoys exploring new cities, listening to Broadway cast albums, and hanging out with friends.

  • Valentina Persici

    Visiting PhD student in Neuroscience

    Valentina Persici is a Ph.D. student in Psychology, Linguistics, and Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Milano – Bicocca, in Italy, and since November 2018 a visiting Ph.D. student in Neuroscience at Vanderbilt University. She received her BA in Foreign Languages and Linguistics from the University of Urbino (Italy) and her MA in Psycholinguistics from the University of York (UK). She also received a master’s degree in Clarinet studies from the Conservatory G. Rossini of Pesaro (Italy). Before starting her Ph.D. program, she won a research scholarship from the University of Verona (Italy) to carry out a study on language processing in bilingual children in collaboration with Prof. Marilyn Vihman (University of York). At the University of Milano – Bicocca, and now at Vanderbilt University, she has had the chance to combine her interests in psycholinguistics and in music. Her work focuses on language, tonal, and rhythmic processing in both typically developing and clinical populations who have early exposure to music and/or a second language.


    Ladanyi, E.*, Persici, V.*, Fiveash, A., Tillman, B.,& Gordon, R.L. (2020). Is atypical rhythm a risk factor for developmental speech and language disorders? Wires Cognitive Science,

    Persici, V., Stucchi, N.,& Arosio, F. (2019). Rhythmic and morphosyntactic predictions: The anticipation abilities of Italian children with developmental dyslexia. In M. Brown, & B. Dailey (a cura di), BUCLD 43: Proceedings of the 43rd annual Boston University Conference on Language Development. Cascadilla Press.

    Persici, V., Vihman, M., Burro, R., & Majorano, M. (2019). Lexical access and competition in bilingual children: The role of proficiency and the lexical similarity of the two languages. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 179, 103-125.

    Persici, V., Stucchi, N., & Arosio, F. (in press). Predicting the future in rhythm and language: The anticipation abilities of a group of Italian-speaking children. In P. Guijarro Fuentes & C. Suárez Gómez. Proceedings of GALA 13. Language acquisition and development. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

  • Cara Petrucci


    Cara Petrucci was part of the lab as an undergraduate Neuroscience major at Vanderbilt. Her interests in determining the underlying neural mechanisms of music and language perception and their connection to one another led her to the Music Cognition Lab. In the lab, she studied the genetic basis of rhythm and language perception, especially in individuals with speech and language impairments. She hopes to attend medical school in the coming years. In her spare time, Cara enjoys baking, spinning and golf. 

  • Rita Pfeiffer

    Speech Language Pathology

    Rita Pfeiffer received her Master's in Speech-Language Pathology at Vanderbilt University in 2016, having received a B.A. in Neuroscience, with a minor in Music, from Middlebury College. Her research interests include language and social development, audiovisual integration, neuroscience, and music cognition.

    Efforts included the development of a rhythmic speech production paradigm as a way to measure speech rhythm sensitivity. she also completed a Master's Thesis on SERENADE, a study measuring the social and communication impact for preschool children with Autism participating in parent-child music enrichment classes. 

    As a Nashville native, she is a passionate multi-instrumentalist and composer. Her background is diverse, ranging from Bach Festivals, all-state symphonies, bluegrass fiddling, Hospice singing, and songwriting. Some of her previous music efforts have been featured on WNYC Public Radio’s Studio 360 and The Nashville Scene:

  • Aparna Srinivasan is from Westmont, Illinois, and she has recently graduated from Vanderbilt University with degrees in Neuroscience and Psychology. She worked at the Music Cognition Lab from the fall of 2019 to the spring of 2023. Now, she has matriculated into medical school at Meharry Medical College, and hopes to apply to a child psychiatry residency in a few years! Outside of her education, she loves to write her own music, sing, and play the ukulele. Aparna is also an intern for the Hydrocephalus Association (HA) and writes research blogs for the HA website. In the future, she hopes to pursue a career in medicine and possibly specialize in pediatrics.

  • Selena Steinberg is a current Master’s student on the Clinical and Developmental Research Track of Peabody College’s Child Studies program. She grew up in New Jersey and graduated from Tufts University in 2018, where she majored in Child Study & Human Development and Mathematics and minored in Drama and Dance. One of Selena’s main research interests is understanding the ways in which the performing arts impact development, but she is also passionate about arts integration and math education. In her free time, Selena enjoys tap dancing, listening to showtunes, and reading.  

  • Yini Sun


    Yini Sun was part of lab as a graduate student in the Doctor of Audiology (AuD) program at Vanderbilt University. In 2016, she received her B.A. in Philosophy-Neuroscience-Psychology from Washington University in St. Louis. She is interested in auditory memory processing and the shared neural resources for music and speech.

    Yini sings, travels, dances, and plays Erhu, a two-string Chinese instrument. She was also actively involved in the international and multicultural activities as the Vice President of Vanderbilt University Chinese Student and Scholar Association and an iLEAD mentor of the International Student & Scholar Services.

  • Navya Thakkar

    Biological Sciences & Art Major

    Navya Thakkar is a third-year undergraduate student from Mumbai, India studying Biology and Art. She is very passionate about the intersection between science and art, with a focus on genetics and psychology. Navya plans on using her artistic skills to create science art, hoping to work in the field of communication between the scientific community and the public. She is planning on taking a gap year before applying to graduate school for medical illustration programs. Outside of school, Navya enjoys roller skating, spending as much time as she can outdoors and creating playlists full of music for her friends!

  • Chloe Vaughan


    Chloe Vaughan was a doctoral student in the third year of Vanderbilt's clinical doctorate degree program (AuD), with a specialization in pediatric audiology. She graduated from The Ohio State University in May 2015 with a B.A. in Speech and Hearing Science. While an undergraduate, she studied several languages including French and Mandarin Chinese, and traveled to 3 continents. She is a singer and was a member of the Women's Glee Club at OSU. She was a member of the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine's a Capella group, the Radial Grooves. During the 2015-2016 academic year, Chloe completed the Leadership and Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities interdisciplinary graduate traineeship program. 

    In the lab, she worked on the Rhythm and Grammar study with children with Specific Language Impairment as well as working on the Rhythm and Language in Cochlear Implants study. Her other research and academic interests include prosody skills in children, music and auditory perception, and pediatric hearing loss.

  • Courtney Walters


    Courtney Walters Jr. was part of the lab as an undergraduate student at Vanderbilt University majoring in Neuroscience. He studied genetics and the brain basis of Speech Language Impairment and rhythm in the lab. Previous research experience includes a meta-analysis on therapeutic vaccine and chemoradiotherapy’s effect on patients diagnosed with Glioblastoma Multiforme. He plans to attend medical school to study neurosurgery. In his free time, Courtney enjoys playing guitar and basketball.


  • Meredith Watson

    Research Analyst

    Meredith Watson graduated in 2018 with a B.S. in Brain and Cognitive Sciences and B.A. in Linguistics from the University of Rochester in upstate New York. She was also born and raised in Rochester, so she’s excited to finally live somewhere warm. At UofR, she worked for Dr. Loisa Bennetto in the Developmental Neuropsychology lab where she studied neurocognitive and communication deficits in autism. Her main research interest is the linguistic development of children on the autism spectrum. When she’s not in the lab, she enjoys acting, singing, dancing, and crafting.

  • Youjia Wang

    Research Analyst

    Youjia Wang graduated from Vanderbilt with a major in neuroscience and a minor in music. His prior research has focused on examining how the rhythms and timings present in social interactions can entrain attention. Currently, he is working under Dr. Gordon on projects related to the genetic and neurologic basis of rhythm and grammar skills. He hopes to continue to medical school in Fall 2020, but does not yet know what kind of specialty he is interested in. In his free time, Youjia is involved in club water polo and plays flute for the Vanderbilt Commodore Orchestra.

  • Natalie Wiens

    Speech Language Pathology

    After growing up immersed in the "classical music world" as a cellist, Natalie Wiens became interested in the intersection of creativity and logic. she has a degree in mathematics from Tabor College, where she did research in graph theory about optimal methods of quantifying the connectivity of networks. Her interests then shifted to communication and cognition, which she studied as a master's student in the speech-language pathology program at Vanderbilt.  

    Publication: Albin, N., Brunner, M., Perez, R., Poggi-Corradini, P., Wiens, N., Modulus on graphs as a generalization of standard graph theoretic quantities, Conformal Geometry and Dynamics 19 (2015), 298-317.

  • Alison Williams

    Biomedical Engineering

    Alison Williams graduated in 2016 with a degree in Biomedical Engineering and has worked in the Music Cognition Lab since 2014. She collaborated on a speech cycling project that involves performing phase analysis to quantify the synchronization of children's speech to a metronome. Her primary role involved analyzing speech beats data in MATLAB and use of circular statistics to compare the children's ability to synchronize speech with their grammatical and rhythmic competence. In her free time Alison enjoys playing cello and was a member of the Vanderbilt Commodore Orchestra.

  • Delphanie Wu


    Delphanie Wu was part of the lab as a graduate student in the Doctor of Audiology (AuD) program at Vanderbilt University, with a specialty in early identification and management of children with hearing loss. She was also a trainee in the Vanderbilt LEND (Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities) consortium. A native of Michigan, she earned her B.A. in Communicative Disorders from the University of Alabama. Delphanie's musical background includes training in piano, violin, composition, and worship arrangements. She is interested in early intervention, American Sign Language and Deaf culture, and pediatric audiology. 

    Publication: Formby, C., Payne, J., Yang, X., Wu, D., & Parton, J. M. (2017, February). Repeated Measurement of Absolute and Relative Judgments of Loudness: Clinical Relevance for Prescriptive Fitting of Aided Target Gains for soft, Comfortable, and Loud, But Ok Sound Levels. In Seminars in hearing (Vol. 38, No. 01, pp. 026-052). Thieme Medical Publishers.

  • Rongyu Xin

    Child Development and Psychology

    Rongyu Xin was an undergraduate student majoring in child development and psychology with a minor in music. She is interested in the beneficial effects of music on the social engagement of children with autism spectrum disorder. In the lab. Rongyu hopes to attend graduate school in the clinical psychology. In her free time, Rongyu enjoys playing the piano and guitar.

  • Leyao Yu

    Math and Psychology

    Leyao Yu was an undergraduate at Vanderbilt University studying Math and Psychology with a minor in Violin Performance. Leyao hopes to attend graduate school in the field of psychotherapy or clinical psychology. With the artistic side of her personality, she enjoys digital drawing, playing the violin, and doing ballroom dances.

  • Mong Zhang

    Medicine Health and Society

    Mong Zhang is a second year undergraduate student at Vanderbilt University majoring in Medicine, Health, and Society, with a minor in Art History. In the lab, she is currently working with Dr. Lense, helping to analyze speech and looking patterns of high-risk infants in the Infant Study. She hopes to attend medical school and specialize in Pediatrics. In her free time, Mong enjoys playing the violin, going to museums and concerts, and singing. 

  • Gabija Zilinskaite

    Violin Performance & Psychology Major

    Gabija Zilinskaite is a fourth-year undergraduate student majoring in Violin Performance and Psychology at Vanderbilt. Originally from Fort Mill, South Carolina, she started training as a violinist when she was five. Since then, she has enjoyed playing in chamber and orchestral ensembles in both Charlotte, NC, and Nashville, TN. Gabija loves working with children and is currently a Research Assistant for the Timing Study under Dr. Gordon, which explores the effects of rhythmic priming on children with Developmental Language Disorder (DLD). She plans to pursue a graduate degree in clinical psychology. In her free time, she likes cooking for her friends, teaching at the W.O. Smith School, and exploring coffeeshops and the outdoors alike.

  • Anna Kasdan

    Ph.D Student

    Anna Kasdan is a doctoral student in the Neuroscience Graduate Program at Vanderbilt University and a recipient of the National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship. Previously, she was a research assistant in the lab of Dr. David Poeppel at NYU, where she conducted research in music perception, music aesthetics, and auditory working memory. She was also heavily involved with an experimental neuroscience curriculum, “Brainwaves”, where she mentored students in the NYC Public Schools as they conducted their own EEG experiments. Anna graduated from Boston University with a major in Neuroscience and minor in Piano Performance. Committed to STEM outreach and education, Anna is looking forward to bringing her experiences from Boston and NYC to Nashville. She is interested in researching the brain basis of music processing abilities in clinical populations, such as individuals with SLI, autism, and aphasia. In addition to her neuroscience and piano studies, Anna enjoys hiking, biking, and cheering on her hometown baseball team, the Boston Red Sox.

  • Keysha Martinez-Torres

    Ph.D Student
    Hearing and Speech Sciences

    Keysha is originally from Toa Alta, Puerto Rico, a small Island in the Caribbean where she completed her BA in Elementary Education and MS and Speech and Language Pathology. Life brought her to Nashville, where she is currently a Bilingual Speech Pathologist at the Bill Wilkerson Center at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and a PhD student at Vanderbilt University. Her clinical work focuses on early intervention services, providing support to families of the Latinx community who have children with developmental disabilities (i.e. ASD, Language and Speech Disorders, Down Syndrome). Her research work focuses on understanding the prevalence of disabilities in early childhood, availability of resources, and aims to expand the literature on best practices for the Spanish speaking communities in the US and its territories (i.e. Puerto Rico). In her free time, she like to eat out, be with her dog, and watch TV. 

  • Alyssa Scartozzi is a doctoral student in the Human Genetics Graduate Program at Vanderbilt University co-mentored by Drs. Reyna Gordon and Piper (Jennifer) Below. Previously, Alyssa worked as a research analyst in the Music Cognition Lab working on projects spanning neural musical beat perception and entrainment, genetics of language and music, and social engagement and development. Alyssa graduated from Muhlenberg College with Honors in Psychology and double minors in Music and Chemistry. Her previous research focused on the influence of movement synchrony and asynchrony and singing synchrony and asynchrony on perceived social bonding, the effects of gesture on foreign language word recall, and inducing nonphotochemical nucleation of supersaturated solutions of glycine. In her free time, Alyssa enjoys playing her instruments, going on hikes, and practicing yoga.