Postdoctoral Fellows


Kelly Sheehan, Ph.D. 2016-2018
Click to view bio

Kelly Sheehan is User Research Specialist at Age of Learning, Inc.. Dr. Sheehan earned her Ph.D. and Master’s degree in Cognitive Psychology from Northwestern University. She went on to complete a two-year Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Center on Media and Human Development, where her research centered on children’s learning from touchscreen technology, parent-child co-use of technology, and STEM education. At Age of Learning, she conducts mixed-method research aimed at understanding how to best design educational technology to meet the needs of child, parent, and teacher users. Some of her recent research has been published in Journal of Cognitive Education and Psychology and Frontiers in Developmental Psychology.

Leanne Beaudoin Ryan, Ph.D. 2014-2016
Click to view bio

Leanne Beaudoin-Ryan is the Associate Director of Research at the Erikson Institute. Dr. Beaudoin-Ryan earned her Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology, as well as a Master’s degree in Social Science, from the University of Chicago. Broadly speaking, her research focuses on how communication can be used to optimize children’s learning. She has pursued this interest using multiple levels of analysis. Her dissertation examined how children’s spontaneously produced gestures can be used as a cognitive tool for developing the perspective-taking skills that undergird moral reasoning.

Aubry Alvarez, Ph.D. 2013-2014
Click to view bio

Dr. Aubry Alvarez earned her Ph.D. at Northwestern University and completed her undergraduate work at the University of Florida. Her research and clinical work focuses on scientific reasoning and social emotional development in young children with a special emphasis on the role of digital media. This work has been published in journals such as Child Development and the Journal of Neuroscience. Following her fellowship year at the Center on Media and Human Development in 2014, Dr. Alvarez joined the Public Broadcasting Service, where she managed the development of Ready to Learn educational products. In 2016, Dr. Alvarez opened a private pediatric therapy practice in the Washington D.C. area, where she continues to work as a consultant for governmental agencies as well as companies such as Common Sense Media and Discovery Communications. She loves keeping up with the world of children’s media and loves the CMHD! 

Doctoral Graduates

Maya Lennon, Ph.D.

Sarah Pila, Ph.D.

Jabari Evans, Ph.D.

Brianna Hightower, Ph.D.

Silvia Lovato, Ph.D.

Fashina Aladé, Ph.D.
Click to view bio

 Fashina (Shina) Aladé is an Assistant Professor at Michigan State University in the College of Communication Arts and Sciences. Her work lies at the intersection of media effects, developmental psychology, and early childhood education, with a focus on young children’s comprehension of and learning from educational media. Her research has won top paper awards from the International Communication Association, and has been published in journals such as Media Psychology and the Journal of Communication. She is the Assistant Editor for the Society for Research in Child Development’s Social Policy Report, and she has also worked with WTTW Chicago and MediaKidz Research and Consulting, Inc. on a variety of projects evaluating children’s television programs and online games. She earned her PhD at Northwestern University in Media, Technology, & Society, where she conducted research with the Center on Media and Human Development. She also holds an MA from Ohio State University and a BA from the University of Pennsylvania, both in Communication.

Lisa Hurwitz, Ph.D.
Click to view bio

Lisa B. Hurwitz is currently the Lead Researcher at Lexia Learning, A Rosetta Stone Company. She manages Lexia’s program of school-based research studies, ranging from multi-school efficacy studies to smaller studies informing the design of educational computer games/apps. Broadly, Dr. Hurwitz’s research leverages evaluation theory to study children’s learning from media/technology and related policy questions. Her scholarship has been published in academic journals such as Child Development, New Media & Society,and Computers in Human Behavior; received recognition from the International Communication Association and Society for Research on Child Development; and been featured in news outlets, including the Chicago Tribune and Education Week. She’s received on-screen television credits for a variety of children’s shows, including Mickey Mouse Clubhouse,Jake and the Never Land PiratesWordWorld, and Sesame Street: 40 Years of Sunny Days. She earned her Ph.D. and M.A. in Media, Technology and Society from The Graduate School at Northwestern University and a Certificate in Management from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management. She also graduated Magna Cum Laude from New York University with a B.A. in Psychology (High Honors) and Spanish Language/Literature, along with a joint minor in Computer Science/Mathematics.

Heather M. Montague, Ph.D. 
Click to view bio

Heather is the manager of research and policy development at the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine, where she combines her health communication research skills and her experience as a dental assistant to support the Academy’s work on oral appliances. While she was at Northwestern, her areas of research included the effects of media and technology on childhood and adolescent health and the impacts of food marketing on childhood obesity. In addition to her academic pursuits, Heather has also worked with the American Academy of Pediatrics as well as the Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children at Lurie Children’s Hospital.

Drew Cingel, Ph.D.
Click to view bio

Drew Cingel is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication at the University of California, Davis. His areas of research include adolescent-peer relationships, and peer influence, on social networking sites, children’s learning from tablet computers, and the impact of television on children’s moral reasoning.

Courtney K. Blackwell, Ph.D. 
Click to view bio

Courtney Blackwell is a developmental methodologist with expertise in early childhood education and survey development, particularly child- and parent-reported health outcomes measures. Her research focuses on early learning and positive health development, and the complex social environmental factors that contribute to such outcomes. Fundamental to her work is an emphasis on conducting research that informs health and education policy and practice. She is currently an integral member of the Person Reported Outcome (PRO) Core for the NIH-funded Environmental influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) research program.

Research Coordinator

Kiara Kajatt 2017-2018
Click to view bio

Kiara is studying Neuroscience with a concentration in Biology. She is part of the ARD Student Philanthropy Council as well as the Northwestern Undergraduate Research Journal. She enjoys sleeping, Edwards Hershey’s Chocolate Creme Pie, listening to music, and volunteering at the Evanston Animal Shelter. 

Francesca Pietrantonio, B.A. 2016-2017
Click to view bio

Francesca is pursuing a Master’s degree in Integrated Marketing and Communications at Medill at Northwestern University. She hopes to gain experience working at a digital marketing agency then pursue a career in either the consumer product, nonprofit, or entertainment sectors.

Megan Olsen, B.A. 2015-2016
Click to view bio

Megan is pursuing her Master’s in Social Work at the University of Chicago. She plans to work with older adults. Having completed an internship with PCC Community Wellness, she will be interning at Rush University Medical Center.

Research Assistants

Yannik Kumar, B.A. 2017-2018

Abigail Blum 2017-2018

Nadalyn Bangura 2017

Dashia Kwok, B.A. 2015-2017

Meredith Ford, B.A. 2015-2017

Francesca Pietrantonio, B.A. 2015-2016

Megan Olsen, B.A. 2014-2015

Eric Morales, B.A. 2014-2016

Bri Hightower, B.A. 2013-2014

Colette Ghunim, B.A. 2014

Ariel Maschke, B.S. 2012-2013

lab picture