When you were a child, what was your response to this question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
Describe your research in five words.
“Talking makes kids better readers.”
A doctor living in New York — specifically on Park Avenue, with a French poodle.
Share the pivotal moment in your life that helped you choose your field of study.
As an undergraduate, I volunteered to work on a research study led by a developmental psychologist investigating the link between children’s ethnic identity and academic achievement. I remember shopping for skin-colored paper to use in the study to assess children’s perception of their skin color as an element of their identity. I was fascinated by the idea of quantifying identity, making links from identity to achievement, interpreting the findings, and making recommendations to teachers and parents. After that, I knew that I wanted to study how children develop, and how to use what we learn to support their development through changes to policy and practice.
Researchers are problem-solvers. Tell us about a time you encountered a tricky problem. How did you handle it and what did you learn from it?
In December 2014, I learned about a grant competition that fit perfectly with my work. But the grant activities were restricted to a county that was about two hours away — and I knew no one who could help with data collection. The people in my department didn’t have any contacts there, so I conducted an Internet search of different agencies that might be potential partners and then started cold calling. After a few dead-ends, I reached the executive director of one of the agencies, and he was enthusiastic about partnering on the proposal. The staff and I came up with a collaborative proposal that helped us share the resources of the grant to achieve both of our goals. That cold-call led to a win-win solution, a funded grant, and a two-year-long collaboration. I learned to never be afraid to reach out to strangers — they might become my next best partner!
What are your passions outside of science? And why do you feel it’s important to have them?
I love to sew just about anything that involves fabric, needles, and thread. It is important for me to have a hobby that provides me with a creative outlet and a tangible end-product that is both useful and visually appealing. Plus, it gives me something over which I have absolute control!