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Pamela Morris-Perez

Pamela A. Morris-Perez, Ph.D., Professor of Applied Psychology, Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development; Affiliated Professor, NYU School of Global Public Health

Dr. Morris-Perez is a Principal Investigator on the MPI NIH-funded $5.5M project: Integrated model for promoting parenting and early school readiness in pediatrics. An interdisciplinary scholar, Morris-Perez conducts research at the intersection of developmental psychology, suicidology, education, and policy in collaboration with economists, policy analysts, implementation scientists, behavioral pediatricians, and prevention scientists. In her two-decades long career largely focused on low-income and marginalized populations, she has secured more than $75M in funding and has published more than 100 peer-reviewed papers, book chapters, and policy reports. Noteworthy other work includes: a) $5M IES-funded partnership with NYCs Department of Education to support their historic expansion of Universal Pre-k and b) research in development that addresses adolescent suicide from a developmentally-informed, population-health perspective. Complementing her research activity with institutional leadership, Morris-Perez oversaw 300 faculty in 11 Departments as Vice Dean and Interim Dean at NYU Steinhardt from 2015-2020, overseeing a rise in annual research expenditures from $27 to $39M under her leadership and the transition of 7,000 students to remote instruction during COVID-19. A former William T. Grant scholar, Morris-Perez served as lead editor of the Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness and a member of the National Academy of Science’s Board on Children, Youth, and Families. She received a bachelor’s degree from Columbia University and a doctorate in Developmental Psychology from Cornell University. 

Alan Mendelsohn

 Alan Mendelsohn, M.D., Professor, Department of Pediatrics and Department of Population Health, New York University School of Medicine and Bellevue Hospital Center

Dr. Mendelsohn is co-principal investigator on this project: Integrated model for promoting parenting and early school readiness in pediatrics. Dr. Mendelsohn is a developmental-behavioral pediatrician who is Director of Research for the Divisions of General and Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics and Co-Director of Biostatistical Analysis Coursework for the NYU Clinical and Translational Science Institute - Masters of Science Program in Clinical Investigation. Dr. Mendelsohn is a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Early Childhood, the Academic Pediatric Association Child Poverty Task Force and the NIH/NICHD Biobehavioral and Behavioral Sciences Subcommittee. He has received national recognition for his work as a Zero to Three Leaders for the 21st Century Harris Fellow. Dr. Mendelsohn's research has focused on poverty-related disparities in critical child outcomes including child development, obesity and chronic disease. He has investigated the role of environmental factors, both psychosocial (parent-child interactions, electronic media exposure, maternal depression, maternal literacy/health literacy, feeding practices) and biologic (lead), in relation to these outcomes. Dr. Mendelsohn's studies have demonstrated the potential role for the pediatric primary care setting as a universal platform for promotion of school readiness through enhanced parenting, through interventions such as Reach out and Read and the Video Interaction Project. Dr. Mendelsohn has been the recipient of NIH/NICHD R01 funding as a Principal Investigator since 2005. Dr. Mendelsohn is also a co-author of an instrument (StimQ) that can be used to assess the cognitive home environment in low income households.

A headshot of Dr. Daniel Shaw, University of Pittsburgh

Daniel Shaw, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor and Department Chair, Department of Psychology, University of Pittsburgh

Dr. Shaw is co-principal investigator on the project: Integrated model for promoting parenting and early school readiness in pediatrics. Dr. Shaw is Distinguished Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Pittsburgh. At Pitt, he also serves as the Director of the Center for Parents and Children and the Director of the Pitt Parents and Children Laboratory (PPCL), with joint appointments in the Schools of Medicine and Education, and Centers for Social and Urban Research and Translational Research. Since receiving his Ph.D. in child clinical and developmental psychology from the University of Virginia in 1988, his primary interest has involved tracing the early developmental precursors of early problem behavior among at-risk children. He currently leads or co-directs four NIH-funded, longitudinal studies investigating the early antecedents and prevention of childhood conduct problems and substance use, which form the core of the PPCL. His most recent work applies an ecologically- and developmentally-informed intervention for low-income toddlers at risk for early conduct problems, the Family Check-Up. For his conceptual and empirical work on the development of young children’s conduct problems, he was awarded the Boyd McCandless Young Scientist Award by APA’s Division of Developmental Psychology in 1995. He also was awarded the Robert B. Cairns Award for Contributions to Developmental Science by the Carolina Consortium on Human Development (2015). Dr. Shaw is a Fellow of the Association for Psychological Science (APS) and APA’s Division 53 on Child and Adolescent Clinical Psychology (2005). He held a Research Scientist Award from the National Institute of Mental Health or National Institute on Drug Abuse from 1999 to 2014, is Associate Editor of the journal, Development and Psychopathology, has served on several editorial review boards of journals (e.g., Child Development, Developmental Psychology, Development and Psychopathology, Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology), and has been a member of several expert panels convened by NIH and HHS. Dr. Shaw has published extensively on risk factors associated with the development and prevention of conduct problems in from early childhood through adolescence, with more than 300 publications.

New York University Team

Elizabeth B. Miller, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, NYU Grossman School of Medicine, and Research Director, New York University

Dr. Elizabeth B. Miller received her Ph.D. from the School of Education at the University of California, Irvine specializing in Education Policy & Social Context. She also holds a Master's degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a B.A. in Economics from Columbia University. Elizabeth’s research interests include early childhood policy interventions and how these interventions can increase low-income children’s school readiness. She is particularly interested for which groups of children these policies work best and has a special focus on Dual Language Learners. Recently, Elizabeth has expanded her focus to include interventions for infants and toddlers in the 0-3 age period. She is currently the research director for the Smart Beginnings.

Yudong Zhang, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Research Associate, New York University

Yudong Zhang received her Ph.D. from the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration. She also holds a M.S. in biostatistics from the University of Chicago Department of Public Health Sciences. Yudong’s research focuses on program evaluation of early childhood interventions and cross-cultural differences in parenting. She is currently studying longitudinal changes in parenting styles from infancy to toddlerhood and how interventionist-parent relationships shape families’ service involvement. She aims to produce research findings to facilitate program design and implementation, in order to better serve marginalized families with young children.

Helena Wippick, Project and Data Manager, New York University

Helena Wippick is a project and data manager at NYU. Prior to working at NYU, she held positions as a research associate at the Correctional Association of New York, a prison monitoring non-profit, and as the lab manager of the Yale University Social Cognitive Development Lab. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology with a concentration in Gender and Sexuality Studies from Bard College. She is currently pursuing a Masters of Public Administration from NYU Wagner.  Her research interests include using evidence-based interventions to reduce systems of structural inequality. She is particularly interested in the intersections of poverty, child development, education, and the criminal justice system, and in issues such as the criminalization of poverty, juvenile justice and the impacts of familial incarceration.

Chris Rodrigues, Data Analyst, New York University

Chris Rodrigues received his M.A in Quantitative Methods in the Social Sciences from the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Columbia University. With many years of involvement as a statistical programmer and data manager for various early childhood policy intervention studies, Chris contributes to the data analysis for the Smart Beginnings study.

NYU School of Medicine Team

Caitlin Canfield, Ph.D., Research Director, New York University School of Medicine

Caitlin is a developmental psychologist who completed a T32 Postdoctoral Fellowship program in Pediatric Primary Care Research at NYU School of Medicine. Her research focuses on how children’s characteristics and environments affect their individual development. She is currently studying how stressful life circumstances affect the regulation of children’s stress hormones, and how this relates to their physical and mental health, as well as their school functioning. Caitlin’s long-term goals involve using her research experience to determine how interventions aimed at improving children’s cognitive and emotional well-being can be tailored to meet each child’s individual needs. ​

Anne Seery, Ph.D., Director of Operations, New York University School of Medicine

Anne is a developmental psychologist who splits her time between the SMART Beginnings and BELLE projects at NYU's School of Medicine and Bellevue Hospital. She received her BA in psychology and mathematics from Rutgers University and her Ph.D. in human development from Boston University, where her research focused on the linguistic, cognitive, and neural development of infants and young children. In particular, she is interested in language acquisition and development in infants and children who are at risk for developmental disorders or other issues as a result of biological and environmental factors.

Erin Roby, Ph.D., Research Scientist, New York University School of Medicine

Erin is a developmental psychologist and completed a T32 Postdoctoral Fellow in the Pediatric Primary Care Research Program at the NYU School of Medicine. Her research focuses on the factors that contribute to social cognitive development during the first years of life as well as individual differences in social cognitive skills that exist across the lifespan. More specifically, Erin is interested in how particular aspects of early parent-child interactions facilitate children’s social and cognitive development, and how interventions on these interactions can promote positive outcomes for at-risk children and families.


Luciane Piccolo, Ph.D., Research Scientist, New York University School of Medicine

Luciane is a Psychologist with a PhD in Developmental Psychology. Her research integrates Developmental Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience and focuses on poverty-related disparities in child cognitive outcomes, especially language, memory and executive functioning. She particularly aims to understand how early childhood experiences are associated with cognitive and brain development and the modifiable environmental factors (such as stress and family language environment) by which socioeconomic disparities operate.

Juliana Gutierrez, Research Coordinator, New York University School of Medicine

Juliana Gutierrez received her BA in Educational Studies and Political Science from Swarthmore College. She joined our team in 2019 as a Smart Beginnings Research Assistant. Previously, she assisted researchers on an impact evaluation of the Middle School Quality Initiative at the NYC Department of Education, and a parenting intervention focused on father-son relationships in New York City’s African- American and Latino communities through NYU’s Center for Latino and Adolescent Health. She is interested in the research and design of initiatives to support underserved families as they and their children navigate the school system, particularly addressing the children and adolescent’s social-emotional development in families of diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds.

Fernanda Fernandez, Interventionist, Research / Project Associate, New York University School of Medicine

Fernanda received her BA in Neuroscience from Princeton University, where she worked as a research assistant in a Developmental Psychology Lab. She joined the BELLE Project team as a VIP Interventionist and research assistant in June of 2019. Fernanda is planning on continuing her education in medicine and hopes to work continue working with Spanish-speaking families and children as a physician in the future.

Luisa Vaca-Condado, Research Assistant, New York University School of Medicine.

Luisa received her BA in Psychology from New York University. She joined our team in March 2020. Previous experiences include working in community outreach, private practice, and medical education. She has volunteered in hospital settings in New York and education in London. Luisa is interested in how children develop language especially in bilingual homes.

Leonela Tutasig, Research Assistant, New York University School of Medicine.

Leonela received her B.S. in Human Development from Cornell University, where she gained valuable research experience under the Human Development department. She joined the team in September 2020. Inspired by her fieldwork with children of various ages, Leonela is interested in pursuing a career in Clinical Psychology.

University of Pittsburgh Team

Anne Gill, Ph.D., Clinical Supervisor, University of Pittsburgh

Dr. Anne Gill is a Counseling Psychologist at the University of Pittsburgh and the Clinical Supervisor for the Family Check-Up component of the SMART Beginnings project. Anne currently provides clinical services to families in addition to coordinating treatment services and providing supervision, training, and mentoring of clinicians using the Family Check-Up Model. Trained as a family therapist, Anne strives to provide high-quality, accessible, respectful, and culturally sensitive services to families and children. She has authored and co-authored articles and book chapters about the Family Check-Up, including “The Family Check-Up in Early Childhood: A Case Study of Intervention Process and Change,” published in the Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology. Anne received her Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from the University of Pittsburgh in 2003.

Johana M. Rosas, Project Coordinator, University of Pittsburgh

Johana M. Rosas is a post-doctoral associate in the department of psychology at the University of Pittsburgh and the Project Coordinator for the Pittsburgh site of the SMART Beginnings project. She received her Ph.D. in Clinical and Developmental Psychology from the University of Pittsburgh in 2015. After college, she worked at NYU's School of Medicine and Bellevue Hospital with Dr. Suzy Tomopoulos and Dr. Alan Mendelsohn in a variety of research projects including the BELLE project. Dr. Rosas’ research interests include the role of early experience on children’s development, caregiver-child relationship in infancy, and interventions that promote positive parenting and school readiness.

Montia Brock, FCU Interventionist, University of Pittsburgh

Montia is a mental health therapist completing requirements for a PA state license as a professional counselor, along with pursuing an endorsement as an Infant Mental Health Specialist.  Her most recent experience includes working within Maternal and Child Health programming, supporting families as a trained Birth and Postpartum Doula through DONA International and a Certified Lactation Counselor.

Erica Hughes, Research Assistant, University of Pittsburgh

Erica received her BS in Psychology with a Minor in Studio Arts and Certificate in Global Studies from the University of Pittsburgh. Here she assisted projects in the Pitt Parent and Children Laboratory. She joined the Pittsburgh site of the SMART Beginnings project as a Research Assistant in October of 2020. Erica is planning on continuing her education in community-based care and the social and emotional development of youth of color in the U.S.

Jessica Metzinger, VIP interventionist, University of Pittsburgh

Jessica graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a minor in Child Development in 2018. She is trained in both the Incredible Years School Age Parent Program and the Video Interaction Project. Post-graduation, she worked in community and school-based behavioral health prior to coming to the University of Pittsburgh in December 2019. Jessica is now a Video Interaction Project interventionist for Smart Beginnings. She works with families at Children’s Primary Care Center in Oakland.