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Lab Members



Amy in bonnet  Amy photo

Dr. Amy Needham, Principal Investigator

Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

 I am the Director of the Hands On Play Lab and Professor of Psychology and Human Development, which is in the Peabody College of Education and Human Development at Vanderbilt University. I am fascinated by how infants learn to use their hands to accomplish their goals and by what they learn when they use their hands to play with and explore objects. I earned my PhD in Developmental Psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I came to Vanderbilt in 2009 after working at Duke University for 16 years. When I’m not working, I enjoy taking walks with my husband and dogs and finding new ways to cook vegetables.

Email : Telephone: (615) 322-8380

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Lauren Malachowski, Doctoral Student

Davidson College, B.S., 2016 (Psychology)

I’m a PhD candidate in the Developmental Psychology program. While I love learning about many different aspects of child development, my research focuses on early cognitive stimulation, including infants’ interactions with objects and their exposure to adult speech.



Summer 2023 

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Maggie McGowan

Lab Manager 

My name is Maggie McGowan, and I graduated from Vanderbilt in May with a Bachelor’s degree in Child Development and minors in Spanish and Language Sciences. I love working with children, and am going to pursue a Master’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology here at Vanderbilt next year! This is my third year in the lab, and I enjoy learning about the ways that children interact with and learn from their surroundings.


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Piper Mueller

Undergraduate Research Assistant, 2025

Hi! My name is Piper Mueller, and I am a rising junior majoring in Psychology and Cognitive Studies. I hope to pursue a career in therapy, counseling, or clinical psychology. I look forward to working with kids in a research setting, and exploring the origins of developing motor skills through the Hands-On Play Lab.

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Jana Yan

Undergraduate Research Assistant, 2025

My name is Jana Yan, and I am a sophomore double majoring in Child Development and MHS
and minoring in Psychology! Since coming to Vanderbilt, I’ve become increasingly interested in
the changes between birth and early childhood. I am excited to explore the early development of
perceptual and motor abilities in the Hands-On Play Lab. After I graduate, I plan to pursue a
career in academia or law.

Fall 2023 


Suman Mohanty

Undergraduate Research Assistant, 2025

Hi! My name is Suman Mohanty, and I am a sophomore majoring in Medicine, Health, and Society and Child Development. I’m also minoring in Spanish! After graduating, I’m planning on going to medical school because I’ve always wanted to be a pediatrician. I’m super excited to be involved with Infant Learning and Down Syndrome research at the Hands-On Play lab!!!


Katie Swift, Junior Lab Manager

Jasmyne Yeldell, Lab Manager

Laura Green, Honors Student

Melody Li, Research Assistant

Judy Min, Research Assistant

Jacob Wade, Research Assistant

Stella Owings, Research Assistant

Grace Rupert, Research Assistant

Abigail Phillips, Research Assistant

Chelsea Yang, Research Assistant

Sarah Megan Erb, Research Assistant

Frances Garrard, Research Assistant

Charlotte Jeanne, Honors Student

Caitlin Hertzendorf, Summer Research Assistant

Angie Zhao, Summer Research Assistant

Brooke Berger, Lab Manager

Sarah Wiesen, PhD Student

Mandy Kaur, Postdoctoral Fellow

Darcy Smith, Masters Student

Lindsey Rae, Research Assistant

Georgia Wilson, Research Assistant

Tara Webster, Research Assistant

Rachael Holstine, Research Assistant

Molly Sokolosky, Research Assistant

Kelly Willard, Research Assistant

Shannon Shiffer, Research Assistant

Doreen Li, Research Assistant

Savannah Diamond, Research Assistant

Sarah Barrett, Research Assistant

Theresa Brogan, Research Assistant

Ivy Han, Research Assistant

Anna-Grace Lilly, Research Assistant

Ava Murchison, Research Assistant

Isabell Plotsker, Research Assistant

Kashope Anifowoshe, Research Assistant

Aunnika Short, Master’s Student

Mabel Donahue, Lab Manager

Emma Kerr, Research Assistant

Maggie Huntley, Research Assistant

Amelia Murray, Research Assistant

Frances Farrell, Research Assistant

Evy Mattson, Lab Manager

Hijaan Mitha, Research Assistant

Iris An, Research Assistant

Lauren Malley, Honors Student