Lab Director   |   Postdoctoral Researchers   |   Ph.D. Students  |   Undergraduates

Lab Director


Megan Saylor, Ph.D.

Megan M. Saylor is an Associate Professor of Psychology. She completed her undergraduate degree with Honors in Psychology at UC Berkeley in 1996. Dr. Saylor received her doctoral degree at the University of Oregon in Eugene and joined the faculty at Vanderbilt University in 2001. Dr. Saylor’s research focuses on early language and cognitive development. Her research on language development has demonstrated that inferences about what others intend, like, and know underlie children’s ability to identify referents. Additional findings reveal that both domain general cognitive abilities and robust social cognitive skills support children’s language learning and participation in conversations.


Postdoctoral Researchers

Maria Osina, Ph.D.

Maria Osina graduated summa cum laude from Moscow State University in 2005 with a BS and MS in Linguistics and Comparative Historical Linguistics. She started in the Language Development Lab in 2008 as a Ph.D. student. She graduated with her Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology from Vanderbilt in 2014. She has two young children who support and motivate her interest in human development and language. Outside of the lab, she enjoys mountaineering and rock climbing, playing classical guitar, and reading (both for herself and her children).

Maria’s research focuses on language comprehension in young infants. One line of her work concerns infants’ understanding of references to absent entities. Specifically, she is interested in the role of infants’ object and location representations in understanding absent reference, and in their ability to recall categorical information when understanding words. She is also interested in the role of contextual factors in infants’ language comprehension. The current direction of her research looks at the interaction of infants’ motor development and their understanding of speech about absent objects. Specifically, Maria is testing if infants’ perception of referent accessibility depends on their motor ability, and how this affects their engagement in conversations about hidden objects.

Another line of Maria’s work concerns infants’ understanding of ambiguous references to objects. Here, she is interested in different kinds of information infants can rely on when the speaker does not specify which of several objects she is asking for. Specifically, she is testing if infants can use information about the speaker’s preferences to certain kinds of objects, information about the speaker’s possession or her familiarity with the objects.


Ph.D. Students


Nicholas Tippenhauer

Nick Tippenhauer is originally from Fort Thomas, Kentucky. In the spring of 2016 he graduated magna cum laude from Princeton University with an A.B. in Linguistics. As an undergraduate, he studied how young infants learn abstract patterns from different sounds. He was the co-recipient of the Senior Thesis Prize awarded by Princeton’s Program in Linguistics for this research.

Nick started as a Ph.D. student in the Vanderbilt Language Development Lab in the fall of 2016. Currently, he is interested in  how young children learn words. In particular, Nick is interested in what information children attend to when learning words. In one line of work, Nick studies how context changes affect preschoolers’ ability to retain novel label information. In another line of research, he is exploring the factors that affect children’s tendencies to ask questions about word meanings. Nick is co-advised by Dr. Duane Watson. With Dr. Watson, he explores the prosody of adult speech. Outside of the lab, Nick is an avid Dolly Parton fan and enjoys playing video games competitively with his brothers.


Laura Janakiefski

Laura Janakiefski is originally from Cincinnati, Ohio. In the spring of 2019, she graduated summa cum laude from Ohio State University with a B.S. in Neuroscience with a minor in Education. As an undergraduate, she studied how people remember and forget visual images, and how visual memories within the same semantic category interact with one another. During an internship with Drs. Lisa Feigenson and Justin Halberda at Johns Hopkins University, she studied early number understanding and language skills in preschoolers.

Laura started as a Ph.D. student in the Vanderbilt Language Development Lab in the fall of 2019. Currently, her research focuses on how children elicit information about words, and how this active learning effort might influence their word learning and memory outcomes. In particular, she is interested in how preschoolers use questions to learn about word meanings. In addition, Laura continues her line of work on visual forgetting with Dr. Ashleigh Maxcey, exploring both the context and types of stimuli that are involved in recognition-induced forgetting of images, as well as linguistic influences on visual memory. Outside of the lab, Laura’s favorite things to do are rock climb, read, hike, or listen to Hannah Montana.

Current Undergraduates

Isabelle Guicherit

Thalia Irwin

Frank Jordan

Samantha Printz

Julia Schmitt

Taylor Sitomer

Kelly Warren

Kevin Mills

Michelle Lee

Joanna Kim

Undergraduate Alumni

Nadia DeGeorgia (Class of 2021)

Madison Green (Class of 2019)

Jeongwon ‘Eva’ Kim (Honors Thesis Student, Class of 2020)

Shanna Loughmiller (Class of 2019)

Jessica Thomas (Class of 2020)

Stephanie Zhang (Class of 2020)

Yiyao ‘Selena’ Zhu (Class of 2021)