Meet the team

elenaElena Geangu (principal investigator) I have done all my university degrees at ‘Babes-Bolyai University’ in Cluj-Napoca, Romania. After few years of postdoctoral fellowships around the world and a lectureship at Lancaster University, in October 2017, I took a lectureship in the Department of Psychology at the University of York.


Postdoctoral Research Fellows


Jennifer South-Palomares

My research explores social judgements in highly variable naturalistic everyday face images and in averaged face-like images. I am currently working on a project with Dr Elena Geangu examining infancy precursors for empathy development, with EEG, psychophysiology and behavioural measurements. I am also collaborating on two cross-disciplinary projects applying machine learning to rs-fMRI data for Parkinson’s disease drug treatment and early stage (pre-motor) diagnosis. I have cross-disciplinary expertise in person perception, neuroscience, and clinical psychology and have applied machine learning to biomedical brain imaging data.

Research Assistants

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Jessica Vergeer

I have received both of my bachelor degrees at the Radboud University Nijmegen, in the Netherlands. I have studied Developmental and Educational Sciences and I have received my teaching degree for primary schools. I am currently studying for an MSc in Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of York, where I also recently joined the Developmental Social Neuroscience Lab as a research assistant.


Postgraduate Research Assistants


Kloe Fico

I recently obtained a degree in Physics from Aberystwyth University, where I gained a passion for working with children whilst making science accessible to the little ones. My interests range from cognitive science and neuroscience to cognitive development and education. I am currently working towards the completion of an MSc in Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, with the ultimate goal of becoming as a cognitive neuroscientist focusing on infant research. I am also working as a teaching assistant and maths tutor at Fishergate Primary School.  I will be soon start researching how infants process emotions from non-verbal vocalizations.


Katherine Fitzakerley

I am currently enjoying an MSc in Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of York. Before this I studied a three-year course in Psychology at the University of Derby. I aim to undertake a PhD in the future, but plan to take some time out of education before this.



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Alexandra Muller

I’m originally from Germany, but moved to York 4 years ago to study for my Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. Currently, I am working towards an MSc in Development, Disorders and Clinical Practice, and I am starting teacher training to become a Primary School teacher later this year. I have been working with children of all ages for about 7 years now, and I currently work as a Classroom Assistant at Bootham Junior School in York. For my Master’s project, I will be investigating infant social cognitive development.


 Former Lab Members



Francesca Nettuno

I completed a BSc in Pschycology at Milano-Bicocca University, with a thesis degree in collaboration with the Psychology Department at Univesitat Wien, thanks to an Erasmus internship. In the Developmental Social Neuroscience Lab I am learning about infant development. In particular, I am interested in understanding the early developmental trajectory of empathy and social interactions. The research I am conducting in the lab will be part of my MSc dissertation in “Clinical psychology and neuroscience across the life span” at Milano-Bicocca University.


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Silvia Bianchi

I received a Bsc in Sciences and Psychological Techniques at Milano-Bicocca University, and I am now continuing my studies at the same institution with a MSc in “Clinical Psychology and Neuropsychology Across the Life Span”. At York Developmental Social Neuroscience lab I train to conduct research with infants and young children, funded by the Erasmus program. I am particularly interested in researching the emotional development of infants across cultures.

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Amy Fernandez

I completed a BSc in Psychology from Queen Mary, University of London in 2015. Since graduating I spent 2 years supporting children with various neurodevelopmental disorders, before embarking on an MSc in Development, Disorders and Clinical Practice at The University of York. My particular area of interest is the development of anxiety in children and how this affects face processing and comprehension of their peer’s behaviour. In the York Developmental Social Neuroscience lab, I am specifically focusing on how children with anxiety process facial features to understand emotions.


Emily Whitaker

I have a BSc in Psychology and am currently completing an MSc in Development, Disorders and Clinical Practice at the University of York. My areas of interest include neurodevelopmental disorders and mental health in children, particularly anxiety disorders. In the Developmental Social Neuroscience lab I am researching what facial features children use to identify different emotional expressions, and whether this is linked to anxiety.



Maria Magdalena Crespo-Llado

I received my degree in Psychology at the University of Balearic Islands (Spain), where I had the chance to participate in multiple research projects led by the Developmental Psychopathology group at the Institute of Health Sciences (IUNICS). Later on, I did an MSc on Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience at Durham University (UK), where I also researched the neural correlates of working memory in adult decision-making. Since 2013, I am a PhD student in the Developmental Social Neuroscience Lab and I research infant and toddler empathy development.


Han Ke

I have a BSc in applied psychology from NanKai University in TianJin, China. After being a counselor for a few years, I have enrolled for a master’s degree in developmental disorders at Lancaster University (2013-2014). During my master, I researched (with Dr Elena Geangu) the role of affective touch on empathic responses. Currently I am doing my PhD on children’s perception of emotional body expressions.


Jakob Kaiser

I studied Computer Science in Greifswald and Cognitive Science in Osnabrueck (Germany). My PhD in Psychology at the University of Sussex deals with the idea that our evaluations and interpretations are not solely the product of our intellectual capacities, but are often influenced by our current body states. In the Developmental Social Neuroscience Lab I am working on a project where we want to find out more about infants reactions towards emotional expressions of adults. This might give us new insights into how children learn to understand others’ emotions.


Elisa Roberti

I have a BSc in Psychology from University of Milano-Bicocca, and I am currently working on the final dissertation for my MSc in Clinical and Developmental Psychology and Neuropsychology. I am intrested in the first stages of cognitive and social development. Currently I have an Erasmus scholarship which enables me to research how infants integrate the information conveyed by different sensory modalities in the Developmental Social Neuroscience Lab.



Amarige Harrison

I have a BSc in Psychology from Lancaster University, where I am currently studying for my MSc in Developmental Disorders. I have previously investigated the relationship between anxiety levels and the perception of emotional body postures in children. I pursue my interest in developmental psychology and social cognition further through my current internship in the Developmental Social Neuroscience Lab. In particular, I am keen to investigate how visual and auditory information are integrated during infancy.


jess ward

Jess Ward

I am a 3rd year Psychology student at Lancaster University. During my degree I became very interested in learning more about the development of empathy and prosocial behavior during childhood. I am particularly keen in finding out more about how parenting is related to the ontogeny of such important abilities.  Through the internship in the Social and Emotional Development Lab I am developing new research skills which will enable me to further study and investigate this topic.


Rebecca Simpson