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Director / PI

Dr. Jelena Obradović

Jelena is an associate professor at Stanford University in the Developmental and Psychological Sciences program at the Stanford Graduate School of Education. She completed a Ph.D. in developmental psychology at the Institute of Child Development, University of Minnesota, and postdoctoral training in psychophysiology at the University of British Columbia. She is the recipient of a Jacobs Foundation Advanced Research Fellowship, a William T. Grant Foundation Scholar Award, and Early Career Research Contribution Award from the Society for Research in Child Development. Jelena’s research examines how the interplay of children’s physiological stress arousal, self-regulatory skills, and quality of caregiving environments contributes to their health, learning, and well-being over time. She also studies how caregivers’ executive functions and emotion regulation skills contribute to teaching and parenting practices that promote or undermine child development. Her current work involves the development of novel, pragmatic, scalable assessments of executive functions, emotion regulation, and motivation.

Curriculum Vitae (PDF) ||| Google Scholar

Research Scientist

Dr. Michael Sulik

Michael received his Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology from Arizona State University in 2013. Prior to joining the SPARK Lab in 2016, he worked in the Institute of Human Development and Social Change at New York University. Michael studies how children’s early experiences influence the development of self-regulation and socioemotional learning, and how these skills contribute to mental health and academic success. He is also interested in assessment and methodological issues in developmental science.

Post-Doctoral Scholar

Sammy Ahmed

Sammy is a Postdoctoral Associate in the Developmental and Psychological Sciences program at the Stanford Graduate School of Education. He received his Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology from the University of Michigan in 2019. Sammy is working on a newly funded research-practice partnership project with San Francisco Unified School District’s Early Education Department. His work focuses on the ways in which early classroom contexts and experiences foster children's cognitive development, academic achievement, and socioemotional skills.

Graduate Student

Emma Armstrong-Carter

Emma Armstrong-Carter is a doctoral student in Developmental and Psychological Sciences at Stanford University and a recipient of the IES fellowship training grant. She received her BA in Psychology and Geography from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) in 2016.  Her research interest is how biological and social processes shape and interact with children’s cognitive functioning. Emma’s current projects in the SPARK lab focus on biological sensitivity to context among Pakistani preschool children, and how parent-child co-regulation relates to young children’s physiological responses to emotional challenges. 

Graduate Student

Carrie Townley Flores

Carrie Townley Flores is a doctoral student in the Center for Education Policy Analysis at Stanford University. She is a recipient of the IES Fellowship and the Stanford Graduate Fellowship. She received her BA in Education and English at University of Michigan in 2009. Prior to coming to Stanford, she taught in Michigan, New Hampshire, and Finland. In the SPARK Lab, Carrie looks at how socio-emotional traits relate to academic outcomes for students who are homeless and highly-mobile, and how early childhood environments and curricula relate to socio-emotional and academic outcomes for young children.

Graduate Student

Ana Saavedra

Ana Saavedra is a doctoral student in the Learning Sciences and Technology Design & Developmental and Psychological Sciences at Stanford University. She holds a B.A. in Psychology and an M.Ed. from Universidad de los Andes (Colombia). Before coming to Stanford, Ana was an Adjunct professor in the teacher education Master´s program of Universidad Externado de Colombia. In 2015, she coordinated high-impact research projects for Colombia’s Ministry of Education as the National Teacher Evaluation and the New Teacher Induction Program. She has participated in the evaluation of several educational programs, such as as Computers to Educate and the program Let’s All Learn (PTA). She led the design, operation, and facilitation of more than 490 educational experiences in informal learning contexts like the Amazon and the Andes for more than 21,000 K-12 students. Her research interests include metacognitive processes and classroom-based-interventions in middle childhood and the use of eye-tracking and design of digital technologies. She is currently working on understanding academic motivation processes in elementary students.

Graduate Student

Zainab Hosseini

Zainab is a doctoral student in Developmental and Psychological Sciences at the Stanford Graduate School of Education. She holds a B.S. in Family Sciences from the University of Maryland, an Ed.M. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and an MSW from the University of Michigan. At Harvard Zainab collaborated with the UNHCR to explore the educational attainability of refugees in Iran, and at Michigan she designed a follow-up research project to study young refugee women’s experiences in the country. Before coming to Stanford, Zainab completed the Leadership Education in Adolescent Health (LEAH) fellowship at Boston Children's Hospital. Zainab's research interests focus on education in emergency contexts, including war zones and refugee camps. She studies trauma-informed socioemotional learning (SEL) interventions that can mitigate the impact of exposure to such adversities and recently taught SEL skills to Syrian refugee children in the North of Lebanon.

Graduate Student

Emily Schell

Emily Schell is a doctoral student in the Developmental and Psychological Sciences program at Stanford's Graduate School of Education. She received her BA with honors in International Relations and East Asian Studies from Brown University in 2016 and MA in International Comparative Education from Stanford University in 2018. Prior to coming to Stanford, she was a Fulbright English Teacher in rural Taiwan. In the SPARK Lab, Emily studies how autonomy relates to academic and socioemotional outcomes, particularly for students from marginalized backgrounds.

Undergraduate Student

Lisa Wang

Lisa is a third-year undergraduate student pursuing a major in philosophy with minors in psychology and political science. She is passionate about mental health care innovation and its intersections with both technology and policy. More broadly speaking, she is interested in understanding and mitigating racial, gender, socioeconomic, and educational inequities.

Undergraduate Student

Elie Kuppermann

Elie is a third year undergraduate at Stanford pursuing a major in Human Biology with a concentration in global maternal-child health. She is also pursuing a minor in theater and performance studies. Broadly, Elie is passionate about early childhood learning and development, and women’s health issues.