Skip to content Skip to navigation


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.

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

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.

Graduate Student

Lily Steyer

Lily Steyer is a doctoral student in Developmental and Psychological Sciences at Stanford University and a recipient of the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) Fellowship. She is interested in the effects of poverty and adversity on children’s cognitive, social, and emotional development and the role of social policy in advancing equity. In the SPARK lab, Lily’s current projects focus on scalable assessments of children’s motivation, effort, and self-regulation, as well as how early childhood systems impact young children’s socioemotional and academic outcomes. She received her BA in Human Biology from Stanford in 2015.
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.

Undergraduate Student

Lisa Wang

Lisa is a senior 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 senior undergraduate student at Stanford University 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. She hopes to continue on to medical school after graduation. 

Undergraduate Student

Michelle Zheng

Michelle is a second year undergraduate student pursuing a major in economics with a minor in philosophy. She is interested in mental health care policy and ethics, particularly how to make mental health outcomes more equitable through public policy.

Undergraduate Student

Isabel Wang

Isabel is a third-year undergraduate student at Stanford University. Her interests surround neuroeconomics - the field combining psychology, neuroscience, and economics to explain human decision making - and the application of research to reduce social inequities. Isabel began in the SPARK Lab as a Research Assistant studying and collecting field data, segmenting ECG data, and forming a hypothesis about the link between parenting styles and children’s acquired social-emotional learning skills.

Undergraduate Student

Riley Jackson

Riley is a junior at Stanford majoring in Human Biology and minoring in Creative Writing. Broadly, she is interested in the intersection of neuroscience and public health, and how interventions in these fields can impact child development.

Undergraduate Student

Cynthia Samano

Cynthia is a third-year undergraduate pursuing a major in Human Biology with a concentration in Intersectionality and Women’s Health. She is especially interested in women’s reproductive justice and how different social factors affect women’s access to healthcare and education.

Undergraduate Student

Alexa Thompson

Alexa is a third year undergraduate at Stanford pursuing a major in Human Biology and a minor in Education. She is concentrating in the neuroscientific basis of behavior and development and loves studying the intersection of neuroscience, public health, and education policy in order to understand and combat inequities that hinder children’s ability to succeed.

High School Student

Saayili Budhiraja

Saayili Budhiraja is a junior at Castilleja School in Palo Alto. She has been volunteering with the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Peninsula and other educational equity programs for many years, and hopes to study education policy in the future. More specifically, she is interested in the achievement gaps between students in different communities and what can be done to close them.

High School Student

Rachel Kim

Rachel Kim is a high school junior at Monta Vista High School. She is interested in how children's gender and socioeconomic status play a role in shaping their executive functions. Generally, she is passionate about how childhood development affects people’s relationships and success over time.

High School Student

Joyce Lin

Joyce Lin is a Junior at Palo Alto High School with an interest in business, psychology, and math. She is currently researching financial literacy curriculum and student education in the PAUSD school district in her AP Research class. She hopes to continue this interest in college, possibly studying business psychology, behavioral economics, or statistics.

High School Student

Madhu Ayyer

Madhu Ayyer is a sophomore at Saratoga High School with an interest in both science and art.  She is specifically interested in the effect of extrinsic rewards on building long term habits. In addition to this, she is currently volunteering at a large nonprofit that aids children in rural India. She hopes to continue volunteering and pursue her interests in the scientific field during college.

High School Student

Jacqueline Woo

Jacqueline Woo is a Junior at Mountain View High School. She is passionate about how external and intrinsic psychological factors can have a profound effect on kids’ memories, learning capabilities, and behaviors, especially regarding their self-control with the environment around them. She hopes to pursue her interests in neuroscience and behavioral psychology in college and in her future studies.