Hélène Deacon, Lab Director
The goal of my research program is to investigate the skills that underlie successful reading and writing. I am interested in just how children ‘crack the code’, understanding how language is mapped onto the page, and how they become expert readers. We work with children and adults from across Canada and around the world; it is vital that we understand how children learn to read and write in English, as well as in other languages, including growing up bilingually. This knowledge is important for testing theories of reading development, as well as for developing best-practices in education. I am always grateful for partnerships with students, teachers and the educational community in our research
Outside of the academic sphere, I love to spend time exploring my community and the great outdoors, especially with my family.
Stef Hartlin, Lab Manager
I completed my BSc and MSc at Dalhousie University with a focus on developmental psychology. I have been working as a lab manager for a number of years and consider myself to be among the lucky few who truly LOVE their job. I get to earn my living helping answer questions about how the world works. How amazing is that?! Although I enjoy all aspects of research, I am really passionate about experimental design and working directly with families and children. Outside of the lab you can find me at my cabin in the Musquodoboit Valley with my husband, dogs, and chickens enjoying the great outdoors and rural living. I joined the Language & Literacy Lab (LLL) in 2019 and look forward to working with the wonderful researchers, students, and staff of the LLL as well as the amazing families who make our research possible!
Jolena Klymyshyn, Assistant Lab Manager
I joined the language and literacy team as a summer research assistant in April 2022. I am going into my fifth year of a combined degree in Psychology and Creative Writing. I am so excited that I found a lab that combines both of my areas of interest and am looking forward to helping with literacy research. I am primarily working on the recruitment, communications, and data management side of our ongoing studies, but I also get to do reading activities with some of the families that come into the lab to take part. In my free time I love to read and write fiction, dance, and play music. I look forward to continuing to work with this amazing lab and furthering my understanding of how children learn to read.
Emilie Courteau, Postdoctoral Fellow
I joined the lab in January 2022 as a Mitacs intern for a project on children’s literacy. I am completing my PhD, with a supervision at the University of Montreal and co-supervision at McGill University. My dissertation focused on grammatical and lexical-semantic processing by French-speaking adolescents with and without developmental language disorders. For my thesis, I investigated oral language comprehension at the behavioral level with linguistic tasks and at the neurocognitive level with the electroencephalography (EEG) technique. Prior to my PhD studies, I worked as a clinical speech-language pathologist and collaborated on a research project that developed an approach to promote speech-language services in the community. In my free time, I enjoy biking, cross-country skiing, and watching movies with my husband and cat.
Sophia Giazitzidou, Postdoctoral Fellow
I joined the lab in February 2023 as a Postdoctoral Fellow. In July 2021, I received my PhD in Educational Psychology from Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. My dissertation focused on the underlying skills of oral and silent reading fluency in students with and without dyslexia. Particularly, I investigated the relations of morphological awareness and orthographic knowledge with reading fluency, exploring the mediating role of phonological awareness, vocabulary, and processing speed and how these relations differ in students with and without dyslexia. I have also worked on a research program on digital reading, examining its effect on reading comprehension employed eye-tracking technology. Furthermore, I have offered courses to post-graduate students at the University of Crete and Frederick University for learning disabilities. I have over 10 years of experience in teaching students with learning disabilities, particularly those with dyslexia. In my free time, I enjoy hiking, skiing, and traveling.
Rebecca Tucker, Clinical Psychology PhD Student
I joined the lab in 2011 as a volunteer, and never left! I completed an independent research project and my honours thesis in the lab before moving on to my graduate research. My research so far has dealt with orthographic learning in children and how they later use that learning when reading other new, related words. I’ve also looked at how we can help to support university students who have a history of reading difficulties and what social/academic aspects of their university experience may affect their decision to stay in university.
Outside of the lab most of my time is spend with my son, who was the inspiration for my interest in literacy research! I also enjoy any activity that helps me recover from school/play time – reading, cooking/baking, basketball, knitting, and generally spending time with friends!
Liz MacKay, Clinical Psychology PhD Student
I joined the lab as a volunteer in my second year of my undergraduate degree. Since that time, I have worked three summers in the lab as a Research Assistant under NSERC and IWK Summer Studentship funding. I also completed a 3001 Project and Honours Thesis in the lab. In January 2016, I started a full time Research Assistant position. In the fall of 2016, I started my PhD in Clinical Psychology. My dissertation focuses on the contribution of syntax, specifically syntactic awareness and syntactic comprehension, to reading comprehension across the elementary grades. My other research interests include how best to identify poor comprehenders and where their deficits lie, the academic abilities and personality traits of university students who self-report a history of reading difficulties, the skills that support the development of efficient access to words previously encountered, and other metalinguistic factors that contribute to reading comprehension.
My clinical experience is with children who have behavioral and emotional challenges, learning difficulties, and atypical neurodevelopment (e.g., autism spectrum disorder). I also work with teenagers who have difficulties with emotional regulation, are anxious, and have challenges with substance use.
Alex Ryken, Experimental Psychology PhD Student
I joined the lab in 2017 for my MSc in Experimental Psychology and then started the PhD program in 2019. I’m interested in the metalinguistic skills which underlie reading ability, and am especially interested in punctuation and how prosodic sensitivity (an awareness of the rhythmic components of language) contributes to early reading development. I’ve been fortunate to receive a SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship and a Nova Scotia Graduate Scholarship to support my PhD studies.
I moved to Halifax from London, Ontario where I completed my Hons. BA in Psychology at Huron University College at Western University. In my spare time I love to read, travel, and explore the city.
Mariam Elgendi, Clinical Psychology PhD Student
I first joined the Language and Literacy Lab the summer of my third year as an RA through NSERC funding. This was an unforgettable experience! I got to test children in schools all over Nova Scotia. In the 2019-2020 school year I completed my BSc of Psychology (Hons) with my honors project under the supervision of Dr. Hélène Deacon and Dr. Sherry Stewart (MAAC lab). My project primarily focused on personality traits of first year undergraduate students who self report a history of reading difficulties. Currently, I'm in the second year of my PhD in Clinical Psychology with the lab. In my spare time, I love to shop, cook Italian food, read romance books and spend time by the beach!
Mélanie Dutemple, MITACS Intern
I work on the project "Putting the science of literacy into the hands of Canadians" with Dr. Hélène Deacon. My role is to create a publishable APA paper based on key topics relevant to this Mitacs project and the Canadian Children’s Literacy Foundation. I obtained a bachelor's degree in literary studies and was a College French and literature teacher for almost 20 years. I then completed a master's degree in special education. Currently, I am finishing a PhD in education under the supervision of professors André C. Moreau and Brigitte Stanké. My master's focused on the explicit teaching of lexical spelling to dyslexic students and my PhD focuses on the acquisition of spelling regularities. I offer training and international conferences on spelling and teach at Université de Montréal and UQO. As a remedial teacher, I have accompanied hundreds of students at all levels and have developed a valuable expertise with students with learning disabilities, particularly those with dysorthographia and dyslexia. Outside of the academic sphere, I love kayaking, hiking and traveling.
Katherine Hoferek, Clinical Psychology PhD Student
I joined the lab in 2023 for my PhD in Clinical Psychology. I completed my BA (Hons) degree at Carleton University, where I double majored in psychology and linguistics. My thesis focused on how young multilingual adults exposed to English or French post-puberty produce language. I am interested in working on projects involving how digital literacy and syntactic skills impact reading comprehension in children. In my spare time, I love to kayak, go to the gym, hike, and be by the water.
2023-2024 Undergraduate Research Students
Amy Hicks, Honours Student
I am entering my fourth year of a BSc in Psychology with a minor in Gender and Women Studies. I started volunteering in the lab in May 2023, and I look forward to beginning my honours position next year! My areas of interest are child development and psycholinguistics. My goal is to become a speech-language pathologist upon completing my undergraduate degree. In the summer, I enjoy spending time at my campground in Mahone Bay, reading on my deck, and having picnics on the beach with my friends. Hockey was my passion growing up, so in the winter, you will find me skating. I am eager to strengthen my research skills and learn more about the development of children’s language and literacy skills during my time at the lab.
Jolena Klymyshyn, Honours Student
I joined the language and literacy team as a summer research assistant in April 2022. I am going into my fifth year of a combined degree in Psychology and Creative Writing. This year I will be completing my honours project with the Language and Literacy Lab. I am so excited that I found a lab that combines both of my areas of interest and am looking forward to helping with literacy research. I am primarily working on the recruitment, communications, and data management side of our ongoing studies, but I also get to do reading activities with some of the families that come into the lab to take part. In my free time I love to read and write fiction, dance, and play music. I look forward to continuing to work with this amazing lab and furthering my understanding of how children learn to read.
Shada Hamed, Research Assistant
I joined the Language and Literacy Lab as a volunteer in October 2021 and in Summer 2022, I worked as a research assistant with the Leaps and Bounds project. I am currently in my first year of a BSc in Neuroscience, and am excited to work and learn with the LLL team as many of my interests relate to the current research being done. I am specifically interested in reading comprehension and language acquisition, and look forward to expanding my knowledge by helping the Language and Literacy Lab with their ongoing projects. In my free time, I like to paint, read and go canoeing with my friends and family.
Lauren Gallant, Research Assistant
I joined the Language and Literacy Lab as a research assistant in November 2023. After completing my BSc in Psychology (Hons) at Mount Allison University, I was eager to gain new research experience. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to contribute to such an exciting and meaningful field of research. As a research assistant, I get to perform a wide range of tasks, including communicating with families and schools, completing reading activities with children, and data management. In my spare time, I enjoy thrift shopping, listening to music, going for walks in nature, and spending time with friends and family!
Hannah Millar, Co-op Student
I am a third year Biology/Neuroscience student at Dalhousie University and have joined the Language and Literacy Lab as a Research Assistant for my second co-op term of my degree from January to April of 2024. I will be helping with data collection at schools around the area for Dr. Deacon’s research, and am looking forward to learning more about child development! Other than school and work, I love spending time outside, hanging out with my dogs, and picking up random hobbies!
Salwa has remained current in her work as an educationist, earning certifications like TESOL, Special Needs Education and others above her graduate degrees in English Literature and Linguistics from University of Karachi, Pakistan. This has widened the range of skills she uses as both an editor and a curriculum developer. She is now interested in combining her passion for teaching with her strong editorial skills, ideally by collaborating with organizations introducing contemporary pedagogical tools and technology in the #NewNormal learning environment and building a support system for educational purposes. She continues to explore various alternative education models across the world to bring diversity and inclusion in learning styles for all kinds of learners (special needs, cognitively challenged and ordinary learners) in a competitive and score-bound system. Moving forward, she plans to continue to grow in her role and hopes to network as much as possible with like-minded professionals worldwide. In her spare time, Salwa enjoys travel, reading and hiking.
I joined the Language and Literacy Lab as a volunteer in February 2023. I am currently in my fourth year of a BSc in Neuroscience with a certificate in Medical Humanities, and am a member of the varsity women’s hockey team. I love working with children and am very interested in child psychopathology and learning. I am super excited to expand my knowledge and experience by assisting the LLL with their work. Aside from hockey, I enjoy going to the gym, climbing, being outdoors, and spending time with friends.
I joined the Language and Literacy Lab as a volunteer in September 2023. I am in my second year of completing a BA in Psychology with a Minor in Sociology. I aspire to pursue a career as a clinical psychologist with a specialization in children and youth. I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity to learn, grow, and gain experience while volunteering in this lab. During my spare time, you can find me reading, exploring the world of cinema, or trying a new recipe.
I joined the Language and Literacy Lab as a volunteer in May 2023, and I am going into my third year of my BSc in Neuroscience. I have been interested in psycholinguistics for some time, and have previous volunteer experience administering early reading and language development programs. As such, I am very excited to be involved in a lab that can help expand my knowledge and experience in the areas of child development and research processes. Outside of academics and research, I play the drums in multiple bands, run, hike, kayak, do yoga, and spend quality time with friends and family.
I joined the Language and Literacy Lab in September 2023 as a volunteer. I am currently in my third year of my BSC majoring in psychology and biology. My current research interests are child development and psychopathology. I am looking forward to expanding my knowledge in these subject areas as well as supporting some amazing research currently happening at the LLL lab. Outside of school, I enjoy hiking, baking, reading, and spending time with friends and family.
I joined the Language and Literacy Lab as a volunteer in September 2023. I am currently in my second year of a BSc in Psychology. My research interests involve studying Child Psychology, Child and Adult Psychopathology, and Mental Health. I have been coaching soccer to children during the summer which I really enjoyed. I am very excited to increase my understanding of child language development and learn from all the great members in the lab. Outside of my studies and research, I enjoy reading, travelling, playing sports (soccer, skiing, rock climbing, hiking), baking and spending quality time with my family and friends.
I joined the Language and Literacy Lab as a volunteer in October 2023. I am currently in my third year of a BSc in Psychology and am interested in child development and learning. I have always loved reading; therefore, I am not only excited about the opportunity to gain research experience but also to further my knowledge in the area of reading and writing development. Outside of school, I love to dance and am on the Dalhousie Black and Gold Dance Team. I also love spending time with family and friends and being outdoors.
Tamara Sorenson Duncan, Research Associate
I am Assistant Professor of Linguistics at Carleton University. I completed a post-doctoral fellowship in the Language and Literacy Lab with funding support from the IWK and Donald Hill Family Fellowships. I continue to collaborate with the Language and Literacy Lab on a number of projects. My research investigates language and literacy development in diverse populations, focusing especially on children who are at risk for academic difficulty. To date, this work has included children from immigrant and refugee backgrounds, children with developmental language disorder and children with autism spectrum disorder.
Bradley Bergey, Research Associate
I joined the lab in January 2014 as a postdoctoral fellow, moving from my hometown of Philadelphia, where I received my PhD in Educational Psychology from Temple University. I am now Assistant Professor, in Secondary Education & Youth Services at Queens College, at the City University of New York, but am also continuing the research I was working on in the lab. My research interests include student motivation and self-regulated learning. My work on the Partnership for Student Success project taps my interests in how motivation and learning strategies relate to success, achievement, and well-being in university students who face unique academic challenges.