People

Lab Director

Amy Lieberman, Ph.D.
Amy Lieberman is an Assistant Professor in the Deaf Studies and Deaf Education Programs at Boston University.  She studies child language development, with a particular interest in how deaf children learn to manage their eye gaze to perceive sign language and the surrounding world.  Prior to joining the BU Faculty, Amy worked as a Research Scientist in the Mayberry Lab for Multimodal Language Development at UCSD and as an Early Childhood Teacher at Kendall School at Gallaudet University.

Lab Manager

Elana Pontecorvo, EdM
Elana Pontecorvo graduated from the Deaf Education program at Boston University. She joined the LAVA Lab in 2019 to pursue her interest in sign language acquisition. She looks forward to working with young Deaf children and their families to promote early sign language acquisition.

Doctoral Student Researchers

Anna Lim, MA
Anna Lim is a PhD student in the Doctor of Education in Language and Literacy Education: ASL/Deaf Education program at Boston University. She graduated with a Master’s degree in Linguistics from Gallaudet University. She has worked on Haskins Laboratory’s ASL SLAAASh (Sign Language Acquisition, Annotation, Archiving and Sharing) project for linguists Drs. Diane Lillo-Martin and Julie Hochgesang. She is interested in research on L2 pedagogy/acquisition of Deaf learners and educational issues in bilingualism in Deaf classrooms.
Michael Higgins, MA
Mike Higgins is a PhD student in the Department of Education at Boston University. He graduated with a degree in Bilingual Teaching from the University of California, San Diego and has 5 years of experience teaching early childhood and high school.
Mike holds an interest in language development and predictive abilities in young children. Tangentially, he is currently examining the impact of ASL rhythms and rhymes on deaf children.
Paris Gappmayr, BA
Paris Gappmayr is a first-year student in the Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences PhD program. She received her B.A. from the University of British Columbia, where she worked on Dr. Kathleen Currie Hall’s SLPAA (Sign Language Phonetic Annotation & Analysis System) project, and in Dr. Darko Odic’s Centre for Cognitive Development. She is interested in learning how children acquire sign languages, and how Deaf individuals learn to read. Her broad goal is to investigate common features between spoken & signed modalities, and to advocate for ASL access for Deaf children..

Graduate Student Researchers

Elizabeth “Lilly” Heller, BA
Lilly Heller is a first-year graduate student in the Deaf Education program at Boston University. She graduated with a degree in Social Work from Gallaudet University and has two and a half years of experience working with deaf elementary students in Kansas School for the Deaf.
Lilly is interested in studying sign language acquisition and strives to promote American Sign Language and Bilingual Education for all deaf children. In the future, she plans to teach elementary at school for the Deaf.
Abigail Thornsberry, BS
Abigail Thornsberry is a first year graduate student in the Language and Literacy Education program at BU, specializing in Deaf Education. She graduated from Towson University with her bachelor’s in Deaf Studies and Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology. She is interested in sign language acquisition and endeavors to support deaf children who have experienced language deprivation or delay in overcoming those barriers.

Alumni

Julia Leary, BS
Julia Leary graduated from BU’s Sargent College in 2021, majoring in Speech, Language, Hearing Sciences and minoring in Deaf Studies. She is interested in learning more about how Deaf children acquire sign language and communication skills and is now pursuing a masters in Speech Language Pathology at Emerson College.
Erin Spurgeon, MAI
Erin Spurgeon received her Masters in Interpretation from Gallaudet University and is working interpreter for the Deaf in Boston, Massachusetts. She has worked within a variety of laboratories studying ASL acquisition and psycholinguistic research across the country.
Allison Fitch, PhD
Allison Fitch is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at the Rochester Institute of Technology. She completed a postdoctoral fellowship in both the Deaf Studies program and the Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences program at Boston University. She received her PhD in Developmental & Brain Sciences from the University of Massachusetts Boston. Her research addresses the interaction between word learning and extra-linguistic factors, such as visual attention, in both signed and spoken language.
Carey M. Ballard, EdM (’21)
Carey M. Ballard is a second-year graduate student in the Deaf Education program at Boston University. He formerly served as a Research Lab Coordinator for Dr. Ben Bahan & Dr. Marlon Kuntze’s Gesture Literacy research laboratory at Gallaudet. He was also previously involved in linguistics research projects at Gallaudet University and Georgetown University. He strives to promote American Sign Language, Bilingual Education and the way being of Deaf as a basic right for all Deaf children.
Anne Wienholz, PhD
Anne Wienholz is an Acting Professor of Sign Language Linguistics at the University of Hamburg and previously a postdoctoral associate in the Deaf Studies Program at Boston University. She investigates various factors affecting signers‘ perception and language processing. She received her PhD in linguistics from the University of Goettingen, Germany, where she investigated language processing in signers of German Sign Language (DGS).
Keri Chamberlain, EdM
Keri Chamberlain is a graduate of the Deaf Education program at Boston University. She is passionate about providing Deaf students with educational equity through language access using a bilingual approach.
Eric Setzer, EdM
Eric Setzer is a graduate of the Deaf Education program at Boston University. He is passionate about making sure that not all Deaf children are left behind in both home and school by providing them with opportunities to explore something new about themselves. In the future, Eric would love to work as a Teacher of the Deaf and soccer coach for the Deaf youth.
Lily Feinberg, BA
Lily Feinberg is a second-year graduate student in the speech-language pathology program. She studied applied psychology and human development and worked in a language acquisition lab throughout her undergraduate years at Boston College, and is interested in transitioning into research that explores this topic within the Deaf population.
Louloua Almohanna
Louloua Almohanna is an undergraduate student in CAS majoring in Neuroscience and minoring in Deaf Studies. She is interested in the attentional mechanisms underlying language acquisition in Deaf children to help minimize language deprivation in infancy. She is also interested in signed languages across different cultures and countries and plans to learn British Sign Language in the near future.
Nikki Pire, BA
Nikki Pire received her Bachelor of Arts in Linguistics from Northeastern University in 2018. In addition to her position at the LAVA Lab, Nikki has worked as a research assistant in the Psycholinguistics lab at the University of Kaiserslautern and The Center of Research and Training at The Learning Center for the Deaf. She is currently the Office Manager and Executive Assistant for The Center for Research and Training at TLC.
Raven Pentz, EdM
Raven Pentz is a graduate of the Deaf Education program at Boston University. She is passionate about supporting the identity development of Deaf children. Raven’s long-term goal is to open a training facility that provides access to Deaf youth that are looking to build their skills in basketball.
Lillian Brown, MS
Lillian Brown received her MS in Speech-Language Pathology at Boston University in 2019. She is interested in how both signed and spoken languages are acquired and used in children. She previously worked as a research assistant in the Child Language and Literacy Lab at Vanderbilt University. Lillian will be working at The Learning Center starting Fall 2019.
Justin Bergeron, EdM
Justin Bergeron is a graduate of the Deaf Education at Boston University. Before BU, he had an opportunity to travel around the world during his gap year to explore a bit more about himself and he has been to more than fifty countries in total. As a result, his travels led him to pursue a Master’s degree in Deaf Education and he hopes to somehow combine his passion of traveling and Deaf Education in his future endeavors.
Julie Behar, BS
Julie Behar graduated from Sargent College in 2019 majoring in Speech, Hearing, and Language Sciences and minoring in Deaf Studies. Julie is interested in learning about how to help ensure all deaf children have constant accessibility to language, and about signed language acquisition in adulthood. Julie is starting a doctorate in Audiology at the University of Texas in Fall, 2019.
Adrienne Sheh, BS
Adrienne Sheh graduated from BU in 2019 majoring in Psychology and minoring in Deaf Studies and Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences. She is interested in learning more about the acquisition of ASL to hopefully help further the research behind the linguistics of American Sign Language and to ensure that deaf children have early access to language. Adrienne is starting a Masters degree in Speech-Language Pathology at San Diego State University in Fall, 2019.
Zoe Fieldsteel, EdM
Zoe Fieldsteel received her Master of Arts in Education of the Deaf from Boston University in 2017. She was a high school English language arts instructor at the Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind in Colorado Springs, and now works at The Learning Center for the Deaf in Framingham, Massachusetts.
Aiken Bottoms, EdM
Aiken Bottoms received their Master of Arts in Education of the Deaf from Boston University in 2018. They have worked as a volunteer teacher in the Marshall Islands and is a full time instructor at The Learning Center for the Deaf.
Deanna Gagne, PhD
Deanna Gagne completed a Postdoctoral Associate in the Deaf Studies and Deaf Education Programs at Boston University. She studies how children acquire, create, and change language in various atypical environments.
She received her PhD at the University of Connecticut where she worked with homesigners, Nicaraguan Sign Language signers and hearing children of deaf adults in Nicaragua. She is currently an Assistant Professor in the Linguistics Department at Gallaudet University
Brittany Farr, EdM
Brittany Farr graduated from the Deaf Education program at Boston University in 2019. She is passionate about transforming the English curriculum for the Deaf programs by having the English curriculum tailor to learning approaches that are relevant to Deaf students and their native language, ASL.
Conrad Baer, EdM
Conrad Baer graduated from the Deaf Education program at Boston University in 2019. He is passionate about improving Deaf Education by using a bilingual approach to instruct Deaf students.

Collaborators

Sudha Arunachalam, New York University

Arielle Borovsky, Purdue University

Naomi Caselli, Boston University

Deanna Gagne, Gallaudet University

Rachel Mayberry, University of California, San Diego

Julie Mitchiner, Gallaudet University

Jennie Pyers, Wellesley College

Liz Schotter, University of South Florida

Chen Yu, The University of Texas at Austin