Harvard Medical School Harvard Medical School
Judge Baker Children's Center Harvard Medical School
studies studies team opportunities publications contact

  Project Staff




Claudio Toppelberg, MD
Principal Investigator
Dr. Toppelberg is a Harvard-trained child, adolescent and adult psychiatrist and researcher. His research has focused on the interface of normal and delayed language and cognitive development with child and adolescent emotional/behavioral development, mental disorders, autism spectrum disorder and other developmental and learning disorders. He is interested in applying scientific evidence to guide national and state policy which regulates programs and practices for traditionally underserved, underrepresented and vulnerable children. To this end, he currently serves on a consensus study of the National Academy of Sciences’ Board of Children, Youth and Families, and the National Academy of Medicine (formerly IOM), and has been involved in research in Norway, Chile and the US.

As a clinical scholar, Dr. Toppelberg has contributed to the literature on evaluating and treating children, adolescents and adults who suffer from emotional/behavioral problems, and in particular those who also have communication or language deficits and language-based learning disabilities. He has also written extensively about differentiating language disorders and learning disabilities from normal language development in dual language children. He is an expert in the evaluation and treatment of youth and adults with autism spectrum disorder, intellectual disabilities, and other developmental disorders. He is often consulted about the most appropriate psychopharmacological, behavioral, developmental and psychological treatments to maximize functioning and chances for success in school and family life.

Dr. Toppelberg runs psychiatric services for a large school for children and adolescents with autism and developmental disabilities, the prestigious New England Center for Children. He is the former director of psychiatry at Manville School, part of the renowned Judge Baker Children’s Center, a Harvard Medical School affiliate where he directs continuing medical education, the Child Mental Health Forum, and his research lab.

Dr. Toppelberg's Personal Page

Brian1 Brian Collins, PhD
Brian A. Collins, PhD is an Assistant Professor of Bilingual Education at Hunter College, CUNY and holds a Ph.D from New York University. At Hunter College he teaches graduate courses including: Foundations of Bilingual Education, Language Assessment for ELLs, and Psychology of Language Development. Dr. Collins has diverse research experience investigating issues surrounding education, immigration, bilingualism, and language development and has published on bilingualism, language development, teacher-child relationships, cultural competence and dimensions of children’s social, psychological, and academic well-being in the American Educational Research Journal, Early Childhood Research Quarterly, International Journal of Sociology of Language, Child & Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America, Journal of Moral Education, and Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Matias1 Matias Irarrazaval, MD
Research Associate
Matias is a physician, child and adolescent psychiatrist, and currently Assistant Professor of Psychopathology and Mental Health at the University of Chile in Santiago, Chile. As a postdoctoral research fellow, his work, which still continues in collaboration with the Toppelberg lab, focuses on the Chile Crece Contigo programs’ datasets looking at the impact of a public preschool policy on child cognitive, language, and emotional/behavioral development. He graduated with a master’s in public health from the Harvard School of Public Health and with an MD from Universidad de los Andes, Chile and completed his residency training at the Universidad de Chile in child and adolescent psychiatry. His research interest is on developmental psychopathology, public mental health, and psychiatric and developmental epidemiology.

alfonso Alfonso Nieto-Castañón, PhD
Data Analyst and Statistician
Dr. Nieto is in charge of database management and data analysis, and provides direct supervision in this area. Dr. Nieto received his doctorate in the Cognitive and Neural Systems Department, Boston University. He also has a BS degree in Telecommunications Engineering and a background as a research engineer (Center for the Development of Telecommunications in Castilla y León, Valladolid, Spain). Dr. Nieto has a strong mathematical and statistical background. In addition to his work for the project, he is a researcher with the Research Laboratory of Electronics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the Cognitive and Neural Systems Department, Boston University, where he has been working on a project on the neural representation of language, P.I. Frank Guenther, PhD.

Marisa Hollinshead, MS
Research Coordinator
Marisa graduated from the University of Washington in 2001 with a dual degree in Social Justice and Social Policy. Marisa is Spanish-English bilingual and has experience working with children and families from diverse social, cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. While in Seattle she provided culturally relevant case management, outreach and crisis intervention for Hispanic families and children. She joined the project in the fall of 2005. Since September 2006 she is in charge of research assistant recruitment, training and supervision for the project and of maintaining communication with the participating families, children and schools and coordinating research participant assessment. Marisa is a masters of science and medical student at the Northeastern Ohio Medical University-Cleveland State University Partnership for Urban Health program.

norah Norah Wallace, BA
Senior Research Assistant

Norah graduated from Bates College in 2014 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology with a focus in Biology and Health. She has additional concentrations in Philosophy and English. Norah previously worked as a Research Assistant Intern at the Yale Child Study Center where she composed a paper with her superiors on Maternal Emotion Regulation that was published in 2015. She also gained experience at Yale coding mother-child interactions for issues like sensitivity, attachment, and intrusivity. Additionally, Norah has experience working with children as a Teaching Assistant. Norah has contributed to a number of papers and posters in her time with the lab. She will pursue her PhD in Clinical Psychology at Fairleigh Dickinson University in the fall of 2016.
sophia Sophia Suarez Friedman
Research Assistant

Sophia is currently studying Psychology and Spanish at American University. She previously volunteered for Jumpstart through AmeriCorps in Washington, DC and has experience teaching Spanish literacy in a learning center in Nicaragua. Sophia's future goals are to join Peace Corps and obtain a higher degree in Psychology. Her current role in the project involves literature reviews and assisting with data organization.

sara Sara Mahoney
Research Assistant

Sara is currently attending Mount Holyoke College and is double majoring in Psychology and Spanish. She is a Spanish-English speaker with experience living in Chile and Guatemala. She has experience working with at Risk Youth in Children's Homes domestically and internationally. She also has experience working in a bilingual classroom in Holyoke, MA. Her future goal is to obtain a higher degree in Psychology and work with Latino Youth in the U.S. Sara's current role involves literature reviews and assisting with data organization.

Past Project Staff


Deborah Morgan, BS
Research Assistant

Deborah graduated from UMass Amherst in 2011 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Disorders and a minor in Education. Originally from Argentina, she is a Spanish-English bilingual. Deborah has experience transcribing disordered speech as well as African American Vernacular English. She has also worked closely with children of all ages with different backgrounds and adolescents with autism. Debi graduated from University of Pittsburgh with a Master’s Degree in Speech-Language Pathology and is currently on its staff as faculty.

M. Jane Jenkins, MA
Research Assistant
Jane graduated from the Harvard University Extension School in 2012, magna cum laude, with a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts, psychology concentration. Her interest in child psychopathology combined with her love for animals led to her interest in the value of the human-animal connection to children. She is interested in language-based and behavioral disorders, socio-emotional and self-regulatory skills development and trauma recovery, as well as child-oriented interventions and prevention programs. Jane completed her MA in psychology and is pursuing a clinical PhD at Washington State University.

Christina Chung, MA
Research Assistant
Christina received master's degrees from Teachers College, Columbia University (MA) and Harvard Graduate School of Education (MEd), after completing her undergraduate work at University of California at Los Angeles. She is a former elementary school teacher, who has worked in the public school systems of Los Angeles and Orange County, CA. Her strong interest in bicultural/bilingual child mental health and its relationship to quality of parental child rearing practices led her to do qualitative research for the Harvard Family Research Project. Herself a native Korean-English bilingual speaker, Christina is especially interested in bicultural groups in the U.S. and how they construct their own unique interpretations of what optimal child mental health looks like, and what they believe are the attitudes and behaviors which support such development. Her work as a child assessor with the project brings her closer to the complex intersection of bilingualism, biculturalism, mental health, and the academic achievement of a child.

Ying Xiong, PhD
Research Assistant
Ying began working with the project in August of 2005. Originally from China, Ying came to the USA on a Freeman Foundation Grant and obtained both her undergraduate and master's degrees in psychology from Wesleyan University. She has previously worked in cognitive psychology research at Wesleyan and completed a clinical psychology summer research internship at UMASS Medical School. In addition, her bicultural/bilingual background also helps her achieve a better understanding of the population in our study. Ying graduated with a PhD in clinical psychology in NYC.

Noe Olivera, MA
Research Assistant
Noe S. Olivera was born and raised in Prosser, Washington in a Mexican family. His experience working with people began following his father, continued as a supervisor for a large orchard company, and evolved into managing his father's orchards by the time he was fourteen, utilizing his excellent Spanish-English bilingual skills. Noe's personal experience helps him identify with children and the parents of the project. He received BAs in political science and psychology from the University of Idaho and he is currently working towards a Masters in psychology degree from Boston University.

Karen Meersohn, MA
Research Assistant
Karen began working with the study in October of 2003 conducting parent interviews, teacher observations and child language assessments. Karen Meersohn received a Master of Arts degree in Applied Linguistics from Boston University and Bachelor of Arts in Hispanic Literature and Linguistics from Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile. Karen along with the rest of the team began in-depth analyses of linguistic variables on phonological memory and receptive vocabulary in bilingual children. Karen settled and became an accomplished artist and ceramist in Lyon, France. https://www.facebook.com/kmeersohn/

Claudette Khoury
Research Assistant
Claudette brought many of her talents to the team and working as a child assessor and with subject recruitment. She is bilingual/bicultural with an international background giving her a strong understanding to the population involved in our project. Following and tracking the status of our cohort has been a main responsibilty of Claudette.

Ariadna Forray, MD
Research Fellow
Ariadna served as a post-doctoral researcher under an award by the American Psychiatric Association Minority Medical Student Fellowship while she was a Harvard Medical School student. She brought a strong background in bench biological research and, as a Mexican-Chilean-American native bilingual/bicultural person, an understanding of the population we study. Ariadna conducted parent interviews and participated in many aspects of the research. Dr. Foray completed her residency training program in Psychiatry at Yale and is now an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and NIH-funded researcher at Yale Medical School.


Lilian Perez, MA
Subject Recruiter
Lilian graduated with a neurosciences major from Wellesley College and a masters in public health from Emory University. She then completed a fellowship at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and is currently a joint doctoral degree student in Public Health and Global Health and a NIH-funded researcher at the Institute for Behavioral and Community Health, both at San Diego State University.

Lindsie Thaden
Research Assessor
Lindsie worked with the project as a child assessor showing her true talents for working with children. With an earnest interest in psychiatry she gained experience in administering child language assessements.

Claudia Burger, PhD
Research Assistant
Claudia, a native of Queens, New York, holds a bachelor's degree from Wellesley College with a major in Spanish and Business. Claudia began work on the project during the Phase I of our longitudinal study. She was instrumental in many aspects of the project including parental interviews and child assessments. She received her doctorate degree at Fordham University's Counseling Psychology program and is currently on the faculty at Montefiore Medical Center and Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

Mariza Goncalves, MA
Data Assistant
Mariza received an MA in developmental psychology from Columbia University's Teachers' College. She was a data assistant in Phase I of our longitudinal study. Mariza is presently pursuing a PhD in clinical psychology at Akron University, Ohio.

Irma Jimenez, BA
Research Assistant
Irma recently completed her bachelors degree in Psychology from Northeastern University. Presently she is working towards her master's degree in child development at Tufts University. She also conducted child language assessments in English and Spanish. Irma was responsible for translating assessments and consent forms, conducting literature searches and other office duties.

Lisa Maloney, MA
Research Fellow
Lisa received her MA in child development from Tufts University's Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Development and was a research fellow for the project while also being on staff at the Developmental Evaluation Center at Children's Hospital Boston. She then completed a second master's degree in speech/language pathology at the University of Cincinnati.


Laura Medrano, LMHC
Research Assistant
Laura came with a degree in psychology from University of Salamanca, Spain. She was a crucial collaborator in the initial clinic-based study (Study II), single-handedly recruiting and assessing the large majority of the participating children (n=100), families and teachers. She then continued her clinical career with the Latino-American Health Institute, where she became clinical director. She is currently the progrma director at The Home for Little Wanderers .

Liana Peña Morgens, PhD
Research Fellow
Dr. Morgens earned her Master's Degree in Psychology at Wesleyan University and received her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology at Florida State University. She completed her internship and post- doctoral training in neuropsychology as a fellow at McLean Hospital / Harvard Medical School. She is currently on staff as a clinical psychologist and neuropsychologist at McLean Hospital and is an Instructor of Psychology at Harvard Medical School. Her work with the project focused on setting up the database and on data management for Study II and she contributed in writing and co-authored one of the first papers. Since then, Liana founded her own neuropsychological group practice.

Paola Uccelli, Ed.D.
Research Assistant
Paola made important contributions as a doctoral level research assistant in Study II, setting the initial bilingual child language assessment protocols. Since, she has completed her Ph.D. in language and literacy at the Human Development and Psychology program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where she is currently an Asssistant Professor.


Anahi Uran, BA
Research Assistant
First research assistant in the early days of the project. Returned to Colombia, her country of origin, to pursue studies in psychology. Anahi founded and is directing her own preschool.
Copyright 2016 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College