Principal Investigator

Elizabeth Norton, Ph.D.

I am an associate professor in the department of Communication Sciences and Disorders (CSD) at Northwestern University. I also hold an appointment in the Department of Medical Social Sciences in the Feinberg School of Medicine and in the Northwestern Interdisciplinary Neuroscience (NUIN) program. My research focuses on understanding typical reading and language development as well as developmental and learning disabilities, including dyslexia, developmental language disorder, and autism spectrum disorders. My lab uses different types of brain imaging, such as MRI and EEG/ERP, in combination with behavioral measures, to address these questions. I am particularly interested in how combining behavior with brain imaging might help us to identify children who are at risk for these disorders earlier than traditional behavioral methods would allow, so that earlier intervention can be provided. I am also working to bring our neuroscience tools to more “real world” contexts, such as to assess parents and toddlers brains as they play together, and to study preterm infants in the NICU.

I am a highly collaborative and interdisciplinary scientist; I think that when everyone hangs out in the same sandbox and works together, we build the coolest castles. My collaborative work at Northwestern brings this approach of brain-behavior integration to earlier identification of language and neurodevelopmental problems in different domains, such as infants born preterm or with prenatal exposures and children at risk for mental health or behavior problems. In a large-scale collaboration across the US, I am one of the two site PIs for Northwestern’s site for the national Healthy Brain and Child Development (HBCD) study.

I am committed to bridging neuroscience research to educational and applied settings. I have worked with schools, community groups, and policy makers such as Decoding Dyslexia, Everyone Reading Illinois, The Reading League, Hyde Park Day Schools, Landmark School, and the Illinois State Board of Education to improve awareness of reading and language disorders and advocate for policy changes that make our educational and clinical practices consistent with current research.

At Northwestern, I am an active member of the Institute for Innovations in Developmental Sciences (DevSci) and co-director of the DevSci Neurodevelopmental Resource Core.  I am the director of undergraduate studies in the CSD department. I mentor doctoral students through the PhD in Communication Sciences and Disorders and the Northwestern Interdisciplinary Neuroscience (NUIN) Program.

I obtained my B.A. in Language and Brain Development at Dartmouth College and my Ph.D. at Tufts University in Child Study and Human Development. I completed my postdoctoral training in the Gabrieli Lab at the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT.

Life-work balance is really important to me. Outside of the lab, some of my favorite things are cooking, cheering on the Red Sox, riding my bright pink bike near Lake Michigan, vintage wristwatches, New England mountains, Oxford commas, dresses with pockets, and live music. You’ll see below that each lab member lists what they love about science and life outside the lab!

You can reach me via email at enorton at

See my CV (PDF, updated January 2024)

Lab members


Soujin ‘Jinnie’ Choi, MA, PhD candidate
I am a PhD student in Communication Sciences and Disorders. I earned my BA in Korean Language and Literature and MA in Communication Disorders at Ewha Womans University in Korea. Before coming to Chicago, I practiced as a speech-language pathologist in Korea. I am interested in the development of phonological processing ability in children and how that ability predicts reading and writing in school-age children. This work is funded by a dissertation fellowship from the Dingwall Foundation. My aim is to find precursors of dyslexia and developmental language disorders using neurological and behavioral methods. I love spending time with my beloved people and experiencing new activities.

Jiyoon Kim, PhD StudentPicture of a woman in front of a distant coastal city background
I am a PhD student in Communication Sciences and Disorders. I earned my BAs in Linguistics and Psychology at Seoul National University. My research focuses on predicting reading development and difficulties in children. Specifically, I am interested in how neural and behavioral predictors such as the mismatch negativity (MMN) and phonological processing skills help identify children at risk. I am also interested in modeling and identifying patterns in language and reading development. Outside of the lab, I enjoy swimming, painting, and opera.

Hudi Licht, PhD Candidate
I am a PhD student in Communication Sciences and Disorders. I earned my B.S. in Neuroscience at Muhlenberg College. After completing my undergraduate degree, I worked as a research technician in the Center for Autism Research Excellence at Boston University. I am interested in understanding the relationship between brain and language development in children with autism and how this can help create more targeted interventions. In my free time I enjoy hiking, reading, and traveling.

Brittany Manning, MS, CCC-SLP, Postdoc and PhD ’21
I completed both BA (2010) and MS degrees (2012) in Communicative Disorders at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and PhD in the LEARN Lab in 2021. My research interests lie in studying language and literacy development, with a focus on cognitive processing, social skills, and language environment. From 2012 to 2016, I practiced as a speech-language pathologist, working closely with Chicago area schools. In my research, I aim to answer clinically relevant questions in children with specific language impairment, dyslexia, ADHD, and autism spectrum disorders. I am currently a fellow on the DevSci “Mental Health Earlier” T32 advised by Dr. Laurie Wakschlag and Dr. Norton.

Serena Mon, PhD StudentPhoto of a woman in front of a forest background
I am a PhD student in Communication Sciences and Disorders. I completed my AB in neuroscience with a minor in linguistics from Princeton University. Prior to starting my PhD, I worked as the laboratory coordinator of the Brain and Social Cognition Lab at UC Davis. I am interested in understanding how caregivers shape their children’s neural development to support language learning. Outside of the lab, I enjoy crocheting amigurumi and watching TV, usually at the same time.

Julia Nikolaeva, PhD candidate
I am a PhD student the Communication Sciences and Disorders Department. I completed my BS in Psychology with a minor in English at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Following my undergraduate, I worked as a research assistant at the Laboratories of Cognitive Neuroscience at Boston Children’s Hospital/Harvard Medical School. Across these experiences, I became curious about identifying early brain differences in developmental disorders, such as autism spectrum disorder. Importantly, my research is motivated by how we can use early detection of brain differences to better predict developmental trajectories and select specialized interventions. My dissertation work is funded by the DevSci Graduate Student Fellowship.

Victor Criollo, Undergraduate
I am an undergraduate studying Communication Sciences and Disorders. I am from Dover, New Jersey. I aim to move on to graduate school and become a speech-language pathologist. My love for languages stems back to the four years of German I took in high school. I was interested in the similarities between both languages, which led to exploring linguistics. From there, I began to notice how important language is to our everyday lives. It is truly extraordinary how complex language is! I am excited to work in the LEARN Lab as it gives me a small view into the vast amount of research in the CSD field. It also allows me to gain valuable research experience as an undergraduate. Outside of the lab, I love listening to Doja Cat, hanging out with my friends, and playing Animal Crossing!

Lyla Heising, Undergraduate
I am an undergraduate majoring in Communication Sciences and Disorders, with a minor in Linguistics. My goal is to become a pediatric speech-language pathologist, a field I became interested in from the experience of watching my cousin’s speech therapy appointments, as well as my love of language. I am very excited about working in the LEARN Lab because it will help me find new ways to help others. In my free time, I enjoy reading, creative writing, and time with my friends and family.

Bari Lefkowitz, Undergraduate

Melany Morales, Undergraduatea woman with brown hair smiling in front of a field of sunflowers
I am an undergraduate double majoring in Neuroscience and Psychology with a minor in Italian. I am from Caracas, Venezuela. I aim to pursue a PhD in Neuroscience investigating the relationship between early childhood experiences and neuroplasticity in shaping language and social-emotional skills. My exposure to different cultures further catalyzed my interest in understanding how social environments interrelate with neuroplasticity and in turn affect cognitive and behavioral outcomes. The LEARN Lab has provided me with the incredible opportunity to begin to explore these themes and will undoubtedly prepare my for my future career aspirations. In my spare time, I enjoy reading, hiking, and playing guitar!

Nicole Rogus, Undergraduate
I am an undergraduate studying Neuroscience and Biology. In my future, I aspire to go to medical school and pursue a career as a physician. My passion for neuroscience stems from a neuropsychology internship I did in high school as well as research on dementia patients I was involved with through the AP Capstone program. I am truly fascinated by the complexities and intricacies of the brain and the role that language plays in child neural development. I am thrilled to be a part of the LEARN Lab and gain new insights into this vastly expanding field, allowing me to grow as a researcher, learner, and person all around. Outside of the lab, I love to sing and play piano, exercise, spend time with family and friends, and volunteer in my community!

Vivianna White, Undergraduate

Collaborators and Affiliations

Northwestern Center for Audiology, Speech, Language and Learning Clinic

Northwestern Institute for Innovations in Developmental Sciences

Molly Losh, Neurodevelopmental Disabilities Lab, Northwestern

Megan Roberts, Early Intervention Research Project, Northwestern

Marisha Speights, PedzStar Lab, Northwestern

Laurie Wakschlag, Developmental Mechanisms Group/DevSci, Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine

Sandra Waxman, Infant and Child Development Center, Northwestern

Pamela Hadley, University of Illinois


Lab Alumni 

PhDs and Postdocs

Silvia Clement-Lam, PhD ’19, Current F32 postdoc with Fumiko Hoeft, University of Connecticut
Before coming to Northwestern, I did my undergraduate and masters studies in Psychology in the Chinese University of Hong Kong. My research interests lie in two main areas: understanding factors that contribute to children’s literacy development in English and Chinese, and examining the importance of different sensory domains such as auditory, motor, and visual in literacy development. I am also broadly interested in using neuroimaging techniques in understanding children’s brain development in relation to literacy acquisition. In my free time, I love doing yoga, cooking with friends, traveling with my backpack, painting, and reading (non-research papers).

Elaine Kwok, PhD CCC-SLP, Current research scientist, University of Pittsburgy

Sean McWeeny, PhD ’22, Current postdoc in the LIVE Lab with Laurel Trainer, McMaster University
I received my B.S. in Psychology and Music from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Before moving to Chicago, I taught piano to toddlers and worked with adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and intellectual disability in a vocational and residential setting. I am interested in how we can better predict who will go on to develop a developmental disorder, whether that be developmental dyslexia, specific language impairment, or ASD. I also have a strong interest in psychometrics as it relates to early detection of developmental disorders. Outside the lab, I love to play music and bike around the city.

Ashley Nielsen, PhD, Postdoc, Current postdoc at WashU and collaborator
I received my B.S. in Bioengineering with a minor in Neuroscience at the University of Pittsburgh. I completed my Ph.D. in Neuroscience at Washington University in St. Louis, focusing on the typical and atypical development of the brain’s functional network architecture. I am interested in investigating the development of large-scale brain organization and its relation to emerging cognitive abilities such as language and self-regulation. I use MRI and computational tools to study the complex and widespread changes in brain structure and function that occur in early in life. Specifically, my research seeks to understand how biological and environmental factors influence the development of brain organization and whether atypical brain organization in infancy can indicate vulnerability to language or mental health problems later in life.

Jessica Page, PhD, Former postdoctoral fellow, Current research fellow at Boston Children’s Hospital
I received my B.A. in Psychology and Philosophy at the University at Buffalo. I completed both my M.Ed. in Early Intervention and Family Support and my Ph.D. in Applied Development Science and Special Education, and Psychology and Neuroscience at UNC Chapel Hill. My research uses interdisciplinary practices to capture the transition from infancy to toddlerhood. I am interested in examining risk for neurodevelopmental disorders by using behavioral and imaging assays as EEG/ERP and MRI to examine cognitive development in both wake and sleep. My research seeks to understand how these states influence developmental neuropathology and the presence of atypical brain oscillations embedded within the EEG of individuals with or at increased risk for neurodevelopmental disorders.

Undergraduate and Masters students

Emma Baime, MS-SLL ’19, Undergraduate ’18, Current speech-language provider/early interventionist
I’ve always been fascinated by language, and I love learning more about how humans communicate with others. The LEARN Lab has taught me so much, not only about language development, but also about what it’s like to answer questions through research. Outside of the lab, I can be found performing with my a cappella group, knitting, or spending time with friends.

Cadence Bippen, Undergraduate ’20, Current SLP assistant
Major: Human communication sciences. I have loved the opportunity to learn so much about research and lab work. I am planning to pursue a Minor in Spanish, and would love to, one day, serve both English- and Spanish-speaking children. Outside of the lab, I mentor elementary-age girls in the Evanston area, and I enjoy listening to music and watching/participating in theatrical performances.

Maggie Boland, MS-SLL ’19, Current speech-language pathologist
I was raised in the western suburbs of Chicago and completed my Bachelor’s degree in Speech and Hearing Science at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. The growing fields of neuroscience and neuroplasticity, as well as how research stemming from these fields informs clinical practice, interests me greatly. In my free time, I enjoy singing (both onstage and in the shower) and perfecting my family’s Italian meatball recipe.

Elaine Botros, Undergraduate ’22, Currently applying to medical school

Sara Brown, MS-SLL ’17, Current speech-language pathologist
I am originally from Atlanta, Georgia. I completed my undergraduate degree in Speech and Hearing Sciences at Indiana University in Bloomington. During my time at Northwestern, I have developed a specific interest in language intervention in the pediatric population. Outside of academics I enjoy running along the lake shore path, watching Netflix documentaries, exploring Chicago, and drinking sweet tea.

June Choe, Undergraduate ’20,
Current PhD student in Linguistics, University of Pennsylvania
Major: Linguistics. I am interested in studying experimental syntax, specifically the cognitive mechanisms behind real-time sentence processing. In the lab, I am involved in meta-analysis research on language development and in developing a database search tool for researchers. Through this experience, I have been able to expand on my theoretical training and learn more about the research in the diagnosis and intervention of developmental disorders. I plan to continue pursuing my research interests in graduate school, focusing on psycholinguistics and quantitative methods.

Kiera Cook, MS-SLL ’18, Research Assistant, 
Current speech-language pathologist
I grew up in Woodland Hills, Utah and completed my undergraduate degree in Communication Disorders at Brigham Young University. My background is in the nonprofit sector as part of a national initiative to eliminate poverty. I have a special interest in language-based learning disorders and their neurological etiologies and treatments. When I am not in the lab or in the clinic, I love to go on last-minute road trips and train for my someday triathlon.

Nathalie Diaz-Lopez, Undergraduate
Major: Communication Sciences and Disorders. I am from San Juan, Puerto Rico. My interest in the field started from a very early age since my grandmother worked in an organization that helped children with learning, hearing, and language disorders. I spent most of my free school days there and as I grew older and started to volunteer, I became very attached to this community of children and their parents. I am ecstatic about working in the LEARN Lab to continue learning how to help children and contribute to improving their quality of life. In my free time, I enjoy dancing ballet, going to the beach, and eating good food with friends.

Alexandra Harpole, MS-SLL ’20 and full-time research assistant, Current speech-language pathologist
I previously completed my B.S.Ed. in Communication Sciences and Disorders at the University of Georgia.  I researched episodic memory in adults with traumatic brain injury. As I moved to Chicago, I decided to switch gears and begin to learn more about the neurological development of language in children. Through the LEARN Lab, I have developed a passion for researching aspects of pediatric language development that can be applied in a clinical setting. Outside of the lab, I enjoy exploring Chicago, practicing yoga, and hanging out with friends.

Emily Harriott, Undergraduate ’19 and full-time research assistant, Current PhD student in Neuroscience with Laurie Cutting, Vanderbilt Universityemily
Majors: Human Communication Sciences and Neuroscience. My interest in communication sciences stems from watching a relative progress from being unable to produce more than a few incomprehensible sounds to speaking in complete sentences in a matter of weeks; I think that transformation is amazing. I’ve been part of the lab since the beginning of my undergraduate career here at Northwestern and have learned so much (various behavioral tests, EEG data collection and analysis, how to write grants/proposals, how to present research to colleagues, problem solving, etc!) and loved every minute of it. Outside the lab, I love to run, bike, read, and watch sports, particularly the New York Yankees. Go ‘Cats!

Shelby Isaacs, Undergraduate ’18, Current medical resident
Major: Human  communication sciences, minor: psychology. I became interested in communication sciences because of my love of reading! My favorite thing about the LEARN lab is that there are so many unanswered questions about communication disorders, and the potential to learn something new is infinite. I love being creative and learning new things about skills I use every day. Outside the lab I like to bake, watch sports, and read.

Yuri Jo, Undergraduate ’21, Current SLP
Major: Communication Sciences and Disorders, Minor: Psychology. My interests for studying language and speech disorders stem from my experience working with children with disabilities earlier on. The LEARN Lab gives me the opportunity to enhance my research skills while immersing myself in research related to language and literacy development. In my free time, I love going on road trips, trying new eateries, and doing spontaneous activities with friends!

Jissmaria Karickal, Undergraduate ’20, Current medical student
Major: Neuroscience, minor: Global Health Studies. Growing up bilingual, I became interested in how proficiency in multiple languages affects a child’s brain development. I enjoy working with children, having tutored in the past and now as a volunteer teacher. The LEARN Lab allows me to explore my research interest while also teaching me skills that are applicable to clinical settings. In my free time, I love to test recipes on my family and friends, learn new languages, and travel as much as possible.

Celia Kaufer, MS-SLL ’17, Current speech-language pathologistcelia2
I’m originally from Newton, MA, right outside of Boston. For my undergraduate degree I studied Philosophy-Neuroscience-Psychology at Washington University in St. Louis, where I completed my honors thesis investigating the relationship between acoustic degradation and memory. In my free time, I love playing sports, traveling, reading, and exploring Chicago!

Natalia Kolek, Undergraduate ’22, Current MRI research coordinator, HBCD study at Northwestern
Neuroscience major with honors thesis

Winnie Liang, Undergraduate ’22
I was raised in Chicago, IL with four younger siblings, speaking both English and Cantonese. This is where my interest in language, communication, and child development originated. Outside of the lab, I tutor elementary school students through the America Reads program and am pursuing a minor in dance, dancing anywhere I can along the way.

Ann Lee, MS-SLL ’18, Current speech-language pathologist
I’m originally from Hong Kong. I completed my undergraduate degrees in Psychology at UCLA and Speech and Hearing Sciences at University of Washington, Seattle. During my studies, I have developed a specific interest in how cognition and language interact in children with language-based learning disabilities. In my spare time, I enjoy watching baking shows and traveling-family vlogs on YouTube with a bag of All Dressed Ruffles.

Gabi Leibowitz, Undergraduate ’21, current SLP student at Northwestern

Jade Mitchell, Undergraduate ’18, SLP student at Vanderbilt University, Current SLP
Major: Human  communication sciences. I became interested in communication sciences because of my love of music and the voice. My favorite thing about the LEARN lab is that there are so many unexplored areas within language and learning and the LEARN lab allows me to ask some of these unanswered questions. I love exploring questions of language that intersect with the field sociology. Outside the lab I like to play and listen to music, play sports, and read.

Camille Nuttall, MS-SLL ’20, Current speech-language pathologist
I attended Brigham Young University for my undergraduate degree in Communication Disorders with a minor in Sociology. I developed a love for research as I learned how new research can be applied in clinical settings. I am interested in the neural and cognitive development of language and how environmental variation impacts that development. In addition, I enjoy studying early literacy acquisition. In my free time, I love to run, play board games, water color and cheer on the Cubs.

Olufemi Shakuur Nyabingi, Undergraduate ’21, Current PhD student, UC Davis
Majors: Neuroscience and Spanish. Having a background working with kids, I’ve always been amazed by the speed and complexity of childhood development. The LEARN lab has given me the opportunity to experience the interconnected and interdisciplinary nature of developmental research. I love seeing how the lab uses the intersections of behavioral analysis and physical brain measurements to carry out research! Outside of the lab I love cooking, listening to music, going to art museums, and working out. In the future I would like to continue in a career of research striving to get my PhD in Neuroscience.

Skylar Ozoh, Undergraduate ’19, Current postbac premed 
Major: Neuroscience. I’ve always been interested in understanding the neuroscience of child behavior and development after working with children in various settings. The LEARN Lab gives me the opportunity to learn more about child development and the importance of early intervention. Outside the lab, I tutor elementary school kids in the Books & Breakfast program, sing in the Northwestern Community Ensemble choir and I enjoy biking and listening to music.

Meakailyn Phillips, Undergraduate
Growing up with a younger brother with autism, I was introduced to the field of Speech-Language Pathology at a young age. I was inspired to study language, speech, and communication disorders with the goal of becoming a speech therapist in the future, after noticing the life-long impacts that speech therapy had on my brother. Outside of the lab, I enjoy dancing, going to new restaurants, listening to music, and spending time with friends and family.

Kamila Postolowicz, Undergraduate ’20, Current SLP
Major: Human  communication sciences. Growing up as a Polish and English bilingual, I have always been interested in how the brain organizes and processes language. The vastness of cognition intrigued me and pushed me to gain more knowledge within the field. I am excited to be working in the lab, as I have learned so much being involved in research studies that explore questions that the world does not have answers to yet. Beyond the lab, I enjoy spending time outdoors, traveling to new places, and spending time with friends.

Smitha Ramesh, Undergraduate
Major: Psychology on the pre-med track. My interests in language, speech, and communication disorders originated while working in my high school’s Special Education Department. The LEARN Lab gives me the opportunity to dive into research and help both children and their families navigate language and learning problems. Outside of the lab, I love singing, working out, listening to music, and spending time with my family and friends.

Heather Turnbull, MS-SLL ’18, Current speech-language pathologist
I am interested in childhood language development, particuarly in bilingual populations. My undergraduate degree is in adolescent education and English literature. After graduation, I taught English in Taiwan for a couple of years (ages 6-18) and studied Mandarin Chinese. This experience solidified my interest in understanding how we learn and use language.

Jiaxin Alice Wang, MS-SLL ’21, Current speech-language pathologist
I received my B.S. at Oklahoma State University in Communication Sciences and Disorders with minors in Linguistics, English, and TESL. I have always been fascinated with the cognitive and neurological underpinnings of speech and language development, and I’m interested in exploring the use of structural and functional neuroimaging as research tools. In my free time, I enjoy making textile arts, immersing myself in the nature, cooking good food, and spending quality time with friends and family.

Ola Wicko, Undergraduate ’22,
current masters in SLP student at Northwestern. Major: CSD with minors in Spanish and Psychology. I owe my interest in language development and communication disorders to my nephew who has autism. Working in the lab has given me the opportunity to boost my phonetic ear through completing child language transcriptions, as well as allowing me to interact with participants and collect data through video chat! Outside of the lab, I love to exercise, read books, watch Polish soap operas with my mom, and hang out with my little niece and nephew. In the future, I hope to become a pediatric speech-language pathologist and help children just like my nephew reach their full potential! 

Kevin Zhang, Undergraduate ’19, current researcherkevin5
Major: Biology. I am interested in applying research to real-world settings. I find that the research field of communication development and diseases has great potential in helping those affected by communication disorders. One of my projects in the lab, funded by an Undergraduate Research Grant, focuses on determining which form of measurement best predicts language improvement after intervention. I also translate at the China Town health clinic, volunteer at NorthShore Hospital, work at the school athletic center, and run in my free time.