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About Us

Directors of Research

Dr. Nancy McElwain is an Associate Professor in the Department of Human and Community Development.  She received a Ph.D. in Psychology at the University of Michigan and completed an NICHD postdoctoral fellowship at the Center for Developmental Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, before joining the faculty at the University of Illinois. Dr. McElwain's research focuses on children's early social and emotional development in the context of family and peer relationships. In particular, Dr. McElwain investigates how early parent-child interactions and child temperament combine to provide children with a foundation for understanding and managing emotions and establishing positive relationships with peers. Dr. McElwain teaches courses on behavioral research methods and social-emotional development, and she is an Associate Editor of Developmental Psychology. Outside of work, she enjoys walks, bike rides, and other adventures with her husband, two daughters, and the family's yellow lab, Lucy.

Dr. Daniel Berry is an Assistant Professor in the Child Development Division of the Department of Educational Psychology and a member of the Biological Intelligence group at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology.  He earned an M.Ed in Longitudinal Quantitative Methods (2009) and an Ed.D in Developmental Psychology (2010) from Harvard University. He subsequently served as a post-doctoral research scientist at the Neuroscience and Education Laboratory at NYU (2012), prior to joining the UIUC faculty. His research aims to clarify the processes—mind, brain, and context—through which children's experiences at home and at school "get under the skin" to support their abilities to regulate their thoughts, behavior, and emotions. When he's not (joyfully!) being run ragged by his toddler, Dr. Berry teaches courses in applied developmental psychology and applied multivariate statistics. 

Dr. Jennifer Cole is a Professor in the Department of Linguistics, where she teaches graduate and undergraduate courses on the sound systems of language (phonology, phonetics) and general linguistics.  She is also a member of the research faculty in Cognitive Science at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois. Dr. Cole's research addresses the phenomenon of variability in speech—how is it that we can understand one another when we rarely hear exactly the same word or utterance produced twice in an identical form? She investigates the factors that structure variation in speech and their basis in mechanisms of speaking, hearing, and acquiring language. Dr. Cole received a B.A. and M.A. in Linguistics from the University of Michigan (1982, 1983), and a Ph.D. in Linguistics from M.I.T (1987).  She is the General Editor of Laboratory Phonology, and is a member of the U.S. National Research Council Board on Behavioral, Sensory & Cognitive Sciences. In her life outside the university, she enjoys the company of her husband, their three grown children and one grandchild, and their assorted cats and dogs.

Project Manager


Jordan Krawczyk graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a B.S. in Human Development and Family Studies. Before joining the Mother-Child Relationships Project, she spent a semester abroad in Italy, where she taught English to high school students. In the future, she is interested in working with children and families to develop healthy eating habits, and hopes to continue world traveling! In her free time, she enjoys working out, blogging about her baking, and reading at local coffee shops.

Project Staff


Graduate Students


Helen Emery is currently earning her PhD in Human Development and Family Studies at the University of Illinois.  Before coming to the U of I, she earned her B.A. in Psychology at Earlham College.  She is interested in understanding what factors (from biological to family-level) influence how parents and children interact, and how these parent-child interactions go on to influence children’s future development.  In her free time, she enjoys cooking, reading fiction and doing photography.


Niyantri Ravindran is a second year PhD student in Human Development and Family Studies. Her research interests are: 1) how family interactions and child characteristics (e.g. temperament) contribute to children’s social and emotional outcomes, 2) identifying factors that predict the quality of parenting and parent-child interactions, and 3) developing and evaluating family-focused interventions to enhance social and emotional functioning in children. Currently, she is looking at how parents’ personal distress predicts parenting behaviors and child regulation in a challenging task.  


Xi Chen is a first year Ph.D. student. She's interested in children's social and emotion development, especially children's emotional, behavioral and physiological regulation in the context of parent-child and peer relationships. She is also interested in studying the interaction between environmental factors (e.g. parenting), within-person factors (e.g. temperament), and the influence of cultural contexts.

Undergraduate Students


Sarah Weldy is a junior majoring in Linguistics, with minors in Informatics and Spanish. She loves to learn about the ways linguistics intersects with everyday life—especially in the realms of language acquisition and computer science. She has high hopes of world travel, but in the meantime enjoys building friendships with international students.

Cayla Bollinger is a senior at the University of Illinois studying Human Development and Family Studies with a concentration in Child/Adolescent Development. She joined the Mother-Child Relationships project last year and helps to collect data as a child interviewer, as well as analyze collected data in the lab. She is interested in attachment relationships and their connection to life outcomes. After graduating this upcoming May 2016, Cayla hopes to attend graduate school to continue her education in school counseling. In her free time she likes to cuddle up with her dog and a good book, break a sweat, or spend time with friends.


Nina Gupta is a junior studying Psychology and Sociology with a Pre-Med concentration at the University of Illinois. She is interested in working with children because she aspires to work as a pediatric psychiatrist in the future. In her free time outside of studying she enjoys reading books and listening to new music.