Current graduate student profiles

Kristopher Brazil
Kristopher received his B.Sc. in Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour (Mental Health Specialization) from McMaster University in 2015. He then went on to complete an M.A. in Psychology at Carleton University in 2017 with a focus in forensic psychology. He is now a first year Ph.D. student in Child and Youth Studies at Brock University working with Dr. Tony Volk.

Kristopher’s research interests are in psychopathic personality, the constructs of masculinity and femininity, and anything to do with evolutionary theory. For his doctoral research, he is applying and combining these interests to explore plausible evolutionary functions of psychopathy in adolescent males, which has implications for youth relationships and well-being as well as the structure, function, and stability of young male groups and coalitions. Other research interests and collaborations include Indigenous scholarship and ways of knowing, mate and sexual selection, the philosophy of science, and personality research.

Prarthana Franklin

Prarthana Franklin
Prarthana received her BSc. in Psychology at York University and completed her M.A in Child and Youth Studies (CHYS) at Brock University. She is currently a second year PhD student in CHYS, working under the supervision of Dr. Tony Volk.

Her research examines parenting from an evolutionary perspective, incorporating topics such as personality and children’s facial cues (e.g., cuteness, health, happiness, age, and resemblance to parent). Prarthana also collaborates on research projects concern bullying, reading motivation, and anxiety.

Emily Guertin
Emily has an MA in Applied Behaviour Analysis and is presently a first-year doctoral student in Child and Youth Studies under the co-supervision of Dr. Jan Frijters and Dr. Tricia Vause. Her previous research focused on interventions for children with intellectual disabilities and obsessive compulsive behaviours under the supervision of Dr. Vause. Continuing with her interest in comorbidity and intervention response, Emily is presently studying risk factors for dyslexia including ADHD and anxiety.  She is also investigating how these factors influence longitudinal acquisition of reading skills. In the long term, Emily aspires to use advanced quantitative methods to facilitate an inter- or transdisciplinary collaboration between fields whose methods may have been previously incompatible.

William Janssen
William received his Bachelor of Arts (Honours) degree in Psychology from Brock University. He is currently a first-year Master’s student working under the supervision of Dr. Danielle Molnar.

His main research interest is in the area of physical and psychological health and well-being. He is also interested in perfectionism research. Specifically, he is interested in the links between perfectionism and both physical and psychological health and well-being across the lifespan, with an emphasis on children and adolescents.

For his Master’s thesis William will be testing the Perfectionism Cognition Theory (Flett, Nepon, & Hewitt, 2016) to gain an understanding of the influence that rumination has on the connection between perfectionistic cognitions and psychopathology.


Michelle Janzen

Michelle Janzen
Michelle Janzen is a first year PhD student within the Child and Youth Department. She holds both her undergrad and Master degrees in CHYS from Brock. Her research interests focus on special education policy, practice and legislation from a human rights and advocacy perspective. She is also interested in how children and youth with dual/multiple diagnoses   including those with mental health issues, access and receive appropriate care and accommodations within the education system in conjunction with the community. She hopes to examine through her doctoral research how international policy (such as inclusive education as per the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child) may struggle to be implemented and adhered to on an individual national level due to various issues such as culture, economics, governmental issues and education.

Tara Johnston

Tara Johnston
Research has demonstrated that children identified with reading disabilities may actually involve a cognitive benefit linked to creative ability. The relationship of reading ability to creativity being viewed with a positive and not negative association has encouraged Tara to continue her investigations.

Tara recognizes the significance of the possible research implications for children with reading disabilities. This research will complement her undergraduate degree in Child and Youth studies and her previous work experience affiliated with the Learning Disabilities Association of Niagara.

Under the continued supervision of Dr. John McNamara, her proposed thesis will explore the relationship between children having reading difficulties, due to phonological processing problems, typically attributed to the functioning of the left brain hemisphere, while also demonstrating creativity skills attributed to the right brain hemisphere.

Specifically, she is hopeful that with this focus, children and all concerned stakeholders can change their trajectories of support moving towards a developmental path highlighting the strengths associated with having a reading disability. Tara is driven by the expectation that this research will make a significant contribution by supporting educators in meeting educational challenges by adapting to new learning situations and learners.

Yana Lakman

Yana Lakman
Yana is a second year PhD student in Child and Youth Studies. She is working with Dr. Heather Chalmers to examine an understudied population of children and youth called “Young Carer” who provide care for their family member(s).

She is specifically interested to explore the attachment between children who provide care and their parents (the care recipients). She has finished her MA in the CHYS department where she developed a Young Carer Profile. Her undergraduate degree in psychology was obtained from the University of Ottawa.

Nabin Maharjan
Nabin Maharjan holds an M.A. in Social Policy and Development from the Middlesex University, UK where his dissertation focused on Nepal’s health inequalities comparing the rural health care services with urban. He received his B.A. in Development Studies from the Kathmandu University, Nepal; and a Diploma in Development Leadership with specialization in Advocacy and Citizen Engagement from the Coady International Institute, St. Francis Xavier University, Canada.

He has worked extensively with vulnerable and socially marginalized youth of Nepal, specially People Living with HIV (PLHIV) and People Who Use Drug (PWUD). His work focused on health/human rights of marginalized youth and their meaningful participation in the policy reform process in Nepal.

Presently, Nabin is starting his Ph.D. in Child and Youth Studies (CHYS) under the supervision of Dr. Tom O’Neill. For his Ph.D. research, he intends to examine the role of youth civic engagement to re-establish social trust in highly stratified communities of Nepal, with a particular focus on youth-led community development initiatives in the context of the ongoing political transformation and post-disaster rebuilding process.

Nicole Mansell
Nicole received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Child & Youth Studies and Psychology from Brock University. She completed her fourth year honours thesis with Dr. Heather Chalmers to examine an understudied population of children and youth who provide care for their family member(s). This care could be due to physical disability, mental or chronic illness, addictions and/or language barriers.  She is deeply passionate about raising awareness of this population of children and youth because they often go unrecognized.  In particular, she examines the experiences of young carers within schools.  Her undergraduate thesis focused on the perspective young carers had on raising awareness of the role and this was found to be valuable in school.

Nicole is now in the first year of her Master’s program.  Continuing to work with Dr. Chalmers, Nicole’s current research will build on young carer awareness in schools by considering the perspectives of educational professionals.  She will investigate the ways in which teachers and principles conceptualize the young carer role in terms of awareness, identification, and support.  Implications include policy change related to identifying and supporting young carers as well as informing teacher training needs.  Finally, it provides an opportunity to raise awareness among educational professionals of the young carer role.

Emily Murphy

Emily Murphy
Emily holds an Honours Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Brock University. For her undergraduate thesis, she worked under the supervision of Dr. Michael Ashton and Dr. Danielle Molnar using HEXACO personality characteristics to predict dimensions of perfectionism in student and community samples.

Her current research, under the continued supervision of Dr. Molnar, will focus on perfectionism and psychopathology in youth. Specifically, Emily is interested in elucidating the pathways between perfectionism and psychopathology (e.g., depression, anxiety) in adolescents, and examining how social factors (e.g., loneliness, friendship quality) may influence these pathways as informed by the Perfectionism Social Disconnection Model (Hewitt et al., 2006).

She is also interested in self-compassion as a protective factor and means to promote resilience in youth; she hopes to explore this interest in her future research. Emily is a strong advocate for mental health: she is an ambassador for the Mental Health Commission of Canada, is certified in Mental Health First Aid, and takes effort to promote the importance of well-being in any way she can.

Abbaigeal O’Leary
Abbaigeal recently graduated from Brock University with a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) and a Bachelor of Education. She completed her fourth-year honours thesis with Dr. Maureen Connolly to explore how Ontario’s revised human development and sexual health curriculum would influence the lived experiences of students.

Now a first-year Master’s student in the Child and Youth Studies department, Abbaigeal is continuing to work with Dr. Maureen Connolly to research sexual health education in Ontario further. With a special interest in inclusive education and child advocacy she will investigate whether Ontario’s curriculum effectively reflects the lives of students in today’s society.

Anne Readhead

Anne Readhead
Anne received her B.A. in psychology from McMaster University. She continued her graduate studies at Brock University, completing her M.A. with the Centre for Applied Disabilities.

Her area of study was a case study of an innovative organization that supports five social enterprises that provide an inclusive employment option for persons with developmental disabilities. This study was part of a larger project conducted by the Social Business for Marginalized Social Groups CURA based at the University of Toronto. The larger project involved several social enterprises in Toronto. After graduating with her M.A., she continued to be a member of the Brock research team working on this project.

Anne has recently begun her CHYS PhD working with Dr. Fran Owen. Her research continues to focus on the examination of innovative employment options for persons with IDD and the use of social return on investment as a valuation model. Anne has experienced the majority of her employment working for the developmental services sector including children and adult services. While employed as a residential manager, Anne was the agency liaison for the 3Rs CURA project at Brock University.

Anne is a strong advocate for human rights within developmental services. She has assisted with the development, planning and facilitating of her agency’s Rights Review Committee. Anne has also facilitated numerous Interactive-Behavioural Therapy groups with persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).

Katie Schiralli
Katie began volunteering as a Research Assistant in the Volk Developmental Science lab while she was pursuing her undergraduate degree in Psychology at Brock University. This peaked her interest in studying bullying through an evolutionary lens, which ultimately lead her to pursue a Master’s degree in Child and Youth Studies under the supervision of Dr. Tony Volk. Broadly, she is interested in antisocial behaviour, personality, parenting (specifically motherhood) and evolutionary psychology. At present, she is interested in the ways different personality traits interact to predict bullying behaviour cross-culturally. In her spare time, she enjoys getting involved with literacy and social skills programs for children with exceptionalities.

Maninder Sodhi

Maninder Sodhi
Maninder holds PhD degree in physical anthropology from Panjab University, Chandigarh (India). Currently she is enrolled in master’s programme in CHYS. Therefore, she tends to bring multidisciplinary lens to her research.

During her grad studies, working under the supervision of Dr. Tony Volk, her research will focus on parenting challenges in different ethnic immigrant families. Being a parent herself, she faces challenges while raising her kids. Adapting to various cultural differences, she always felt at a crossroad. She wants to explore dynamics of different immigrant populations’ deal with their individual parenting situations. Additional challenges arise when kids enter school. They are often ridiculed about their attire, food, hair etc. which leads to so called bullying.

Maninder hopes that her research will provide insight into these challenges & leads to some action like educating younger generation about different races, their environmental role in shaping their colour texture, food & attire and much more.

Natalie Spadafora

Natalie Spadafora
Natalie is a PhD student in the Department of Child and Youth Studies. She completed her Masters of Arts in the department under the supervision of Dr. Zopito Marini. Her research focuses on adolescent bullying from an evolutionary perspective, examining variables that affect this unique social dynamic. Additionally, Natalie completed a Bachelor of Education at Brock University, and is also interested in examining areas of education and learning. Continuing to work with Dr. Marini, Natalie hopes to extend her research in these areas.

Nicole Staite
After completing my undergraduate degree in CHYS at Brock, I felt passionate about continuing my education in the Master’s program so that I could continue to study children with neurodevelopmental disorders (NDs) under the supervision of Dr. Tricia Vause and Dr. Ayda Tekok-Kilic. With a strong aspiration to improve the lives of children with NDs, in combination with a 10-year competitive dance career, my Master’s research involves developing and implementing a manualized intervention program called Dance with a B-E-A-T! (Behavioural Analysis and Therapy). This program will use recreational dance with therapeutic and behavioural components to target children with exceptionalities’ executive functioning, motor and social skills, as well as their overall sense of belonging and self-esteem. Our program uses the child’s strengths (i.e. heightened energy, movement, and creativity in kids with NDs) to target these domains, while simultaneously fostering an environment that promotes belonging, friendship, and confidence. Ultimately, Dance with a B-E-A-T! aims to remove these children from ‘living in a shell’, by allowing them to find their voice – whether that be literally or figuratively.

Lisa Whittingham
Lisa Whittingham is a PhD student within the Child and Youth Studies department. She received both her undergraduate degree in Psychology and her M.A. in Applied Disability Studies with a concentration in applied behaviour analysis from Brock University. Her research interests focus on the interactions of vulnerable populations (e.g., persons with developmental disabilities, child and youth) with the criminal justice system. For her PhD dissertation, she will be working with Voula Marinos to examine the extralegal factors associated with developmental disability involved in the decision-making of criminal justice professionals regarding whether to charge/prosecute or to divert from the criminal justice system.

Lisa became interested in this area of study after working as a behaviour consultant for 10 years with adults with intellectual disabilities. Her practice focused on working with individuals with dual diagnosis; and high-risk criminal offenders with intellectual disabilities, including sexual offenders. She remains interested in how various therapies (e.g., applied behaviour analysis, third wave cognitive behaviour therapies) can be used to better support these populations.