Current graduate student profiles

Abneet Atwal
Abneet received her Honors B.Sc in Psychology (Specialization in Exceptionalities in Human Learning) from the University of Toronto and completed her M.A. in Early Childhood Studies at Ryerson University. For her Masters research, she analyzed the new Ontario Autism Program using a children’s rights framework, critical disability studies, and the sociology of childhood.

Abneet is now a Ph.D. student in Child and Youth Studies at Brock University working with Dr. Donato Tarulli. Abneet’s research interests are in disability and children’s rights, how families access supports and services for their children with disabilities, and the use of participatory research with children and youth with disabilities.

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 received her BSc. in Psychology (Honours) at York University and completed her M.A in Child and Youth Studies (CHYS) at Brock University. She is currently a third 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 parents’ personality, perceptions of children (e.g., infant/child facial cues), and breastfeeding.

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.

Alli Herrington
Alli received her Bachelor of Arts Degree, Honours Specialization in Childhood and Social Institutions, and Major in Disability Studies from King’s University College, University of Western Ontario in 2017. She completed her Masters of Critical Disability Studies at York University in February 2019. Alli’s research interests have compelled her to continue her graduate studies at Brock University commencing in September 2019 in the Child and Youth Studies PhD program. Alli has a particular keen interest in advocating for the participation, and hearing the voices of the individual experiences of marginalized groups. Alli has a fervent interest in hearing the voices of children and people with disabilities, and to show the value of this so that their rights are respected. She is specifically interested in how participation has an impact on everyday outcomes such as sense of self and the ability to create change.

2017: HSP in CSI & Major in Disability Studies
2019: MA in Critical Disability studies

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.

Sandra Kroeker
Sandra received her Honours B.Sc in Psychology at Brock University and completed her M.A in Gender Studies and Feminist Research at McMaster University. Upon completing her second M.A in Social Justice at Brock University she wishes to continue her goal of compiling a case against Precarious Work in Canada. Working with Dr. Tom O’Neill in the Child and Youth PhD program, she hopes to add how children and youth are negatively affected by their engagement with precarious work or vicariously through their parents’ precarious jobs. Her previous research has involved the breaking down binaristic thinking and resolving dualisms (Reason & Emotion, Male & Female, Quantitative & Qualitative) this time she will look at resolving Love & Work.

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 is a PhD student in Child and Youth Studies. She is passionate about transdisciplinarity and mixed-methods research, and is interested in incorporating non-traditional methods of data collection and knowledge dissemination such as arts-based inquiry into her work. Her Master’s research, under the supervision of Dr. Molnar, focused on the role of social disconnection in linking trait perfectionism to anxiety symptoms in adolescents within a quantitative framework. In her PhD research, Emily plans to extend her quantitative Master’s research longitudinally. She also plans to undertake a qualitative exploration of both the lived experiences of perfectionistic youth and the broader socio-cultural forces which may contribute to the development of perfectionism, and how these forces may in turn influence the lived experience of perfectionism. Emily is also passionate about music, arts and culture; in her spare time, she runs a DIY radio show and contributes editorial pieces to local arts and culture zines.

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.

Veronica Panchyshyn
Veronica graduated with an Honours Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour from McMaster University in 2017. During her undergraduate degree, she completed a senior honours thesis under the supervision of Dr. Bruce Linder to improve the quality of life for adults who have sustained an Acquired Brain Injury (ABI).
After graduating from McMaster University in 2017, she has since worked in the field to assist clients with ABI to gain dignity, respect, independence and autonomy for those affected by the symptoms of ABI.
While working in the field, Veronica also perused her Masters of Education with a specialization in Applied Behavioural Analysis from the University of Western Ontario.

Veronica is now a first-year PhD student under the supervision of Dr. Ayda Tekok-Kilic in the Developmental Neuroscience Lab.

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 the Integrated Transitional Aged Youth process in the Niagara region 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.

Lindsay C. Sheppard
Lindsay holds a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) degree in Child and Youth Studies from Brock University. Her specific research interests include teenage girls’ online and offline activism, arts-based approaches to activism, conceptualizing agency, and young people’s participation. Her previous research, under the supervision of Dr. Rebecca Raby, examined how teenage girls use self-generated blogs/websites to mobilize their activism and activist identities, and the implications of this activism for better understanding teenage girls’ online, political engagement.

Lindsay is a first year Master’s student in the Department of Child and Youth Studies. Her current research, under the continued supervision of Dr. Rebecca Raby, focuses on the intra-active complexities of online gendered activist identity formation among teenage girls, including how gendered expectations and materialities shape the political voices of teenage girls.

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 third year PhD student in the Department of Child and Youth Studies, currently working under the supervision of Dr. Anthony Volk. Natalie also completed her Masters of Arts in the department under the supervision of Dr. Zopito Marini. Coming from an education background, also completing her Bachelor of Education here at Brock, Natalie’s research takes a psychoeducational perspective. To this point, her research has focused on children and youth, specifically in the area of adolescent bullying. She is interested in exploring mechanisms of why children and adolescents may be choosing to engage in antisocial behaviour (e.g., the environment, individual differences). The main focus of her doctoral research will be to explore the concept of adolescent incivility, as a potential explanatory pathway to more antisocial behaviour, such as bullying.

Nicole Staite
Nicole received her Bachelor of Arts (Honours) degree in Child and Youth Studies from Brock University, and is currently a second-year Master’s student working under the supervision of Dr. Tricia Vause.

With a passion for working with children and youth with neurodevelopmental disorders (ND), Nicole developed a 9-week recreational dance program called Dance with a B-E-A-T! (Behavioral Analysis and Therapy). Her program uses recreational dance, behavioral analysis and therapeutic components to target gross-motor and balance skills, self-efficacy, sense of belonging and self-esteem in children and youth diagnosed with a ND and/or anxiety disorder. Dance with a B-E-A-T! uses the child’s strengths (heightened energy, movement, and creativity in children with NDs), as well as therapeutic components such as breathing and relaxation coping mechanisms to target these keystone domains while fostering an environment that promotes belonging, friendship, and confidence. Nicole is excited to pilot Dance with a B-E-A-T! at Pathstone Mental Health to better understand the facilitators and barriers to her intervention program.

Natalie Tacuri
Natalie recently graduated from Brock University with a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) degree in Child and Youth Studies and Applied Linguistics. She completed her fourth year honours thesis under the supervision of Dr. Dawn Zinga and Dr. Danielle Molnar to explore competitive dance culture in dance studios and postsecondary contexts.

As a first year Master’s student, Natalie is continuing to work with Dr. Dawn Zinga and Dr. Danielle Molnar on research involving competitive dancers and their families. Growing up as a competitive dancer, Natalie is passionate about using her love of dance to create meaningful change for dancers throughout her research. Natalie is broadly interested in advocating for dancers’ recognition as athletes, providing an understanding of dance as a legitimate sport, and exploring the complexities of competitive dance culture and its effects on dancers’ identities.

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 Dr. Voula Marinos to examine the legal and extralegal variables associated with with having a developmental disability that police use when deciding whether to charge a person with a developmental disability or try to divert them away 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.

Samara Goldsworthy
Samara is a second year Master’s student in the Child and Youth Studies program. She is working with Dr. Christine Tardif-Williams to explore the connection among quality of relationship with parent(s), development of self-compassion, and its link to motivation for achievement of academic success from young adults’ perspectives.

After studying early childhood development in her undergraduate years, Samara plans to expand her knowledge on youth and adolescents’ mental and emotional well-being. She is interested in the social structures that promote risk-taking behaviours in youth from a contemporary setting. She is driven by the hope that her work would contribute to the body of knowledge that supports youth mental and emotional health in order to raise awareness to the adolescent culture in the general population.