Students and Collaborators

I have a large group of students, volunteers, and collaborators who are part of, or work with, my lab. The reasons for this are simple: two+ heads are better than one when it comes to researching complex topics and more people usually means more fun! That’s the message I share with my collaborators and try to pass on to my students, even when I’m not there in person. See below for current graduate student opportunities.


Dr. Anthony Volk – I am the head of the Volk Developmental Science Lab. I am currently a full professor in the Child and Youth Studies Department at Brock University as well as an associate member of the Department of Psychology at Brock University. My research interests are as diverse as time and curiousity will permit me, but I mainly focus on bullying, parenting, personality, and the evolution of childhood. I welcome contact with students, researchers, or anyone else who is interested in what we do in our lab or in my classes.

Graduate students

Working with great grad students is easily one of the most rewarding part of this job, and I think I’ve been lucky to work with quite a few such students. Here are the students who are currently in my lab (for more details on them and other students I work with, please click here):

Dr. Natalie Spadafora is a post-doctoral researcher working with me to study civility.

Elizabeth Al-Jbouri is a 4th year PhD student in CHYS who comes from the University of Ottawa. She is interested in studying friendships and aggression, particularly as they relate to online behavior.

Rachel Christopher is a 2nd year MA student in PSYC who also comes from the University of Ottawa.  She is interested in studying bullying and personality.

Julie Mills is a 2nd year MA student in CHYS from Trent University who is interested in studying bullying and victimization.

Perla Matusof is a 2nd year MA student in PSYC who is interested in studying competition in schools.

Sydney Running is a 1st year MA student (from Ottawa again!) in CHYS who is interested in studying adolescent dating relationships.

Alex Puchalski is a 1st year MA student in PSYC who is interested in studying personality development and antisocial personality.

Ashley Anderson is a 1st year MA student in PSYC who is interested in studying bullying.

Honours students

Kayla Lewis is a PSYC Honours student interested in studying the influence of parents on adolescents’ bullying.

Emily Dale is a PSYC Honours student interested in studying antisocial personality and psychopathy.


The lab has numerous volunteers who help out.  If you are interested in volunteering in the lab on one of our research projects, please let me know.

Research assistants

The lab is currently not employing any RAs as my funding is going towards graduate students and their research.

Dr. Naomi Andrews Dr. Andrews is a child psychologist in the Department of Child and Youth Studies.  Naomi is interested in applying a relational perspective to children’s social adjustment and problem behaviors like bullying and victimization.

Jeremy Atkinson — Jeremy is a graduate student at SUNY Albany who is currently working with me on a study of how infant mortality rates influenced human psychological evolution.

Dr. Angela Book — Dr. Book studies the adaptive and personality aspects of psycopathy at Brock University. We work together studying how to apply the HEXACO personality scale to antisocial behaviors observed in youth and adolescents.

Dr. Toon Cillessen Dr. Cillessen is the Director of the Behavioural Science Institute at the University of Radboud. He is an (THE?) expert on adolescent social relationships and social status.

Dr. Wendy Craig — Dr. Craig leads the Queen’s University Bullying Lab. Dr. Craig collaborates with research on adolescents and parenting, and is a co—founder of PREVNet. She is currently a close collaborator on our NCDSB school research project.

Dr. Andrew Dane — Dr. Dane is a clinical psychologist at Brock University, who is interested in developing interventions for children who are bullies and or victims. Along with Dr. Marini, Dr. Dane is spearheading the application of specific parental strategies based on adolescent temperament.

Dr. Bruce Ellis — Dr. Ellis is one of the first researchers to actively promote evolutionary developmental psychology. A true leader in the field, Dr. Ellis has worked with me to translate evolutionary theory into practical interventions that can positively impact adolescents.

Dr. Dorothy Espelage — Dr. Espelage is one of the world’s leading researchers of bullying and peer relationships. In particular, her research on bullying from an ecological perspective is of great interest to me and my students.

Dr. Ann Farrell — Dr. Farrell is a quantitative developmental psychologist in the CHYS Department. Dr. Farrell uses complex quantitative analyses to better understand bullying and aggression in minority populations as well as how environmental and social ecological factors influence the link between individual differences and bullying.

Dr. Mark Flinn — Dr. Flinn was the one who invited me to conduct research in Dominica. An anthropologist at the University of Missouri—Columbia, Dr. Flinn is an expert on social relationships, child development, and stress hormones.

Dr. Miao Li — Dr. Li is a post-doctoral student in CHYS who’s main focus is adolescent scholastic and reading development. She is worked with me on a study of Chinese adolescents’ social networks.

Dr. Zopito Marini — Dr. Marini was a cognitive developmental psychologist who studied who children think. Much of his later research focused on civility and its relationship to more serious antisocial behaviors. Dr. Marini, a dear friend, passed away in Oct. 2017.

Dr. Richard Mitchell Dr. Mitchell is a transdisciplinary scholar who studies children’s rights. Dr. Mitchell and I take very different, but surprisingly complimentary, approaches to studying children using a TD lens.

Dr. Gretchen Perry — Dr. Perry is an anthropologist who studies kin networks and parenting from an evolutionary perspective. Her extensive experience as a social worker and with cross—cultural research give her a rich understanding of how parents need, and receive, support from different sources.

Dr. Vernon Quinsey — Dr. Quinsey led a forensic and evolutionary psychology lab at Queen’s University in the Department of Psychology (for which he was also the Chair). As my former graduate supervisor, Dr. Quinsey was a collaborator on many of the Infant Faces and Virtual Infant research projects.

Dr. Tracy Vaillancourt — Dr. Vaillancourt, a Canada Research Chair in the Department of Education at the University of Ottawa works with Dr. Marini and myself on a study of sports and bullying based on her MAC—CURA research.

Dr. René Veenstra— Dr. Veenstra is a sociologist at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands where he leads cutting—edge research on social peer networks. We share a strong interest in bullying as a functional behavior and are collaborating on studying and preventing bullying.

Dr. Beth Visser — studies the Dark Triad of personality at Lakehead University’s Orillia campus. She works with Dr. Book and I on studying the HEXACO and antisocial behavior.

Dr. Junru Zhao — Dr. Zhao is a post—doctoral researcher at SUNY Buffalo. She is working with me on studying adolescent social relationships in both Niagara and China.

Dr. Dawn Zinga — Dr. Zinga is a fellow member of the CHYS department here at Brock. Along with Michelle Bomberry, Dawn is one of the principal organizers of the Six Nations Student Success Consortium, to which I belong. Dr. Zinga studies and teaches aboriginal school and family issues.

Graduate Student Opportunities

I am currently interested in taking on Child and Youth or Psychology MA, PhD and Honour’s students to work in my lab. I know that finances are usually tight for graduate students, so in addition to Brock’s regular graduate funding package, I offer additional research funding to graduate applicants (usually several thousand dollars). I also offer ongoing funding to my graduate students so that I continue to support them beyond admission. I would encourage students interested in studying with me to consider looking into the other labs that I work closely with, including: Dr. Angela Book (psychopathy and evolutionary theory), Dr. Andrew Dane (bullying and evolutionary theory), Dr. Ann Farrell (bullying and social systems), and Dr. Naomi Andrews (bullying and social relationships). While I do work with quite a few other people at Brock University, I work very closely with all four of these researchers as part of the BRAVE Group. Not only are they great supervisors themselves, but we also regularly collaborate in sharing students and/or having students working on shared projects. So if you work with me, chances are very good that you will also be working with one or more of these professors. To paraphrase what I said at the top of this web page, two+ labs are better than one!

I am always interested in working with new motivated and curious students. I am currently accepting Honours, Masters, and Doctoral students in both Child and Youth Studies as well as in Psychology.

What do I look for in a student? Most importantly, I look for curiosity. Research can be hard work, but if you’re really curious, it makes it seem a lot less like work and a lot more like fun! Curiosity is what really motivates good research, so it’s not surprising that it’s what I look for the most it in my students.

The next thing I look for is integrity. Research involves a lot of trust, so it is essential that a student and supervisor are able to have confidence in each others’ work.

Lastly, I look for indicators of hard work, like good grades, GRE scores (not required but I’ll look at them if you have them), good references, etc. Generally speaking, I will consider students from Child Studies, Psychology, Biology, History, and Anthropology programs, although any keen and capable applicants are welcome to apply.  As a multidisciplinary scholar I’m more interested in what you know and what you want to learn than what your background was in.

For most graduate students your choice of supervisor will largely determine what you can study, how you can study it, how enjoyable your experience is, how much you’ll learn, what kinds of research and travel opportunities you’ll have, and what kind of C.V. you will build. Therefore, I strongly encourage prospective students to interview their potential supervisor as much as they are interviewed by the supervisor. Do you have similar ideas of research? Who gets authorship of papers? Do other students like working in their lab? Do they publish work with other students? I’m happy to answer these, or any other questions, you might have about potentially working with me. I encourage you to contact students in my lab to get an idea of what they do and what kind of supervisor I am. Any faculty member who doesn’t take the time to get to know applicants is either too busy or doesn’t care- both red flags students should be aware of.

As for the setting, Brock is a thriving university with strong graduate studies. My home department is wonderfully diverse, and full of great supervisors and opportunities. We have a world-class PhD program that I was excited to spearhead. I take great pride in the fact that CHYS is one of the most civil, collegial, and well-functioning departments I’ve ever seen. We are Canada’s largest and most developed program of Child and Youth Studies, and consistently rank as one of the university’s largest and best-run programs.

I am also an associate member of the Department of Psychology here at Brock. As an associate member, I work closely with several excellent members of the Psychology department and can consider taking on Honours and Graduate students (I encourage the latter to apply to both programs if they want to maximize the chances of working in my lab).

Finally, I really love the Niagara region.  It is 60 minutes from 5 major cities, with over 5 million people, but it’s still has an intimate feel, good cost of living, and tons of parks, tourist locations, wineries, great restaurants, etc. It’s not at all unusual for the lab to take a lunch “research” trip to a local winery or fantastic restaurant. We really try to not just do great research, but to have a great time doing it!

Students generally have a lot of freedom to work on topics that they are interested in, but here are some of the potential topics for students to work on in my lab (italicized projects are for graduate students only):

  1. Adaptiveness of Bullying — studying bullying from a functional, adaptive, evolutionary perspective is probably the biggest current project in the lab
  2. Personality and Psychopathy — studying the relationship between psychopathic traits and the standard HEXACO model of personality as well as the adaptive aspects of psychopathy and antisocial personality
  3. Development of Prosociality and Civility — I don’t just study the negative parts of child development, I’m also interested in their positive counterparts
  4. Parenting and Child Development — one of my primary interests is parenting, so I’m open to studying general topics related to parenting and its influence on child development
  5. Infant Facial Cues — examining the influence of various infant facial cues on adults’ parental behaviour
  6. Historical and/or Evolutionary Adaptedness — conducting theoretical, anthropological, and historical surveys of children’s and childhood’s past
  7. Cross-Cultural Bullying — I study bullying in a rural part of the Caribbean as well as in China
  8. Six Nations parenting and bullying — conducting focus groups and research on parenting and bullying in Six Nations (aboriginal students most welcome!), analyzing existing data

We currently have numerous data sets covering all of the topics to the left (and quite a few more!). These data are available for students to use, and they include: self-report data, peer-report data, social network data, cross-sectional data, longitudinal data, community data, observational data, anthropological data, and cross-cultural data. So there are a lot of opportunities to work with existing data, especially for Honours students or graduate students looking to write extra papers. We also provide the training and the tools required to use the data.

With regards to funding, while most of my graduate students end up earning external funding, I currently provide a degree of extra funding for all of my graduate students. I’d aruge this is not the best career for getting rich, but I understand that some extra money often helps. I also usually have spare pockets of funding for side projects, but anyone wanting to do something big and very different should probably check with me first.

Students are thus welcome to work on ongoing projects (see to the left), archival data (from within or beyond the lab), or propose new research projects. One of my main responsibilities as a supervisor is making sure students find a good (i.e., valid and feasible to do) match between their interests and the data they end up using. Trust me (or ask my students), you won’t run out of things to do or data to work with in our lab!