College of Education and Human Development

Department of Educational Psychology

Research topics: Neurobehavioral methods

Understanding and studying the human brain

We study the human brain in a controlled lab setting in order to better understand the way people think, learn, develop, and behave.


Frank Symons

Symons (special education) conducts research to gain understanding of the severe behavior problems of children and adults with special needs, primarily those with developmental disabilities and emotional or behavioral disorders. For these two groups, much of his research has focused on self-injurious behavior and classroom aggression, respectively. The majority of his research has been observationally based, theoretically grounded in behavioral principles, and driven by a commitment to meaningful, functional outcomes.

Keisha Varma

Varma (psychological foundations of education) explores the cognitive processes that underlie science learning. Her work is at the intersection of educational psychology, cognitive science, and the learning sciences. She investigates students’ understanding of complex science concepts and how technology can facilitate science learning. Her work shows that technology, including interactions with scientific visualizations, can improve students’ representations for complex systems as well as their learning outcomes. Dr. Varma also leverages psychological methodologies to understand changes in teachers’ pedagogical content knowledge and their representations of effective teaching practice.

Jason Wolff

Wolff (special education) runs a lab funded funded in-part by the National Institute of Mental Health with two goals -- to leverage brain imaging data to characterize factors associated with the early emergence of behavioral excesses and deficits in autism spectrum disorder, and to identify potential neurodevelopmental moderators of response to early intervention. The ultimate goal of this work is to determine how brain and behavioral data may be used to inform the timing and content of early or even preventative interventions.