Research Team

Christina Starmans


Christina is interested in how children and adults reason about the social and moral world, and her research draws on methods and ideas from both philosophy and psychology to explore topics such as morality, free will, other minds, ownership, fairness, and knowledge. She came to U of T after completing her graduate and postdoctoral work at Yale University; before that, she was an undergraduate in Philosophy, Psychology, and Cognitive Science at the University of Waterloo.

Umang Khan


Umang recently graduated from the University of Toronto with a BSc in Neuroscience and Psychology. She is interested in pursuing further studies in research focusing on the social and moral development of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Her previous experience includes doing research in developmental psychology focusing on language and learning. In her spare time, Umang enjoys hanging out with friends, listening to music, and binge-watching Netflix.

Julia Espinosa


Julia is a second year PhD student in Psychology. Her research interests are centered around how dogs and humans think, learn, and navigate the world. She enjoys designing and carrying out behavioural studies in the form of interactive food puzzles with pet dogs in the Greater Toronto Area. Her recent work in the StarLab looks at how adults and children think about animals' mental abilities. When not hanging out with dogs and doing research, she can be found drinking coffee, dancing, or lifting weights.

Anahid Najafizadeh

Anahid is a third-year undergraduate pursuing a specialist degree in Political Science with a minor in European Union Studies. Her passions are centred in politics and global governance with relation to human rights, justice, and the law. She believes there is an intersection between these fields and Psychology, which is why she is very excited to delve deeper into research regarding moral obligations. For many years, she has worked with children while volunteering at the Glenbow Museum, and in her spare time, she enjoys playing tennis and piano, debating, listening to music, and shopping.

Daryna Skybina

Daryna is a fourth-year undergraduate completing a research specialist degree in Psychology and a minor in Buddhism, Psychology and Mental Health. In the upcoming year, she looks forward to completing her thesis with Dr. Starmans and gaining a greater understanding of individuals’ morality and their understanding of the self. After completing her undergraduate studies, she aspires to go on to graduate school to study Clinical Psychology. In her spare time, she enjoys exploring the city, trying new recipes, and volunteering.

Philip Rajewicz

Philip is a third year specialist in Psychology, a major in Cognitive Science and a minor in Philosophy. His academic interests revolve around how the mind develops and affords higher cognitive process like morality, ideas of the self, wisdom, rationality and intelligence. He is also extremely passionate about how researchers can understand pressing questions about the human mind in a lucid and truthful manner; one that is afforded to us by using the research methods of the modern behavioural sciences and the rigour and clarity provided by a philosophically informed framework. Outside of his academic interests, he has enjoys reading a great deal.

Simonne Mastrella

Simonne is a fourth-year undergraduate specializing in Psychology Research and majoring in Economics. She has had an interest in working with children ever since she graduated from that age group and became an adolescent. Her work in the StarLab gives her an opportunity to use the skills she developed as a camp counsellor and build on the skills she gained in her experience with social psychology research. After completing her undergraduate studies, she hopes to pursue a graduate degree in Psychology and research how academic difficulties impact children beyond their grades. In her spare time, you can find her reading and writing new adult fiction.

Brianna Wang

Brianna is a second-year undergraduate student studying Criminology and Political Science. She is interested in developmental psychology, specifically with relation to moral issues. In the StarLab, Brianna hopes to gain further understanding of psychological research and children’s perception of concepts such as the moral virtue and moral obligation. In her spare time, she enjoys exploring nature, reading, playing the flute and guitar, and cooking.

Maia Jaffer-Diaz

Maia is a second-year Psychology specialist with a double minor in Immunology and Buddhist Psychology. Ever since she was little, she has enjoyed playing with younger kids. She has applied this passion locally in her neighborhood through babysitting and globally through helping a shelter for abused and abandoned girls in Guatemala. Her interests in psychology range from exploration of the brain to interactions between people to child development. Her plan after university is to follow clinical psychology or research. Outside of school, Maia loves to travel, dance and play music with friends.

Yolanda Yu

Yolanda is in her second year at U of T majoring in Immunology and Psychology. Having volunteered with children for many years, she is excited to understand more about children's development. In particular, she is working on investigating children predictions about how they will change over time. In her spare time, she loves to paint, play video games, and read.

Allison Zhou

Allison is a second-year undergraduate student pursuing a specialist in Psychology and minor in Physiology at the University of Toronto. She is fascinated by how childhood development affects social cognition in adulthood and is excited to be a part of a developmental lab. She loves working with children and has volunteered for many years at her church. In her spare time, she can be found reading, listening to music and volunteering.

Sikun Li

Sikun is a second-year undergraduate student studying Psychology and Biology. She is interested in developmental psychology, and how changes in the brain can influence an individual’s sense of self, as well as their moral behaviour. In her spare time, she enjoys drawing, volunteering, and binge-reading books during the night (then regretting it the next day).

Kathy Du

Kathy is a second-year psychology specialist, with another major that she has yet to decide on. She is still exploring specific direction she would like to pursue in psychology; she is interested in developmental, social, and clinical psychology. Her more niche interest is the psychology of members of fringe groups such as flat-earthers; how they arrive and become attracted to their illogical conclusions. Overall, her interest in psychology stems from her fascination with understanding and improving things such as abnormal behaviours through the scientific study of the mind. She loves interacting with children and has volunteered at summer camps prior to joining the lab.

Isabel Bowman

Isabel is a third-year Cognitive Science major and Psychology specialist, and finds all disciplines that study the mind deeply fascinating. This summer she is investigating the folk psychological notion of a 'true self', particularly if children perceive others as having, at their core, morally virtuous true selves (and what the explanations and implications of this essentialist tendency may be). Outside of her work in the StarLab, she has emerging interests in peripheral fields, such as cognitive scientific approaches to mythology, fiction and storytelling. Among other things, she often reads, and occasionally attempts to write.