Meet our lab

Principal Investigator

Katherine Duncan

Principal Investigator, PhD

Katherine competed her PhD at New York University, studying how hippocampal subfields contribute to memory formation and retrieval. She then moved uptown to Columbia University where she studied interactions between the hippocampus and dopaminergic system. In the summer of 2015, she returned to the University of Toronto, where she had studied as an undergraduate student. She is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at the St. George campus.

Katherine’s CV

Contact information: duncan@psych.utoronto.ca


Buddhika Bellana

Postdoc, PhD

Hi! I am interested in why we readily learn some kinds of information and not others. In some cases, we easily acquire and recall complex high-dimensional information, such as the plot of a mystery novel, but at other times we struggle to remember a simple association such as a name and a face. My research program seeks to unpack why our memory excels in situations where the information is meaningful (e.g. in stories), with the ultimate goal of developing models of memory and comprehension that can account for this striking affinity.

Twitter: @buddhikabellana

Personal website: https://www.buddhikabellana.com


Xiaoping Fang

Postdoc, PhD

Xiaoping is a post-doc, working with both Katherine and Meg Schlichting. Her previous research focused on language learning, in particular, how people learn new meanings for words they already know. In both labs, she will be investigating the mechanisms underlying the integration of relevant memories and hoping to bridge the memory and language research areas. In her free time, she likes to go hiking, camping, climbing, and to explore the city.

Contact information: xpfang4@gmail.com

Personal website: https://sites.google.com/site/xpfang4/

Xiaoping’s CV

Graduate Students

Alexandra Decker

5th Year PhD Student

Hi! I’m Lexi, a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto. I’m co-supervised by Katherine Duncan and Amy Finn. I’m curious about how and why paying attention in pursuit of our short- and long-term goals is challenging, and how different attentional states affect learning and memory. I’m also curious about how cognitive processes involved in attention and memory change with age and experience. Get in touch if you’d like to chat about ideas or collaborate!

Alexandra’s CV

Contact information: Alexandraleerdecker@gmail.com

Personal Website: https://www.alexandradecker.com/

Anuya Patil

5th Year PhD Student

I am a graduate student in the psychology department at the St. George campus of University of Toronto. Before coming to UofT, I completed a Postbaccalaureate Psychology Certificate Program from Columbia University, after which I served as a lab manager in the Davachi Lab at New York University. Currently, I am using behavioural and neuroimaging techniques to investigate the effect of novelty and reward on episodic memory.

Anuya’s CV

Contact information: anuya.patil@mail.utoronto.ca

Kyle Nealy

3rd Year PhD Student

How is space and time represented in the brain, and how do these representations impact how we learn and remember? My research aims to find answers to these questions by analyzing brain and behaviour data across species using a variety of cutting edge collection and analysis techniques.

Before joining the Duncan lab, I received my BSc in Psychology, Economics, and Mathematics from the University of Toronto. If I’m not in the lab, you can find me training for my next triathlon, teaching band, or hiking the Ontario wilderness.

Kyle’s CV

Contact Information: kyle.nealy@mail.utoronto.ca

Ariana Youm

2nd Year PhD Student

I am a graduate student in the Psychology department at the University of Toronto co-supervised by Dr. Katherine Duncan and Dr. Melanie Cohn (Krembil Research Institute). Before joining the lab, I completed my BSc degree in the Psychology Research Specialist Program at U of T. I am interested in the interaction of memory and attention — specifically, how acetylcholine impacts memory, and what its role is in the dysfunction of memory in normal and pathological aging.

Ariana’s CV

Thomas Biba

MA Student

I am an incoming MA student in the Duncan Lab at UoT. Prior to joining the lab, I completed a post bachelor research assistant position at the University of Oregon under the supervision of Benjamin Hutchinson and Sarah DuBrow, where I investigated the neural basis of temporal attention and the influence of context ambiguity on event memory. Going forward, I am interested in exploring the role of attention in memory integration and pattern completion at a behavioral, neural and computational level.

Thomas’ CV

Lab Manager

Zahra Abolghasem

Lab Manager

Hello! I recently graduated from the Psychology Research Specialist Program at the University of Toronto. I am also the lab manager in the Budding Minds Lab. I am passionate about understanding the psychological and neural basis of memory, with a particular fascination in understanding the factors that influence our memories. In my spare time, I enjoy cooking/baking, hiking, and painting.

Contact Information: duncanlabmanager@gmail.com

Research Students

Areej Ali

Work-Study Student

I am a third year computer science and psychology double major at the University of Toronto. I enjoy coding and am interested in the application of technology in research and medicine. My interests also include data structures as well as neural networks and machine learning. In my spare time, I enjoy attending hackathons, producing digital art, and reading about current events.

Zainah Azam

Volunteer Research Assistant

I am currently an undergraduate student at UBC Okanagan pursuing a holistic understanding of the human brain, behavior, research methods and application.  I enjoy delving deeper into memory because it is an integral part of who we are. I’ve joined the Duncan Lab to expand my understanding of memory and cognition. My main interests are in neuroscience, cognitive psychology and forensics. Being in various projects and having worked with people of different age groups has opened my eyes to my true niche: developing research to make a meaningful impact in society.

Elisabetta Canaletti

Volunteer Research Assistant

Hello! I’m a second-year undergraduate student at the University of Toronto, double majoring in Psychology and Criminology and minoring in French. I joined the Duncan lab to learn more about the fascinating field of cognitive psychology, especially more about memory, learning, and behaviour. Aside from my studies, I love reconnecting with the wilderness, working out, trying new foods, and spending time with friends and family.

Angel Chang

Volunteer Research Assistant

Hi! I’m Angel, a second-year undergraduate student at Western University, looking to specialize in Physiology and Pharmacology along with a minor in Psychology. I am passionate about cognitive developmental mechanisms and the role of experiences on childhood memory development. Apart from the lab, I can be found volunteering and leading service initiatives in my greater community, taking ballet classes, and spending time with friends. In the future, I hope to work in health care and improve the quality of life for others.

Rosalind Cho

Volunteer Research Assistant

I am an undergraduate student at the University of Waterloo majoring in Biomedical Sciences with a double minor in Psychology and Medical Physiology. I joined the Duncan lab as a volunteer research assistant to learn more about research in cognitive psychology and how it pertains to my biomedical background. I hope to pursue further studies in this interconnected discipline and in my spare time enjoy photography and water-colour painting.

Simran Dhir

Research Volunteer

I am a third year student specialising in Pharmacology and Biomedical Toxicology and minoring in Education and Society. I am interested in Child Development and Psychology and in seeing how my programs can be interconnected, be it by studying the biological development of memory in children or by seeing how diseases affect different parts of the body, especially the brain. The creativity and understanding that goes into creating complex tools like the fMRI machine greatly intrigues me and I am excited to see and learn more about how upcoming technology will shape the future of many scientific fields. In my free time, I can be found binging the latest Netflix show, doodling and playing online Scrabble.

Stella Mo

Work-Study Student

I’m currently a third-year undergraduate student, majoring in neuroscience and minoring in physiology and immunology. I’m particularly interested in learning and behavior, along with health and disease. In the future, I hope to shift towards clinical research. In my free time, I enjoy exploring the foods and experiences of the city and hitting the gym.

Vaneeza Moosa

Volunteer Research Assistant

Hi! I’m currently a second year student at UofT, specializing in Neuroscience, majoring in Physiology and minoring in BPMH. I am very interested in neuropsychology, specifically cognition and memory, and I hope to continue exploring these topics in the future. During my free time, I enjoy hiking, reading and love to travel!

Heather Lee

Volunteer Research Assistant

I am currently a third-year student studying psychology and neuroscience. I would like to pursue graduate studies in neuroscience in the future. In my spare time, I enjoy baking and watching movies.

Amy Pan

Work-Study Student

I’m a third-year at U of T, double majoring in neuroscience and psychology. I’m interested in studying how young minds integrate knowledge and the effects of sleep on memory. Outside of school, I love baking, running trails, creating playlists, and watching hockey. ​

Joshua Koh

Research Opportunity Program Student

Hi! I’m a 3rd year undergraduate at the University of Toronto, enrolled in the psychology research specialist and neuroscience major. I joined the Duncan Lab under the ROP399 program and am currently supervised by 2nd Year PhD student Ariana Youm – investigating various aspects of episodic memory impairment in Parkinson’s Disease. I am highly interested in the field of cognitive neuroscience and hope to deepen my understanding of it by being in this lab. Aside from studies, I love reading, sports, and traveling!

Polina Rybitska

Research Volunteer

Hi! My name is Polina and I am currently a third-year undergraduate student at UofT, majoring in Neuroscience and Psychology. I am particularly interested in cognition, health and abnormal psychology. I hope to pursue a career in research, teaching and clinical practice. In my spare time, I love learning new languages, watching documentaries and travelling as much as possible!

Rekha Ravikumar

Volunteer Research Assistant

I’m a second-year undergraduate student specializing in Neuroscience and Psychology. I am interested in the psychological and neurological aspects of memory disorders, and hope to pursue a PhD in psychology to conduct research in those areas in the future. In my free time, I enjoy cooking, reading, exploring the city, and learning the guitar.

Jacqueline Yeh

Research Volunteer

Hello! I am currently a fourth-year undergraduate student, majoring in Neuroscience and Psychology. I am particularly interested in cognitive psychology, particularly with respect to memory, and developmental psychology, more specifically relating to the effects of childhood stress on their development and mental health. Aside from that, my interest also lies in Middle Eastern history and Environmental studies. If you don’t catch me in the lab or in the library, I will be out exploring new cultures & experiences.

Yihan Qiu

Volunteer Research Assistant

My name is Yihan Qiu. I’m currently a fourth-year undergraduate student taking psychology specialist and statistics major. My research interest is within the field of cognitive psychology, especially the way that people use their memory to guide behaviours. I enjoy reading novels, watching movies, and also listening to music when I’m free.

Dorothy Sun

Volunteer Research Assistant

My name is Dorothy, and I am currently in my third year of studying at the University of Toronto with double majors in biology and psychology as well as a statistics minor. My research interest primarily lies in the human memory and emotions, and I hope to continue my study on these subjects in graduate school. In my free time, I enjoy reading detective fictions and jogging.

Mila Valcic

Volunteer Research Assistant

Hi! My name is Mila and I am a fourth year student doing a double major in Neuroscience and Psychology. I find learning about human memory to be very fascinating and hope to pursue a career in researching the effects of neurodegenerative diseases and their impact on memory. Outside of school I enjoy going to cafes with my friends and watching movies.

Megan Vaziri

Work-Study Student

I am currently a third year undergraduate student at the University of Toronto studying psychology and French language learning. The field of neuropsychology greatly interests me and I hope to pursue this subdiscipline in graduate school in studying how disease or damage to the brain might impact an individual’s cognition. Outside of my studies, I enjoy learning new languages and I also work on fighting the environmental crisis through divestment campaigns and promoting sustainability.

Emily Wang

Work-Study Student

Hi! I am a third-year undergraduate student at UofT, specializing in Psychology and minoring in Environmental Studies. I am passionate in learning about human behaviour through a variety of disciplinary lenses, including cognitive, social, forensic, and clinical psychology. In my free time, I enjoy painting, discovering new music, and cuddling with my dog.

Alexander Gordienko

Lab Programmer & Individual Project Student

I am a fourth year student at the University of Toronto majoring in Neuroscience, Cognitive Science, and minoring in Computer Science. I am particularly interested in the computational neural network modelling of the hippocampus and how cholinergic modulation impacts memory and learning. I build programmatic solutions to help accelerate research at the lab and have contributed to projects like OpenMaze and the Object Project, among others.

Personal Website: alexgordienko.com

Yiqi Shen

Lab Programmer

I’m a 4th-year Computer Science specialist & Math minor student. I love coding and discovering disciplines that are new to me. In my spare time, I enjoy photographing, sketching, hiking, and building stuff in Minecraft. I’m currently considering doing a grad degree in either Computer Science or Education (or maybe a degree in architecture too if I had time in the future).

Lab Alumni

Postdoctoral Fellows
Andrew Bauer, Data Scientist at Feedzai

Undergraduate Thesis Students
  • Sara Pishdadian, PhD — Clinical Neuropsychology, York University
  • Dylan Tucker, Medical School, McMaster University
  • Shafquat Arefeen, Financial Data Analyst, Ontario Securities Commission
  • Eugenia Barkova, Software Engineer
  • Azara Lalla, M.Sc — Experimental Psychology, McGill University
  • Hannah Tarder-Stoll, PhD, Columbia University
  • Helen Liu, MHSc, Healthcare Analyst at the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB)

Individual Project Students
  • Yaxin Liu, Graduate Student, Emory University
  • Freda Jian, Graduate Student, Queen's University

Research Opportunity Project Students
  • Isis So
  • Nastasia Kujbid
  • Nika Zahedi Neysiani

Lab Managers/Research Volunteers
  • Louisa Man, Masters - Clinical Psychology, Queen's University
  • Rachel Downey, PhD - Clinical Psychology at Concordia University
  • Freha Mian, Masters - Counselling Psychology at Yorkville University
  • Samin Khan
  • Shijing Wang, MSc - Institute of Medical Science
  • Wangjing Yu, PhD - Psychology at Columbia University
  • Danielle Lim, MA/PhD - Clinical Psychology at Ryerson University
  • Dongyan Lin, MSc - Neuroscience, McGill University
  • Mohammad Ali, MSc - MINDS Program, McMaster University
  • Monique Sousa
  • Sukhman Sandhu
  • Arushi Katyal
  • Denise Bu
  • Roxanne Choy
  • Ellen Puhalovich
  • Enri Boshti
  • Sarah Berger, MSc - Psychology at Western University
  • Hannah Cho

Lab Programmers
  • Jihad El Sheikh, Software Developer Intern, CaseBank Technologies
  • Aatina Munir
  • Sneha Dasgupta