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People

Principal Investigator

Cameron Ellis, Ph.D. (he/him)

Hi everyone! I am the Principal Investigator for the Scaffolding of Cognition Team and am an Assistant Professor at Stanford University. I earned my Ph.D. in Psychology from Yale University. I am driven to understand the development of the human mind and cherish the opportunity to experience awe every day. If you would like to know more about me, visit my personal website.

Team Manager

Marianne Lacsamana, MS (she/her)

Mar earned her MS in Forensic Psychology from California State University, Los Angeles. Her past research includes the efficacy of police procedures as well as the effects of forensic interviews on maltreated children. Her passion truly lies with child advocacy and creating a learning environment for children with developmental disabilities to thrive along their neurotypical counterparts. She is extremely excited to be a part of the SoC Team! For fun, Mar enjoys trying new foods (the spicier the better!), eating ice cream any time of the day, and watching videos of cute baby animals and their shenanigans!

Research Assistant

Alfredo Ornelas (he/him)

Fredo received his B.S. in Cognitive Science from UC Merced. At UC Merced, he worked on projects ranging from building deep learning models, bilingual perception of phonemes, to software development. He is interested in utilizing machine learning to develop real-world solutions, technology, and treatments to help people overcome daily obstacles more seamlessly. Outside of the lab, Fredo enjoys soccer, making music, and rocket league.

Graduate Student

Emily Chen (she/her)

Emily is a Psychology PhD student in the Scaffolding of Cognition Team, interested in questions related to how the development of the human brain gives rise to infant cognition in the domains of vision, language, and social reasoning. Before coming to Stanford, she worked as a lab manager at MIT with Rebecca Saxe, studying questions related to language development in toddlers and scene processing in infants. She received by Bachelor of Arts (Honours) from McGill University, where she studied an eclectic mix of subjects that included Data Science, Computer Science, Public Health, Urban Planning, and Neuroscience (her official major and minor combination was Urban Systems Geography and Cognitive Science). In her free time, she is a violinist, singer, coxswain, cook, and avid walker.

Graduate Student

Sarah Shi Tung (she/her)

Sarah is a first-year Psychology PhD student and she is interested in investigating the underlying mechanisms behind experience-driven plasticity in infancy. Before this, she went to Cal Poly SLO, studying psychology and biology. Outside of the lab, she enjoys art and watching reality tv shows.

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Kenny Jose Cepeda Ramos (he/him)

Kenny, a proud member of Stanford’s undergraduate class of ’26, is currently working towards his BS in Computer Science with a focus on Human Biology. Hailing from the vibrant Bronx, New York, Kenny proudly represents his Afro-Latino roots as a Dominican. When he’s not immersed in academics, Kenny indulges his passion for gaming, sports, and binging long TV series. He aspires to leverage his knowledge and skills to craft innovative solutions at the intersection of technology and human biology.

Want to join the team?

For those interested in applying, you are encouraged to read our manual to get an idea of what it will be like to join the team. If you want to learn more about our open positions, please read the descriptions below:

Graduate Students

The SoC Team is looking to recruit enthusiastic graduate students to start in the Fall of 2025. The application deadline is likely November 30th 2024, but check here for updates. The successful candidate will primarily conduct fMRI with awake infants while studying perception, attention, and/or learning. There are numerous experiments that are planned in these areas (and more), but interested teammates are encouraged to propose their own ideas.

The research involves a range of skills, including fMRI data collection (on the GE platform), computer coding (Python, Matlab, Javascript, Bash) for experiment design and analysis, and comfort in interacting with infants and families. Although experience in some of these areas is desired, no background in any of these is essential. Different applicants will have different opportunities from their undergrad: if you were unable to access these research experiences, then that won’t be held against you. Indeed, it would be hypocritical to expect anything else since I had none of these skills when I got into grad school. Instead, I endorse a quote from Antoni Gaudí:

“To do things right, first you need love, then technique”

To operationalize this, the primary criteria for consideration are:

  1. Do you show enthusiasm for the research program and theoretical questions?
  2. Do you show evidence of independent and self-motivated learning?
  3. Do you demonstrate sophistication in your research interests?
  4. Do you cooperate well and work well in a team setting?

Because of the team nature of this work, complementary skillsets and research interests will be considered during recruitment.

Space is extremely limited, with one slot available in 2025. The student will be joining a fully operational research program so they can hit the ground running. Graduate school at Stanford is fully funded (i.e., you do not require student loans for tuition), and a stipend is provided for living costs (i.e., you are paid to go to school). This funding comes directly from the graduate school and is guaranteed for 5 years. As a graduate student, you will have access to subsidized Stanford housing. All costs for things like experiments and conference travel are all paid for by my research funds.

The application process for people wishing to join the team involves an initial screening by the search committee members of the developmental area in the Stanford Department of Psychology, followed by a further round of screening by me and any other faculty mentioned in your application letter. Successful applicants will then be virtually interviewed.

If you wish to join the team then please say so clearly in your personal statement. The personal statement is perhaps the most important part of your application. We strongly encourage that you have your mentors read over your application to see its suitability. In recent years, I have noticed these statements have gotten shorter. While brevity is good, you should not compromise space that could be used to describe why you are interested in the lab and what research questions motivate what you want to do. For up-to-date details on applying, refer to this page here.

Applicants outside of the United States are encouraged to apply. If successful, visa support is provided and managed by the Bechtel International Center. For these applicants, they should seek out advice for applying to American graduate schools (of which the internet provides an abundance), since many of the application materials are expected to follow a certain format that differs from other countries.

For equity reasons, Dr. Ellis will not be meeting with (virtually or in person) any of the applicants prior to the formal interview process. This is for two reasons: many candidates from underfunded schools or who are geographically distant won’t have the opportunity to meet with him in person, and many people don’t know about the ‘hidden curriculum’ of meeting with the professor before applying. If you wish to apply to the team, feel free to send him an email saying as much, but please do not feel concerned if you do not receive a reply.

Post-Doctoral Research Fellows

The SoC Team is looking to recruit a funded Post Doc, with applications open until the space is filled. A Post Doc will primarily conduct fMRI with awake infants while studying perception, attention, and/or learning. There are numerous experiments that are planned in these areas (and more), but interested teammates are encouraged to suggest their own ideas.

The research involves a range of skills, including fMRI data collection (on the GE platform), computer coding (Python, Matlab, Javascript, Bash) for experiment design and analysis, and comfort in interacting with infants and families. Expertise in one or more of these skills is required for consideration, although it is expected that no candidate will have experience in all domains. Moreover, the successful applicant is expected to meet the following criteria: enthusiasm and creativity for their research program, and evidence that they can work well in a team setting.

Since the team is just starting, there isn’t currently anyone to talk to about what I am like as a mentor. Applicants who make it through the initial round of consideration will have the opportunity to privately talk to my former mentees and learn what I am like as an advisor.

The salary for this position will be approximately $75,000. This salary will increase to keep up with the cost of living. Currently, two years of funding are available; however, during that period, additional grant funding will be sought to bring that to 4 years of funding.

Postdocs with partial or full funding will be more closely considered. Funded salary will be bumped to meet or exceed the standard rate.

Stanford Undergraduate Research Assistants

Open RA position(s) will start in the Fall of 2024.  Applications will be reviewed in the Summer of 2024.

Undergraduate Research Assistants will support the infant fMRI research we do by assisting with scans, helping with preprocessing the data, and supporting research tasks.

Successful applicants will show the following:

  1. A demonstrable interest in developmental cognitive neuroscience research or other questions we ask
  2. Evidence of trustworthiness and persistence
  3. Computational and technical skill, usually shown through course work in computer science or data science
  4. A warm personality and generous spirit

All undergraduate research assistants are compensated for their time, either with course credit or with money. This is necessary for equity reasons: some students don’t have surplus time to volunteer, so to avoid favoring those that have that luxury this rule is set. This means that space for research assistants is limited in the team. Research assistants are expected to work 5–10 hours per week during the semester, with opportunities available to research full-time in the summer.

When offered the UGRA position, the candidate will be asked to review and sign our Responsibilities, Expectations, and Benefits Contract before beginning.

If you are interested, please reach fill out this UGRA application. If you have any questions, feel free to email Mar (marlac@stanford.edu) or Dr. Ellis (cte@stanford.edu).

Team affiliates

Members of the Stanford community are welcome to collaborate with the SoC team as an affiliate. Infant fMRI involves intricate data collection that takes a long time to get trained in. People are welcome to collaborate with this level of commitment, but collaborations can take on lesser forms. For instance, secondary analyses of research data are possible. Moreover, research that does not focus on infant fMRI but is in our wheelhouse is also encouraged.

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