Child sitting on a book

Meet the team

Jessica sits with her son on a trainDr Jessica Horst

Dr. Jessica Horst

Jessica first began exploring how we acquire language when, at the age of 14, she moved to Germany without previously having learned German. She did learn German (and French) and earned her Abitur before returning to the US to attend University.

Jessica earned her undergraduate degree in Psychology and Philosophy, with a minor in German Language and Literature, at Boston University. She then earned her PhD at the University of Iowa, where she also won the D.C. Spriestersbach award for Outstanding Dissertation in the Social Sciences. For her PhD research on children's word learning, she also won awards from the Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD), the American Psychogical Association (APA) and the Council of Graduate Schools/University Microfilms International. She has served on the editoral board for Infancy and is a Chief Specialty Editor at Frontiers in Developmental Psychology. She is currently a member of the ESRC Peer Review College. CV (last upated 18 August 2016).

Jessica has recently published a book for undergraduate and masters students about research skills that can be used after graduation--even if students do not continue in research. You can check it out here (the hardcover versions has a "look inside" feature).

Emma Axelsson in front of the Sydney Opera HouseDr. Emma Axelsson

Dr. Emma Axelsson (Active Collaborator)

Emma was a post-doctoral researcher in the WORD Lab and is now a lecturer at Australian National University.

Emma’s research interests cover a number of topics in infant and early child cognitive development. In relation to word learning, she is exploring the conditions that enhance young children’s ability to remember newly learned words (‘slow mapping’) following ‘fast mapping’ (a process where children guess the labels for novel objects via a process-of-elimination). With her other collaborators, she is also investigating infants’ categorisation of humans and non-human animals, infants’ developing representations of bodies, as well as sleep in developmental disorders and typically developing infants and children.

Photo of ZoeZoe Flack

Dr. Zoe Flack (Active Collaborator)

Zoe Flack completed her the Sussex PhD programme in Winter 2017-18. Zoe also earned her undergraduate degree at Sussex. She won the 2013 Mike Scaife Prize in Cognition, Learning and Innovative Technology for her final year empirical project on preschool children¹s colour perception. For her PhD, Zoe explored children's word learning and gained a bit of media attention for her work on how the number of illustrations influence how much children learn from storybooks. Since January 2018, Zoe has been a lecturer at the University of Brighton, where she is interested in investigating differences in home-based and school-based learning.

A robot looking at a toy cow and a toy block while Katherine Twomey looks on from behind.Katherine Twomey

Dr. Katherine Twomey (Active Collaborator)

Katie is an ESRC future leaders fellow and lecturer in lagnauge and communicative development at the University of Manchester and a member of the ESRC Language and Communicative Development (LuCiD) group.  During her time in the WORD Lab she became fascinated by how children's perceptual experience affects how they learn about objects and nouns, and actions and verbs.  Does seeing lots of different examples of something make it easier or more difficult to learn its label?  What about if children encounter the same thing in lots of different locations, or accompanied by different types of background information, or sounds?  At Lancaster she investigates these questions empirically, in fast mapping and eye tracking tasks with infants and toddlers, and computationally using neural network models.

Sophie Williams reads to a young boy.Sophie Williams

Dr. Sophie Williams

Sophie is completed her PhD, working with Dr. Jessica Horst and Prof. Jane Oakhill on a series of projects exploring how children learn words from shared storybook reading (that is, being read stories). Sophie earned her undergraduate degree at the Open University and has a masters degree from the University of Sussex.

Sophie is the mother of four children: two boys and two girls.