People

People


Director


Xiaodong Lin

Dr. Xiaodong Lin is a professor of Cognitive Science in Education and the founding Director of Education for Persistence and Innovation Center (EPIC), at Teachers College, Columbia University. Her research focuses on how educators can motivate students to succeed despite facing obstacles in their school work and personal life.
A theme that runs throughout her research is the importance of learning about other people’s struggle with failures and the impact this learning has on a student’s confidence and future achievements. For example, Professor Lin found that incorporating “celebrity” stories of failure to success into STEM curriculums can help improve a student’s ability to tackle their own struggles in life. In her 2016 study (Lin-Siegler, Ahn, Chen, Fang, & Luna-Lucero, 2016), she found that making explicit the struggles famous scientists experienced prior to success enhanced students’ ability to deal with challenging STEM learning tasks. This study was press released by the American Psychological Association, and has since then been published by over 25 news media, including NPR Morning News Edition, CBS News, PBS Kids, PBS SciTech program, Science, Atlantic Quartz, BBC News, News India, China’s People Daily, etc.
Professor Lin has earned many academic awards throughout her career, including Career Achievement Award and Distinguished Research Award by the American Education Research Association (AERA). She was also named a Carnegie Scholar by the Carnegie Corporation of New York in 2003. Recently, Professor Lin was elected to serve on the Education Advisory Board of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and has made important contributions to the Education 2030 Initiative.

Associate Directors


Profile image of Dr. Stuart Firestein

Dr. Stuart J. Firestein is the chair of the Department of Biological Sciences at Columbia University, where his laboratory is researching the vertebrateolfactory receptor neuron. He has published articles in Wired magazine, Huffington Post, and Scientific American. Firestein has been elected as a fellow by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) for his meritorious efforts to advance science. He is an adviser to the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation program for the Public Understanding of Science. Firestein’s writing often advocates for better science writing. In 2011 he released the book Ignorance: How it Drives Science, and in 2016, Failure: Why Science Is So Successful.

Robert Siegler

Dr. Robert S. Siegler is the Jacob H. Schiff Foundations Professor of Psychology and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. His research focuses on how children learn mathematics and how theoretical understanding of mathematical development can be applied to improving that learning. His research led to the prediction, confirmed by subsequent research, that playing certain numerical board games yields broad, rapid, and enduring gains in preschoolers’ and elementary school children’s numerical understanding, particularly for children from low-income backgrounds. Dr. Siegler has published more than 250 articles and chapters, written 13 books, and edited 4 others. His books have been translated into numerous languages. He has been awarded the American Psychological Association’s Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award, and been elected to the National Academy of Education.

Advisory Board


Profile image of Shane Battier

Mr. Shane Battier is in his third season as Vice President, Basketball Development & Analytics of the Miami Heat, using his distinguished 13-year NBA career and heralded collegiate career at Duke University to help guide the Heat’s basketball development strategy. Battier’s long list of accomplishments includes helping the Heat win back-to-back NBA championships, three Eastern Conference Championships, three division titles. Battier is known for his exemplary character and his commitment to community service.  To serve the communities in which he has lived, Battier and wife Heidi founded The Battier Take Charge Foundation in 2010 to provide educational resources and programs for the development of youth and teens in underserved areas. The foundation has a presence in Miami and Houston, as well as Battier’s hometown, Detroit, MI.

 

Profile image of Linda Curtis-Bey

Dr. Linda Curtis-Bey is the senior director of education at American Museum of Natural History. She had worked at the NYC Department of Education for 20 years, where she was the Director of Mathematics and Science for all NYC schools for eight years, then she was the Chief Academic Officer and Deputy Cluster Leader for over 300 schools in Cluster 2, New York City. Linda has worked on several state and national initiatives including the Math Advisory Committee for the New York State Education Department, the Presidential Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, the Mathematics Feedback Group of the Common Core State Standards Initiative, and the Joint Task Force on the Common Core State Standards.

Profile image of Carol Dweck

Dr. Carol S. Dweck is the Lewis And Virginia Eaton Professor at the Department of Psychology, Stanford University. Her research looks at the origins of these self-conceptions, their role in motivation and self-regulation, and their impact on achievement and interpersonal processes. Dr. Dweck is an elected member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences and of the National Academy of Sciences. She received the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award from the American Psychological Association in 2011. On September 19, 2017, the Hong Kong-based Yidan Prize Foundation named Dweck one of two inaugural laureates, to be awarded the Yidan Prize for Education Research, citing her mindset work.

 

Profile image of Dr. Nathan Fox

Dr. Nathan A. Fox is a Distinguished University Professor in the Department of Human Development and Quantitative Methodology and the Neuroscience and Cognitive Sciences Program at the University of Maryland. Dr. Fox has completed research on the biological bases of social and emotional behavior, developing methods for assessing brain activity in infants and young children during tasks designed to elicit a range of emotions. Dr. Fox is a Principal Investigator on the Bucharest Early Intervention Project. This longitudinal study is the first (and only) randomized clinical trial of foster care intervention for infants and young children who began life in institutions under conditions of significant psychosocial adversity. 

 

Profile image of Dr. Colleen Hacker

Dr. Colleen Hacker, Professor in Kinesiology specializing in Sport and Exercise Psychology in Tacoma, Washington, has served as a member of the United States coaching staff for six Olympic Games as a mental skills coach and performance psychology specialist. Dr. Hacker began her National Team service in 1995 working with the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team and most recently served on the Gold Medal staff for USA Ice Hockey in the 2018 Olympic Games in PyeongChang. In addition to her work with National Teams, Dr. Hacker serves as the mental skills coach to professional, international and Olympic athletes in a variety of sports. Dr. Hacker has received numerous professional awards including the Distinguished Professional Practice Award from AASP (the first woman to do so). She has been inducted into the NAIA National Soccer Hall of Fame.

 

Profile image of Mrs. Suzanne M. Murphy

Dr. Suzanne M. Murphy is the Vice President of Development, Albert Einstein College of Medicine. She is the Chair of the Kingsborough Community College Foundation Board, a member of the Havens Relief Fund Society Board, and the Advisory Board for EPIC: The Center for Education, Persistence. She completed her doctorate in October 2020. For 25+ years as a senior executive, Dr. Suzanne M. Murphy has led efforts to advance colleges and universities through multi-faceted resource development, strategic communications, and external partnerships. She has served on the presidential cabinets at Sarah Lawrence College, and Marymount Manhattan College, leading historic fundraising campaigns, overseeing enrollment increases, and seeding and accelerating new academic programs and curricular innovations.

 

Profile image of Mr. Chi-ping Pang

Mr. Chi-Ping Pang is Chairman of the board of Panglin (China) Group Holdings Limited, the trustee of Hong Kong Yu Panglin Charitable Trust, and trustee of Renmin University of China from 2018 to 2021. Mr. Pang has made remarkable contributions to the Panglin Group by creating a new strategic plan for future development and establishing the group’s investment team and education team. In 2018, Yu Panglin Charitable Foundation donated RMB 10 million to Renmin University of China, Zhejiang University, and Beijing Normal University; donated $3 million to EPIC in Teachers College, Columbia University; donated HK$10 million to the Hong Kong Pui-Chong Educational Organization.

 

Profile image of Paul Peterson

Mr. Paul Peterson is a managing partner at Wiss & Company, LLP leading the firm’s long-term corporate strategy. Paul has always embraced the entrepreneurial spirit and has developed close relationships with his clients, supporting several privately held companies and family businesses. He has extensive experience providing accounting, auditing, and tax services to a variety of businesses and advising clients on growth, personnel, strategy, succession planning, financing, and organizational structure.

Paul joined Wiss & Company, LLP in 1995 and became a partner in 2004. He has held numerous leadership positions prior to becoming a managing partner, including a partner-in-charge of the Middle Market Commercial Practice Group and serving as a member of Wiss’ Executive Committee.

Profile image of Daniel Schwartz

Dr. Daniel Schwartz is the I. James Quillen Dean and professor of Psychology at the Graduate School of Education, Stanford University. Dr. Schwartz studies student understanding and representation and the ways that technology can facilitate learning. He works at the intersection of cognitive science, computer science, and education, examining cognition and instruction in individual, cross-cultural, and technological settings. He finds that new media make it possible to exploit spatial representations and activities in fundamentally new ways, offering an exciting complement to the verbal approaches that dominate educational research and practice.

 

Profile image of Mr. Jonathan Weiner

Mr. Jonathan Weiner is the Maxwell M. Geffen Professor of Medical and Scientific Journalism, and the Co-Director of M.A. Science Journalism Program at Columbia University. He majored in English at Harvard University, and then stumbled into an editing job at the magazine The Sciences, where, to his own surprise, he fell in love with science writing. He wrote his first book, “Planet Earth,” the companion volume to a PBS television series. He joined Columbia in 2005. Jonathan’s book “The Beak of the Finch” won the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Science. Jonathan has written for the New Yorker, the New York Times Magazine, Slate, and many other places. Before Columbia, he taught writing at Princeton, Rockefeller University and Arizona State University. His book research has received support from NASA, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.

 

In Memory of Our Former Advisor


Profile image of Jorome Kagan

On May 10th, 2021, EPIC (Education for Persistence and Innovation Center) and Teachers College, Columbia University lost its valuable advisor and beloved friend, Dr. Jerome Kagan. Not only was Jerry an influential member of Harvard University where he worked, he was also an intellectual giant in the field of developmental psychology.

Jerry was a great source of wisdom to all of us in EPIC and the field. In addition to his wisdom and passion for science and the new knowledge he offered us, he provided a great spirit, generosity, kindness, and frankness. He was never selfish with his time and wholeheartedly supported new researchers. EPIC was blessed to have received some of his unique wisdom and advice. He will be deeply missed and remembered with great gratitude and fondness by all of us.

Administrators


Executive Director

Dr. Daniel Ping Yu is a legal expert specialized in comparative law and Asian law. He has extensive experience in program management and worked for several academic institutes and non-profit organizations for more than two decades. He was a senior fellow at Open Society Institute during 1998-2000, and as a senior fellow at New York University School of Law (from 2000 to 2010), and the China Country Director of the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative in Beijing (2013-14).

He has also advised transnational companies to invest in the United States, provided services to non-government organization and international agencies on China’s social, political, and economic environment. Currently, he holds adjunct academic positions at China University of Political Science and Law and Tianjin University.

Yu graduated from East China University of Political Science and Law, Fudan University during the 1980s and received his Ph.D. in Comparative Laws from the University of Washington.

Profile image of Dr. Daoquan Li
Assistant Executive Director

Dr. Daoquan Li received his B.E.and Ed.M. from Shanghai Jiao Tong University, and his M.S. in Applied Statistics and Ed.D. in Instructional Technology and Media from Teachers College, Columbia University. Establishing along with his career journey of being a programmer, education researcher, and entrepreneur, his current primary research interest focuses on how educators can motivate students to succeed in STEM learning, despite facing motivational and emotional challenges. Currently, Dr. Li is working as the assistant director at EPIC, supporting the Director in research management, academic collaborations, fundraising and international outreach. Dr. Li’s science simulation software, Chaos and Fractals was published at the Higher Education Press, and Simulation in Thermodynamics was published at Science Press in China.

Research Scientists


Dr. Jalisha Jenifer is an Adjunct Assistant Professor and Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Barnard College. Her research investigates how students' emotions and beliefs about learning relate to their decision-making behavior and academic outcomes. She is particularly interested in how negative thoughts and anxiety impact decision-making in STEM courses and how cognitive interventions can be utilized to improve STEM performance. Dr. Jenifer earned her Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Chicago and her B.A. in Psychology from Princeton University.

Dr. Benjamin J. Lovett is an Associate Professor of Psychology and Education in the School Psychology Program at Teachers College, Columbia University. His research focuses on three areas: (a) the diagnostic assessment of learning disabilities, ADHD, and related disorders; (b) the provision of educational accommodations to students with disabilities; and (c) the nature and management of test anxiety. Dr. Lovett has over 100 publications on these and related topics, and he teaches classes at TC on psychological assessment and the history of psychology. Finally, he is a licensed psychologist in New York State and serves as a consultant to schools and testing agencies on assessment and disability issues.

Research Partners


Profile image of Xuejun Bai

Dr. Xuejun Bai is a professor of psychology, vice president, the director of the Psychology Department at Tianjin Normal University. He is also the former director of the Chinese Psychological Society. He studied psychological development using modern technologies such as eye-tracking, event-related potentials (ERPs), and functional near-infrared spectroscopy of brain imaging (fNRIS). Specifically, his research focuses on the psychological mechanism of children’s reading ability, the learning efficiency and the regulation of mental health, and the development of relevant interventions. Dr. Bai has published more than 300 papers in core journals at home and abroad, and has received 10 invention patents. 

 

Profile image of John Black

Dr. John Black is the Cleveland E. Dodge Professor of Telecommunications & Education and the director Institute for Learning Technologies at Teachers College, Columbia University. His research focuses on cognition, especially grounded/embodied approaches to cognition, and its application to improving learning, memory, understanding, problem-solving, and motivation. He is especially interested in using technologies like multi-user virtual environments, video games, TV/videos, intelligent tutoring systems, and robots to improve learning, memory, understanding, problem-solving, and motivation. He is the author of over 80 refereed publications and 4 books.

 

Profile image of Andrew Elliot

Dr. Andrew J. Elliot is a professor of psychology at the University of Rochester. He has served on the editorial boards of multiple psychological journals, and he is currently consulting editor to the Journal of Educational Psychology, the Journal of Personality, and the Personality and Social Psychology Review. The primary focus of Dr. Elliot’s research is approach and avoidance motivation. He examines the antecedents, consequences, and development of achievement motivation and social motivation. Dr. Elliot was awarded the 2003 Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel Research Award for mid-career contributions to Psychology, and the 2013 Ed and Carol Diener Award for Outstanding Contributions to Personality Psychology.

 

Image of Mr. Phil McCarthy

Mr. Phil McCarthy is a Professor of Entrepreneurship at the University of Denver, Daniels School of Business. He is a career entrepreneur, founding a sporting goods company, Breakaway Sports, in 1996 and growing it to become a leader in the hockey and lacrosse industries. He also founded Wicked Smart Apparel and created a real estate company to support the growth of his retail operations. All of these businesses had successful exits. Phil was a two-sport college athlete, winning multiple National Championships and has coached boys and girls in Hockey and lacrosse for over 25 years. He was recently inducted in the US Lacrosse Hall of Fame for his impact in Colorado as a coach and community member. He is an expert on team dynamics and motivation. He is an executive coach, business facilitator, athletic coach, professor, mentor, blogger, and professional speaker.

 

Profile image of Dr. Xiuwen Wang

Dr. Xiuwen Wang is the Founder & President of Shanghai Xiuwen Delu Education & Technology Group, and was previously senior vice president and principal of K-12 division for New Oriental Education & Technology Group. He received a Ph.D. in Education Administration from Pennsylvania State University. He is a member of the vice chairman of China National Private Education Association, and director of Education Development Commission in World Historic and Cultural Canal Cities Cooperation Organization (WCCO). Since 2000, Dr. Wang has founded eight K-12 private schools across different cities in China. He is also a well-published author. His books include “Education of Love”, “Fast Literacy”, “Information Technology” and “The Art and Science of Management” and etc. Among them, “Education of Love” was awarded “the best-seller of the month” in Dangdang online bookstore in China.

 

Researchers

Dr. Shane Littrell, Postdoctoral Fellow

Dr. Shane Littrell received his Ph.D. in Cognitive Psychology from the University of Waterloo (Ontario, Canada). Prior to this, he earned an MS in Experimental Research Psychology as well as two bachelor’s degrees from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. His primary research investigates processes crucial for rational thinking and decision-making, with a particular focus on identifying factors underlying the spread of misinformation (e.g., BS, fake news, pseudoscience). Dr. Littrell’s work has received international coverage in several news and science outlets including Forbes, The Guardian, CBC, VICE, CTV News, Global News, Inc.com, and Psychology Today. Currently, Dr. Littrell is helping lead a research project for EPIC investigating predictors of employee investment and success in the workplace, as well as the effects of misinformation in organizational settings.

 

Naina Abowd, RA

Naina Abowd received her Bachelor of Science in Biology from Cornell University, and her Master of Arts in Science Education from New York University. She taught high school biology for 5 years in public schools in New York City, and is currently the Senior Manager of Curriculum and Teaching at the American Museum of Natural History. She is pursuing her Ph.D. in Cognitive Science and Education, and is interested in teacher self-efficacy and teacher behaviors in response to student struggle and failure.

 

Ben E. Atzmon, RA

Ben E. Atzmon received his bachelor of arts in psychology with combined studies from Richmond, the American International University in London, and is currently pursuing his Ph.D. in cognitive science in education at Teachers College, Columbia University. He is interested in how STEM college students’ behaviors and motivations are impacted by failure experiences in the classroom.

 

Yiran (Mirabelle) Du, RA

Yiran (Mirabelle) Du received her Bachelor of Arts in English and International Studies, and a minor in International Economics and Trade from China Foreign Affairs University in Beijing, China. During her undergraduate, she was able to exchange semester at Barnard College. Yiran received her Master of Arts in Comparative and International Education at Teachers College, Columbia University before she pursued her Ph.D. in Cognitive Science in Education from the same institution.

 

Scott C. Lu, RA

Scott C. Lu previously taught high school math in California and in Beijing. He received a bachelor of arts in psychology at the University of Michigan, a master of education at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and is currently pursuing his Ph.D. in cognitive science at Teachers College, Columbia University. He is interested in how culture, identity, and upbringing influence child development.

 

Sean Dolcy, RA

Sean works in STEM education as an Assistant Principal in the NYC dept. of Ed and is a Board member of a National STEM Consortium, NCSSS.  Currently, he is pursuing graduate studies in Cognitive Science in Education and working in the EPIC lab.  His prior academic studies included School Leadership, Math Education, and Mechanical Engineering.

 

Vivian Chen, RA

Vivian Chen received her Bachelor of Science in Applied Psychology from New York University with minors in Producing and Creative Writing. She is currently a Research Project Associate at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and is pursuing her Master's degree in Cognitive Science in Education at Teachers College, Columbia University.

 

Khudaijia Ahmad, RA

Khudaija received a bachelor’s degree in Applied Psychology from the University of Peshawar. She is now enrolled as a Fulbright scholar in the master’s program of Cognitive Science in Education. She has experience in working with children and schools from poverty-stricken areas. Her research interests are failure, persistence, and math performance.

 

Keying Wang, RA

Keying received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Occidental College. She is currently pursuing her Master’s degree in Cognitive Science in Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. Her interests include metacognition, multimedia learning, and educational media.

 

Jude Rayan, RA

Jude received his Bachelor of Science in Computer Science from Arizona State University with a minor in Human Systems Engineering. He is currently pursuing his master’s degree in Neuroscience and Education. He is interested in exploring the neural correlates of the influence of socioeconomic disparities and teacher-student relationships. He plans to help design interventions and policies that address the aforementioned factors.

Interns

Kay Kim

Kay Kim received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology at Barnard College. She also minored in Childhood Education and is licensed to teach grades 1-6 in New York State. Through her courses at Barnard and by working closely with young students, she developed an interest in the fields of educational psychology, developmental psychology, metacognition, and special education.

 

Matthew Cohen

Matthew Cohen received his Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Criminology from Fairleigh Dickinson University and is planning to attend graduate school in the fall of 2022. He has experience working at a therapeutic high school and currently serves as a reading interventionist through AmeriCorps. His interests include non-punitive interventions for high-risk adolescents, the factors that contribute to alternative school efficacy, and ways to foster emotional development in students.

 

Jonathan Young

Jonathan Young is applying for his Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering. He has completed the EPIC High School Internship Program in 2020. His research interests include research in nanoscale engineering, STEM education/teaching, cognitive science, and using engineering to better the environment.

 

Emma Hong

Emma is applying for a degree in Psychology. She has completed the EPIC High School Internship in 2021. Through her experiences as a student-athlete, her goal is to delve deeper into the psychological impact that setbacks have on high-performance athletes. Additionally, she is interested in cognitive neuroscience, sports psychology, and addressing the disparities of mental health concerns among people from racial and ethnic minority groups.

Background Image: Einstein Background

Research Spotlight: “Even Einstein Struggled

Students’ beliefs that success in science depends on exceptional talent negatively impact their motivation to learn. For example, such beliefs have been shown to be a major factor steering students away from taking science and math courses in high school and college. In the present study, we tested a novel story-based instruction that models how scientists achieve through failures and struggles.

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