DR. MOIRA DILLON
How does the physical world in which we live shape the abstract world in which we think? I address this question by exploring the development of uniquely human geometric understanding — from the basic spatial sensitivities of infants to the high-level spatial concepts of adults. I also broaden and deepen this exploration to ask how mathematical formalisms might have been ignited in the first geometers like Euclid and how they might be reignited in the minds of our children, those future mathematicians we send to school every day. In addition, I ask how our basic mechanisms of spatial perception and cognition might have even shaped our cultural development throughout historical time, such as the production of pictorial art, by investigating the geometry in children’s drawings.
I am fascinated by how the human mind transforms our concrete interactions with our environment into abstract thought. How do we form and use symbols? How do our human creations, like maps and language, reveal the way the way we think about and interact with our environments? My previous research at the Harvard Lab for Developmental Studies explored causal perception and inferences and at the MIT Early Childhood Cognition Lab focused on the acquisition of knowledge, energy efficiency, and pragmatics through theory of mind. I am excited to work with young learners to begin answering the questions that will inevitably lead to even more questions. I received my B.A. from St. John's College.
I received my B.A. in Psychology from Princeton University. My research in the Baby Lab at Princeton focused on how children use input from the environment to learn words and represent categories. I am interested in understanding how children navigate the world and approach emerging challenges in their lives, whether a mathematical problem or an otherwise stressful situation, in order to improve learning and clinical outcomes of children. Outside of the lab, I can be found playing soccer on any spare patch of grass I can find, or trying out new recipes (and subsequently washing a lot of dishes).
ETHAN JAMES LUDWIN-PEERY
Somehow, people are able to symbolically represent and reason about a huge variety of topics. Despite some common and consistent errors, it appears that with practice we can think about just about anything. Does this ability come from a single, very general ability to represent different topics, or is it constructed from the combination of specialized representation abilities? And does every domain depend on the same ability to reason — or have we developed different sets of rules for reasoning in different domains? However these are organized, how do we develop such a complex network of representations?
Visiting Graduate Student
I graduated from McMaster University's ultra-interdisciplinary Arts & Science Program, where I both studied and taught math, physics, and the history of science. Teaching math is a delicate balancing act: abstract theorems and unfamiliar constructs must be grounded in concrete examples and familiar images. But what are mathematical intuitions, anyway? And how do learners make the leap from the familiar to the abstract? I will be exploring these questions during summer 2017, before heading to Oxford in the fall as a Rhodes Scholar to study mathematical physics.
Undergraduate Honors Thesis Student
I am a senior at NYU, majoring in Psychology. I am excited to work with young learners to better understand how they perceive and learn from the world around them. Outside the lab, I am often seen crocheting hats and making small earrings.