Meet the LearnLabbies


Dr. Ji Son, Lab Director

Ji Son

Dr. Son is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology. Her research focuses on how people learn and generalize their learning to new situations. The central idea behind her work is that learning changes the way we SEE the world! Many of the studies in the Learning Lab examine the role of perception in how students and young children learn abstract ideas, such as math and science. Area: Cognitive development, category learning, perceptual learning, learning and transfer.

Caylor Davis, Post-Graduate Researcher

Young woman taking a selfie with the Boston harbor behind her.

I am a recent graduate of the CSULA Psychology MA program, and received my BA in Linguistics and Psychology from UCLA. My research interests lie at the intersection of language, gesture, and cognition. More particularly, I am interested in the ways spatial language may impact the way we learn abstract concepts or form spatial categorizations. I approach research questions related to these ideas through the framework of embodied cognition theories, in hopes of furthering our understanding of mind-body learning interactions. I am also a lecturer here at CSULA, and particularly enjoy teaching statistics and investigating instructional methods that can improve student learning outcomes.

Kolya Ludwig, Graduate Student

Kolya Ludwig

I am a student in the master of arts program (MA) here at Cal State LA. My main interests in psychology are in the social and cognitive areas of research. I am originally from Seattle, and got my bachelors degree from New York University. I moved to Los Angeles in 2015, and got started with the learning lab by meeting Dr. Ji Son and helping her with the after school tutoring project at Griffin Avenue Elementary School. I am currently taking classes in experimental methods, psychopharmacology, and multicultural psychology.

Arineh Mirinjian, Graduate Student

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My name is Arineh Mirinjian, and I am currently working on my M.A. in General Psychology and hopefully then applying to Ph.D. programs in Cognitive Psychology. My research interests involve ways to enhance human performance, such as learning through technology. My other interests include computational thinking, machine learning, and artificial intelligence. Some of the projects that I’m currently involved with include the effect of various forms of explanations on students’ learning of math and other concepts and a university-wide study that aims to find ways to encourage students’ use of CSULA resources and its potential outcome on their academic success. 

Brittany Ayalya, MORE MARC Fellow

Brittany Ayala

My name is Brittany Ayala, I am currently an Undergraduate researcher in Dr. Ji's Learning Lab and a student in the MORE program at CalStateLA. Thus far, my research experience has been in investigating the effects of statistical reasoning with the use of gesture (embodied learning), priming mathematical procedures effects on later sense-making, and the effects of spatial organization in supporting the learning of relationships between categories. My research interests include psychology and neuroscience as I am captivated by the behavioral and even finer intricacies that are involved with decision making. Aside from being a research assistant, I am also the President of the Psi Chi CSULA Chapter, a MORE MARC Psychology Fellow, a member of other honor societies, an EOP member, and a Brother of the ΑΦΩ National Service Fraternity. On my free time, I enjoy spending it with my pets, taking bike rides, and performing Tai Chi.

Lily Nguyen, Honors Student

Lily Nguyen

My name is Lily Nguyen and I am an undergraduate student studying biochemistry. I am fascinated by neuroscience and how our actions can be boiled down to a multitude of electrochemical signals in the brain firing in specific patterns. In this lab, I get to study students' performance in chemistry in the hopes to possibly shape how chemistry education. In my spare time, I like to watch TV shows, hang out with my cat Oliver, and listen to music.

Melissa Benavides, RA


Hello! My name is Melissa Benavides and I am currently an undergraduate student pursuing a BA in Psychology. I am currently involved in research that examines the progression of English language learner (ELL) students over the course of the school year. As a psychology major, I am interested in understanding people's behavioral motives and I am interested in understanding and analyzing the circumstances that permit an effective learning experience for children in school. Aside from school, I love to spend my free time watching crime shows and documentaries and seeing my favorite artists/bands (OneRepublic, Demi Lovato, etc!) in concert.

Amanda Rico, RA


Hello, my name is Amanda Rico and I'm a college student at California State University Los Angeles. As a psychology major, I aspire to graduate and aim for a masters degree in either school or clinical psychology. The human mind and the ability to help others, with tools as simple as words, has always interested me. Hopefully our learning lab might give others insight and help further better their lives and studies! 

Ana Leandro-Ramos, RA

Photo of a young women with hair in a bun, holding a large purse with a green landscape behind her.

I am an undergraduate student pursuing a BA in Psychology. I became interested in clinical, developmental, and cognitive psychology because it amazes me how our brains control our behaviors, thoughts, and feelings. As a research assistant I see the importance in conducting research in learning and education to help future generations succeed. I plan to expand my knowledge by furthering my education with graduate school and after earn my doctorate degree.

Erika Barroso-Gomez, RA

young lady with glasses wearing cal state Los angeles sweatshirt, smiling while studying in class.

My name is Erika and I am currently an undergraduate student pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Psychology, hopefully graduating on the Fall of 2018. After graduating my next academic goal is to obtain an MS in Counseling through the School Psychology program here at Cal State LA. My current research interests include determining what is the most effective way people learn and what keeps people from being motivated to learn. I am interested in these concepts because I want to acquire the skills to be able to develop effective learning techniques and strategies to apply them in my future career, and that is becoming a middle school teacher.

Nicholas Arce, RA

Young man

My name is Nicholas Arce, I am pursuing my bachelor’s degree in Psychology at California State University Los Angeles.  My current research interests in the field include how people learn and effectively apply their understanding, and how to elevate performance through psychological principles.  After graduating I plan to further my education career in graduate school, studying Clinical Psychology. I am excited to have joined the Learning Lab and be a part of such an important body of research!  Outside of academics, I enjoy live music and time at the beach.

Jamie Ramirez, RA


Young woman smiling with a lip piercing.

I received my bachelor's degree from CSULA in 2011 in Social Change and Sustainable Development.  I've spent the last few years studying gentle/non-punitive approaches to parenting/teaching and obtaining child development certification.  I quickly became interested in the process of socialization, and the largely unexplored point of view that shame hinders, rather than helpfully shapes, children's developing sense of social norms and habits.  I believe that just as it's unnecessary (and hurtful) to shame a child for misspeaking as they're learning language, we should have the same patience and nonjudgmental approach for children still learning manners and in the long, slow process of developing executive function.  I feel so passionately about this that I've decided to pursue a PhD in social/developmental psychology so I can study the impact of shame on socialization.  I am doing some post-bac work and joined the LearnLab in preparation for this goal.  Right now in the LearnLab I'm investigating depictions of race in children's books, and eventually also hope to explore some of the other content and messages children's books contain.

Daisy Teves, RA

Young lady


My name is Daisy Teves, and I’ve received a B.A. at UC Irvine, currently fulfilling psychological coursework in a post-baccalaureate capacity. Through my studies, I plan to prepare for a PhD program in behavioral/social psychology, while studying psychopathology for forensic application. My current research includes cognitive learning in areas such as conceptual learning techniques with Dr. Ji Son and Prof. Caylor Davis at Cal State LA.



Rafael Frausto, RA

Young man

Hello! My name is Rafael Frausto, and currently I am pursuing my bachelors degree in psychology here at Cal State Los Angeles. In hopes of this research lab, I hope to apply what I learned into a BCBA profession. Currently i’m assisting research in connecting concepts and activities to math and science pedagogy. I hope to continue with my M.A. here at CSULA and bring elements of the research lab with me. Other than researching my hobbies are volleyball and being in the outdoors.


Mayra Mendez, RA

Young woman

Hello, my name is Mayra Mendez and I am an undergraduate student pursuing a BA in psychology and a minor in Biology. I am currently working with Dr. Ji and Prof. Kimmy Nguyen on increasing students’ ability to transfer and apply their learning to new situations. I’m interested in behavioral neuroscience: how learning works at the cellular level, neurodegenerative diseases and brain development disorders. In my leisure time I enjoy being outdoors, and exploring collecting cool rocks and minerals like schist and quartz.

Darrill Ramirez Romero, RA

Young man

Hey, my name is Darrill Ramirez Romero. My academic career in Psychology has more recently started at California State University in 2018. In a little under a year, I have stuck with Cognitive Psychology in hopes of it continuing to amaze me as my exploration into the field continues. The research studies foretold by professors in Cognitive Psych classes connects with my interests on getting to the bottom of how mechanisms work, and how to test those mechanisms. It is why the Learning Lab with professor Ji Son has become and will be a stimulating experience as I come to learn how real researchers create a study; some that relate directly with Cognitive concepts. When School is not on the forefront, I enjoy creating music with my other minimum knowledge on music concepts.



Students who have worked with Dr. Ji in the past:

Alyssa Lawson Ph.D., Graduate student @ UC Santa Barbara, class of 2023

Mariela Rivas Ph.D., Graduate student @ UCI, class of 2020

Cynthia Alarcon Ph.D., Graduate student @ University of Texas, Austin, class of 2020

Donna Chen Ph.D., Graduate student @ University of Nebraska, class of 2020

Yu Zhang Ph.D., Graduate student @ UC Santa Cruz, class of 2019

Craig Terasawa M.S.W., Graduate student @ Azusa Pacific University, class of 2014

Phoutdavone "Noy" Phimphasone Ph.D., Graduate student @ UNC, Charlotte, class of 2016

Katerina Schenke Ph.D., Graduate student @ UCI, class of 2015

K.P. Thai Ph.D., Age of Learning

Stacy Einikis M.A., Graduate student @ Adler School of Professional Psychology, class of 2010

Michelle Leslie Psy.D., Clinical Psychologist

Megan Haselschwerdt Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Human Development, Auburn University