Angie Johnston, PhD

Primary Investigator

Angie Johnston is an assistant professor at Boston College where she directs the Canine Cognition Center and Social Learning Laboratory. She received her Ph.D. in Psychology from Yale University and her B.S. in Child Development from the University of Texas at Dallas. Her research on canine cognition and child development has received numerous awards from sources such as the National Science Foundation, and her work has been featured on NBC Nightly News, the Today Show, and Scientific American. When she’s not in the lab investigating how dogs and children learn about the world around them, you can find her at home getting new study ideas from her dog, Vader. You can find more information at her personal website. 

Molly Byrne

Ph.D. Student

From personal relationships to society at large, humans have unprecedented abilities to interact with one another, even from infancy. Complex abilities like language, empathy and shared social realities must have evolved from other, simpler traits, like theory of mind, joint attention, and social expectations. Molly is really interested in these fundamental mechanisms. She believes that studying comparison species like dogs is the best way to get at the different pressures that might have caused these abilities to evolve.

Karen Jesch

Ph.D. Student

People, animals, and how they work together – Karen has been fascinated by the animals around us and what they can tell us about ourselves since she was a child. A graduate from Canisius University where she received a B.S. in Animal Behavior, also studying communication, psychology, and anthrozoology, her interests lie in the cognitive perception of social others, learning mechanisms, and social interactions between people and dogs. Karen aims to continue contributing to canine social cognition in her career as a researcher and professor, teaching future scientists about animal behavior. She also enjoys baking, board games, raising future service dogs, and playing fetch with her cat, Phoebe!

Carly Fisher

Master’s Student

Carly Fisher is a Master’s student (’24) in BC’s Fifth Year Master’s Program. She is working towards obtaining her M.A. in Psychology. Carly completed a senior thesis in the lab (’23) and her project – entitled Overimitation – compared social learning processes in children and domestic dogs. Outside of the lab, Carly enjoys playing volleyball, baking, and reading. Following graduation, she plans to obtain her Ph.D. and pursue a career in academia.

Shennai Palermo

Lab Coordinator

Shennai has diverse research experience, having completed a Bachelor of Science with Honors in zoology, plant science, ecology and conservation biology. She was born and raised in Melbourne, Australia. From childhood, she has had an affinity for the natural world with a particular interest in apex predators. Her passion has led her to research opportunities in Borneo and the Canadian Rockies, among many other places. 

Shennai has extensively studied the behavior and ecology of dingoes during her time at the Dingo Discovery Sanctuary and Research Center in Toolern Vale, Australia. She is incredibly excited to use her knowledge of animal behavior to learn more about comparative psychology!

Research Assistants

Ava Cahill

Ava Cahill is a senior at Boston College majoring in Psychology with a minor in Art History. She is interested in comparative research between domestic dogs and Australian dingoes to understand the mechanisms and impact of domestication. Upon graduation, she plans to pursue a career in academia and research in the fields of psychology and neuroscience. In her free time, Ava loves drawing, listening to new music, and spending time with her dog, Leo.

Selim Kolat

Selim Kolat is a student (‘25) at Boston College majoring in Psychology and minoring in Marketing. He is very interested in the awareness that dogs possess of the world and their emotions relating to this. Outside of the lab, Selim works as a Supervisor / Official for the intramurals program. In his free time, he enjoys playing basketball with his friends as well as going into Boston and exploring whatever the city has to offer.

Nonni Schwartz

Nonni Schwartz is a student at Boston College (‘25) majoring in Biology. She has always been intrigued by the unique relationship between humans and dogs and is excited to learn more about how this connection, or lack thereof, impacts canine behavior. In the future, she hopes to become a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and eventually, open her own practice. When not in the lab, Nonni can be found volunteering on campus, crocheting, or hanging with her friends and four-legged pal, Bruce.

Maisy Dyer

Maisy Dyer is a student (’26) at Boston College majoring in Neuroscience and minoring in Accounting. She is fascinated by the language of dogs and the surprising similarities they share with humans in terms of how they communicate and interpret words. Aside from BCCCC, Maisy works in the Office of First Year Experience and enjoys spending her time reading or going on runs.

Keara Kierstead

Keara is a student (’26) at Boston College majoring in Psychology and minoring in French and International Studies. She is interested in the comparison between human and dog cognition/emotion, as well as what the evolutionary bases for similarities and differences may be. Outside of the lab, Keara sings for the Acoustics, an acapella group on campus, and works for the Pine Manor Institute for Student Success. In her free time, she enjoys listening to music, learning new skills, and watching Premier League soccer matches.

Molly Maher

Molly Maher (‘26) is a student at Boston College studying Neuroscience and looking to minor in Medical Humanities on the pre-medical track. Molly is very interested in studying the dog-owner relationship to learn more about the infant-caretaker bond. She also is interested in the social development of dogs and the parallels and discontinuities between this and the social development of humans. When Molly is not in the lab, she works for BCEMS, enjoys taking spin classes at the plex, and facetimes her dog Callie! She is looking forward to getting to work with dogs at the Canine Cognition Center!

Pearl Miller

Pearl Miller is a student at Boston College (26’) majoring in Art History and Psychology. Like her fascination for both Art History and Psychology, Pearl enjoys comparing and contrasting the behavior of humans to dogs and is fascinated by the unique combination. Outside of the lab, Pearl works at the McMullen Museum of Art and is a McNair Scholar, with the hopes of going to graduate school and obtaining a PhD in Art History.

Veronica Wells

Veronica is part of the graduating class of 2026 of Boston College. She is a Psychology and Political Science major. Her research interests include criminal justice, criminal psychology, and therapy dogs. One specific area of interest is how therapy dogs can help those currently or previously incarcerated with mental health. Veronica would like to go into a Psy.D. or Ph.D. program after her graduation from Boston College. Eventually, Veronica would like to go into clinical psychology and work with either people incarcerated or with people who suffer from chronic mental illness. She enjoys making music in her free time and is the music librarian for the University Chorale.

Caroline Linskey

Caroline Linskey is a student (’25) at Boston College majoring in psychology and minoring in economics on the pre-med track. She is especially interested in the developmental and language aspects of canine psychology. Outside of the lab, she works as a research assistant at the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship, is the director of the Campus Activities Board Signature Events Department, and leads an ascend group mentoring first-year female students. In her free time, Caroline enjoys going to concerts, traveling, running, cooking, and hanging out with her roommates and her dog Bailey.

Ella Matteucci

Ella is a student (‘26) at Colorado College majoring in Neuroscience and minoring in Global Public Health. She is interested in comparative cognition and the evolutionary similarities/differences between dogs and children. In the future, she hopes to attend graduate school and continue research in a Neuroscience or Psychology lab. Outside of BCCC, Ella enjoys everything outdoors; hiking, backpacking, skiing, running, and soccer are some of her favorite activities. She also works as an Athletic Marketing Assistant and loves volunteering!

Eloise Richardson

Eloise is a student (‘25) at Earlham College majoring in Anthrozoology: Human-Animal Studies and minoring in Art and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Interested in animal behavior and dog cognition from a young age, they are especially curious about how dogs perceive the world and our bond with them. They want to learn more about how we can improve our communication with dogs, as dog training is one of their passions. During the school year, Eloise works in the greenhouse and is a member of the Barn Co-Op and equestrian team. In their freetime, they love to do art, go birding, and spend time with their pets.

Pets from left to right: Jake (chihuhua, Boston terrier, Australian shepherd, and maybe greyhound?), Onyx (greater Swiss mountain dog), Ben (standard poodle), and Bert (mystery).

BC Dog Lab Alumni

Undergraduate Research Assistants

  • Rachel Ceccanecchio 2024
  • Juliana Amato 2024
  • Xiaorui Zheng 2024
  • Emily Gittle 2024
  • Emily Shi 2023
  • Gabe Fajardo 2023
  • Gia Hamalis 2023
  • Daniel Pinerio 2022
  • Kayla Sawyer 2022
  • Mark Schmitt 2022
  • Zachary Tidd 2021
  • Hannah Lee 2021
  • Brenna Sharkey 2020
  • Kayleiagh Claremont 2020

REU Students

  • Lindsey Faucher 2021
  • Frida Reyes 2021
  • Kennedy Kreidell 2022
  • Noah Liedtke-Silva 2022
  • Laura Furtado Fernandes 2023
  • Marisa Dohr 2023
  • Noemi Reyes 2023