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

PhD 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.

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!

Anya Parks

Lab Coordinator


Anya has always had a deep love for all animals. From a young age, her curiosity drove her to ask questions about the way humans and animals alike see the world. Her current research explores the evolution of learning, specifically the development of natural pedagogy over evolutionary time. One day, she hopes to earn a Ph.D. in animal cognition and behavior. 

Research Assistants

Rachel Ceccanecchio

Rachel is a junior at Boston College majoring in neuroscience with a minor in philosophy on the pre-medical track. She is interested in studying moral intelligence in dogs to comparatively learn more about human empathy and expressions of remorse. When not in the lab, Rachel enjoys singing, dancing, and performing in musicals. While in the future she hopes to become a medical doctor, she is very excited to begin research with dogs at the Canine Cognition Center!

Gabriel Fajardo

Gabe is a Junior at Boston College majoring in Neuroscience and Math. He is very interested in the unique social interactions between dogs and their guardians, and how these relationships have evolved over time. His aspirations after Boston College are to go to graduate school and pursue a career in research and academia. Gabe also enjoys playing soccer, cooking, watching movies with his friends, and playing with his 15-year-old beagle!

Carly Fisher

Carly Fisher is a Senior at Boston College majoring in Psychology with a minor in Applied Psychology and Human Development. She is currently enrolled in BC’s Fifth Year Master’s Program and is working towards obtaining her M.A. in Psychology. Carly is a thesis student in the lab and her project – entitled Overimitation – compares 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.

Gia Hamalis

Gia Hamalis (‘23) is an undergraduate Research Assistant in the Canine Cognition Lab. She is very interested in researching attachment as well as the effect of domestication on the behavior of dogs versus dingoes and wolves. She would like to continue studying and working in animal behavior in the future in a research, zoo, or service setting. Outside of the lab, Gia loves reading, singing, and acting. She is part of the Boston College CCE and loves going on walks around Boston with friends.

Kennedy Kreidell

Kennedy Kreidell is a senior at UNC Chapel Hill majoring in Psychology and Exercise and Sports Science with a minor in Neuroscience. She is interested in developmental psychology and how dogs and children learn in similar ways. She is currently working on her undergraduate thesis exploring positive risk behaviors in adolescents. In the future, Kennedy would like to attend a doctoral program in developmental or social psychology and continue her career in academia. In her free time, Kennedy enjoys reading, dancing, and spending time with her dog, Goldie.

Noah Liedkte 

Noah Liedtke-Silva is a senior at Pomona College majoring in Environmental Analysis and Cognitive Science. They are interested in environmental decision making processes, particularly the influence of the built environment on human and animal behavior. Outside of the lab, Noah enjoys drumming, roller skating, and spending time with their dog, Antler. They plan to continue studying cognition, design, and sustainability in graduate school.

Emily Shi

Emily is a neuroscience major in the Class of 2025. She is interested in how intelligence is measured in dogs versus in humans, and also the differences in how learning develops in dogs versus in humans. In her free time, Emily loves reading, exploring Boston, and dabbling in different hobbies.

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