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.

Anya Parks

Lab Coordinator


Anya is a recent graduate of Duke University and the new lab coordinator for the BC Canine Cognition Lab. She has a deep love for all animals with specialized experience in dog cognition, gained at the Duke Canine Cognition Center. One day, she hopes to earn a PhD in animal cognition and behavior. She looks forward to continuing her career in research and is excited to learn from the BCCC team!

Research Assistants

Rachel Ceccanecchio

Rachel is a sophomore 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 Junior at Boston College majoring in Psychology with a minor in Applied Psychology and Human Development. She is intrigued by the comparison of emotional expression between animals and humans. She is very grateful to be a part of the Canine Cognition Center and to expand the love of dogs she has held since she was a child. On campus, Carly serves as a Resident Assistant and a Campus Tour Guide. Following graduation, she plans to attend graduate school to obtain her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology.

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.

Daniel Pineiro

Daniel Pineiro is in the class of 2022 and is from Chicago, Illinois. He hopes to continue learning in the psychology laboratory setting before he applies to graduate school for clinical studies. He is fascinated with experimental, behavioral, and all psychology relating to canine and other animal subjects. In his free time, he plays on the club volleyball team and is the co-president of the Cuban-American Student Association at Boston College.

Kayla Sawyer

Kayla Sawyer is a senior at Boston College who is studying to receive her Bachelor of Science in neuroscience with minors in biology, medical humanities, and managing for social impact. She has grown up surrounded by dogs and has two dogs at home: a pitbull named Winnie and a German Shepherd named Racke. Kayla loves working as a research assistant in the Canine Cognition Center and her favorite part of the job is meeting as many dogs as possible. Kayla is particularly interested in social cognition and learning more about emotion in dogs. When she is not spending time with her canine friends, Kayla is probably spending time with kids instead, as she enjoys spending her free time with her nieces and nephew.

Mark Schmitt

Mark Schmitt is a rising Senior in the Canine Cognition Center double-majoring in Psychology and English. Like so many other research assistants, Mark has grown up around dogs his entire life, and is beyond grateful for the opportunity to work alongside and better understand them. He is currently working on the re-engagement study which investigates if dogs are capable of joint intentionality, something believed to be exclusive to humans. When not studying dogs, Mark is the president of the CCE, a comedy group on campus, and he enjoys reading/writing, going on runs, and spending quality time with friends.

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