Angie Johnston

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 here:

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. I am really interested in these fundamental mechanisms. Studying comparison species like dogs is the best way to get at the different pressures that might have caused these abilities to evolve.

Research Assistants

Ava Wiebe

Ava Wiebe is currently a freshman at Boston College studying psychology. She began attending lab meetings in the fall of 2019 and joined on as a research assistant in spring of 2020. Ava has two dogs at home: an Australian Shepherd named Lily and a Pharoah Hound named Thor. 

Brenna Sharkey

Brenna Sharkey has always been very interested in the natural world and how animals interact with each other and their environment. She loves learning about dogs in particular, because of how strong of a connection humans have with them as their owners and companions. Brenna is a senior at Boston College studying Psychology and minoring in Biology. Besides her work as a research assistant in the lab and her coursework, she is also involved in a choir and service group on campus. She has a 6-year-old Maltese-Poodle mix named Teddy, who she adores.

Hannah Lee

Hannah is a research assistant at the Boston College Canine Center. She is a junior at Boston College majoring in History and Psychology. Studying dog behaviors and their cognitive capabilities has allowed her to combine and expand her knowledge on some of her favorite subjects; dogs and psychology! She currently does not have a dog but she has a dog cousin, a Mini Golden-doodle, named Jax. Outside the lab she can be found petting all the dogs she comes across on campus.

Kayla Sawyer

Kayla Sawyer is a sophomore at Boston College who is studying to receive her Bachelor of Science in neuroscience with a minor in biology. She has grown up surrounded by dogs and has two dogs at home: a pitbull named Winnie and a German Shepherd named Racke. Kayla is extremely excited to be working as a research assistant in the Canine Cognition Lab. While still new to the field of neuroscience, comparative psychology fascinates her, especially the connection between humans and canines. When she is not in the lab, Kayla volunteers at local hospitals and hospices, tap dances, or visits her family back home.

Kayleigh Clermont

Kayleigh Clermont is a senior at Boston College who will be receiving her Bachelor of Science in Biology and Pre-Veterinary studies in May 2020. When she is not in school, Kayleigh works overnight shifts as an emergency veterinary technician at a 24/7 hospital. In her free time, she and her dog, Loki, like to go hiking, running, swimming, and paddleboarding together.

Zachary Tidd

Zachary Tidd is a junior at Boston College who is studying Psychology. He has always been intrested in animals, their behaviors, and the way they interact with each other. Zach joined the lab in the fall of 2019, and is excited to be a research assistant and work with dogs. He has a 9-year-old beagle mix named Lex.