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Why Join the Lab?

Choosing a lab can be difficult, whether you are a first year undergraduate seeking your first research experience or a prospective PhD student. Undergraduates need a lab that can help them build their resumes, hone in on their career goals, and make them more competitive for the graduate program of their choice (even non-research professional programs such as medical school, clinical psychology, education, and speech-language pathology place a high value on research experience in their admissions criteria). Prospective PhDs need a lab that will provide them with the high quality graduate experience that will help them launch a successful career after graduation (whether that career is in academia, industry, or elsewhere). At the CLASS Lab, we prioritize our trainees, aiming to provide everyone with a high quality and personalized learning experience. To learn more about how the CLASS Lab works and determine whether it might be a match for your needs and interests, read the quotes below from some of our undergraduate alumni.

Alumni Reflections

Lab Alumni Testimonials

Juwairia Sohail

PhD Candidate, School & Clinical Child Psychology, University of Toronto (OISE)

Juwairia Sohail

"My time at the CLASS Lab opened many doors for me. As an undergraduate student, being involved in the design, data collection, and analysis of an experimental study prepared me to pursue research at the graduate level in subsequent years. I also gained a publication, a research grant, and opportunities to present at conferences, all of which supported my application to graduate school. The lab was also a great place to meet like-minded students and form friendships that have lasted well over a decade. Most importantly, Dr. Johnson’s guidance played an instrumental role in helping me explore and pursue my academic goals. I am so grateful for her mentorship and encouragement over the years, which made all the difference in my ability to pursue my subsequent path."

Lab Alumni Testimonials


MD Candidate, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto

Amrita Bagga

"I joined the lab in my first year of my undergraduate degree, 2016 and was a member until the year I graduated, 2020. The lab was a part of my entire undergraduate journey and was definitely a highlight with all the experiences I had, skills I developed, and relationships I formed. Importantly, having Dr. Johnson as a mentor was a wonderful experience as she always supported my professional and personal development. Also, Dr. Johnson provided numerous opportunities to grow. For instance, she supported my role as an NSERC-USRA scholar working on a longitudinal study. Overall, all members of the CLASS lab facilitate a positive environment which values learning. A big thanks to Dr. Johnson and the rest of the CLASS lab team for such a memorable and valuable experience." 

Lab Alumni Testimonials

Caterina Bordignon

Emergency Response Nurse, Trillium Health Partners

Caterina Bordignon, RN

"I was a member of the CLASS lab from 2017 - 2019 during my BSc and I’m incredibly lucky to have been part of such an amazing team! During these two years, Professor Johnson and the rest of the CLASS lab members facilitated many incredible opportunities for me, most notably the chance to present work through a talk at a research conference in Baltimore, USA. Preparing a talk to present to top researchers in the field is a big responsibility but Professor Johnson supported me through the entire process and she instilled the confidence in me that I needed to deliver this presentation successfully. This is just one example of how Professor Johnson is always looking for the best opportunities for her students and matched students with experiences that would help them grow professionally. Thank you Professor Johnson and the rest of the CLASS lab team!"

Lab Alumni Testimonials


PhD Candidate, School of Public Policy, University of Regina

Natalie Rzeszutek, MA

"When I first joined the Child Language and Speech Studies (CLASS) Lab, I was excited to develop the skills to participate in the research realm. What I walked away with was much more; I gained an excellent network of friends and colleagues, insight into the resiliency required to conduct research, and the drive to learn more."

Lab Alumni Testimonials


Speech-Language Pathologist 

Lisa Rustom, MHSc

"My experience at Dr. Johnson's lab was probably one of the best that I have ever had, period.  I had always been hesitant and intimidated to gain research experience as an undergraduate student, but I was attracted to this opportunity due to a strong interest in child language acquisition, and also simply due to how fun the environment looked - it was unlike any other research lab I had ever seen. During my time in the lab, I learned so much, made some incredible friendships that I still keep to this day, and was able to use the opportunity as a stepping stone to help me attain my goal of getting into graduate school for Speech Language Pathology. All while getting to partake in research studies with the cutest little kiddos! I would highly recommend this opportunity to anyone."

Lab Alumni Testimonials

Shukri Headshot.png

Speech-Language Pathologist, Trillium Health Partners

Shukri Nur, MHSc

"Being a member of Dr. Johnson’s CLASS lab was truly a highlight of my undergraduate experience. I joined the lab at the end of my second year as a Research Opportunity Program (ROP) student because I wanted to learn more about child development and language acquisition. Over the years, I had the opportunity to continue in the lab in a variety of roles until graduation (e.g., volunteer, work-study student, IRP student, etc). The lab was an excellent supplement to my academic studies, as it helped me gain valuable skills, directly participate in the research process, and develop a solid knowledge base of language acquisition in children. The skills and knowledge I learned are critical in my current role as a Speech-Language Pathologist. Dr. Johnson was an amazing mentor throughout my time in the lab and continues to be a great support to this day. One of my favourite moments was when I received a SSHRC University of Toronto Excellence Award with Dr. Johnson’s support and got to create my own research study. I will forever be grateful for my experience in the lab, the memories, and the connections and life-long friends that I’ve made!"

Lab Alumni Testimonials

Ysabel Macdonald

Clinical Research Coordinator, Western University

Ysabel (Domingo) Macdonald, PhD

"Being part of the lab was the most enriching experience of my undergraduate life. I started as a volunteer (with no previous research experience) and then became the lab manager. From the beginning, I was involved in recruiting and testing participants in multiple projects. The research, analytical, time management, and leadership skills I developed in the lab were helpful in completing my MSc and PhD later on. Dr. Johnson is a wonderful mentor -- she maintains a positive lab environment and ensures that her students are getting something out of their time in the lab. I still keep in touch with Dr. Johnson and most of the friends I made in her lab are my friends to this day."

Lab Alumni Testimonials

Daniel DeSantis

Speech-Language Pathologist, Alberta Health Services

Daniel DeSantis, MHSc

"Dr. Johnson became one of my honours thesis supervisors as a joint venture between the CLASS lab and Dr. Craig Chambers' Perception Action and Language (PAL) lab. Their research was always interesting and enjoyable whether I was helping with recording, troubleshooting code for the eye-tracker, or running studies. Throughout the completion of my thesis I had the opportunity to present at research conferences and got my name published on a research paper. The lab was a gateway into my current career as a speech-language pathologist. My work there helped further my academics and my eventual career, but most importantly it was fun! I met so many amazing people and always felt welcome and supported; it made for an incredible experience. The lab parties were pretty awesome too."

Lab Alumni Testimonials


Clinical Child Psychologist, Halton Psychologists

Michelle Rodrigues, PhD

"I joined the lab in my second year of undergraduate studies as a Research Opportunity Program (ROP) student. I had no previous research experience, which at first felt intimidating and overwhelming. Dr. Johnson along with the rest of her lab supported me as I learned the basics of research such as participant recruiting and testing as well as data management. As a student in the lab, I noticed how Dr. Johnson was attuned to each student’s strengths, which helped build confidence in research. I appreciated the conversations I had with her about my career goals and brainstorming what opportunities were available in the lab to facilitate my growth. The lab was a fun and supportive environment and I remember always looking forward to my lab days. My experience in Dr. Johnson’s lab sparked my interest in research and served as the foundation for which I continued to pursue research opportunities during my undergraduate degree and eventually make the decision to attend graduate school."

Lab Alumni Testimonials

Sofia Mirzazada

Occupational Therapist, Trillium Health Partners

Sofia Mirzazada

"I was first introduced to the CLASS Lab in my Developmental Psychology course. Although I had very limited research experience, I decided to apply to the Research Opportunity Program (ROP) with the lab, and I’m so glad I did! I was especially drawn to their research, as it focused on child development and language acquisition, both of which were areas that intrigued me and aligned with my interests. The lab and its supporting team enabled me to gain experience in research and expand my professional opportunities - in fact, I am currently pursuing pediatric clinical practice and research!"

Lab Alumni Testimonials


Speech-Language Pathologist 

Caterina Minaudo, MHSc

"I joined the CLASS lab as a Research Opportunity Program (ROP) student, where I was involved in recruiting, testing, and data analysis. With Dr. Johnson’s supportive mentorship, I went on to complete an independent research project (IRP) and then stayed on as lab manager. The skills I developed during my time at the CLASS lab were pivotal to my academic and professional pursuits.  My experience with the CLASS lab has fostered my critical thinking, independence and time management skills – skills that I used on a daily basis in my current position. Dr. Johnson is a strong mentor and advocate for her students in an opening and welcoming manner. I feel so lucky to have been part of such an amazing team!"

Lab Alumni Testimonials

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Speech-Language Pathologist, William Osler Health System

Pauly Brar, MHSc

The CLASS lab has been an instrumental part of my journey to becoming a Speech-Language Pathologist. It was a phenomenal place to learn, network with an enthusiastic team, and develop various transferable skills. Professor Johnson was an incredible mentor who supported my growth throughout my time at the lab. She connected me with opportunities I may not have explored. I joined the lab as a recipient of the NSERC Undergraduate Student Research Award. I continued my academic journey as a graduate of the University of Toronto’s MHSc Speech-Language Pathology program. Currently, I practice as a full time Speech-Language Pathologist in a community hospital and am a director for OSLA’s Board of Directors (Ontario Association of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists). I’m grateful for the mentorship and breadth of opportunities in Professor Johnson’s lab. This foundation continues to support my ability to provide evidence-based care as a clinician.

View a sampling of published papers and conference presentations authored by some of our top undergraduates!


Undergraduate Student Publications (selected)


Fung, P., St. Pierre, T., Raja, M., & Johnson E.K. (2023). Infants' and toddlers' language development during the pandemic: SES mattered. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 236.

Cooper, A., Paquette-Smith, M., Bordignon, C., & Johnson, E.K. (2023). The influence of accent distance on perceptual adaptation in toddlers and adults. Language Learning and Development, 19, 74- 94. doi: 10.1080/15475441.2022.2047688 [pdf]

Saryazdi, R., DeSantis, D., Johnson, E.K., & Chambers, C. (2021). The use of disfluency cues in spoken language processing: Insights from aging. Psychology and Aging, 36(8),


Buckler, H., Oczak-Arsic, S., Siddiqui, N., & Johnson, E.K. (2017). Input matters: speed of word recognition in two-year-olds exposed to multiple accents. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 164, 87-100. [pdf]


Sohail, J., & Johnson, E.K. (2016). How transitional probabilities and the edge effect contribute to listeners' phonological bootstrapping success. Language Learning and Development, 12(2), 105-115. [pdf]


Buckler, H., Goy, H., Kow, J., & Johnson, E.K. (2015). The cap's out of the bag: Place assimilation is common in infant-directed speech. Proceedings of 18th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences. [pdf]


Brar, J., Tyler, M.D., & Johnson, E.K. (2013). What you see is what you hear: how visual prosody affects artificial language learning in adults and children. Proceedings of Meetings on Acoustics, 19, 060068. [pdf]


Minaudo, C., & Johnson, E.K. (2013). Are two-year-olds sensitive to anticipatory coarticulation? Proceedings of Meetings on Acoustics, 19, 060058. [pdf]


Conference Presentations by Undergraduates Students (selected)

Harris, K., St. Pierre, T., & Johnson, E.K. (July 2023). Who saves the day? Challenging children's language biases through exposure to foreign-accented cartoon heroes. Poster presented at the 45th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society, Sydney, Australia.

St. Pierre, T., Harris, K., & Johnson, E.K. (November 2022). What goes up, might come down: The development of language biases across childhood. Talk presented at the 2022 Annual Meeting of the Psychonomic Society, Boston, USA.

Agard, B., St. Pierre, T., & Johnson, E.K. (July 2022). Where’s the Bingleduff? How speaker accent shapes linguistic processing in children and adults. Poster presented at the 44th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society, Toronto, Canada.

St. Pierre, T., Khaira, A., Sehra, R., & Johnson, E.K. (July 2022). The emergence of comprehension in infancy: Is Fido a dog, or just Fido? Poster presented at the XXIII International Congress of Infant Studies, Ottawa, Canada.

St. Pierre, T., Jaffan, J., Antidormi, E., Chambers, C.G., & Johnson, E.K. (March 2022). The icing on the cake. Or is it frosting? How group membership affects children’s lexical choices. Poster presented at the 35th Annual Conference on Human Sentence Processing, Santa Cruz, USA.

St. Pierre, T., Galytskyy, M., & Johnson, E.K. (November 2021). 'And togezer vee vill rule ze world!' The interplay between children's language attitudes and media representations of foreign accents. Poster presented at the 46th Annual Boston University Conference on Language Development, Boston, USA.

St. Pierre, T., Nur, S., & Johnson, E.K. (July 2021).  Looking for wugs in all the right places: Children’s learning of novel words using prepositions. Poster presented at the 15th Congress of the International Association for the study of Child Language, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.


Yu, M., Bagga, A., & Johnson, E.K. (September 2020). Making sense of children’s speech: Man, machine, and mom. Poster presentation at The Annual Conference on the Architectures and Mechanisms for Language Processing (AMLaP), Potsdam, Germany.

Bagga, A., Yu, M., & Johnson, E.K. (August 2020). Understanding children’s productions: Does experience play a role? Poster presentation at the 42nd Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


Cooper, A., Bordignon, C., & Johnson, E.K. (March 2019). Accent distance and perceptual adaptation in children and adults. Oral presentation at the Biennial Meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD), Baltimore, Maryland, USA. 


Paquette-Smith, M., Cooper, A., Peng, C., Smith, K., & Johnson, E.K. (July 2018). Accent adaptation in the real world: Infants learn from live exposure. Talk presented at the International Conference on Infant Studies, Philadelphia, ‎Pennsylvania, USA. 


Silva, M., Buckler, H., & Johnson, E.K. (July 2018). Does multi-accent exposure slow vocabulary growth? Poster presented at the 2018 International Conference on Infant Studies, Philadelphia, ‎Pennsylvania, USA. 


Saryazdi, R., DeSantis, D., Chambers, C., & Johnson, E.K. (April 2017). Investigating attributional models of disfluency processing with a YOYO paradigm: Younger and Older listeners’ reactions to Younger and Older talkers’ disfluencies. Poster presentation at the 30th Annual CUNY Conference on Human Sentence Processing, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.


Fecher, N., Paquette-Smith, M., Aranas, K., & Johnson, E.K. (May 2016). Unfamiliar talker recognition: a challenging task for 16-month-olds. Oral presentation at the 20th Biennial International Conference on Infant Studies (ICIS), New Orleans, Louisiana, USA.


Buckler, H., Goy, H., Kow, J., & Johnson, E.K. (November 2015). Are connected speech processes ‘simplified’ in infant-directed speech? Poster presentation at the 40th Annual Boston University Conference on Language Development (BUCLD), Boston, Massachusetts, USA.


Johnson, E.K., & Qureshi, N. (April 2015). Language familiarity, tone of voice, and the recognition of bilingual speakers. Poster presentation at the Australasian Experimental Psychology Conference, Sydney, Australia.


DeSantis, D., Johnson, E.K., & Chambers, C. (2013 November). Speech disfluencies and the elderly: Effects on online interpretation. Poster session presentation at the 54th annual meeting of the Psychonomic Society, Toronto, Canada.                                        

Sohail, J., & Johnson, E.K. (November 2013). The emergence of comprehension in infancy: a longitudinal study. Poster session presentation at the 54th annual meeting of the Psychonomic Society, Toronto, Canada.


Siddiqui, N., Oczak, S., & Johnson, E.K. (July 2013). How toddlers cope with multi-accent input. Poster presentation at the Linguistic Society of America Variability Workshop, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA.


Brar, J., Tyler, M., & Johnson, E.K. (June 2013). How visual prosody affects artificial language learning by English-learning adults and children. Poster presented at the 166th Bi-annual Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America (ASA), Montreal, Quebec, Canada.


Minaudo, C., & Johnson, E.K. (June 2013). Toddlers’ use of coarticulation during online word recognition. Poster presented at the 166th Bi-annual Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America (ASA), Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

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