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Interested in joining our team?

The Brain and Early Experience (BEE) Lab is an interdisciplinary team affiliated with the FPG Child Development Institute. Currently, we are working on the Brain and Early Experience (BEE) Study. The BEE Study is a longitudinal project investigating how prenatal factors (e.g., prenatal nutrition, sleep, stress, and health) and postnatal experiences (e.g., feeding patterns, sleep, and parenting behaviors) may influence infant behavior, cognition, and brain development.

The BEE Lab frequently seeks responsible and reliable UNC undergraduates interested in gaining research experience to join our team as Research Assistants (RAs). We look for students whose interests correspond strongly with our lab’s goals, and no prior experience is required. Students work in the lab as either volunteers or for course credit (PSYC/NSCI 395), although 395 credit is often reserved for students who have volunteered with us for at least one semester.

We are currently recruiting RAs for Summer and Fall 2024. To be considered, please submit your application by April 30.

For more information about the UNC Chapel Hill School of Nursing Graduate Program, click here.

For more information about the UNC Chapel Hill School of Education Graduate Program in Applied Developmental Science, click here.

Please contact Dr. Cathi Propper ( or Dr. Roger Mills-Koonce ( for specific information about graduate applications.

BEE Laboratory Team Members

BEE Laboratory Directors

Dr. Cathi Propper

Associate Professor, School of Nursing

Faculty Fellow, Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute

Adjunct Associate Professor, Department of Psychology and Neuroscience

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


Dr. Propper’s research broadly focuses on the development child self-regulation as a function of co-actions across behavioral, physiological, genetic, and environmental processes over time. She is the Principal Investigator of multiple NIH-funded grants investigating interactions between parenting behaviors, infant physiological function, and other salient prenatal/postnatal experiences as predictors of infant sleep and subsequent social-emotional and cognitive development across the first year of life. In addition, her other NIH-funded projects aims to understand the way in which these processes unfold over early childhood and influence child behavior and learning in the preschool classroom. Cathi has also been an Investigator and Director of the Durham Child Health and Development Study for over 10 years.  As the Associate Director for Training and Research at the FPG Child Development Institute, Dr. Propper is responsible for coordinating the Carolina Consortium on Human Development (CCHD) Proseminar Series and overseeing the CCHD training program.

Dr. Roger Mills-Koonce

Associate Professor, HDFS and ADSSE, School of Education

Adjunct Associate Professor, Department of Psychology and Neuroscience

Director of CDS OBSERVES, FPG Child Development Institute

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


Dr. Mills-Koonce’s research focuses on the development of parenting behaviors, parent-child relationships, and the implications of parenting experiences for children’s behavioral, emotional, and cognitive development.  His research integrates family systems and biopsychosocial approaches to the study of family processes and child development, including analyses focused on genetics, the psychobiology of stress reactivity and social affiliation, embedded relationships within the family system, and sociocultural influences on beliefs, behaviors, and psychopathology.  Currently, Dr. Mills-Koonce is particularly interested in two distinct domains of study.  First, across multiple studies he examines the interplay of biological and family processes in the emergence of conduct problems and callous unemotional behaviors in early childhood.  Second, as Principal Investigator of the New American Family Study, he is interested in the health and well-being of same-sex couples and the factors affecting the transition to parenthood for LGBT individuals and couples.   Dr. Mills-Koonce is also the Director of CDS OBSERVES, a research unit supporting the use of observational methods for studying parent-child relationships, and in this role has overseen the assessment of parenting for numerous federally funded studies and intervention programs.

Post-Docs, Graduate Students, and Staff Research Assistants

Rebecca Stephens – Project Director


Rebecca Stephens is currently the BEE Project director. Her research interests lie in the field of infant and toddler cognitive development, studying how early developmental trajectories of joint attention can act as a predictor of executive function and self-regulation




Lindsay Gomes – Graduate Student 


Lindsay, originally from Seekonk, MA, is currently a graduate student pursuing a Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology from UNC Chapel Hill. She completed a B.A. in Psychology and Human Services & Rehabilitation Studies from Assumption College. Lindsay is broadly interested in parent-child interactions in infancy and early childhood. Specifically, she is interested in the activation of the stress response system during these interactions and challenging tasks, as well as examining subsequent influences on social-emotional outcomes, including emotion regulation. In her free time, Lindsay loves to travel, watch Harry Potter, and play with her cat Luna.


Amanda Wylie – Graduate Student 


Originally from Pittsburgh, Amanda is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology from UNC-Chapel Hill and is an alumna of Penn State University (B.S. in Biobehavioral Health) and Johns Hopkins University (M.S.P.H. in Population, Family, and Reproductive Health). Before coming to UNC-CH, Amanda worked for RTI International, where she was involved in research projects focused broadly on physical and cognitive development in early childhood and supporting families of children with special health care needs. Amanda is interested in how maternal health and the prenatal and postnatal environments interact to predict child health, behavior, and cognition. In her spare time, Amanda enjoys visiting the hiking trails in the Triangle with her dog (named Goose) and trying new restaurants.


Maya Bracy – Graduate Student 


Maya Bracy is a doctoral student in the School of Education. She is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Applied Developmental Science and Special Education at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill. Originally from Philadelphia, PA, she received a B.A. in Psychology with a concentration in Africana Studies from Williams College and completed a Postbaccalaureate IRTA program with the National Institutes of Mental Health and the University of Maryland’s School of Education.

Maya is interested in embedding concepts of child social, emotional and biobehavioral development within the context of non-traditional family systems to learn more about the role of community care in the support of children whose primary caregiving environment or family composition are underrepresented in research. In her free time, she enjoys hanging out with family and friends, yoga, and trying new vegan friendly restaurants and recipes.


Nicolas Murgueitio – Graduate Student 


Nicolas is a graduate student at UNC working with Drs. Cathi Propper and Margaret Sheridan. Before coming to UNC, he worked as a research assistant on studies looking at the epidemiology of childhood violence in Ecuador, and the emotional and neuropsychological development of youth in foster care. His research during graduate school focuses on the developmental impacts of threatening rearing environments.




Dr. Noa Gueron-Sela (Department of Psychology, Ben-Gurion Univeristy, Israel)

Dr. Gueron-Sela’s research focuses on social and cognitive development in early childhood with specific interests in children born at high prenatal and neonatal risk (e.g., preterm infants) in order to identify protective environmental factors that may set these children on adaptive developmental trajectories. [email:]

Dr. Eric Hodges (School of Nursing, UNC Chapel Hill)

Dr. Hodge’s research focuses on the role of caregiver/infant-toddler dyadic responsiveness during feeding in the development of the young child’s self-regulation of feeding, with a primary interest in the area of early childhood obesity prevention. He is also the Director of the Biobehavioral Lab (BBL) Core Facility at UNC School of Nursing, specializing in addressing the interface of biological and psychosocial factors that underlie individual responses to acute and chronic illnesses. [email:]

Dr. Steven Holochwost (Science of Learning Institute, Johns Hopkins University)

Dr. Holochwost’s research focuses on the effects of environment- particularly poverty and parenting- on voluntary forms of self-regulation and the involuntary activity of neurophysiological systems that support self-regulatory abilities. In addition, as a Senior Research Scientist and Associate Principal at WolfBrown, where he directs evaluations of programs designed to improve the lives of under-served children and youth. [email:]

Dr. Sarah Short (Center for Healthy Minds, University of Wisconsin)

Dr. Short’s research examines the development of brain structure and function in relation to emerging cognitive abilities in typically developing and high-risk children.  The goal of her research is to utilize developmental neuroscience to improve the design and efficacy of early interventions protocols. [email: ]

Dr. Alison Stuebe (Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology, UNC School of Medicine)

Dr. Stuebe’s research focuses on the role of oxytocin in women’s health and postpartum depression and on developing models for holistic care of families during the 4th Trimester.  [email:]

Dr. Margaret Swingler (Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute, UNC Chapel Hill)

Dr. Swingler’s research examines the psychophysiological and neurodevelopmental underpinnings of early social-emotional and cognitive development, with a specific focus on attention, executive function, and regulation. She specifically is interested in the the roles of parent-child relationships, early parenting experiences, and early life stresses on these emerging biological, behavioral, and cognitive processes.  [email:]

Dr. Douglas Teti (Human Development and Family Studies, Pennsylvania State University)

Dr. Teti’s research focuses on socio-emotional development in early childhood, parenting competence and parenting at risk, how parenting is affected by parental mental health and contextual factors, and how parenting affects infant and child functioning. His work examines  the joint, interactive effects of biological/medical and environmental/parenting factors on child development and parenting during the early years of life. [email:]

Dr. Nicholas Wagner (College of Education, University of Maryland)

Dr. Wagner’s research is guided by developmental psychopathology and biopsychosocial frameworks and focuses on the processes by which early risk and protective factors within the family system influence social, emotional, and behavioral development. He is particularly interested in understanding the promotion of psychosocial adaptation versus emerging psychopathology in young children. [email:]

Dr. Michael Willoughby (Research Triangle Institute)

Dr. Willoughby’s research is broadly organized around the causes, course, and consequences of individual differences in executive function (cognitive abilities that are involved in the control and coordination of information in the service of goal-directed activities), with a specific interest in how developmental changes in executive function during early childhood contribute to children’s school readiness and risk for disruptive behavior disorders. [email:]

Dr. Bharathi Zvara (School of Public Health, UNC Chapel Hill)

Dr. Zvara’s research focuses on children born into families experiencing risk and challenge from conditions associated with trauma, maternal depression, poverty, and violence.  She is specifically interested in the study of psychopathology and competence across multiple generations and how family processes impact risk for poor self-regulation and childhood obesity. [email:]

Undergraduate Research Assistants

Current Research Assistants

  • Emily Barnard (Class of 2021)
  • Faith Baxley (Class of 2023)
  • Mahlon Brady (Class of 2022)
  • Paige Braithwaite (Class of 2021)
  • Lauren Dodd (Class of 2022)
  • Samantha Garcia-Cruz (Class of 2021)
  • Sawyer Grizzard (Class of 2022)
  • Kylie Justice (Class of 2023)
  • Nia Lee (Class of 2021)
  • Sadie Thomas (Class of 2024)

Past Research Assistants

  • Lindsay Loubier (Class of 2021)
  • Miranda Maynor (Class of 2022)
  • Gabrielle Adams (Class of 2021)
  • Lisette Bahena (Class of 2021)
  • Dedra Ming (Class of 2022)
  • Aida Mitchell (Class of 2023)
  • Spencer Buted (Class of 2020)
  • Catriona Dick (Class of 2021)
  • Jillian Dodson (Class of 2020)
  • Molly Dwyer (Class of 2021)
  • Danielle Ferens (Class of 2019)
  • Laney Flanagan (Class of 2019)
  • Taylor Hobgood (Class of 2020)
  • Ivy Lui (Class of 2020)
  • Kelsey Messick (Class of 2022)
  • Lillian Patterson (Class of 2019)
  • Madeline Rieker (Class of 2020)
  • Dana Shemer (Class of 2020)
  • Katy Smith (Class of 2020)