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Senior Researchers and Graduate Students

Senior Researchers

Dr. Daniela Kruel DiGiacomo is an Assistant Professor in the School of Information Science at the University of Kentucky. Dr. DiGiacomo received her PhD in Learning Sciences and Human Development from the University of Colorado Boulder. As a community- and design-based researcher, Dr. DiGiacomo’s work investigates how to design for more equitable teaching and learning relationships between adults and young people across various lines of difference. Prior to pursuing her PhD, Dr. DiGiacomo worked in secondary teaching, school administration, political asylum advocacy, and social work in the Bay Area. She holds a B.A. in Latin American Studies from UC Berkeley and a Master’s in Development Studies from Cambridge University. Email:



Dr. Matthew Kim is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology and Director of the Developing Minds Lab at the University of Kentucky. He received his PhD in Developmental Psychology at the University of Michigan. Dr. Kim’s research examines how cognitive skills such as executive functions and motivation predict successful school transitions and academic success in childhood and adolescence.                Email: Website:




Dr. Calah Ford is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Educational Psychology in the Department of Educational Studies in the College of Education at Purdue University. She has four years of experience as an elementary classroom teacher and three years of experience teaching in elementary teacher preparation programs. Dr. Ford is interested in academic motivation for K-12 students. Specifically, she is interested in the relationship between failure (e.g., experiencing failure, failure mindset, approaches to failure) and academic motivation in STEM (e.g., self-efficacy, persistence, engagement) for early adolescent learners.



Graduate Lab Members

Jaeyun Han is a doctoral candidate in Educational Psychology at the University of Kentucky. She graduated from Ewha Womans University in South Korea with a B.A. in Education in 2016 and a Master’s in Education in 2018. Her master’s thesis investigated the relationship between mindset, social comparison motives, and self-efficacy in the mathematics of middle school students in South Korea. She is interested in how students’ self-efficacy and achievement develop over time and what factors are related with the changes. Email:




Utku Caybas is a doctoral student in Educational Psychology & Educational Technology at Michigan State University. He graduated from Istanbul University with a BA in Psychological Counseling and Guidance with a double major in Teaching Gifted Children in 2018. Afterward, he completed his master’s studies in Curriculum & Instruction at Middle East Technical University in 2021. In the last year of his master’s, he worked as an instructional designer at a private middle school in Turkey. He started his PhD journey in the U.S. in 2021 at the University of Kentucky. However, after completing his first year in UK, he transferred to MSU. He is interested in students’ motivation, mainly how peer relationships play a role in students’ motivation. Email:



Anastacia Cole is a doctoral student in Educational Psychology. She graduated from the University of Kentucky with a B.A. in Secondary English Education in 2019 and an M.A. through U.K.’s Master’s with Initial Certification program in 2020. Following her graduate program, she was a high school English teacher within Oldham County Schools. She continues her passion for teaching through a teaching assistantship position in the Educational Psychology program as she begins her first year as a doctoral student. Anastacia’s interests include teacher and student self-efficacy, resilience, and self-esteem. Email:




Jaylene Patterson is a former Robinson Scholar and current member of the Kentucky Education Association. She previously graduated from the University of Kentucky with a Bachelors and Masters in Secondary Education Social Studies. After her studies, she went on to teach Social Studies for two years in Northern Kentucky within the Boone County Public School System. While teaching Social Studies, her primary focus was Psychology. Her current research interests are the impact of black educators on black students (achievement, motivation, self-efficacy), critical race theory, and racial socialization. Email:




Sara Kuhl is a 2009 graduate of the Carol Martin Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science at Western Kentucky University and remained at WKU for her undergraduate studies, earning her BA in News/Editorial Journalism in 2011 with a focus on multimedia and a minor in Creative Writing. As part of her Capstone project, she was a member of a team that was sent to Hong Kong to cover the 2011 News World Summit conference held by the Global Editors Network. Sara then worked for multiple newspapers in Indiana and Kentucky in multiple roles including reporter, copy editor, graphic designer, and photographer, winning Kentucky state awards for her photography. During COVID, she transferred her professional experience to the world of research hoping to have a bigger impact in Kentucky communities regarding marginalized populations and is working toward her master’s degree in Educational Psychology at UK. Email: