Infant Growth and Development Study at UNCG

Savannah Sommers Girod, M.S.

Graduate Research Assistant


Human Development and Family Studies PhD Student

Faculty Advisor: Esther Leerkes

B.S., Psychology, Stevenson University
M.S., Human Development and Family Studies, UNCG

Research Experience: From 2016-2017, Savannah had a summer internship at UC Riverside where she assisted with administering and running a study on parent’s influence of their children’s academic achievement and motivation. She was also a research assistant at Stevenson University, where she coded and analyzed qualitative data on work-family balance. This past year, Savannah has been a graduate research assistant involved in a project examining correlates of hair cortisol in a diverse population.
Research Interests: Broadly, Savannah’s research interests are in families and parenting. She is interested in the interaction of context and development at both the individual and family level. She is also interested in predictors of children’s socioemotional development and health outcomes.
In her free time, Savannah enjoys spending time with her family, friends, cat, and puppy. She loves being outdoors and enjoys spending time with friends at a nice brewery or winery.

Mali Hosseinzadeh, B.S.

Graduate Research Assistant

Nutrition  MS Student

Faculty Advisor: Lenka Shriver

B.S., Marketing and Economics, UNC-Charlotte

Research Interests: Mali is interested in parenting styles, infant feeding practices, and eating behaviors that develop in early childhood. In addition to the MS Nutrition program, she’s completing the didactic program at UNCG. Mali plans to continue pursuing her research interests as a Registered Dietitian. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, cooking, and spending time with family and friends.

Shouyra Negi, M.S.

Graduate Research Assistant

Human Development and Family Studies PhD Student

Faculty Advisors: Esther Leerkes and Kierra Sattler

B.S., Home Science, G.B. Pant University; Pantnagar, India
M.S., Human Development and Family Studies, CCS Haryana Agricultural University; Hisar, India

Work Experience: As a Master student, Shourya conducted a study on the effect of Emotional Intelligence and Family Environment on Sibling Relationships. From 2019-2020, Shourya worked as a Research Assistant under a UNICEF funded project on Positive Parenting to examine some of the major issues confronting parents in the rural, urban and tribal areas of Gujarat, India in order to develop modules and strategies to help educate parents to enhance their understanding of developmental needs of children and to promote optimal child development. From 2020-2021, Shourya worked as an Adjunct faculty in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies, MS University of Baroda, India.

Research Interests: Shourya wants to explore the influence of n traumatic experiences in mother’s life on their sensitivity and parenting practices.  Shourya also wants to explore the intergenerational consequences of maternal adverse childhood experiences on the developmental outcomes of their children.

Agona Lutolli, M.A.

Graduate Research Assistant

Human Development and Family Studies PhD Student

Faculty Advisors: Esther Leerkes and Kierra Sattler

B.A., Lake Forest College
M.A., University of Chicago

Research Experience From 2017-2018, Agona worked as a Clinical Research Coordinator for the Section of Hospital Medicine at the University of Chicago. At this position, she systematically collected data on high-risk hospitalized minority patients to produce knowledge that can improve the care they receive and ultimately ameliorate their outcomes. As a Master Student at the University of Chicago, Agona  investigated the intergenerational effects of maternal childhood maltreatment on youth anxiety/depression, aggression and delinquency. Beyond her thesis, she also assisted with data collection for the Human-Animal Interaction program that examined whether attachment and attitudes towards pets would have psychosocial, emotional, and behavioral benefits.

Research Interests: Broadly, Agona is interested in Early Childhood Education and Parent- Child Relationships with a sociocultural perspective. More specifically, she is interested in understanding the factors that influence minority children’s socio-emotional and academic development at the individual, family and school level. Mainly focusing on factors at the family level (e.g., mental health of parents or parenting style). Finally, using this knowledge she wants to investigate the intergenerational consequences of early life adversity on the socio-emotional and academic development of minority children.

In her freetime, Agona enjoys going on hikes, exploring local coffee shops and trying local breweries.

Tamika Watts, B.S.

Graduate Research Assistant

Nutrition MS Student

Faculty Advisor: Lenka Shriver

B.S., Biology, Chemistry Minor, Johnson C. Smith University

Research Experience: She did prior research for her senior undergraduate paper on spinal cord injuries: effects of using neural stem cells for spinal cord injury.
Research Interests: Her research interests are in infant and child nutrition, as well as sports nutrition. Tamika is also completing the didactic program at UNC-Greensboro in order to become a registered dietitian.
In her free time, Tamika enjoys running outside, exercising, babysitting,  reading, traveling and spending time with family.

Previous iGrow Graduate Students



Lauren Bailes, Ph.D.

B.S., Psychological Sciences, Western Kentucky University

M.S., Psychology, Western Kentucky University

Ph.D., Human Development and Family Studies, University of North Carolina at Greensboro


Meg Lawless, Ph.D.

B.S., Health, Behavior and Society, University of Rochester

M.S. and Ph.D., Nutrition, University of North Carolina at Greensboro



Cia Elder, B.S.

B.S., Central Michigan University

Human Development and Family Studies,  University of North Carolina at Greensboro M.S./PhD Student


Kiki Leis, M.S

B.S., Psychology, Hampshire College

M.S., Human Development and Family Studies, University of North Carolina at Greensboro

PhD Student, Human Development and Family Studies, University of North Carolina at Greensboro


Josi Gabaldon, M.S.

M.S., Exercise Psychology, University of North Carolina at Greensboro