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Our team includes experts in neuroscience, psychology and education from Birkbeck, the UCL Institute of Education, and Learnus (a think tank which aims to bridge the gap between neuroscience research and the classroom).
Project Lead

Denis Mareschal is Professor of Psychology and Director of the Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development at Birkbeck University of London. He has over 25 years experience in studying learning in children and infants, and has extensive hands-on experience of working with children of all ages in schools and other environments.

Management Team

Derek Bell is Director of Learnus, having worked in schools and universities as a teacher, researcher and educational consultant, nationally and internationally. He was Chief Executive of the Association for Science Education (ASE) and Head of Education at the Wellcome Trust. He has a wide range of publications and is a research associate at UCL Institute of Education, London.

Dr Iroise Dumontheil is a Reader in Cognitive Neuroscience at Birkbeck. She studies the development of cognitive control and social cognition during childhood and adolescence, using behavioural and neuroimaging methods. Her role on UnLocke is to help develop the intervention, with a focus on reasoning and inhibitory control, and to lead the neuroimaging research component of the evaluation in the main trial.

Prof Emily Farran is a Professor of Cognitive Development at University of Surrey. Emily's primary research interests relate to cognitive development in both neurodevelopmental disordered groups and in typically developing children, with a specific emphasis on visual and spatial cognition.

Sveta Mayer PhD, is a lecturer at UCL Institute of Education. Her interests are in evidence-based interventions designed by bridging understandings from neuroscience and education. She is working on the design of UnLocke learning activities and evaluating children’s progression in science and maths learning and reasoning.

Professor Kaśka Porayska-Pomsta is a Reader in Adaptive Technologies for Learning and an RCUK Academic Fellow at the UCL Institute of Education, UCL Knowledge Lab. Her research focuses on developing fully interactive technologies that are underpinned with Artificial Intelligence techniques, in particular real-time learner modelling. To UnLocke Kaśka brings her knowledge of the design and implementation of virtual learning software and of learner modelling, as well as her experience of working with teachers and learners on designing and appropriating technologies in real educational contexts. The UnLocke software is developed based on the SHARE-IT platform developed by Kaśka and her team on a previous project with the same name.

Professor Andrew Tolmie is a professor of Psychology and Human Development at the UCL Institute of Education, and deputy director of the Centre for Educational Neuroscience (CEN). He has longstanding interests in the development of children's conceptual representations and behavioural skills. Andrew's research primarily focuses on the growth of children's explicit knowledge, particularly in the pre-school and primary age range.

Professor Michael Thomas is a Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at Birkbeck, and is the Director of the Centre for Educational Neuroscience. His research in educational neuroscience addresses several topics, including, how our current understanding of sensitive periods in brain development might influence syllabus design and education policy, and how fields such as genetics and methods of computational modelling may advance the field of educational neuroscience.

Postdoctoral Researchers

Hannah Wilkinson is a Postdoctoral Researcher at Birkbeck. She has extensive experience working with children in primary schools, both as a researcher and educator. Her research has primarily involved the development and evaluation of classroom-based interventions to improve behaviours for learning, including inhibitory control, in primary school pupils. Hannah is now applying this experience to the UnLocke project, developing the intervention and evaluative materials and will be providing training and support to participating schools.

Dilini Sumanapala is a Postdoctoral Researcher on the UnLocke Project. She has investigated both observational and sensorimotor skill learning in adolescent as well as adult populations using functional MRI. Within this project, she will apply similar techniques to investigate how neural circuits involved in inhibitory control contribute to maths and science reasoning in young children.

Andrea Gauthier is a post-doctoral researcher at the UCL Institute of Education. Andrea has a background in science and medical communication, illustration, and media design; her research frequently investigates the design and implementation of computer- and game-based interventions in STEM education. Andrea is now applying these skills to the UnLocke project through the further development of the ‘Stop & Think’ software and the evaluation of its design with Year 3 pupils.

Wayne Holmes is a post-doctoral researcher at the UCL Institute of Education, and a senior teaching associate at the Graduate School of Education, University of Bristol. He has extensive experience developing educational interventions and educational technologies.

Software Development

Doug Lapsley is a software and multimedia developer with 18 years industry experience. He has worked extensively in educational software development.

Research Assistants

Claire Smid is the UnLocke Cognitive Research Assistant. She has a Master’s degree in Cognitive Neuroscience from Utrecht University, the Netherlands. Claire is specifically interested in individual predictors of learning success and the plasticity of the developing brain.

Holly Hawkins is an UnLocke Research Assistant and Field Agent. She has a MSc in Child Development from UCL. She has experience working with children both as a researcher and as a primary school teacher.

Sabrina Meechem is an UnLocke Research Assistant and Field Agent. She is an MSc graduate with a keen interest in neuroimaging, how children develop, and ways we can improve behaviours and learning. She has experience working with children of all ages, particularly those of primary school age.

Nicola Ng’ombe is an UnLocke Research Assistant and Field Agent. She has a Master's degree in Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of York. Nikki is interested in typical and atypical development of cognitive processes such as attention, reasoning and decision-making. She has experience working with children in schools.

Federico Trotvil Nossa is an UnLocke Research Assistant and Field Agent. He has his MSc in Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience from the University of York. His main interests are language development, music cognition and how neuroscience can inform evidence based interventions in schools. He has experience working in schools with children of all ages.

Katie Wood is an UnLocke Research Assistant and Field Agent. She has experience working both in primary and secondary education and has previously worked as a maths content writer and editor. Her background is in Cognitive Psychology, with a particular interest in how inhibitory control and associative memories play a role in solving maths and science problems.


Annabel Page is the UnLocke Project Administrator and Administrator for the Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development, she has been working on the project for the past year and recently completed her BSc Psychology here at Birkbeck, University of London.

Cartoon images were created by Laura Strickland and can be found at MyCuteGraphics.com