Scientists’ Corner: Meet our Experts

Leading the conversation on the Science of Learning.

Scientist of the Month: July 2024

Dr. Barbara Oakley, Distinguished Professor of Engineering, Dept of Industrial & Systems Engineering, Oakland University, Rochester, Michigan.


Portrait of Barbara Oakley

I love to bring fresh perspectives into my books by applying knowledge and experience from many different disciplines and real-world experiences. As a professor of engineering, I’ve also worked in lots of different places and done very different things: Russian translator on Soviet trawlers, a teacher in China, a US Army Captain, and a radio operator at the South Pole Station in the Antarctic. (I met my husband there—I had to go to the end of the earth to meet that man!).

My work focuses on the complex mechanisms of learning and how we can harness them to help people of all ages and backgrounds succeed. Drawing on my diverse background—from linguist in the U.S. Army to radio operator at the South Pole to professor of engineering—I aim to make the science of learning accessible and applicable to everyone.

Through my books like “A Mind for Numbers,” “Learning How to Learn,” and “Mindshift,” I share evidence-based strategies for overcoming procrastination, effective studying, and learning difficult subjects. I also teach one of the world’s most popular online courses, “Learning How to Learn,” which has reached over 3 million students worldwide. In addition to my work focused on learners, I also collaborate with Dr. Beth Rogowsky and Dr. Terrence Sejnowski to help educators enhance their teaching practices. Together with David Joyner of Georgia Tech, we have created a three-course MOOC series on Coursera called “Uncommon Sense Teaching,” which delves into the cognitive psychology and neuroscience behind effective teaching strategies in both face-to-face and online environments. We have also co-authored a book, “Uncommon Sense Teaching: Practical Insights in Brain Science to Help Students Learn,” to make this knowledge more accessible to educators worldwide.

Key Findings

Chunking, or breaking information into manageable pieces, is a powerful technique for mastering complex subjects. By focusing on understanding the main ideas and practicing them in short, frequent sessions, learners can effectively transfer information into long-term memory. This strategy, combined with regular recall practice and self-testing, can significantly improve retention and depth of understanding.

Useful Links

Professor Barbara Oakley’s website:

Learning How to Learn Course:

Where to buy her books: Amazon link.


Scientist of the Month: May 2024

Dr. Sebastián J. Lipina, Applied Neurobiology Unit (UNA, CEMIC-CONICET), Buenos Aires, Argentina.


Science must question itself to define its place in the cultural and moral transformations that today requires our Civilization, and consequently must also constructively challenge those who design public policies: any scientific agenda that points to these efforts will contribute to building a more equal and fair society.

The work we do in our research team has three main goals.

    • Learning about Poverty and Emotional and Cognitive Development:

First, we want to better understand the impact of living in poverty on children’s emotional and cognitive development during their first 20 years of life. Here, we consider how different social and cultural factors influence their brain development. We work collaboratively with our regional and international partners.

    • Interventions to help kids:

We also create, run, and test experimental interventions that explore how the brain’s neural pathways (neuronal plasticity) and an individual’s ability to learn new skills (cognitive plasticity) can change during emotional and cognitive development. We study this topic in infants, children, and teens from low-income and wealthier backgrounds.  Over the past 25 years, we have implemented different experiments, including cognitive training through manual and computerized activities, mother-child play sessions, and adaptation of school curricula.

    • Policies for Child Development:

Our final goal is to apply this knowledge to design, implement, and evaluate policies promoting human development. We do this by understanding the views that caregivers and others involved in childcare have regarding self-regulatory development, which is how kids learn to understand and manage their own thoughts and feelings. We also work on creating decision-making tools, like algorithms, to help design and track policies focused on early childhood.

Key Findings

Growing up in poverty during childhood can impact how children manage their emotions and how they learn. However, these effects are not the same for every child.  A broad range of factors can lead to different outcomes for children coming from homes living with and without socioeconomic deprivations.  These factors can be, for example, the child’s health, the quality of relationships with their caretakers, environmental stressors, learning opportunities, parenting styles, the caregivers’ mental health, educational quality, and community resources. After implementing our experimental interventions, such as training and curriculum adaptation, we observed a positive influence on the children’s emotional development and learning capacities.

Further Readings

Migeot, J., Panesso, C., Duran-Aniotz, C., Ochoa, C., Huepe, D., Santamaría-García, H., . . & Lipina, S.J. (in press). Allostasis, health, and development in Latin America. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews.

Delgado, H., Lipina, S.J., Mamen Pastor, V., Muniz Terrera, G., Rodríguez, R., . . . & Carboni, A. (2024). Differential psychophysiological responses associated with decision-making in children from different socioeconomic backgrounds. Child Development.

Pietto, M., Giovannetti, F., Segretin, M.S., Kamienkowski, J.E., & Lipina, S.J. (2023). Increased integration of functional connectivity after cognitive intervention in preschoolers from low socioeconomic status. Developmental Psychology. 10.1037/dev0001541.

Lipina, S.J. (2023). The importance of conceiving human development as a complex system. The Lancet Global Health.

Stevens, C., Pakulak, E., Segretin, M.S., Lipina, S.J. (Eds.) (2020). Neuroscientific explorations of poverty. Erice, Italy: International School of Mind, Brain and Education – Ettore Majorana Foundation for Scientific Culture. ISBN 978-987-86-6736-2.


Scientist of the Month: March 2024

Dr. Andrea Chiba, UCSD, Professor, Dept. of Cognitive Science and Program in Neuroscience


Providing opportunities for every child and family to thrive can be accelerated by globally sharing science and cultural knowledge surrounding learning and wellbeing.

The work of my laboratory team examines the neural basis of affect, learning, and attention.
We try to understand the dynamics of the brain and body and how they align with environmental demands to engage in learning. We use convergent techniques ranging from neurophysiological recording in rodents, computational and robotic models, and work that translates our basic science for the purpose of studying learning in natural settings such as classrooms. We examine experiential history as a means to understand individual differences in physiology, brains, and their manifestation in classroom learning. We believe that gaining a deep understanding of what makes the brain change states, and how those states impact learning and socialization can be fundamental in imagining how societies can be aligned with the learning needs of children and families for the purpose of thriving and wellbeing. I also engage in work directly with schools, educators, non-profits, and in global science of learning advocacy towards grass roots efforts to support education and society. In my first career, I was a high school mathematics teacher.

Key Findings

Time and timing matter for learning. The way in which students are able to synchronize or time their attention and action with their teachers and other students may relate to how well they are able to quickly pay attention to things in the world, like speech streams and video streams. We did a series of studies and discovered that an individual’s ability to musically synchronize with another person is related to their ability to rapidly attend to information, both auditory and visual. Group musical activities may be particularly relevant to building the ability to synchronize with others.

Further Reading

Khalil, AC, Minces, VH, Iversen, J, Musacchia, G, Zhao, C, Chiba, AA (2019) Music, Cognition, and Education. 21st CENTURY EDUCATION: THE LEARNER, THE ENVIRONMENT OECD Publications.

Khalil AK, Minces VH, McLoughlin, G. & Chiba A (2013). Musical synchrony predicts attention in school children. Frontiers in Educational Psychology, Special Issue: Educational Neuroscience, Constructivist Learning, and the Mediation of Learning and Creativity in the 21st Century. Front. Psychol, 02 September.

D’Andrea-Penna, G.M., Iversen, J.R., Chiba, A.A., Khalil, A.K., Minces, V.H. (2020) One Tap at a Time: Correlating Sensorimotor Synchronization with Brain Signatures of Temporal Processing, Cerebral Cortex Communications, Volume 1, Issue 1.


Start typing and press Enter to search