Dr Emma James

University of York, Education, Children and Youth Pathway

Emma is an ESRC Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Psychology at the University of York. She previously completed an undergraduate degree in Experimental Psychology at the University of Oxford, and then spent one year as a Research Associate for Professor Kate Cain at Lancaster University. Emma moved to York on an ESRC 1+3 studentship in 2014, first completing an MSc in Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, before continuing onto her PhD research with Dr Lisa Henderson and Professor Gareth Gaskell in the Sleep, Language, and Memory Lab.

Emma’s primary interests lie in understanding variability in language learning: how is that some children come to acquire new vocabulary more easily than others, and how might the learning mechanisms change as we grow older? Her PhD research addressed these questions by examining the influence of prior knowledge on learning new words, and how it changes as sleep-based processes strengthen the new words into long-term memory. Emma also has particular interests in children with reading comprehension difficulties, and understanding the nature of their vocabulary weaknesses.

During her fellowship, Emma seeks to bridge the gap between small-scale lab studies and day-to-day learning in practice. In particular, the time will be used to develop statistical skills for analysing big data, enabling her to test theories of language learning at scale in app-based data (with Memrise). Emma is also a keen advocate for open science, and will dedicate some of her fellowship time to improving the reproducibility of her research practices.

Research interests: vocabulary; language learning; literacy development; reading comprehension; memory development; sleep and memory consolidation