BELLE Project Team

 Alan Mendelsohn, MD    

Alan L. Mendelsohn, MD 
Principal Investigator
Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Population Health
Division of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics


Faculty Website     

Adriana Weisleder, PhD      

Adriana Weisleder, Ph.D.
Project Director

Adriana is a developmental psychologist and Director of the Bellevue Project for Early Language, Literacy, and Education Success in the Department of Pediatrics at NYU School of Medicine. Dr. Weisleder's research focuses on how infants' early home environments, in particular parent-child interactions, facilitate the development of language and cognitive skills that are implicated in academic achievement. Her research makes use of innovative speech analysis technology to investigate infants' natural language environments, with the goal of applying this knowledge to the development and evaluation of interventions that promote school readiness in at-risk children.

Anne Seery PhD     

Anne Seery, Ph.D.
Laboratory/Project Manager

Annie is a developmental psychologist who joined the BELLE project in August of 2014. She received her BA in psychology and mathematics from Rutgers University and her Ph.D. in human development from Boston University, where her research focused on the linguistic, cognitive, and neural development of infants and young children. In particular, she is interested in language acquisition and development in infants and children who are at risk for developmental disorders or other issues as a result of biological and environmental factors.



Benard Dreyer, MD    

Benard P. Dreyer, MD
Professor of Pediatrics
Division of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics

Faculty Website 

Carolyn Cates PhD     

Carolyn Brockmeyer Cates, PhD
Research Assistant Professor of Pediatrics
Division of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics

Faculty Website  


Suzy Tomopoulos, MD
Co-Investigator, Media Studies
Assistant Professor of Pediatrics

Faculty Website 

Catherine Tamis LeMonda     

Catherine Tamis-LeMonda, Ph.D.
Professor of Applied Psychology

Faculty Website



Harris Huberman, MD

Co-PI, Building Blocks



Research and Intervention Team



Caitlin Ford Canfield, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Researcher, Clinical Supervisor

Caitlin is a developmental psychologist in the T32 Postdoctoral Fellowship program in Pediatric Primary Care Research at NYU School of Medicine. Her research focuses on how children's characteristics and environments affect their individual development. She is currently studying how stressful life circumstances affect the regulation of children's stress hormones, and how this relates to their physical and mental health, as well as their school functioning. Caitlin's long-term goals involve using her research experience to determine how interventions aimed at improving children's cognitive and emotional well-being can be tailored to meet each child's individual needs.




Jenny Arevalo
VIP Interventionist
Bellevue Hospital Center

Jenny received her BA in Psychology from New York University. She previously was a Junior Research Scientist for the NYU Center for Research on Culture, Development and Education. She has also worked as a Research Associate for the NYU School of Medicine: Belle Project. Currently, she is the Parent-Child Specialist for the Belle Project in Bellevue Hospital. She is interested in furthering her career in Psychology and continuing her work with under-resourced families, education and program development. Her interests are embedded within the family dynamic and its impacts on children's cognitive, social and emotional development. She is, especially, interested in promoting active parental engagement in children's developmental trajectories as it is related to school readiness and future academic outcomes.


Maya Matalon
VIP Interventionist
Bellevue Hospital Center

Maya received her BA in Psychology and Hispanic Studies from Oberlin College in 2012. She was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to teach English at the University level, and during that time also volunteered with women from Amazon communities in the Peruvian Amazon. Maya is currently a Research Assistant at the Belle Project. She is planning on continuing her education in Public Health and Social Work, and is interested in maternal wellbeing and its intersection with parent child interaction and child development as well as working with underserved families.


Jennifer Ledesma
VIP Interventionist
Woodhull Medical Center

Jennifer earned her BA in Psychology from Hunter College. She started her work with underprivileged families at New York University's Steinhardt Center for Research on Culture, Development and Education. She has worked as a Research Associate at the BELLE Project since 2010 and is the Parent-Child Specialist for the Belle Project in Woodhull Hospital. Her research interests include cultural differences in parenting styles and its impact on children's cognitive, social and emotional development. In addition to this she is also interested in early language development and literacy.



Laura Curiel Duran, MS 
VIP Interventionist / Project Assistant
Woodhull Medical Center

Laura earned her MS in Neuroscience and Education from Columbia University, and her BS in Psychology from St. Gregory’s University.  She joined the BELLE Project at Woodhull Medical Center in 2015


Valentina Di Loreto, MS [Note to Kristina: She is new]
VIP Interventionist / Project Assistant
Woodhull Medical Center

Valentina earned her MS in Negotiation and Conflict Resolution from Columbia University. She started her work with under-resourced families as a Parent Educator at Parents as Teachers, and joined the BELLE Project at Woodhull Medical Center in 2015. Her knowledge and work in bias awareness informs her approach in working with multicultural families. Valentina considers the parent-child relation a pivotal building block of society, and she plans to pursue a career understanding conflict within the family dynamic by advancing her education in Family Therapy.


Caroline Raak
Research/Project Associate

Caroline received her BS in Human Communication Sciences from Northwestern University. Her main academic focus lies in early childhood development, particularly in atypically developing and at-risk populations. She is currently completing a master's degree in Childhood Development at Sarah Lawrence College, and has been a part of the BELLE Project team since 2013. She is interested in researching different techniques and practices that would benefit families, across cultural and socioeconomic groups, in providing enriched early experiences for children in the hopes of achieving improved academic, economic, and health outcomes later in life.




Angelica Alonso, MA 
Research/Project Associate

Angelica received her BA in Psychology from New York University and her MA in Human Development from Teachers College. She previously worked as a research assistant at New York University’s Center for Research on Culture, Development and Education, where she became interested in the role that context and culture play in shaping children’s development. She joined the BELLE Project in 2015 to continue working with families of low socio-economic status. Her research interests include the effects of parental undocumented status and deportation on children’s early experiences and development, and how parent-child interactions and parental beliefs relate to young children’s cognitive and language skills, particularly among Latino families. She is also interested in developing parenting interventions to promote positive long-term developmental outcomes in children of Latino immigrants.


Aida Custode
Smart Beginnings Research Coordinator

Aida has a Master's degree in Human Development & Social Intervention from NYU and started at the BELLE Project in December 2013. She previously worked an applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapist, addressing the needs of children with autism and/or cognitive delays.  Her research interests include immigrant families and the experiences that promote school-readiness as well as the development of interventions to close the achievement gap in education.


Adriana Chung, MS Ed., LMSW 
Family Check-Up Interventionist

Adriana received her B.A. in Psychology from Hunter College in 2009 and completed a dual degree graduate program in 2013, earning an LMSW at Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College and an MS Ed. in Infancy and Family Development and Early Intervention at Bank Street College of Education. Previously, Adriana gained clinical experience across various settings – she provided individual, group and parent-child dyadic therapy to young children and families at an outpatient mental health clinic, a Head Start program, and more recently, at a maternity residence for pregnant and parenting teens. Her research interests include childhood trauma and its impact on attachment and the development of emotional co-regulation between at-risk mothers and their babies.  


Andrea Paloian
Part-time Project Assistant

Andrea graduated from New York University where she earned her BS in Applied Psychology. She is currently a research assistant at the BELLE Project and plans to further her education in psychology. She previously worked for a community-based research project examining positive parenting skills in low-income families, and her current research interests are how parenting styles effect child attachment and development. 


Lilibeth Chauca
Part-time Project Assistant

Lilibeth earned her BA in Psychology from Stony Brook University, and she is currently a student at NYU where she is working towards a Master’s degree in Counseling for Mental Health and Wellness.  She joined the BELLE Project in 2015 as part of the Smart Beginnings Project.