People of I-LABS: Ashley Ruba

I-LABSPeople of I-LABS

Vibrant, super-smart and caring: these are just a few of the qualities that describe the dozens of interdisciplinary researchers at I-LABS. Their innovative ideas and technological savviness help drive the Institute’s reputation as a world leader in child development and brain science.

And their kindness, professionalism and sense of humor greet all of the hundreds of families that volunteer each year for studies at I-LABS.

In the “People of I-LABS” series, we get to know the research scientists, post-doctoral fellows and other researchers who make up the elite team at I-LABS.

Please tell us a little about yourself. Where do you come from? What are you doing at I-LABS?

I am a fourth year Ph.D. student in Developmental Psychology with Dr. Betty Repacholi. I had lived in North Carolina my whole life before moving out to Seattle for graduate school!

Why did you decide to become a researcher?

For the past ten years, I have been fascinated with psychology. When I was an undergraduate at Duke University, I joined a developmental psychology lab for the research experience. Working with infants was so challenging and rewarding, that after I completed my honors thesis, I decided to pursue a career in research. 

What research questions are you working on now?

Right now, I am focusing on two questions: (1) what do infants understand about different negative emotional expressions (e.g., anger, disgust), and (2) how does language influence emotion categorization in infancy. 

What inspired you to study this topic?

My father is bilingual, so I was initially interested in developmental psychology from a language-learning perspective. I then grew to appreciate the complexities and challenges that come with working with both infants and emotions!

What big questions to you hope to answer with your research?

Broadly, I want to determine how infants understand other people’s emotions and how this knowledge changes over the course of development.

What’s your favorite part of working at I-LABS?

Everyone at I-LABS is very friendly and collaborative. I work in a small lab, but I always know that I can ask other researchers in the building for help when needed. Also, my office has a stunning, waterfront view of Portage Bay!

How can people use your discoveries in their own lives?

The ability to identify and respond appropriately to others’ emotional expressions is related to a variety of positive developmental outcomes. Knowing how infants understand emotions can help parents raise children with better emotional intelligence. This research can also inform the design of social-emotional intervention programs for young children.

What’s something we might not know about you? (something fun! Secret talents? Cool travels? Adorable pets?)

I am a certified yoga instructor!