Our Team



rick-picture-aeraRick Wagner, PhD, Principal Investigator

Rick Wagner’s research is focused on the normal acquisition of reading and dyslexia. His body of work has furthered the understanding of phonological processing in relation to learning to read and the development of reading disability. His public service in the field of literacy has included appointment as chair of the National Institute for the Literacy Advisory Board, member of the study section for reading and writing of the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences, and principal investigator of the Learning Disability Research Center. He has also developed widely used assessments of phonological processing and early literacy.


Fotena Zirps, PhD, Lab Manager

I was Rick’s first PhD at FSU in 1990. After I graduated, I worked for 25 years in human FZ picture with giltterservices. My expertise was in quality improvement and leadership development. I came back to FSU in 2014 and am the Lab Manager and Senior Research Associate. I am very much enjoying being back at FSU and working on the positive side of children’s lives. Studying dyslexia and how we might support people with dyslexia is so worthwhile. In my spare time, I love to read, write, bake, sing and play with my 3 beautiful cats. My faith is a very important part of my life as is working to better life for animals. I think Tallahassee is an absolutely wonderful place to live. I believe strongly that we are all here in this life to learn and to serve. I could not be happier than to work with the great folks of the WagnerLab, FCRR, The LDRC and at FSU.

antjeAntje Malkowski, Project Coordinator

My name is Antje and I am the Project Coordinator at the WagnerLab. I am in my 6th year of being a member of the WagnerLab team. My work includes preparing of all materials needed for testing in the schools, tester training, working closely with testers and teachers at FSUS, scoring, analyzing and data entering, as well as Fotena’s right hand. I was born and raised in Germany and came to the US the end of 2004. I worked as a Medical Assistant in a Pediatrician Office in Germany.

Testing Staff

karin marsh

Karin Marsh, Testing Staff

I graduated with a degree in Psychology from Agnes Scott College in 1996. While working as a long-term substitute in a special education classroom, I found my “passion” – working with children with special needs. I attended the University of Washington and received a MEd in special education/early childhood. Upon graduating, I worked in the field of early intervention and then worked exclusively with individuals with autism at the UF Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (CARD). My husband, Lee, retired from 20 years in the Navy, where we lived in 13 homes in 6 states! We have 2 beautiful daughters, Hannah (15) and Faith (8). I have spent much of the last 15 years staying at home with my children and volunteering. Currently I tutor children with autism for the Hang Tough Foundation, am a head leader of Capernaum (Young Life special needs ministry), head numerous church and PTO committees and play in the Leon steel drum band! I am excited about reentering the work field and being a part of this wonderful lab!!


Fabienne Alexandre, Testing Staff

I am currently pursuing my Masters in Social Work degree at Florida State. Previously I obtained my Bachelors in Psychology degree in Spring 2019 also at Florida State and my Associates in Arts degree in 2017 at Polk State College. I did some research during my time as an undergraduate student and find that working in the Wagner Lab would be a great opportunity to continue and expand my research knowledge! It’s great to be a part of the team!

Graduate Students


Sarah Wood,  Graduate Student

In 2012, I entered the developmental psychology graduate program. Under the guidance of my advisor Dr. Richard K. Wagner I study reading disabilities. My research is focused on reading comprehension and assistive technology. In 2016, I received a master’s degree in developmental psychology. Currently I am pursuing a doctoral degree in the developmental psychology graduate program at Florida State University. I enjoy researching dyslexia and exploring how assistive technology can help students with reading. Assistive technology tools are advancing and are increasingly used in classrooms; however research on these tools lags behind their implementation. Questions, such as which assistive technology tools are most useful to struggling readers and why, and for whom are they most effective, are questions that fascinate me. I love research and working in the lab but I also love to go outside the lab. In my time away from the lab, I enjoy an active outdoor lifestyle full of biking, hiking, camping, kayaking, and fishing. I also enjoy social activities with friends including road trips around the state stopping at state parks along the way.

 Rachel Waters 2017

Rachel Joyner, Graduate Student and Tester

I joined the Wagner lab in 2017 as a Developmental Psychology graduate student after getting my Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Memphis. My research is centered around using meta-analysis to better understand predictors of reading disabilities, and my future career goal is to use my knowledge to more accurately identify children with a learning disability in order to ensure that they get the assistance they need. The results of my most recent project, titled “Co-occurrence of Reading Disabilities and Math Disabilities: A Meta-Analysis”, informed the field that individuals with a math disability are just over two times as likely to also have a reading disability, and vice versa. This research was presented both at the 2018 FSU Graduate Research Day where I won a poster award and at the 2019 meeting of SSSR in Toronto. In my spare time, I like to play tennis with my husband, redecorate my house, and pet other people’s dogs.

 Honors Student

Bethany Beal. I started in the Wagner lab as a DIS student in fall of 2018 not knowing much about developmental psychology but soon learned I had a strong interest in the field! By summer of 2019, I decided to purse a honors thesis under Dr. Wagner looking into specific reading comprehension deficit. When I am not working on my thesis and studying for exams, I love to go back home to Sarasota and spend time at the  beach with my family! After getting my bachelors degree in psychology in the spring of 2020, I plan to pursue a PhD in developmental psychology to further research in the field. 



 The Lab


lab door team wagner