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.

Fo in the red tree

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 services. My expertise is in quality improvement and leadership development. I came back to FSU in 2014 and am the Lab Manager and a Research Associate. I am very much enjoying being back at FSU and working on the positive side of children’s lives. I love to read, write, bake, sing and play with my 3 beautiful cats. My faith is a very important part of my life. I have four adult step children who are all wonderful people.  I am a strong supporter and past Board Secretary of the Leon County Humane Society and also serve on The St. Paul United Methodist Finance Committee as Finance Chair. I think Tallahassee is an absolutely wonderful place to live, but I try to get to Albuquerque, NM as often as possible. It is my magical place. 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 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.

Graduate Students


Sarah Wood,  Graduate Student

Welcome to the Wagner lab! 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. Additionally, I enjoy volunteering at the county science fair and other educational events in the community. I am very grateful to be apart of such a wonderful lab and am excited to develop my skills as a researcher.           

 Rachel Waters 2017

Rachel Waters, Graduate Student

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. I am interested in phonological processing and dyslexia, and hope to learn  more about test development and bilingualism in reading while at FSU. In my spare time I like to play tennis with my fiancé and go grocery shopping, and I am also involved in Young Life Tallahassee.


Post- Docs


Sunaina Shenoy, PhD., Post Doc

My hometown is Bangalore, India. I enjoyed growing up there because it is one of the most liberal cities in India, and had the most temperate climate in the country. Today, it is the IT hub, and if you ever have a problem with your computer, you are most likely to be connected to a representative in Bangalore! I have a background in Developmental Psychology and Special Education. My research interests are in learning disabilities, assessment, second language acquisition and international education. I am currently working as a postdoc in the Wagner Lab, and moved out to Tallahassee this semester. I am excited to be involved with research projects focused on identifying learning disabilities in bilingual populations. I look forward to collaborating with Rick and the other postdocs in the lab and hope to make significant contributions towards indicators of LD across languages and scripts. I love to travel, try various cuisines, take long walks and explore new cities. I have a dog and a cat and enjoy spending time with them too. I have realized along the way that we just make life up as we go along, and being at FSU and the Wagner Lab is the beginning of my new adventure!


Poh Wee Koh, PhD., Post Doc

I joined the lab in September 2016 as a post-doctoral fellow. I am excited to be here in Tallahassee and look forward to being part of the research community here at FSU. Prior to joining the lab, I attended graduate school first in England, then Canada. My research interest centers on the biliteracy development of children from diverse populations, a direct result of my own experience growing up speaking multiple languages in Singapore. I started my career as an elementary school teacher, before I became a counselor/psychologist in the court system in Singapore. These experiences helped me see how the lack of literacy support can put families and their children at a disadvantage in many aspects of their lives and motivated me to pursue graduate studies, with a focus on language development. My doctoral work at the University of Toronto examined the within and cross language contributions of first- and second-language vocabulary to reading comprehension in young Mandarin-English bilingual children in Singapore. In the near future, I hope to extend my research focus to examine issues related to the identification and classification of learning disabilities among bilingual children who read and write in non-alphabetic orthographies. In the long-term, I hope to be involved in intervention work with linguistically, culturally, and economically-disadvantaged populations in Singapore and other parts of Southeast Asia. Outside of the lab, I enjoy sketching (I’m really bad at it), baking (just as bad at it mostly because I like to “improvise”), travelling, and learning new languages.

If you would like to see the Vitae for: Dr. Wagner, Dr. Zirps, Dr. Shenoy, Dr. Koh, Sarah Wood, or Rachel Waters – Please send a request via the contact link.


DIS Students Spring 2018 

Sophia bio

Sofia Torres

Sofia Torres hails from Orlando, Florida and is in her junior year at FSU. She has a double major of psychology and criminology. She plans to go on to graduate school and hopes to one day be a child life specialist. She enjoys reading (yay!) and also taking her boyfriend’s dog to the dog park.

deanna bio

Deanna Mikalauskas

Deanna Mikalauskas is a junior majoring in psychology with a double minor of biology and statistics. Her hometown is Perkasie, PA. Deanna plans to go to graduate school and hopes to ultimately get her PhD and work in the area pediatrics disabilities. In her spare time, she is a spinning instructor at FSU and does special effects makeup.

Kaylee Hogg 

Kaylee Bio

Kaylee Hogg is a Ft Lauderdale native and is a Senior at FSU. She is majoring in Psychology and completed a Developmental Disabilities certification. After she graduates she plans to take a gap year and work full time while also doing some bridge school work towards a degree in Speech and Language Pathology. Kaylee enjoys cooking – her chili lime yellow tail is a favorite recipe and she is a master at foods for people with food allergies.



Juliet Ramirez


Juliet Ramirez is a native of Jacksonville, FL. She is a junior at FSU and is majoring in psychology with minors in biology and chemistry.  She plans to apply for medical school after graduation and aspires to be psychiatrist. Juliet is interested in working with children or with the elderly. When she is not studying, she enjoys music, camping and yoga.




Rebeka Jackson

Rebeka Bio

Rebeka Jackson hails from Jerome Idaho. She is a junior at FSU with a minor in biology. We are grateful that our colleague and friend Gina Oneal-Moffitt recommended her. Rebeka plans to attend graduate school and pursue Clinical Psychology. In her limited spare time she enjoys reading and cooking.