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.