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Our People

Lab DirectorMele-2

Mele Taumoepeau

Mele has extensive experience in conducting small scale longitudinal studies with children and their families. She trained and practised as a Speech and Language Therapist before obtaining her PhD in Developmental Psychology from the University of Otago in 2006. She joined the Department of Psychology in 2011.

Lab Manager

Lillian Ofori Ward

Lillian is a PhD student whose research focuses on nonverbal emotional communication, specifically how emotion is communicated through the voice nonverbally. Her project will explore the features and perception of nonverbal vocal signals of emotion. She completed a related Bachelor of Science (Hons) at the University of Melbourne in 2015 and has a background in behavioural sciences, holding a Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Arts from the Australian National University.

Current students

Jess Aitken

Jess is a PhD student with a background in Education and Psychology. Her research examines the relationship between parental use of language which describes mental states, children’s social understanding, and emerging helping behaviour.

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Jaye Moors

I am currently studying a PhD in Biochemistry supervised by Professor Merriman and Dr Mele Taumoepeau. My research looks at the physical and metabolic health of young Pacific teenagers, and also the genetic and environmental causes of metabolic disease in Polynesians. Specifically, investigating whether there is a genetic difference in control of triglycerides within and between Polynesia.

Georgina de Brelàz

Georgina is a Master's student and her research focuses on Theory of Mind in adolescents. She completed a Psychology degree at University of Sao Paulo (Brazil) and worked as an organisational and clinical psychologist in her home country. She moved to Dunedin two years ago.

Catherine Thomas

Catherine’s Masters will examine whether and how altering the design of consumer product warning labels affects their readability, comprehension and risk perception. Additionally, the project will examine age-related declines in processing of warning labels by comparing older adults and younger adults on these dimensions.

Kimberly Tuitoga

New Zealand born Pacific people experience higher rates of mental disorder compared with the general New Zealand population. The aim of Kimberly's Master’s research is to identify culturally specific factors that parents consider important for their teenagers’ wellbeing and to create a questionnaire that looks at variations in Pacific parenting style and parent-teenager connectedness.


Maria Totolici

Maria is a fourth year Honours student. The aim of her research is to investigate the relationship between early empathy and later theory of mind in pre-school-aged children. This study will be based on an existing longitudinal study.

Elizabeth Murphy

Elizabeth is a 3rd year dissertation student looking at the development of empathy in toddlers. Her project looks at the role of the primary caregiver, and how the relationship, between the caregiver and the toddler, can impact the toddler's empathy development.

2016 Graduates

Sanam Sadeghi, MSc

Ashlie Nobilo, MSc

Hilla Sinead Tapaita Fukofuka, BMedSc

Andrew Wilson, BA(Hons)

Meagan Mathers, BSc

2015 Graduates

Célia Guido Mendes, PhD

Sarah Vanier, BA(Hons)

Elise Fixsen, BA