BL2 Current Team

Dr. Laura-Ann Petitto 

Founder and Scientific Director of the Brain and Language Laboratory for Neuroimaging (BL2)

​Where is my heart from: Montreal, Canada, and Abruzzo, Italy

Dr. Laura-Ann Petitto is a Cognitive Neuroscientist and Developmental Cognitive Neuroscientist. She conducts neuroimaging studies using functional Near-Infrared Spectroscopy (fNIRS / NIRx) and behavioral basic science studies to understand language acquisition, reading, bilingual language acquisition, and learning in all young children, particularly young deaf visual learners. She is the Science Director as well as the Co-Principal Investigator of the National Science Foundation (NSF) and Gallaudet University’s Science of Learning Center, Visual Language and Visual Learning (VL2). Dr. Petitto is also the Founder and Scientific Director of her Brain and Language Laboratory for Neuroimaging (BL2). 

Interesting fact about me: I love red hats!

Cryss Padilla_edited.jpg
Cryss Padilla

Scientist Manager

Where is my heart from: Riverside, California.

I graduated high school at the California School for the Deaf in Riverside. I received a Bachelor’s of Science in Biology in 2014 then completed the Masters in American Sign Language Education and partial of Deaf Education in 2017. During graduate studies, I was a Graduate Research Assistant at the Petitto’s Brain and Language Laboratory (BL2). I decided to bring dedication and knowledge back to the BL2 Center as the Scientist Manager in June 2018. I am devoted to the lab as it includes all of the fields of study such as Biology, Sign Language, and Deaf Education into one place which enhances my interests in visual and bilingual research.

Interesting fact about me: I like spoilers...

Bradley White.png
Dr. Bradley White

Neuroimaging Scientist Manager

Where is my heart from: The Lone Star State

Dr. White received his Ph.D. in Educational Neuroscience from Gallaudet University in 2019 and his BS (Hons) in Communication Sciences and Disorders with a minor in Psychology from The Honors College at Texas A&M University-Kingsville in 2014. He also has academic and clinical training in the areas of speech-language pathology, audiology, and pharmacology.

Broadly speaking, Dr. White's work focuses on the neurocognitive and neurobiological systems for effortful listening and advances our understanding of language perception and comprehension in children and adults, especially those who use hearing aids and cochlear implants.

Interesting fact about me: I have a knack for gastronomy.

Grady Gallagher
Grady Gallagher

Graduate Research Assistant,

Study Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology

Where is my heart from: Las Vegas, Nevada.

I succeeded with a B.A. in Psychology from Gallaudet in ’11, then an M.A. in Clinical Psychology from California State University: Northridge (CSUN) in ’14. I came back to Gallaudet for my Ph.D. because I want to learn from experts who integrate the Deafhood perspective into the psychology profession. My focus is on providing individual therapy to adults who are living with mood disorders, though that interest is broadening the more I work with people. My view is that humans are funny creatures; each person is a universe of their own and filled with quirks and unique ways of interacting with the world. I enjoy learning about us as individuals, and I’m lucky that my passion happens to come with a career path. 

Interesting fact about me: Though I love clinical psychology, if there was a career path for simply reading fantasy/sci-fi novels, I’d probably be double majoring right now. I am a particular sucker for books that are a part of a huge series (looking at you, The Wheel of Time). 

Claudia Smistek

Undergraduate Research Assistant, 

studying Bachelor's Neuroscience with a Pre-Med Track

Where is my heart from:  Buffalo, New York

I am a second-year undergraduate student at Gallaudet University. My pronouns are She/Her/Hers. I'm a neuroscience major with a pre-med track. I am a science geek, and I love learning about anything related to neuroscience. I am from Buffalo, New York. In my free time, I love to read dystopian books and go hiking. I also love to spend time with my pets! I am thrilled to be working with the amazing BL2 team! 

Interesting fact about me: I have six cats, four dogs, and a chicken. I recently adopted my first cat, Vader!

Kristina McKinnie
Kristina McKinnie

Graduate Research Assistant,

Studying Master's Deaf Culture Studies

Where is my heart from: Akron, Ohio

I am a graduate student at Gallaudet studying Deaf Cultural studies and will graduate in 2022. I am grateful to work at BL2 that gave me a lot of knowledge and skills! My first experience at a deaf school was when I attended the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID). I also attended Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in Rochester, New York, and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Science in 2019. While at RIT, I had an internship at DOW Chemical company as a summer research assistant. I decided to pursue Deaf Cultural studies because I want to learn more about Deaf culture and pursue my career to work with deaf/hard of hearing children or become a deaf advocate to support the deaf community. This leads me to explore more about research fields to work at the BL2 lab.

Interesting fact about me: I was born and raised in Akron, Ohio, the home of famous basketball player LeBron James. 

Joseph Palagano
Joseph Palagano

Undergraduate Research Assistant,

Studying Bachelor's History and minoring in Education 

Where is my heart from: Villa Rica, Georgia

I was born on the western outskirts of Georgia, bordering Alabama. I am hearing and began my journey here at Gallaudet during the Fall semester of 2019 after an internship as a teaching assistant at the Georgia School for the Deaf. Since coming to Gallaudet, I have really been able to expand my horizons and grow as a person, thanks to my wonderful group of friends who are honestly more like family. I plan to pursue an advanced educational degree focusing on international pedagogical methodologies with a concentration in Deaf education. I love staying curious about the vastly unknown world around me, and that drive is what pushed me to be here at the BL2 Lab.   

Interesting fact about me: I have a tattoo of the ASL for coffee on my right arm :) 

Sheila Maynard.jpg
Sheila Maynard

Graduate Research Assistant,

studying Clinical Psychology

Where is my heart from: Kalamazoo, MI

I graduated in 2013 with a Bachelor's of Science in Psychology at Rochester Institute of Technology then started my doctoral studies at Gallaudet in 2016. My clinical and research interests are working with deaf and hard-of-hearing children and adolescents, providing accessible services for families, and trauma-informed care. 

Interesting fact about me: I love Shih-Tzus and have a black-and-white one named Ellie.

Charles Harris
Charles Harris

Undergraduate Research Assistant, 

studying Bachelor's Biology and minor in Chemistry

Where is my heart from: Northampton, Massachusetts

I am a senior at Gallaudet University now. My major is in biology, and my minor is in Chemistry. I am an animal and nature lover. I grew up in Massachusetts for a long time. I went to three different Deaf schools (The Learning Center for the Deaf, New York School for the Deaf, and American School for the Deaf-that is where I graduated). I love to play sports. I have many hobbies. I always enjoy doing different hobbies. I love to read books, articles, news, etc. Also, I love to travel and watch different beautiful natures, including spaces. As my big dream is to become a biologist, veterinarian, scientist, or work with any living organisms. I always wanted to work with animals, botany, and helping the environment. Our beautiful earth is dying because of global warming, litter, overpopulation, and more. We need to take an action now to save our pulchritudinous planet.  

Interesting fact about me: I can't kill a bug with intention. 

Brigitta Luttrell

Undergraduate Research Assistant,

studying Psychology

Where is my heart from: Jefferson, Maryland

I am a third-year student at Gallaudet University with a major in Psychology and a minor in Family and Child Studies, I discovered my passion for helping people and that still sticks true to this day. I always have been fascinated with a human's brain and how it impacts human’s behavior in every possible aspect! Other than my passion for psychology, I also love spending time with my two Malti-Poo dogs and going out on a bike ride. Working with the BL2 team is a wonderful opportunity for me to kickstart my passion careerwise and I am so excited to work with this amazing team!. 

Interesting fact about me: I was born at home, not at the hospital. I also still live in the same house I was born in! 

Screen Shot 2021-10-06 at 1.48_edited.jpg