We draw upon the intellectual resources of our research scientists as they contribute to research and innovation in the early childhood sector from various backgrounds and disciplines. Our research staff are actively involved in current research projects, share their expertise at presentations, advise and mentor junior scholars, and author working papers that inform evidence-based interventions and program evaluations.
Early Intervention & Prevention Studies
Raymond Biggar, Jr., PhD
Senior Research Scientist
Dr. Biggar has expertise in Applied Psychology and Counselor Education. His research focuses on juvenile justice, behavioral health, and prevention, and he has experience evaluating program processes, implementation, and outcomes. Dr. Biggar also collaborates with other faculty and investigators within the Center, in the Colleges of Education and Liberal Arts, and other University scholars as well as faculty and researchers at other academic institutions. He has built valuable research partnerships relevant to early intervention and prevention programs in the state, nationally and internationally.
Kat Penna, MPH
As an integral part of our research team, Penna focuses on applied research that will inform public policy as it relates to early intervention and prevention programs. Penna has over 10 years of experience in health services research with a focus on the impact of health literacy and other health systems factors on a person’s ability to successfully navigate healthcare. Research experience and interests extend across various contexts and include disease prevention, chronic disease self-management, medication safety, and effective ‘low-literacy’ intervention strategies to help individuals promote, protect, and manage their health.
Julia Siravo, MBA
Research Analyst I
Siravo is responsible for assisting the Picard Center research team with ongoing research projects. She primarily focuses on distributing, organizing, scanning, cleaning and analyzing data from the Statewide Prevention Program Evaluation project. She has over seven years of experience with administrative support services.
Early Childhood Health, Mental Health, & Nutrition Studies
Paula D. Zeanah, PhD, MSN, RN
Director of Research
Throughout her career as a pediatric nurse and clinical psychologist, Dr. Zeanah has worked with children and their families with significant medical and psychiatric issues as well as healthy children and families. Prior to becoming a psychologist, Dr. Zeanah worked in a variety of primary care and tertiary health care settings as a pediatric nurse, educator, and administrator. She served as Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the LSU Health Sciences Center from 1993-1998, and as Associate and Full Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Tulane University School of Medicine from 1998-2015. At Tulane, she was the Chief of the Psychology Division in the Department of Psychiatry, was actively involved in teaching, and supervised psychology interns, adult psychiatry residents, child psychiatry fellows, and medical students on the pediatric-psychiatry consultation-liaison service at Tulane Hospital. Since 1997, she has worked closely with the LA Office of Public Health, Bureau of Family Health’s maternal and early childhood health and home visiting programs in program development, administration, and supervision, technical assistance, and education for professional staff. In 2015, she was appointed the Director of Early Childhood Health, Mental Health, & Nutrition Research at the Picard Center and the Lafayette General Medical Center/Our Lady of Lourdes Eminent Scholar Endowed Chair in the College of Nursing and Allied Health Professions at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Dr. Zeanah’s clinical and research interests center at the interface of physical and mental health, including mental health in non-mental health settings; perinatal, infant, and early childhood mental health; and chronic illness in children and adolescents. She has obtained external funding for projects including initiation of a university-based outpatient program for children with autism and development of an infant mental health service within a primary care public health setting. She has over 40 peer-reviewed publications and book chapters.
Early Childhood Education Studies
Ms. Theriot works directly with research staff, performing daily administrative tasks in support of all research endeavors, and serves the Center as needed for other early childhood programmatic activities. She supports our research staff in project management, proofreading technical documents, scheduling and maintaining the project calendar for deliverable timelines, maintaining spreadsheets for billing, and tracking deliverables and other project-specific documents. Ms. Theriot has over twenty years of experience providing extensive administrative/managerial support for private, public and non-profit organizations.
Early Childhood Programs: Assessment & Evaluation
Kara Farmer-Primeaux, MS, CCC-SLP
Ms. Farmer-Primeaux has nearly ten years of experience working in evaluative research in the areas of early childhood and education. She has previously worked as a speech language pathologist in the public school system. Her research interests include early language and literacy development, multicultural issues, and the use of qualitative methods to learn more about the social world of human communication and development. Farmer-Primeaux is involved in the implementation of an early childhood quality monitoring program in various early childhood settings across Louisiana. Her work involves supervising the administration of the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS), which is used to evaluate the effectiveness of teacher-child interactions in toddler and preschool classrooms. She also trains individuals to become certified observers using the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) tool. She works on various community projects evaluating local efforts to promote literacy for young children.
Alisha Bourque, MS
Ms. Bourque has over ten years of experience in evaluative research, including both quantitative and qualitative methods, in the areas of early childhood and education. Her research interests are on children and families experiencing extreme poverty. Currently, she is involved in the implementation of an early childhood quality monitoring program in various early childhood settings across Louisiana. Her work involves overseeing the quality of the administration of the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS), which is used to evaluate the effectiveness of teacher-child interactions in infant, toddler, and preschool classrooms. She also provides training to individuals to become certified observers using the Pre-K Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS).