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B.A. (Hons) First (University of Cambridge)

M.A. (University of Cambridge)

MPhil Distinction (University of Cambridge)

PhD Candidate (University of Cambridge)

Hello! 

I am Vicky or you can call me Yīrán (it means happiness at peace in Chinese). I am a PhD researcher based in PEDAL, Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge

I conduct empirical research on

  • Why play matters?

  • How to facilitate learning via play?

  • How to improve children's mathematics competence?

  • How to improve children's language abilities?

  • How to improve children's mental health?

  • How to support neurodiverse children in learning?

  • How does education improve social mobility?

  • How to make education system more equal across the globe?​​

I welcome any inquiries on my research and potential collaborations. Researchers, teachers, practitioners, policy advisors, parents, students, children (aka young scientists), anyone who is interested in knowing more about my work, please do not hesitate to get in touch with me via email: yz462@cam.ac.uk

Selected media coverage of my research

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Pre-school play with friends lowers risk of mental health problems later

Improved mental health for children who play well with peers by age three

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Young children may be at greater risk of mental health problems after pandemic isolation

Play aids mental health

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Young children who play with others their age ‘have better mental health’

Why Getting Along in Preschool Is So Important

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Overview of my research

Kids Playing with Lego

Play improves children's mathematical competence

Math Exercises

Learning algebra through guided play and story telling 

Toys

Play improves autistic children's language skills

Kids Playing Tug of War

Play improves children's mental health

Graduation Day

Learning gain in English universities varied across subjects

College Friends

Programme that improves university access in England

Group Bonding

Outreach activities that inspire students to apply for higher education

Car Factory

Equality within vocational education in England 

African Lions

Post-secondary education brings social benefits in Ethiopia

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Early childhood education centres reduce gaps in learning in India

Panda

Social capitals improve social mobility in China

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My learning and teaching journey

I was born and brought up in Beijing, China. I graduated from the High School Affiliated to Renmin University (the most selective state school in China) in 2014 as a Mizuho Bank International Scholar. In the same year, I came to the University of Cambridge to pursue my undergraduate degree in Education with Physical Sciences. I graduated with First Class and was ranked 2nd in my cohort (Horobin Prize) in 2017. I continued my MPhil in Educational Research and graduated with Distinction (Best Dissertation Award) in 2018. I started my PhD project titled "play more and play better: how play can improve learning and mental health" at PEDAL research centre in 2018 and have been kindly supported by the LEGO Foundation Cambridge Trust scholarship.


I am a passionate lifelong learner. Owing to my interest in Economics, I completed Econometrics Methods and Applications led by Erasmus University Rotterdam in 2018. I started pursuing a part-time MicroMasters in Data, Economics, and Development Policy taught by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology since 2018. To date, I have completed three out of five courses. I am also very interested in neuroscience and linguistics, thus currently pursuing Neurolinguistics led by Saint Petersburg State University. Due to my background in Physics and my interest in Mathematics and Statistics, I have been continuously sharpening and upgrading my data analytical skills by learning and applying new softwares and advanced techniques. 

I am also very passionate about STEM teaching. Throughout my undergraduate and postgraduate degrees. I have been heavily involved in STIMULUS, a community service programme that connected students from Cambridge and local primary and secondary schools to facilitate STEM learning, as well as undergraduate and postgraduate teaching in statistics in social sciences. I also completed training at the Teach First Insight Programme, during which I interned as a secondary Physics teacher at an academy school in London. I hope to pursue a part-time PGCE in Secondary School Mathematics in the very near future alongside with doing my research work. 

My ultimate goal is to become an interdisciplinary researcher and teacher who can offer valuable and practical insights on child development and education by integrating evidence from education, psychology, economics, international development, sociology, linguistics, public health, neuroscience and data science.