Emerging Scholar Spotlight

May 2020

Natasha Duell

Natasha Duell is a T32 postdoctoral fellow at the Frank Porter Graham Child Department Institute (formerly the Center for Developmental Science) and the department of psychology and neuroscience at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She received her PhD in psychology from Temple University in 2018 and her BA in psychology and social behavior from the University of California, Irvine in 2011. Dr. Duell’s research takes a strengths-based approach to examining biopsychosocial and cultural correlates of adolescent decision making and risk-taking. Her current work explores predictors and outcomes of positive risk taking in adolescence.  Dr. Duell is also the co-recipient of a young scholars project grant from the Jacobs Foundation that will examine learning and feedback sensitivity in youth from various cultures.

Dr. Duell’s research career began during her undergraduate at the University of California Irvine. She took an adolescent development course and was struck by the segment on adolescent risk taking. What contributes to the spike in risky behaviors during adolescence? What factors can help youth thrive despite some of the maladaptive choices they make? Dr. Duell spent two years studying juvenile delinquency as a research assistant and lab manager for Dr. Elizabeth Cauffman at UC Irvine. Following, Dr. Duell went to Temple University to pursue her PhD in psychology under the mentorship of Dr. Laurence Steinberg. As a graduate student, Dr. Duell was involved in the Parenting Across Cultures (PI: Dr. Jennifer Lansford) and Decision-Making in Everday Life (PI: Dr. Laurence Steinberg) studies, examining cross-national similarities and differences in developmental and psychological correlates of adolescent decision-making.

As a postdoctoral fellow at UNC-Chapel Hill, Dr. Duell works with Drs. Eva Telzer (DSN Lab) and Mitch Prinstein to examine the biological and social correlates of adolescent decision-making and risk taking.  Here, she is broadening her methodological approach to include sociometric, fMRI, and hormone methodologies to understand adolescent behavior. Dr. Duell’s current projects explore the neural and hormonal correlates of social influence on adolescent decision-making, including prosocial influences and positive risk taking. With her research, Dr. Duell ultimately endeavors to understand how the characteristics inherent to adolescent development can be directed toward behaviors and opportunities that facilitate adolescents’ well-being.

Advice For Emerging Scholars

  • Take advantage of opportunities to learn new skills.
  • Remember that you are ultimately in charge of your training and development. Empower yourself to ask for what you need from your mentors and academic community.
  • Work through challenges. Challenge is an inherent part of this journey and not an indicator of your intelligence or worth as a scientist—we all struggle from time to time!
  • Think about what skill(s) you are going to offer to the scientific community and hone those skills throughout your training.
  • Decide on your unique program of research and allow that to guide the studies and projects you pursue.