Emerging Scholar Spotlight

December 2020


Dr. Jeanine Grütter is a postdoctoral scholar at the Jacobs Center for Productive Youth Development at the University of Zurich. She received her PhD in psychology from the University of Zurich and has recently served as interim professor for developmental psychology at the University of Konstanz. After completing her PhD, Dr. Grütter was awarded a fellowship from the Swiss National Science Foundation to conduct her independent research in Nepal. As part of this project, Dr. Grütter joined the Lab for Social and Moral Development at the University of Maryland.

Research Journey
After working as a school psychologist and teacher for students with special educational needs for multiple years, Jeanine Grütter started a PhD thesis with the motivation to contribute to evidence-based programs and policy discussions. She therefore focused her research program on the question of how children can grow up without discrimination and disadvantage and make use of their potential. Herdoctoral work investigated the development of social and moral competencies and peer relations in diverse schools and the role of teacher behavior for inclusive peer relations.

As postdoctoral scholar, Dr. Grütter expanded her work to study how adolescents reason about social inequalities and how they become civically engaged. These questions originated from Dr. Grütter’s long-term volunteer work as a psychologist for non-governmental organizations to support children and adolescents in low resource contexts. In addition, Dr. Grütter still works in the field of education and has been involved in different evaluation studies with regards to the quality of diverse education policies and the design of interventions to prevent prejudice and bias among students.

Current Projects
Dr. Grütter collaborates with a wide network of researchers specialized in the area of social and moral development. For example, in collaboration with Melanie Killen’s lab, she started an (ongoing) longitudinal study in 2017, tracking the development of 800 adolescents in Nepal to study predictors of their reasoning about social hierarchies and social inequalities. Building on this work, Dr. Grütter and colleagues in Germany, Mexico, Nepal, Portugal, and the U.S. launched an interdisciplinary cross-cultural study on the emergence of fairness.

Another important focus of Dr. Grütter’s research relates to the question of how schools can be best supported to include students from diverse backgrounds. Therefore, she has developed a training for teachers as facilitators of peer relations, alongside an intervention for school classes to promote the social participation of students with special educational needs, which is based on extended contact theory.

Recently, in order to support adolescents during the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Grütter has extended Marlis Buchmann’s COCON-study. Based on data from this representative Swiss panel study that tracks youth every three years since the age of 6 up to the age of 21 (i.e, the data collected during the national lockdown), her team strives to identify long-term protective factors that help adolescents cope with the challenges during the pandemic. This knowledge in turn has served to deliver specific resources to support adolescents’ well-being and learning to schools.

More information on the projects can be found here: https://sites.google.com/view/jeanine-grutter/

Advice for Emerging Scholars

  • Never give up! Research can be challenging, especially when dealing with rejections of publications and grants. Remember, this happens to all of us. Some of the most successful scholars in the field have countless rejections. How did they still make it? They believed in the quality and value of what they were doing and kept on improving their work based on the feedback they received from the scientific community.
  • Research is not me-search, but we-search! Build your network and collaborate with people in your field. It is fun to exchange ideas and realize projects together. One of the aspects of this job that motivates me most is to contribute to the scientific field alongside like-minded scholars, to learn from my mentors and peers, and to serve as a mentor to promote the work of young scholars.
  • Find a good work-life balance. Creativity often suffers from too much pressure. The best ideas come to me when I try to cook new dishes or try to climb a new mountain in the Swiss alps. With a relaxed mindset, it is easier to contribute your best efforts to achieve your goals!

Featured Publications