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Emerging Scholar Spotlight

March, 2018

Tayler Loiselle is a first-year Ph.D candidate in Psychological Foundations program in the Department of Educational Psychology at the University of Minnesota, with an emphasis on Learning and Cognition/Educational Technology. Under the mentorship of Dr. Keisha Varma, Tayler’s research focuses on how middle school students engage with and learn science in school.

Tayler’s journey to Educational Psychology began as an undergraduate at the University of Minnesota, where she received her degree in Child Psychology. Tayler has always been interested in psychology and developmental research, so she began working in research labs as soon as her second year of college. She first started as a research assistant (and later Lab Manager) in the Yonas Perception Lab under Dr. Albert Yonas, where she gained valuable insight into developmental research approaches, ideas, and methodology. Here, she helped facilitate an eye-tracking study as well as worked on developing a computer application to support children with ASD in emotion recognition. Later in her undergraduate career, she was awarded an Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) grant and worked with Dr. Keisha Varma in the Scientific Reasoning Lab. Under Dr. Varma’s direction, Tayler explored the relationship between middle school students’ intelligence mindsets and their success in science class. After these amazing experiences, Tayler knew that the educational research was a good fit for her because of their aligned focus on engaged community research in schools and helping adolescents be successful.

Outside of the research world, Tayler worked as a Special Educational Assistant in an elementary school, where she worked with young children on the development of life skills and school-readiness goals. Additionally, Tayler helped launch the first after-school program at this school since the school had recently opened. She served as a GEMS and GISE assistant coach and program coordinator, which taught young kids about science and engineering through project work. Having these hands-on experiences working in a classroom played a pivotal role in her decision to continue in classroom-engaged research.

Tayler is currently a Graduate Research Assistant on the NSF-Funded project (project number 165708), Fostering Equitable Science through Parental Involvement and Technology. This project aims to use a Social Learning Environment (Flipgrid) to mediate the achievement gap for immigrant students. This project has three main goals: (1) enhance the science learning, attitudes, and engagement of racial minority and immigrant students through technology-rich experiences; (2) create meaningful science teacher, student, and parent/family partnerships centered on academics; and (3) increase the science education involvement of racial minority and immigrant parents. Tayler works on many aspects of the project, which include working collaboratively with the middle school teachers and students, both in and outside of the classroom.

In addition to project work, Tayler is exploring student engagement behaviors and outcomes while using Flipgrid. Currently, she is developing a type of coding system that she and others can use to look for overt engagement behaviors in the Flipgrid student responses. For her dissertation, she hopes to continue digging deeper into technology integration in science classrooms so that educators and researchers can continue to support student engagement and learning during middle school. Tayler believes that working collaboratively with teachers, communities, and schools where you are conducting your research is a large step in trying to mediate the achievement gaps that exist in the STEM field.

February 2018

Madeleine George, Ph.D., is a Post-Doctoral Research Associate in the School of Brain and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Texas at Dallas.

After completing her B.S. in Biology and Psychology at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, Madeleine taught fourth grade at Cofradia Bilingual School in Honduras and high school English at Lycee Bourdelle in France. Through these experiences, she learned how simple forms of social support and encouragement can promote the healthy development of children and adolescents. She also noticed the growing importance of mobile devices in youths’ daily lives, particularly for fostering relationships with youth and their families. She began working with Dr. Candice Odgers at the University of California at Irvine and then received her Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology at Duke University.

Broadly, Madeleine’s research focuses on how adolescents’ technology usage and virtual communication may influence their wellbeing and development. Her research aims to take a rigorous and balanced perspective on both the positive and negative implications of adolescents’ online activities. Her recent findings have shown that increased daily technology usage are associated with higher same-day externalizing symptoms and increased longitudinal conduct problems among at-risk adolescents. Conversely, her dissertation examined whether virtual communication facilitate access to social support networks showing that daily texting with parents may be associated with enhanced wellbeing and daily stress buffering during transition to college.
Madeleine is also interested leveraging mobile technologies for multi-method research studies with young people. She has used mobile phones in ecological sampling studies to gather daily self-reports of technology use and mental health symptoms alongside wearable wristbands to objectively monitor daily physical health markers (e.g., sleep). Madeleine is currently examining the longitudinal implications of the content of adolescents’ text messages with parents and peers with Dr. Marion Underwood and the BlackBerry project team.

Madeleine has two pieces of advice for emerging scholars, based on her research training and long-term participation in local improvisational comedy. The first is the classic improvisational phrase ‘yes, and’. Get involved in existing projects (‘yes’) and try to find new ways to explore or incorporate your own ideas (‘and’). Specifically, engage in collaborative research that advances your professional interests and networks. ‘Yes, and’ does not mean pursue EVERY project imaginable, but to be open to new opportunities and commit fully to the ones with which you are involved.

The second piece of improvisational and career advice is ‘to focus on the now’. Thinking about graduate school, conferences, and research papers can often be overwhelming. There can be pressure to have every part of a project, every paper idea, or every step in a career mapped out, which may not fit with the reality of unexpected challenges (or opportunities!). Sometimes, focusing on immediate, attainable goals (e.g., learning a new statistical technique) can help jumpstart your ideas and build up enough resources for the larger project to succeed.

October 2017

Nicole Fava, PhD, MSW is an Assistant Professor in the School of Social Work within the Robert Stempel College of Public Health & Social Work at Florida International University (FIU). After receiving her AB in Psychology and English from Bowdoin College, Nicole worked with children with histories of complex trauma and abuse through Wediko Children’s Services and the McKinley School System in Boston, MA. Inspired by the strength and resilience that she observed in these youth, Nicole pursued her Master’s in Social Work at the University at Buffalo with the intention of becoming a clinician. However, as she witnessed the synergy of interdisciplinary teams bridging research and practice, Nicole decided to pursue her PhD in Social Welfare at the University at Buffalo under the mentorship of Dr. Laina Bay-Cheng.

Broadly, Nicole’s program of research is focused on the impact of childhood trauma and adversity, with an emphasis on trauma-informed care and sexual health promotion. She investigates a myriad of developmental consequences of trauma and pathways of resilience to bridge the fields of childhood trauma and sexuality using diverse participant-centered methods. Nicole also supports trauma-informed sexuality education for all youth as a means to dispel the pervasive fear surrounding young people’s sexuality and to support their sexual and developmental rights, regardless of trauma history.

Nicole’s interest in sexual health promotion began as a response to the negative stereotypes and assumptions she saw being placed on youth with histories of abuse. As she challenged others in their thinking on an individual level, she realized that the problem was pervasive and rooted in a risk-focused culture around youth sexuality more generally. Nicole decided to use research as a vehicle for social change. In her doctoral and post-doctoral work, Nicole employed life history calendar methods and sophisticated quantitative methods to examine the impact of social context on adolescent sexuality, safe sexual behaviors as normative and growth-promoting experiences, and longitudinal trajectories of sexual health. Applying resilience theory and latent class growth analysis to the Add Health dataset for her dissertation, Nicole observed three distinct patterns of sexual health among individuals with maltreatment histories. This suggests that sexual health is possible despite experiences of abuse. Moreover, social support from family, peers, and romantic partners sequentially increased this healthy outcome.

Nicole has continued to use her skills as a social work researcher to incite change within her local community in Miami, FL. Recently, she was awarded a grant through The Children’s Trust to begin the Trauma-Informed Screening and Treatment Program. The main goal of this program is to build capacity for and extend an evidence-based trauma-specific intervention (Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy; TF-CBT) to youth and families throughout southern Miami-Dade County. Clinicians in three community clinics will become certified TF-CBT therapists, implement TF-CBT with youth and families, and Nicole will evaluate participant outcomes. Nicole states that, “being connected to and informed by the communities I seek to support through my scholarship is paramount.”

Recent research endeavors include gaining a better understanding of what constitutes sexual health, as opposed to sexual risk – the latter of which we already know a great deal – through a national-level, mixed-methods online survey about sexual health, wellness, and adversity. Nicole remains committed to exploring the complex role of sexual behaviors from a learning and developmental theory perspective. Using a mediation framework, Nicole and colleagues at FIU and the University at Buffalo found that sexual behaviors are a vehicle through which sexual well-being can be achieved. This finding held for young adults with histories of maltreatment, challenging negative assumptions around the developmental role of sexual behaviors.

Ensuring that other social workers are knowledgeable of and prepared to support individuals and communities experiencing trauma is another passion of Nicole’s. She regularly provides presentations and workshops to community groups and agencies on the developmental impact of trauma and trauma-informed care. In addition, she developed an MSW/PhD level seminar at FIU, Trauma Theory and Treatment, that is now offered annually every spring. Nicole’s advice to Emerging Scholars is to welcome opportunities of cross-discipline collaborations and to research the issues about which you are passionate. This will help prevent “siloed” thinking and give meaning to your everyday work.

To view her CV click here.

October 2017

Julie Cristello is a doctoral student in the Clinical Science Program in Child and Adolescent Psychology at Florida International University. Under the mentorship of Dr. Elisa Trucco, she is working to develop a better understanding of the role that environmental contexts and social networks have on adolescent substance use. As part of Dr. Trucco’s Research on Adolescent and Child Health (ReACH; lab, she is working on a project funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) which examines social, biological, and individual etiological factors of adolescent substance use, as well as a project evaluating risk and protective factors that lead to electronic nicotine delivery systems use in youth.

As an undergraduate student at Saint Anselm College, Julie’s academic background in both psychology and chemistry provided a strong foundation on which to pursue substance use research. Under the direction of Dr. Lisa Bonner and Dr. Joseph Troisi, she received grant funding from the New Hampshire IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (NH-INBRE) to foster a collaboration between the departments. Through this grant, she conducted a study to synthesize and test the quaternary form of mecamylamine. At the same time, she began volunteering as a youth mentor at the Drug and Alcohol Unit in the John H. Sununu Youth Services Center. It was during this experience that she began to realize how various environmental contexts can influence behavior.

After graduating in 2012, Julie began working as a Research Coordinator for Dr. John Kelly at the Recovery Research Institute/Center for Addiction Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). As a Research Coordinator, she managed a project funded by NIAAA designed to develop a twelve-step facilitation (TSF) manual for adolescents and young adults with substance use disorders. The primary aim of the project was to test whether this novel TSF intervention improved outcomes and increased twelve-step participation compared to an existing evidence-based treatment. During her time at MGH, she was responsible for recruiting, enrolling and assessing participants from area high schools, the juvenile justice system, inpatient and outpatient treatment programs, addiction recovery community centers, and community-based support groups such as the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance and the Learn to Cope organization. These experiences have provided her with a great appreciation for community-based participatory research, requiring careful attendance to many of the challenges faced in its implementation.

Julie has also had several opportunities to complete publications and present her own independent research. As such, she has experience and training in contributing to scientific manuscripts and presenting results at national conferences. In addition to working as a Research Coordinator, she was the Grant Administrator for Dr. Kelly’s lab, and responsible for the submission and ongoing management of all NIH awards. She also volunteered as an Institutional Review Board (IRB) Committee Member at MGH, providing her with substantial knowledge on conducting and monitoring research studies, as well as the protection of the rights and welfare of human subjects. She currently volunteers as a student representative for the American Psychological Association’s Division 50 Society of Addiction Psychology.

Throughout her experiences, Julie often observed adolescents and young adults attributing their substance use to normative youth behavior, citing alcohol and drug use as a means to avoid rejection by substance-using peers, to have something to do after-school, or to gain peer approval or self-affirmation as measured by “likes” on social media. Her program of research will focus on the influence that environmental contexts and social networks (both online and face-to-face) have on alcohol and drug use among adolescents. The long-term goal of this work is to inform community-based prevention programs that will improve substance use outcomes and promote positive youth development.

Julie’s advice for those who are pursuing graduate school is to follow what you’re passionate about, and think creatively about questions and research topics that you’re interested in. It’s also important to network and familiarize yourself with research being done in the field. Additionally, collaborations are crucial in promoting advancements in our understanding and treatment of adolescent substance use.


Please click here to view her CV.

August 2017

Cait Cavanagh, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor with appointments in the School of Criminal Justice and the Department of Psychology at Michigan State University. After completing her B.A. in Psychology at the University of Rochester, Cait interned in the European Union Parliament in Brussels, Belgium. Through this experience, she learned first-hand how high-quality social science research can affect public policy. As a result, she shifted her interest in studying adolescent development broadly to producing policy-applicable research to help youth and their families interact with the law. She received her Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology at UC Irvine, with specializations in Psychology and Law and Quantitative Methods.

Broadly, Cait’s research focuses on the intersections of psychology, social policy, and criminology to explain how social contexts shape adolescent behavior. As a developmental psychologist, she is particularly interested in the dynamic parent-child relationship. Juvenile offending inflicts high costs on youth, their families, and local communities. Cait examines how the family context contributes to the etiology of, and desistance from, juvenile offending, as well as the effects of juvenile offending on the family. Her goal is to guide decision makers with limited resources toward programs that are most likely to be effective. In this way, Cait hopes to inform policy using developmentally-sound research to improve how the juvenile justice system interfaces with children and families.

Just as the dissemination of research to practitioners and policy makers is a goal of Cait’s research, she also places an emphasis on disseminating knowledge through mentorship of the next generation of scholars. She has mentored over 40 undergraduate research assistants in conducting rigorous, ethical research; formulating research questions; successfully applying for funding; and presenting at professional conferences. Her mentorship has been recognized through both intramural awards (n=7) and attention from professional groups (see her invited Webinar on mentoring research assistants for the American Psychology-Law Society).

Cait has two pieces of advice for emerging scholars. The first is to say yes to as many opportunities as possible. “Being generous with your time will pay dividends by positioning you as a well-rounded, well-connected academic,” Cait says. For example, holding departmental-, university-, and national-level service positions has broadened her research network. For emerging scholars, a strong and extensive research network is critical for obtaining the perfect job (many which are advertised via word of mouth) and, eventually, tenure (which requires letters of support from field leaders). Additionally, Cait has been successful in securing extramural national grants and fellowships (n=9), a success she credits to “saying yes” to every funding opportunity that could fit her research questions. “Even if securing a given grant is a long shot, you’ll gain experience in articulating your research for funders just by applying.”

Cait’s second piece of advice for emerging scholars is to learn as many advanced quantitative methods as possible. “This may involve challenging yourself to take a difficult-sounding class, securing funding to attend a statistics seminar, or teaching yourself by practicing from a book.” Many SRA emerging scholars work with longitudinal data. Advanced statistics enrich the developmental research questions that longitudinal datasets can answer.

Dr. Cavanagh is currently leading a large-scale study of risk assessment at intake in a local juvenile court. For more on her research, look for her most recent article on the parent-child relationship following a youth’s first arrest (Cavanagh & Cauffman, 2017) in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence.

Please click here to view her CV.

July 2017

Haylee DeLuca is a doctoral candidate in Developmental Psychology at Kent State University. Haylee’s research examines developmentally salient close relationships during adolescence and young adulthood, including peer, romantic, and sexual relationships, with a focus on individuals who have experienced a family transition or dissolution (e.g., adopted individuals or those involved in the foster care system). Her dissertation examines long-term implications of adoption on educational, employment, and marital outcomes in young adulthood. She is passionate about understanding how social relationships impact development and account for differences in adjustment.

Haylee’s trajectory as a researcher began as an undergraduate at the Ohio State University, working as a research assistant in the lab of Dr. Robert Arkin. Haylee was encouraged to further explore her research interests, and thus pursued her Master’s degree in general psychology at the University of Dayton. While pursuing her Master’s degree, Haylee was a graduate fellow at a homeless shelter/transitional living program, Daybreak. At Daybreak, Haylee worked with homeless adolescents and young adults in one-on-one and group settings, focusing on developing independent living skills.

Under the mentorship of Dr. Manfred van Dulmen at Kent State University, Haylee’s research in graduate school has focused on the role of interpersonal relationships and experiences in adolescent and young adult development. Specifically, Haylee has used multiple methods to examine how peer, romantic, and sexual relationships influence adjustment, particularly in the face of adversity. Her program of research has three main objectives: (i) understanding the predictors and consequences of casual sexual behaviors during adolescence and young adulthood, (ii) advancing and propagating best measurement and methodologies for studying close relationships across development, (iii) studying the role of non-familiar close relationships in the development of those who have experienced a family transition or dissolution during childhood, such as those who have been adopted or experienced foster care.

Haylee’s dissertation, which is partially funded by the Henry David Research Grant through the American Psychological Foundation, analyzes the long-term implications of adoption on educational, work, and marital outcomes in young adulthood compared to individuals raised by both biological parents. This project utilizes four waves of data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health to account for specific attributes and experiences from adolescence (e.g., mother’s education level, quality of parent-adolescent relationships, quality of peer relationships, internalizing and externalizing behaviors, substance use) that likely contribute to young adult outcomes, as well as adoption-related experiences (e.g., age at adoption, foster care experience, and type of adoption) that may better explain why some adoptees show deficits in developmentally salient outcomes and others do not. Using propensity score analysis, Haylee will test whether the differences observed between adoptees and biologically-reared individuals can be better explained by these other life experiences and attributes (as opposed to adoption status). In addition, she will investigate whether adoption-related experiences impact young adult outcomes of adoptees, while holding all relevant confounds constant.

Haylee is also passionate about using advanced quantitative methods and innovative research designs to answer complex questions about dyadic relationships. She has worked with daily-diary and longitudinal designs, as well as observational and dyadic data. For instance, Haylee has published work investigating the longitudinal impact of perception of peers’ engagement in casual sex, communication with peers about casual sex, and peer approval of casual sex on satisfaction both immediately following a casual sex encounter and a month after the encounter occurred. She also co-authored and a methods paper detailing how to assess measurement invariance for dyadic data and recently submitted a paper examining the psychometric properties of a multiple-informant measure for adolescent and young adult romantic partners.

In addition to her research interests, Haylee enjoys teaching and mentoring. She has pursued teaching opportunities and has been the primary instructor for adolescent psychology, quantitative methods, and writing in psychology. She also co-developed an online course on intimate relationships. Haylee enjoys working with undergraduate students and mentored an honors thesis on the late-adolescent romantic relationship outcomes of adoptees and those who have experienced foster care. She also mentored small groups of undergraduates who presented their work at regional undergraduate research conferences. Haylee looks forward to a career contributing to research and theory on adolescent development while mentoring future adolescent psychology researchers.

Please click here to view her CV.

March 2017

Amanda Griffin is a doctoral candidate in Human Development and Family Studies at the Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) under the supervision of Dr. H. Harrington Cleveland. She is passionate about research that uses innovative designs, such as genetically informed, longitudinal, ecological momentary assessments (EMA), to answer nuanced questions that probe person-by-context transactions. She has investigated transactional processes by examining (1) genetic influences on adolescent peer relationships, and (2) influences of individual differences on the effects of adverse environmental experiences – from child maltreatment to homelessness – on adolescent development. Her work examines transactional processes by investigating the moderating and mediating effects of individual characteristics on environmental experiences (i.e., specific genes, peers, and adversity).

As an undergraduate psychology major at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, she exemplified the University motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), by volunteering as phone support for the Raft Crisis Hotline and as an Emergency Advocate for the Women’s Resource Center. Although she thought her future was going to be dedicated to counseling and emergency services, as an undergraduate researcher her interest in the adolescent development was fostered by Dr. Caitlin Faas and resulted in her applying to and pursing a PhD in Human Development and Family Studies.

At Penn State, Amanda was selected to be a NIDA Prevention and Methodology Pre-Doctoral Fellow in the Prevention Research and Methodology Center. Her training and coursework transformed her into a rigorous and innovative scientist. She has received training in multiple genetically informed designs to examine genetic influences on adolescent peer relationships. She has used molecular genetic candidate gene-by-environment interactions to examine the moderating effects of specific genes on the association between peer relationships and later adolescent alcohol use. Her work has demonstrated that specific genes play a role in adolescent peer relationships through the process of socialization and selection. She has used a twin and an adoption design to disentangle genetic and environmental influences on peer relationships and the skills needed to form peer relationships, such as effortful control and social competence.

In the past 2 years, she has expanded her program of research to include person-by-context transactions that examine individual differences in the effects of adverse experiences on adolescent development. While collaborating with Dr. Chad Shenk – an expert in child maltreatment – she helped identify etiological pathways to child maltreatment, as well as best practices for researchers, practitioners, and public policymakers conducting research on maltreated children. With the assistance of Dr. Cleveland, an expert in using EMA designs with high-risk populations, she collected daily dairy data via smart phones from homeless adolescents to investigate individual differences in how youth negotiate the effects of risk and protective factors. This is the first study to examine the daily lives of homeless adolescents and demonstrated that there are unique effects of daily peer and teacher interactions on daily academic achievement and wellbeing.

During her time as a doctoral student, attending lectures by visiting scholars, job talks, and graduate student lunches have been extremely influential on her professional development. These experiences provided opportunities for applied learning and guidance in how to present research, but this is also where she received invaluable advice on professional development and an opportunity to network in a more intimate setting. It is important to remember, however, that the endless opportunities to meet with visiting scholars needs to be balanced with protecting your time to do research and setting realistic goals for how much can be accomplished in a day, week, or month.

Please click here to view her CV.

December 2016

Traci M. Kennedy is a postdoctoral associate at the University of Pittsburgh’s Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic. She earned her PhD in Clinical Psychology from the University of Michigan in 2013 with a certificate in Development, Psychopathology, and Mental Health. Broadly, Traci’s research centers on understanding the roles of chronic stress and contextual factors on youths’ well-being. Her work seeks to elucidate ways in which environmental risk and protective factors interact with individual-level factors (e.g., temperament, beliefs, values) as development unfolds. In particular, Traci is interested in the complex and dynamic impact of community violence exposure on adolescents’ well-being over time. More recently, Traci has begun examining risk and protective processes involved in the prospective link between ADHD and substance use through adolescence and into early adulthood. Her research is characterized by a strengths-based, resilience-focused approach, a multicultural lens, a developmental framework, and the purposeful selection of analytic methods that are best suited to answer these complex developmental questions.
As an undergraduate psychology major at the University of Pennsylvania, Traci became interested in the role of poverty-related stress on children’s development and well-being through her mentored research with Sara Jaffee, PhD. Her honors thesis, recognized by the Morris Viteles Award for excellence in undergraduate psychology research, examined children’s overestimation of school violence as a factor in their own externalizing behaviors.
Traci refined these interests further as a graduate student at the University of Michigan under the mentorship of Rosario Ceballo, PhD. Funded by a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, Traci conducted research on the relation between Latino adolescents’ community violence exposure and their psychological well-being. In particular, she focused on the protective effects of cultural values, such as familismo and respeto, in buffering these associations. Over the course of her work, she became increasingly interested in the complex measurement issues that arise in studying community violence exposure, as well as the dynamic and multidimensional ways in which violence exposure impacts young people. These realizations prompted Traci to gain expertise in advanced longitudinal modeling techniques, as well as to embrace the complementary strengths of qualitative research to understand how adolescents experience and are affected by exposure to violence. Thus, Traci’s dissertation tested the theory that youth may become desensitized to violence exposure over time by identifying a quadratic association between community violence exposure and internalizing symptoms (reflecting potential emotional desensitization), alongside a linear association with aggression and externalizing behaviors. Traci also pursued these interests internationally by designing a qualitative study of children’s and adolescents’ exposure to violence in Colombia. In collaboration with Enrique Chaux, EdD, Traci conducted 80 qualitative interviews that help elucidate the complex findings in her and others’ quantitative work. Traci has presented her work on these projects at SRA and SRCD conventions, as well as at other national conferences. She continues to collaborate on projects examining the role of community violence exposure on Latino youths’ well-being, including an ongoing study utilizing daily dairy methods to more accurately assess adolescents’ day-to-day experiences with neighborhood stressors.
Traci also has a keen interest in pediatric psychology, which she has pursued in both her research and clinical work. Through her predoctoral clinical internship at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Traci expanded her child/adolescent clinical skill set to pediatric psychology, gaining experience in the assessment and treatment of youth with various medical concerns. She also collaborated on a research project examining peer victimization among youth enrolled in a school-based violence prevention program. This training instilled a deep appreciation for fast-paced, interdisciplinary practice and research, which led Traci to complete a clinical postdoctoral fellowship at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. After completing her clinical training, Traci worked as a pediatric psychologist at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia where she contributed to multidisciplinary treatment for youth with Amplified Musculoskeletal Pain Syndrome (AMPS). While refining her clinical skills further in this position, Traci contributed to research seeking to understand the complex interplay among physical health symptoms, psychological well-being, and family functioning. She helped design and implement a longitudinal study examining how these factors change over time, both with and without treatment. One particularly intriguing focus of this research is on youths’ resilience in the face of chronic pain and the role of benefit-finding in promoting adaptive functioning.
In pursuit of additional advanced research training, Traci is currently completing a postdoctoral research position at the University of Pittsburgh with Brooke Molina, PhD and Andrea Howard, PhD. Her current work focuses on longitudinal modeling of individuals’ development from childhood through adulthood. Traci is working with data from the Multimodal Treatment Study of ADHD (MTA) and the Pittsburgh ADHD Longitudinal Study (PALS), examining the contextual factors in the development of substance abuse among those with ADHD from childhood through adolescence and adulthood. She is particularly interested in the roles of peer and family influences, as well as contextual stressors.
Alongside her research and clinical interests, Traci avidly enjoys teaching and mentoring. After completing a specialized certificate program in teaching and being honored with an Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor Award at the University of Michigan, Traci has since pursued rewarding teaching opportunities in such courses as Cultural Psychology, Developmental Psychology, and Psychopathology. Perhaps most rewarding, Traci has enjoyed supervising individual students’ research and capstone projects, as well as mentoring trainees at various stages of their professional development. Traci has embraced advocacy and community service activities as a way to bridge her research and clinical work to the community. As a volunteer with the Big Brothers, Big Sisters organization, Traci enjoyed mentoring her Little for several years. At The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Traci contributed to global health initiatives, including collaborative programming with community health workers and healthcare partners in the Dominican Republic serving young children. Currently, Traci volunteers with Casa San Jose, an organization that serves the social, educational, and mental health needs of recently immigrated Latino youth and their families. Indeed, most of Traci’s excitement during her training – and now early in her career – has emerged from the dynamic balance among the domains of research, practice, teaching, and advocacy. Outside of her professional activities, Traci enjoys spending time with family, running, traveling, writing, music, delicious food, and learning to root for Pittsburgh sports teams. She looks forward to contributing to research and practice on adolescent development as she continues to evolve and refine her interests as an early career professional.


Please click here to view her CV.

February 2016

Jacqueline (Jackie) Nesi is a doctoral student in the Clinical Psychology program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.   Her primary research interest is in examining the developmental and clinical implications of adolescents’ social media use.  In her work, she draws on traditional interpersonal models of developmental psychopathology, peer and romantic relationships, and mass media and communications theories.  Her program of research seeks to integrate and build on these perspectives in the study of adolescents’ modern technology-based social environments.
Jackie was awarded a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, which has allowed her to pursue a variety of research projects under the mentorship of Dr. Mitch Prinstein at UNC.  A sample of her recent studies includes: investigating the role of adolescents’ social-media based social comparison and feedback-seeking on the development of depressive symptoms; examining the influence of adolescents’ frequent communication with romantic partners via technology on the development of essential interpersonal communication skills; determining the longitudinal associations between adolescents’ exposure to peers’ alcohol-related social media postings and initiation of drinking milestones; and exploring adolescents’ use of social media to communicate with romantic partners about safer sexual behaviors.
Jackie is also interested in the development and application of novel methodologies in the study of adolescent social media use.  Most recently, Jackie designed and implemented a study combining daily diary measures of mood and behavior with real-time observational coding of participants’ social media pages.  Jackie has developed a coding system for use on adolescents’ Instagram pages and currently leads a team of research assistants in applying this coding system to a sample of over 300 participants.  Jackie is also interested in the application of more sophisticated data mining techniques to larger-scale social media networks.  Jackie has been thrilled to share her findings through publication in peer-reviewed journals, presentations at national conferences, and, most recently, attendance at the EARA/SRA Summer School in Atlanta, GA.
Jackie’s path to Clinical Psychology began as an undergraduate at Harvard University.  Working as a research assistant in the lab of Dr. Jill Hooley, Jackie was introduced to the world of clinical psychology and gained valuable quantitative and methodological research skills.  Outside of lab-based experiences, Jackie pursued her interests in adolescent development and psychology more broadly.  She was awarded a $4000 grant to intern in the Department of Public Affairs at MTV, specifically working on the company’s teen-centered Internet safety initiative.  She spent a semester volunteering in Huanchaco, Peru, at a home for adolescent boys with mental health and behavioral challenges.  She also spent multiple summers leading groups of high school students on international service and adventure trips.  During these trips, in which students were forced to be entirely “unplugged,” Jackie became convinced that modern technologies were fundamentally transforming the adolescent experience, and she became passionate about pursuing this topic through a career in research.
During her time at UNC, Jackie’s research has continued to develop in important ways.  She has received training in advanced statistical methodologies through a concentration in Quantitative Psychology.  She has also had the opportunity to learn from adolescents and college students in a variety of settings.  Her research is constantly informed by her clinical experiences with adolescents, including work with patients in an adolescent DBT program, outpatient anxiety disorders clinic, and high school-based practicum setting.  She has enjoyed independently teaching an undergraduate course and mentoring students, through supervision of multiple undergraduate honors theses and involvement in the APA Division 53 mentorship program. Finally, Jackie has been fortunate to collaborate with a number of talented colleagues across multiple disciplines.
Jackie believes that an investigation of social media use is critical to any comprehensive understanding of adolescent development, and she looks forward to continuing her research in the future!
Please click here to view her CV.

January 2016

Sophia Choukas-Bradley (“Sophie”) is a doctoral candidate in clinical psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She currently is completing her predoctoral clinical internship year at the Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, and she expects to receive her Ph.D. in 2016. Sophie’s research examines psychosocial influences on adolescents’ and young adults’ health risk behaviors, mental health symptoms, and wellbeing, with a focus on adolescent girls and young women. Her dissertation examined the roles of peer factors and gender in adolescents’ development of sexual behavior. She is passionate about understanding the complex intersection of sociocultural influences (e.g., gender and racial socialization; the changing social media landscape), interpersonal influences (including peers, romantic partners, and parents), and intrapersonal factors (e.g., gender; pubertal timing) on adolescent and young adult development.
Sophie’s educational trajectory has been shaped by research collaborations with investigators across multiple disciplines, including clinical, developmental, health, and social psychology, as well as public health and communication studies. She was introduced to psychology research during her undergraduate years at Brown University, where she worked with Dr. Jack Wright and Dr. Audrey Zakriski (of Connecticut College) on a longitudinal study of children’s and adolescents’ changes during short-term residential treatment for behavioral problems.
Under the mentorship of Dr. Mitch Prinstein at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Sophie’s research in graduate school has focused on interpersonal influences in adolescent development. More specifically, Sophie has used multiple methods to examine how peer influences shape adolescents’ development of health risk behaviors and mental health symptoms. Using both experimental and longitudinal study designs, Sophie has studied the roles of peer norms, peer status, and communication processes in adolescents’ sexual behaviors, substance use, disordered eating, prosocial behavior, and symptoms of depression.
Sophie defended her dissertation in the spring of 2015. This project used methods from social, developmental, and clinical psychology, to examine peer factors in the development of sexual behaviors, in a community sample of early adolescents in rural North Carolina. Pairing an experimental paradigm with a multi-year study design, the project examined gender and peer influence susceptibility as moderators of the longitudinal associations between peer norms and adolescents’ trajectories of numbers of coital and noncoital sexual behaviors. Sophie is fortunate to have had the support of dissertation grants from the American Psychological Foundation (Henry David Research Grant) and the Rural Center for AIDS/STD Prevention (Doug Kirby Adolescent Sexual Health Research Grant).
Committed to a multidisciplinary approach to understanding psychosocial factors in adolescents’ and young adults’ development, Sophie also collaborated with several other labs at UNC. For example, she has worked with Dr. Carolyn Halpern and her colleagues in the Gillings School of Global Public Health and Carolina Population Center, using the Add Health dataset to examine psychosocial predictors of adolescents’ and young adults’ sexual behaviors and romantic relationships. She also has collaborated with researchers in psychology and the School of Media and Journalism to examine adolescents’ sexual communication with parents and peers. Additionally, with several colleagues in the psychology labs of Dr. Mitch Prinstein and Dr. Anna Bardone-Cone, she has studied the roles of self-objectification processes in young women’s body image, disordered eating, and sexual behaviors.
Sophie’s research has been published in Child Development, Developmental Psychology, Journal of Youth and Adolescence, and Journal of Adolescence. She also is co-author on publications in Health Psychology, JAMA Pediatrics, Journal of Adolescent Health, Pediatric Psychology, Journal of Sex Research, Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, Cognitive and Behavioral Practice, International Journal of Eating Disorders, and Advances in Eating Disorders.
Sophie also is passionate about teaching, mentorship, and clinical supervision. She has greatly enjoyed teaching undergraduate and graduate courses, and serving as a supervisor and mentor to other students. She is grateful to have been recognized with several awards for teaching, research, and citizenship at UNC, and with a national award for teaching from the Society for a Science of Clinical Psychology. Following her current clinical internship year at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, she plans to pursue postdoctoral training and then a faculty position in psychology. She currently is working with Dr. Stephanie Stepp and colleagues in psychology and psychiatry at UPMC, and is examining adolescent girls’ and young women’s development of health risk behaviors and mental health symptoms in the Pittsburgh Girls Study, a community-wide project that has followed over 2,000 girls for fifteen years, with over-sampling in disadvantaged neighborhoods. Her current project focuses on the co-development of borderline personality disorder symptoms and sexual risk behaviors in adolescent girls and young women.
Please click here to view her CV.

October 2015

Elisa Trucco is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology and the Center for Children and Families at Florida International University. She has a unique background that combines clinical psychology, developmental psychopathology, substance use disorders, and strong quantitative methods. Her program of research is interdisciplinary and centers on understanding the etiology of substance use in adolescence from a social ecological perspective.
Elisa’s path to a faculty position in Psychology started with a conversation with her college academic advisor. Elisa was interested in applying to Ph.D. programs in Clinical Psychology so that she could treat adolescents with mental health problems. In order to be a more competitive applicant, it was recommended that she gain additional research experience. Elisa found a job opening for a position at McLean Hospital’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Treatment Program. Under the mentorship of Shelly Greenfield she worked on the design and evaluation of a manual-based group therapy tailored for women with substance use disorders. Little did she know that this is where she would find her passion.
After this experience, Elisa pursued Clinical Psychology programs that emphasized research and would combine her interests in adolescence and addiction. She found a great fit working with Craig Colder at the University at Buffalo. There, Elisa worked on two large R01 projects funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) examining developmental precursors of adolescent substance use. Her graduate work demonstrated that alcohol and cigarette use may meet different social needs across adolescents and identifying these motivations may be useful in creating specialized interventions. Youth with social status motivations are more susceptible to peers that smoke since they may find cigarette use as an effective way to project an image of dominance. Interventions addressing alternative ways to achieve a positive reputation may be most effective for these youth. In contrast, youth with belongingness motivations are more susceptible to peers that drink alcohol since they may find alcohol use as an effective way to project an image of someone who is social. These youth may be best supported by interventions focused on how to form lasting social connections.
After her doctoral work, Elisa was interested in gaining additional training in molecular genetics. She was selected for a T32 interdisciplinary fellowship through the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) and a T32 interdisciplinary fellowship through NIDA under the mentorship of Robert Zucker and Margit Burmeister through the University of Michigan. During her fellowship, Elisa explored the role of genetic variants outside of a risk framework. She found that the same genetic variant that was responsible for enhanced susceptibility to adverse contexts and increased substance use also increased sensitivity to positive contexts, such as prosocial peers and involved parents. These studies significantly contribute to the literature as they demonstrate that traditional conceptualizations of genetic variants as purely risk factors may be inaccurate.
Elisa received a number of accolades for her innovative research, including the Research Society of Alcoholism’s Enoch Gordis Research Recognition Award and the Young Investigator Award. Elisa recently received a Career Development award from NIAAA. With this grant Elisa will be the first to apply latent variable modeling to gene by environment research, an approach capable of addressing current pitfalls in traditional methodology. Her long-term goal is to translate this interdisciplinary research into practical applications for the improvement of existing prevention programs for youth.

Elisa thinks that the key to success is perseverance. It’s important to find something that you are passionate about and to surround yourself with people who inspire and support you. This will make all the difference.

Please click here to view her CV.

September 2015

Dr. Ryan Watson is a developmental scientist focused on identifying protective factors for vulnerable youth around the world. Ryan received his Ph.D. from the University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona and received his B.A. from UCLA in Los Angeles, California. His program of research was shaped by his experiences working with Drs. Sandra Graham and Jaana Juvonen at UCLA where he focused on the experiences of ethnic minorities in Los Angeles schools. While he helped lead data collection on a study that investigated bias-based bullying, he noticed that many students were bullied due to their actual and perceived sexual orientation, whether they identified as LGBT or not. Ryan turned to an expert in the field, Dr. Stephen Russell at the University of Arizona, to help him further explore the experiences of sexual minorities in the contexts of families and schools.
While at the University of Arizona, Ryan was funded by a National Science Foundation Pre-doctoral fellowship, which allowed him to study the experiences of this LGBT youth across the world. He seeks to understand the best ways that scholars, families, and policymakers can support the needs of this vulnerable population. During his doctoral program, Ryan traveled across the world to take the next steps to battle against stigma, discrimination, and bullying. For example, he attended the SRA/EARA Summer School in Utrecht, the Netherlands to immerse himself in topics pertaining to adolescent development. The National Science Foundation Graduate Research Opportunities Worldwide program and the Research Council of Norway funded him to travel to Trondheim, Norway to collaborate with a leading scholar in adolescent psychopathology, Lars Wichstrøm at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. Together, they used a database designed by Wichstrøm that traced the experiences of youth from 1992 to 2005. They compared these findings to a dataset that tracked more than 20,000 youth in the United States from 1994 to 2008, a project that became part of his dissertation.
Ryan is currently a post-doctorate fellow at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver; his supervisor is Elizabeth Saewyc. His position is made possible by a grant from the Canadian Institute of Health Research. He is a co-investigator on an NIH R-01 grant that explores multilevel protective factors for LGB youth in North America. He works to explore trends and patterns in health, emotional, and academic outcomes for sexual minorities in both the United States and Canada. Ryan continues to work with large data sets to understand disparities for subgroups of sexual minorities in academic institutions with enumerated anti-bullying policies and student clubs compared to schools that have minimal or no policies protecting sexual minorities.
In terms of advice for emerging scholars, Ryan’s experience in obtaining a post doctorate position was unique and might be applicable to future graduates. He was planning on stretching out his graduate career for five years to slowly develop his dissertation and delicately finesse its arguments and research questions.  However, in his fourth year he received a call for applications that described a Post Doctoral Fellow position that screamed his name. He knew Dr. Saewyc and knew it would be a perfect fit. But—there was a big problem: there was a requirement that all applicants held a Ph.D already. So he had to think outside of the box.
He inquired whether he could apply while he was still ABD. He was met with generous flexibility and was told he should apply anyway. In the end, the match was great between his program of research and the mission of the research centre. From this experience, he encourages Postdoc applicants to never feel limited or excluded from any opportunity. Many scholars are willing to work with peculiar or imperfect situations—all you have to do is ask! He was determined to pick a post doctorate position that fit his research interests but had something new to offer for his professional development. 
Please click here to view his CV.

June 2015

Meghan Martz is a doctoral candidate in Developmental Psychology at University of Michigan. Meghan’s primary research interests include studying the psychosocial and neural mechanisms that underlie substance use trajectories from late adolescence through early adulthood. Building upon research she began through a NIDA-funded T32 Substance Abuse Interdisciplinary Training Program, Meghan’s dissertation integrates the breadth and depth of two widely known, longitudinal studies on substance use: 1) The Monitoring the Future (MTF) study, a school-based, national-representative survey study of American youth, focused particularly on attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors pertaining to drug use and abuse; and 2) The Michigan Longitudinal Study (MLS), a prospective community-recruited study consisting primarily of families with parental substance use disorder. MLS also includes a neuroimaging sub-sample of participants studied longitudinally through fMRI assessments. Meghan’s research in survey research, psychosocial processes, and neuroimaging has been published in peer-reviewed journals and presented through guest lectures and at professional conferences.
Meghan’s diverse experiences leading up to entering Michigan’s doctoral program have enhanced her perspective on adolescent development and life as a researcher. As an undergraduate at Indiana University majoring in psychology and minoring in human development and family studies, Meghan enjoyed her role as a research assistant in Dr. John Bates’ Social Development Lab. Yet, Meghan’s experiences in Big Brothers Big Sisters and clinical coursework largely contributed to Meghan deciding to pursue a career as a psychotherapist. Thus, Meghan attained a Master’s degree in Clinical Social Work from University of Chicago. In this program, Meghan completed clinical internships at a LGBT community mental health center and at a hospital-based adolescent psychiatric program. While working as an individual-level and group-based therapist in the adolescent program, Meghan counseled several youth with comorbid mental health and substance use disorders. In this role, Meghan observed the prevalence of substance abuse and its devastating effect on the lives of her patients. She also observed how the many changes – social, emotional, biological – associated with adolescence and the transition to adulthood affected the well-being of these youth. Additionally, she saw the important role of research to inform developmentally-appropriate, empirically-based interventions.
Also during this time, Meghan worked as project director for the research lab of Dr. Dolores (Dodie) Norton through the Colver-Rosenberger Scholarship. Her work with Dr. Norton gave her a greater understanding of academia and a more “behind the scenes” perspective on the life of an academic researcher. Dodie’s influential teaching methods and passion for research contributed to Meghan realizing that as a professor she could continue using her clinical skills through teaching and mentoring students, while also conducting research. Upon deciding that she preferred to be a researcher rather than a clinician, Meghan strengthened her research skills as a project director for two projects in the University of Chicago Health Studies department. This role provided experience in fMRI research, where Meghan became fascinated with the use of neuroimaging, particularly fMRI, to better understand psychological and behavioral processes.
Meghan decided that pursuing a doctoral degree in developmental psychology at University of Michigan would be the best fit to study her research interests in the psychosocial and neural processes involved in substance abuse among adolescents and young adults. Given her background in social work, psychology, human development, and brain imaging research, Meghan joined the Population, Neurodevelopment, and Genetics (PNG) Collaborative at Michigan, which has given her a great opportunity to see how an interdisciplinary group of researchers can learn to speak each others’ languages and effectively address the same research question from different perspectives. Meghan’s experience in the T32 Substance Abuse Interdisciplinary Training Program and current dissertation research have strengthened her use of interdisciplinary methods, which she plans to continue through her career as a research scientist.
At Michigan, Meghan has worked primarily with Dr. John Schulenberg, the current president of SRA. Through his mentorship, she has not only strengthened her understanding of substance use research, but also learned the value of becoming more involved in professional societies, such as SRA. In 2012, Meghan was elected as an SRA Emerging Scholars Representative on the Consensus Committee, which has produced policy statements published in the Journal of Research on Adolescence. This summer, Meghan is eager to attend the EARA/SRA Summer School to strengthen the methodological approach of her dissertation research. Meghan’s advice for other emerging scholars is to take advantage of the many professional development opportunities and resources available through SRA. Not only are there a variety these opportunities at the biennial conference, but also year-round.
Please click here to view her CV.

February 2015

Jessie Rudi is interested in promoting positive youth development through supportive and involved parenting. Her research examines communication technology use within the parent-child relationship during adolescence and the transition to adulthood, and particularly how this use is related to family relationships and youth development. Her dissertation investigates how adolescents and parents use communication technology as part of the parental monitoring process (parental solicitation and child disclosure) in relation to parental knowledge and youth substance use and wellbeing. She has also examined how parents use technology to stay connected to multiple members of the family system, and ways in which online resources and programs can support parents and families. Her work has been published in peer-reviewed journals and presented at national conferences in the fields of youth development, cyberpsychology, college student development, Extension, and family consumer science.
Jessie was accepted into the nursing program at Penn State University in 2004, but quickly realized that a career in nursing was not for her after her first semester (let’s just say Organic Chemistry, Anatomy and Physiology didn’t go as well as she’d hoped). After quick pit stops in the major advising offices for Sociology, French, Religious Studies, and Psychology, Jessie stumbled upon Human Development and Family Studies. After the first day of HDFS 311: Interventions, she was hooked!
After finding her passion for learning about the myriad systems that influence who we are and who we become, Jessie was invited to join the Schreyer Honor’s College during her sophomore year, which meant she had to complete a research project. Luckily, her first honors seminar was led by Dr. Doug Coatsworth, who quickly scooped her up and became her honor’s advisor after learning of her interests in parenting, adolescent development, and prevention science. Jessie worked on Coatsworth’s Strengthening Families Program Initiative, a pilot study evaluating a mindfulness-enhanced version of The Strengthening Families Program (SFP 10-14). Jessie was involved in almost every aspect of implementing a randomized controlled trial, from conducting literature searches for appropriate measures, recruiting families to the project, collecting and cleaning data, and even implementing the program as a youth facilitator. Her involvement with this project showed Jessie that research is much more than working in a lab and crunching numbers; our work can truly have a positive, lasting impact for youth and families. Jessie attributes her passion for applied research to her first research experience working on this project.
While Coatsworth’s trial was focused on the parent curriculum and parents’ mindfulness, Jessie saw firsthand how the program was helpful for youth, particularly in how youth began to see their futures in more positive ways. She wrote her honor’s thesis on how youths’ future orientation was impacted by their participation in the program, and how intervention-targeted parenting practices moderated these changes.
Jessie is currently a doctoral candidate in Family Social Science at the University of Minnesota and plans to graduate in May 2015. She is involved in all phases of the Parenting 2.0 project under the direction of her Ph.D. advisor, Dr. Jodi Dworkin.  This project aims to better understand the ways in which, and the reasons why, parents use technology. Jessie has also worked with the After Deployment, Adaptive Parenting Tools (ADAPT) project led by Dr. Abi Gewirtz, an RCT evaluating a web-enhanced parenting program adapted for military families who have experienced deployment, particularly on the outreach, recruitment, and data collection phases of ADAPT. Jessie recently started working with Military REACH, a collaboration with the U.S. Department of Defense’s Office of Military Community and Family Policy and the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture that integrates research and outreach to support those who work with and on behalf of military families, led by Dr. Lynne Borden. Jessie joined the Emerging Scholars Committee of SRA in 2012 and in 2014, she was elected co-chair of the Emerging Scholars Committee and the next Emerging Scholar Representative to the Executive Council of SRA.
Jessie’s advice for fellow emerging scholars is to show up, be present, and get involved in your department, university, professional organizations (SRA!), and community. Yes, we’re all busy, but attending voluntary events and offering to help is a great way to network with potential colleagues and hear about new projects and collaborations. My involvement on many of the projects I’ve worked on began by attending a different project’s research meeting, a colloquium or local professional development event, or even an Emerging Scholars event at SRA’s biennial meeting. When new opportunities arise, your colleagues with think of you and your willingness to be involved and invite you to be a part of them.  Just saying “yes” when colleagues ask if you’re interested in something can lead to new experiences and collaborations.
Jessie can be contacted at Click here to view her CV.

December 2014

Katie Ehrlich is a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for Policy Research and the Department of Psychology at Northwestern University. She completed her PhD in 2012 at the University of Maryland.

Ehrlich’s research interests lie at the intersection of developmental, clinical, and health psychology, but her research training actually began in a physics lab the summer after her freshman year in college at Washington and Lee University. She signed on to work with a team that was trying to synchronize chaotic semiconductor lasers. “I quickly learned that I loved working in a research lab, but not a physics research lab.” Ehrlich soon made her way to the psychology department, where she found research opportunities in a newly formed cognitive aging lab. In this lab, Ehrlich worked directly with Dr. Wythe Whiting, who taught her about research design, data collection, statistical analysis, and writing papers for publication.

Ehrlich knew that she wanted to continue her research training in graduate school, but she was unsure about what she wanted to study. She recalls a sort of “a-ha” moment when she first learned about attachment theory: “At the end of the day, the message of attachment theory is simple: A child needs an available and responsive caregiver who will be there when the going gets tough.” Ehrlich was especially interested in how a dependable parent might be helpful for navigating the challenges of adolescents’ peer relationships, so she applied to work with Dr. Jude Cassidy at the University of Maryland, who was studying this research question at the time.

In graduate school, Ehrlich focused on parent-adolescent conflict—a frequent experience for many adolescents, and one that can foster open communication and problem-solving skills or resentment and hostility, depending on how the conflicts are discussed and resolved. In several studies, Ehrlich and Cassidy examined connections between parent-adolescent conflict and adolescents’ peer relationships, risk-taking behavior, and mental health. Ehrlich was also interested in why parents and adolescents often can’t even agree on what they disagree about, and she has conducted several studies to examine why these informant discrepancies persist.

As Ehrlich was reading and learning about connections among family relationships, peer relationships, and mental health, she came across studies showing links between these social factors and immune function and physical health in adulthood. She was particularly fascinated by Dr. Janice Kiecolt-Glaser’s research at Ohio State University on marital conflict and inflammation, and she began to wonder how parent-child relationships might affect inflammatory processes in adolescents.

After completing her PhD, Ehrlich started a postdoc with Drs. Greg Miller, Edith Chen, and Emma Adam to explore how adolescents’ social experiences might “get under the skin” to affect immune and endocrine processes in ways that might have implications for later health. This unique training experience has given Ehrlich a new set of research skills. She can now draw blood and prepare the samples for later analysis. Further, she has learned a lot about inflammation and its important role in the immune system. For instance, the inflammatory response is critical for survival and plays an important role in recovery from acute infections and injuries. But the inflammatory response must also be carefully regulated because if sustained in an unchecked manner, inflammation can bring about tissue damage and contribute to chronic diseases.

Ehrlich and her colleagues have conducted several studies that have examined connections between social experiences and inflammation. In one study, they found that observations of hostile parent-adolescent interactions are associated with the downregulation of key anti-inflammatory signaling molecules and difficulties with breathing in children with asthma. In another study, they charted the trajectories of adolescents’ relationship stress and found that some adolescents (ranging from 15-19 years old) who experience high levels of chronic stress are at risk for increasing inflammatory processes over time. In future projects, Ehrlich plans to examine how attachment may serve as a protective factor against the heightened inflammatory consequences associated with established risk factors, such as socioeconomic disadvantage and stress.

Ehrlich has been fortunate to receive pre-doctoral and postdoctoral funding support through NIH’s National Research Service Award (NRSA) program. She strongly encourages other emerging scholars to apply for fellowships and grants to support their own research. Ehrlich is grateful for funding mechanisms like the NRSA because the fellowships allowed her to chart her own research path. The process of applying was beneficial in itself, she says, because it “gave me practice in selecting an important research question to study, designing a study, and writing a competitive proposal—tasks that will be required throughout my research career.” Ehrlich recommends working closely with your advisor to develop a competitive proposal. She also benefitted from the advice of other peers who had already gone through the application process and could help answer questions about application rules and requirements.

To learn more about Katie Ehrlich and view her CV, please visit her website.

October 2014

Daphne van de Bongardt is a fourth-year PhD candidate at the Utrecht Centre for Child and Adolescent Studies of Utrecht University in the Netherlands. Before starting her PhD, she completed a bachelor’s degree in Socio-Cultural Sciences, a one-year academic master’s degree in Sociology, and a two-year research master’s degree in Educational Sciences. Throughout her multidisciplinary educational trajectory, she became increasingly interested and specialized in gender and sexuality research. Her three main topics of interest –adolescent sexual development, sexuality education, and LGB issues– are also reflected in her publication record.

Daphne’s interest in researching sexuality education was formed during an eight-month research internship at Rutgers WPF, the Dutch centre of expertise on sexual and reproductive health and rights. During this internship, Daphne explored sexuality education policies and practices in the Netherlands. Her findings were used to improve teachers’ preparation for sexuality education in Dutch teacher training colleges, and were reported in the Dutch journal Pedagogiek, as well as in English in the Society for International Education Journal.
During her research master’s in educational sciences program, Daphne was further trained as a researcher in the field of child development. In addition to acquiring sophisticated methodological and statistical skills, she also expanded her interest in researching LGB issues through a quantitative study on the attitudes of primary school teachers toward gay and lesbian parent families, and a qualitative study on first sexual experiences of same-sex attracted youth.
In her PhD research, Daphne investigates the mutual relationships between adolescent sexual development and general and sexuality-specific parenting processes and relations with peers. Daphne’s research project is part of the larger Project STARS (Studies on Trajectories of Adolescent Relationships and Sexuality), which is the first large-scale, multi-method, longitudinal study in the Netherlands that investigates sexual developments (i.e., behaviors, cognitions, emotions) during adolescence in relation to various contexts (i.e., individual characteristics, parenting, peers, Internet use). Together with her project colleagues Daphne collected four waves of longitudinal online questionnaire data among 1,297 adolescents from five age cohorts (11-18 years). In addition, she gathered semi-structured interview data from 50 adolescents and their parents, and video-observation data from 62 best friend dyads.
So far, her dissertation findings have already yielded valuable insights into the role of parents and peers in sexual developments during adolescence. Whereas her findings consistently identify a high-quality parent-adolescent relationship as a protective factor against early sexual initiation, she has found that sexuality-specific parenting (i.e., parent-adolescent communication about sexuality and parental approval of youth sexual activity) is more dynamically and bidirectionally related with developments in adolescent sexuality. In a meta-analysis of 58 international studies, which has recently received international media attention (e.g., in the US, India, Nigeria, Brazil, and on Reuters), she found that peers play a role in adolescent sexual behavior through adolescents’ perceptions of different types of social norms: descriptive norms (peers’ sexual behavior), injunctive norms (peers’ sexual attitudes), and peer pressure (explicit social pressure from peers to have sex). In another study she found that parent-adolescent communication about sexuality can function as a buffer for the effects of these sexual peer norms on adolescents’ own intention to have sex. Currently, Daphne and her co-researchers are coding video observations of adolescents’ discussions about sexuality-related topics to investigate how they construct sexuality-related norms in interactions with their best friends.
Besides her research activities, Daphne enjoys teaching. Since 2009, she has given various lectures, instructed workshops and workgroups, and supervised individual student papers and theses. Her teaching and supervision tasks were often closely intertwined with her research activities. Many graduate and undergraduate student assistants helped her with the recruitment of research participants and data collection. She has also trained numerous students to conduct semi-structured interviews and video-observations, and to code video-observation data. Besides teaching general academic skills, Daphne’s lectures are specifically focused on her research topics. Daphne admits that teaching such topics within general psychology courses can be challenging, as there is always more to teach than there is time. She therefore hopes that one day she can design an entire course on sexual development and socialization.
Throughout her educational and professional trajectory, Daphne has always been interested in cross-cultural learning. As a bachelor’s student, she studied in Budapest, Hungary, for a one-semester Erasmus Exchange. As a PhD candidate, she has attended various international conferences, and was selected for two international doctoral summer schools organized by the League of European Research Universities (LERU) and the Society for Research on Adolescence (SRA) and the European Association for Research on Adolescence (EARA). In 2014, she visited the Department of Sexology of the Université du Québec à Montréal in Canada, for a two-month international work visit, which was supported with a Canadian Student Research Award from the Association for Canada Studies in the Netherlands (ACSN). She is looking forward to many more valuable international collaborations.
After finishing her dissertation in December 2014, Daphne will continue her research on youth sexual development in social contexts as a postdoctoral researcher. Her advice for other emerging scholars: Follow your own interests, work hard, and say yes to everything that may help you achieve your goals.


September 2014

Dalal Katsiaficas is a doctoral candidate in the Human Development and Psychology program in the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies at UCLA. Prior to coming to UCLA in 2012, Dalal completed her B.S. and began her doctoral studies in the department of Applied Psychology at NYU Steinhardt’s School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. Currently, Dalal is a research associate at the Institute for Immigration, Globalization & Education at UCLA led by Drs. Carola Suárez-Orozco & Robert Teranishi.
Throughout her career, Dalal has worked with diverse immigrant-origin populations in a variety of settings, including adolescents in high schools that exclusively serve recently-arrived immigrant students, and emerging adults in community and four-year college settings. In these positions, she recognized that the unique needs of immigrant-origin students were often going unmet in their educational institutions. As a researcher, course instructor, and mentor to undergraduates she witnessed the struggles that many of her students faced in balancing the competing responsibilities of managing family obligations, working part-time to support themselves and their families, and navigating a combination of challenges presented by their educational settings. There was a great need for guidance, mentorship and opportunities for undergraduates to prepare for paths to graduate school and beyond.
As a doctoral student at NYU, Dalal began intensively mentoring undergraduates to prepare them for graduate school, and to present their independent research at an undergraduate research conference which she co-chaired. In addition, she taught a series of undergraduate research and writing courses and served as a committee member to the undergraduate program in her division. In recognition of these efforts, she was awarded the Distinguished Teaching Award in Applied Psychology at NYU in 2012. In addition, in 2014 she was selected as a junior mentor in the SRA Young Scholars Program.
These hands-on experiences informed her dissertation questions. Dalal’s dissertation is the first study of its kind to examine the role of competing family, community and work responsibilities on the academic engagement of immigrant-origin students in community college contexts. Initial results from her mixed-method investigation reveal that for immigrant-origin students, emerging into adulthood is a time of juggling multiple competing social responsibilities on top of the demands of school (Katsiaficas, Suarez-Orozco, Dias, 2014). She is currently exploring the role of these responsibilities on the academic engagement of immigrant-origin community college students. Her work serves to inform social and policy change in institutions to better meet the needs of their students.
In 2013, Dalal was selected as a Junior Scholar for the European Association for Research on Adolescence/Society for Research on Adolescence International Summer School for her dissertation proposal. In 2014, she won the SRA Student Poster Award prize for her preliminary dissertation work. Most recently, Dalal received the Dissertation Year Fellowship at UCLA to support the completion of her dissertation.
Integrating theories and methods from developmental, social and educational psychology, Dalal’s program of research broadly explores questions such as: How do immigrant students engage in their schools, families and communities? How do immigrant students forge identities in contentious socio-political contexts? What role does context play in shaping their engagement and their identities? Taken together, these frameworks inform her work on the interplay of two main lines of research inquiry: social and academic engagement and the multiple identities of immigrant-origin youth.
Dalal is ambidextrous, both quantitatively and qualitatively skilled with a publication record that reflects her diverse abilities. Most notably, Dalal published articles on pluralistic narrative analysis with hyphenated social identities of immigrant youth, theoretical frameworks for understanding the developmental dilemmas of undocumented children as well as women, a moderated mediation model of social support and acculturative stress for immigrant adolescents (please see CV for details).
Dalal’s commitment to socially meaningful issues that face diverse adolescents and young adults is demonstrated in her scholarly agenda. These efforts were recognized last year when she was awarded the George Kneller Prize for exemplary social justice research at UCLA.
Currently, Dalal is working as part of a national study of undocumented immigrant college students ( to understand their diverse experiences, and to inform campus practices and local and national policy. To aid in promoting educational access and equity for undocumented students, Dalal created an undergraduate summer research program rooted in a participatory action research framework.  The aim of the program was to provide research training and graduate school preparation for undocumented undergraduates and conduct socially meaningful work to inform change on campus. The program successfully ran this year. In recognition of these efforts, Dalal was awarded the Merlin C. Wittrock award for outstanding research and leadership at UCLA.


After completing her dissertation this year, Dalal will continue her research with undocumented young people and launch a study of immigrant youth in the transition from high school to college pipeline. For more information about Dalal’s work and research please visit


July 2014

Jama Shelton is the Director of the Forty to None Project at the True Colors Fund. Her primary research interests include: LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness, with a focus on transgender and gender non-conforming youth; understanding the ways heterosexism and cisgenderism[1] shape organizational culture and practices and the impact on LGBTQ youth; and the development of youth appropriate methods for enumerating the population of youth experiencing homelessness.  Jama takes a developmental approach to better understanding this population. “We don’t have an identified best practice for counting youth experiencing homelessness, and our best estimates of the population are based on studies from the late 1990s,” she says. “Like in so many other domains, we know that youth experiencing homelessness are not small adults experiencing homelessness.  Our methods for enumerating the adult homeless population are not appropriate for enumerating the population of unaccompanied youth. A more accurate number is critical to planning and scaling a response to youth homelessness at the federal, state, and local levels.” Jama’s research bridges practice with policy to best serve the needs of LGBTQ youth, especially those with unstable housing.

Jama described her educational path as much “curvier” than many people she knows.  She says, “I used to think of it as full of detours, but now I see how each part of the path was actually an important part of the journey.”  Jama received an undergraduate degree in Theatre Arts, which led her to working creatively with LGBTQ youth on community arts projects that elevated their voices and educated the community about their needs and experiences.  Inevitably during the creative process of developing pieces for performance, at least one young person would disclose a history of trauma or abuse – things Jama did not feel equipped to deal with as a young 20-something armed with a theatre degree, so she made the decision to pursue a degree in social work. After working as an MSW with LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness at a social service agency in NYC, Jama became increasingly frustrated with the systems that were ill-equipped to work with LGBTQ youth in affirming ways.  She saw the young people in her program, especially transgender and gender non-conforming youth, encounter the same barriers over and over again.  Jama wanted to shift the focus of her work to the macro level so that she could address systemic barriers to equal access and care for LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness.  Her direct practice experiences motivated her to enroll in the Social Welfare PhD program at the CUNY Graduate Center.  The structure of the program was ideal, enabling Jama to continue working at her agency, so that what she was learning directly informed her work with LGBTQ young people and vice versa.     

Jama is currently the Forty to None Project Director at the True Colors Fund, whose mission is to end LGBT youth homelessness.  They work towards this mission by focusing on systemic change efforts and translating those efforts into tools and resources for people who work with LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness.  Jama says she could not have created a better position for herself!  “I am working on so many projects, and am excited about every single one!”

For instance ,Jama is working on the technical assistance team for The LGBTQ Youth Homelessness Prevention Initiative, supported by an interagency team including federal partners from the U.S. Departments of Education, Health, Housing and Urban Development, and Juvenile Justice, as well as USICH.  The initiative’s goal is to prevent homelessness among LGBTQ youth, and to intervene early when homelessness occurs for these youth. Two communities—Hamilton County (Cincinnati), Ohio; Harris County (Houston), Texas—are participating in this multi-year initiative. Ultimately, this initiative will further federal efforts to end youth homelessness by 2020.

Jama is currently piloting the “Inclusion Assessment Tool,” a tool for agencies to assess their current level of inclusive and affirming care for LGBTQ youth – everything from the physical space to the formal policies and programs offered to the informal procedures with the organization. Jama recently assisted with data collection for a national survey of homeless youth service providers and, in collaboration with the Williams Institute, the True Colors Fund will be updating their report, Serving Our Youth, about the experiences of homeless youth organizations in providing services to LGBTQ youth. In addition, Jama will help organize the first National Summit on LGBTQ youth homelessness (True Colors Fund’s Forty to None Summit) this Sept. 30th.

Critical to her work at the True Colors Fund is a focus on breaking down silos and building bridges between systems.  “This shouldn’t be unique, but is when working in the non-profit sector,” Jama says. “Not providing direct services affords us the opportunity to focus on supporting those that do, and part of that is finding ways to build bridges, facilitate connections, and streamline work.”

In her own research, Jama is interested in ways to utilize technology for both research and training purposes.  She is currently working on a grant application to fund a pilot study examining the use of social media to engage and retain youth experiencing homelessness in research. She uses qualitative methods to better understand the unique experiences of transgender and gender non-conforming young people.  Though some of their experiences may mirror their LGB counterparts, Jama hopes to capture the nuance of some of their experiences through qualitative interviews.  Jama is also interested in arts-based research methods with LGBTQ youth.  For example, her dissertation utilized the visual method of mapping along with individual interviews, to better understand the experiences of transgender youth who were unstably housed.

Jama’s advice to other emerging scholars is to be open to new and varied opportunities. She never intended to work in the non-profit sector after completing her PhD. However, the position seemed like the best next step towards making systems more responsive to the needs of LGBT youth experiencing homelessness. In this position, Jama is able to continue using her research and policy analysis skills to make real change in the lives of the populations she cares most about.  “Through collaborative relationships with university partners, I am able to continue honing my skills,” she says.  “And I work as an adjunct, because I love to teach!”


May 2014

Rachel Hershberg is a Research Assistant Professor at the Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development (IARYD) in the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study and Human Development at Tufts University. She began her work at Tufts as a post-doctoral fellow in June 2012.

Throughout her educational trajectory, Rachel has sought to better understand the positive development of diverse youth and families, with a particular focus on the strengths of migrant youth. She received her B.A. in Psychology and Middle Eastern Studies from Hampshire College. After college, Rachel served in Americorps, working at a refugee agency in Louisville, KY, where she grew up. At the agency, Rachel worked with youth and families from the Sudan, Liberia, Myanmar, the Congo, Turkey (among other nations), liaising with schools to coordinate services that met the unique strengths and challenges of refugee youth.

Following this experience, Rachel decided to pursue her Ph.D in Applied Developmental and Educational Psychology, as well as her Certificate in Human Rights and International Justice, at Boston College. Under the mentorship of Brinton Lykes, Rachel collaborated in participatory and action research projects with immigrant community organizations and families in the U.S. and in Guatemala. Through her research experiences, Rachel engaged with communities in the process of using research as a tool for social change, studying U.S. immigration and deportation policies and practices and their impacts on migrant and transnational families. Rachel focused in particular on understanding the resources youth and families leveraged to combat challenges related to the maladaptive practices involved in deportation, and transnational processes more generally. In her dissertation, Rachel detailed family processes for separated families, such as how families maintained connections during periods of prolonged separations. She also explored how critical awareness informed the positive development of these families and buffered some of the negative impacts associated with separation due to immigration and deportation. In her research with migrant youth, Rachel has found that children and adolescents reflect on the unfairness of the immigration system and its consequences for their families. “I observed that youth as young as ten years of age can articulate how their relatives’ experiences in the U.S. are related to structural inequalities that permeate both the immigration and criminal justice system,” she said.

Rachel came to the IARYD in 2012 to enhance her knowledge of positive youth development (PYD) and to explore potential connections between theories of PYD and critical consciousness development. Currently, Rachel is the Qualitative Project Director of several ongoing mixed-method research projects at the IARYD (Directed by Richard M. Lerner), including the Character and Merit Project and the Assessment of Character in Young Men. These projects are funded by the John Templeton Foundation and examine positive youth development in unique educational contexts in the U.S.

In this work, Rachel has retained her focus on the positive development of youth from diverse backgrounds. For example, within the ACT study, she is seeking to understand the role of critical consciousness in the positive development of young men from low-income backgrounds. Driven by her orientation toward social justice and human rights, Rachel uses community-based and qualitative methodologies to study systems of human development.

Rachel has taught graduate courses in qualitative methods as well as a practicum in Human Development, which was an applied/service learning course that explored social issues in the working world with undergraduate and master’s students, as part of their service-learning experiences. Rachel has also assisted with teaching seminars in human rights. Rachel enjoys mentoring students to help them identify their strengths and passions in the study of human development. Rachel’s work is about building bridges, whether between qualitative and quantitative methodologies, communities and institutions, or across disciplines. Her advice for emerging scholars is to seek out collaborative research opportunities. “Learn from scholars who are doing this work from different perspectives and with different knowledge bases,” she says, “and seek out more holistic partnerships.”


November 2013

Luke Rapa

Luke Rapa is a third-year doctoral student at Michigan State University in the Educational Psychology and Educational Technology program. Before coming to MSU, Luke completed a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in English literature. “Literature has the capacity to speak to the human condition,” he said. While Luke enjoyed this aspect of studying literature – thinking about the development of characters, and the challenges and circumstances that reflect human experience – Luke is at home within the field of Psychology, which he feels is better aligned with his interests and talents.

Luke’s research focuses on the sociocultural and sociopolitical factors that influence learning and development.  Luke is interested, for example, in learning about how marginalized peoples’ analyses of their social conditions can lead to subsequent action to change perceived inequalities. Towards this end, he has worked with Matthew Diemer, his advisor and an Associate Professor at MSU, to develop a measure of critical consciousness. This measure is currently under review.

In another project, Luke is currently investigating a model of pathways to academic achievement. The model involves the exploration of the relationships between contextual factors (teacher discrimination, classroom environment, and parental racial socialization) and individual factors (racial identity, academic self-competence, and valuing of school), and academic performance. Preliminary findings from this study indicate that teacher discrimination does not affect all students’ achievement motivation, indexed by academic self-competence and value, in the same way. For instance, among African American students in the sample, significant negative associations were seen between teacher discrimination and academic self-competence and valuing of school for students with higher parental racial socialization. On the other hand, no significant associations were found between teacher discrimination and academic self-competence and valuing of school for students with lower parental racial socialization.

Luke’s early work on socio-contextual predictors of achievement earned him a third-place award at the 2013 American Education Research Association Division D ‘In-Progress Research Gala’ and he has plans to return to AERA in 2014 to present the final results of his study. Luke admits that the findings from this research raise more questions than they answer about the nature of the relations among classroom context, parental socialization, and achievement for minority students. However, he hopes that his work helps educators and parents better understand what keeps kids motivated and engaged in school, as well as raises awareness about sociocultural variables that affect learning in the classroom.

While Luke is deeply engaged in his research, he is committed at the same time to the educational success of the undergraduate students in his own classroom. Luke teaches a course on the intersection of technology, learning, and leadership, where he and his students explore their roles as technology leaders in schools to ensure that the focus remains on learning and that learning is not eclipsed by technology.

To support his teaching and scholarship, Luke has received several fellowships throughout his graduate career. When asked about advice or “lessons learned”, Luke says he is reminded of some advice one of his professors gave: the number of successful funding applications corresponds directly with the number of applications submitted! Luke says to be prepared by knowing what your interests and goals are, so that you can quickly respond to funding opportunities, many of which have close deadlines.

Only in his third year as a Ph.D. student, Luke is able to articulate his program of research clearly and passionately. When asked about the future, he says he is working towards a career that allows him to continue teaching and conducting research, while spending more quality time with his wife, Sarah, and son, Jonah.

Click here for more information about Luke and access to his CV.

Spotlight written by Kristina Schmid Callina and Carolyn Spellings

The Emerging Scholar Spotlight Archive

July 2013

Elizabeth P. Shulman

Conventional wisdom that risk-taking increases during adolescence and then tapers off in early adulthood is substantiated by research across a range of disciplines. The reasons for this age-graded pattern are still unclear: we observe that adolescents are engaging in more dangerous behaviors even as their abilities to reason about consequences are improving. As psychologists continue to debate the underlying mechanisms of risky decision-making processes during adolescence, one emerging scholar stands out for her work on reconciling theories of adolescent decision-making. Elizabeth Shulman, who received her Ph.D. in Psychology and Social Behavior at the University of California, Irvine, is bringing advances in developmental neuroscience to bear on the issue. Her dissertation, titled, Deciding in the Dark: Developmental Differences between Adolescents and Adults in Unconscious Decision-Making, explores non-conscious decision-making processes across the adolescent period.

Dr. Shulman is interested in risky decision-making as a normative part of adolescent development, and also studies psychological and policy issues dealing with one extreme form of risk-taking – delinquency. Moreover, she is interested in the biological- and social-development factors that influence adolescent risk judgment and decision-making.  To accommodate her many talents and the broad reaches of her scholarship, Elizabeth is a Postdoctoral Fellow at two institutions. She holds one position at the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania, where she works with Angela Duckworth; and another in the Department of Psychology at Temple University, with Laurence Steinberg.

Working across both institutions has given Dr. Shulman a more multifaceted understanding of adolescence. While much of her original work focused on adolescents’ psychosocial deficits, she has come to appreciate the second decade as a period of promise. She is motivated to learn more about how researchers can leverage the plasticity and flexibility of adolescents’ brains and beliefs to optimize their developmental trajectories.

Elizabeth discovered her love for statistics in graduate school, where she minored in Quantitative Methods. She addresses many of her research questions using longitudinal data analysis methods. When asked how she stays current on data analytic techniques, she recommends two strategies. First, always be practicing! Second, Elizabeth finds that best way to learn something is to teach it, so she recommends finding ways to share knowledge with others. For example, in grad school she founded a “Stats and Snacks” peer tutoring group, where students could share what they were learning and pick up new methods.

Dr. Shulman emphasized that in all aspects of academic work, it is important to remember to be generous with one’s time and knowledge. This sort of collaboration is a win-win, she says: not only does it give you the opportunity to exchange ideas with fellow researchers, but it also pushes you to clarify information and articulate ideas, thereby advancing your own understanding of the material.

What stands out most about Elizabeth’s CV  is the number of funding awards she has received over the course of her career. Put in the time to seek out funding, Elizabeth says, especially for small grants that are not well-publicized. More importantly, though, she says that the art of explaining one’s research question and why it is important should be practiced and refined throughout one’s career. The ability to explain one’s research to any audience, and to help them understand its relevance to their goals, is critical not only for persuading funders but also for helping practitioners and policy-makers translate one’s research into effective policies and programs.

Dr. Shulman is happy to see research on risky decision-making filtering into policy, for example through changes in laws related to age limits on driver’s licenses and the treatment of youthful offenders. Elizabeth believes that innovative research is particularly needed in the area of decision-making: because so much risk taking is done reactively or “in the dark”, education alone is not enough to help youth avoid risky behaviors that could lead to undesirable outcomes.

In the future, Elizabeth hopes to obtain a faculty position at a research university so she can continue to investigate developmental change in non-conscious aspects of decision-making and the influence of biological and social factors on adolescents’ and young adults’ choices.

For more on Dr. Shulman’s findings, look for her most recent article on age differences in intuitive risk judgment (Shulman & Cauffman, 2013) in Developmental Psychology.

Elizabeth’s CV


April 2012

Vanja Lazarevic

Vanja Lazarevic is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Psychology at the Refugee Trauma and Resilience Center in the Department of Psychiatry at Boston Children’s Hospital. Her primary research interests relate to the health and well-being of immigrant youth and families: Vanja’s dissertation work at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign focused on the effects of language brokering on parent-child relationships in immigrant families from Eastern Europe. As an undergraduate Psychology major, Vanja was not familiar with Human Development and Family Studies, but discovered that her scholarly interests were best explored in the context of developmental theory and methods.

Dr. Lazarevic is an exemplary emerging scholar and leader in the study of adolescent development. In graduate school, she received numerous teaching awards and research fellowships. In 2008, she co-founded the Eastern European Focus Group within the National Council on Family Relations. More recently, she was the editorial assistant to the lead guest editor, Dr. Marcela Raffaelli, on the Special Issue of the Journal of Research on Adolescence, “Adolescents in the Majority World”. This special issue highlights research pertinent to the lives of adolescents in “majority world nations”, that is, youth representing Asia, Africa, and Latin America and the Caribbean.

While the training, mentorship, and education at the University of Illinois has prepared her well for the current position, Vanja is looking forward to learning new research methods and gaining additional experience as a post doc. For example, community participatory research is a new approach for her. Community leaders at each site will assist the research team in building relationships with the community members and with potential participants by offering feedback on interview protocol, research methods, and recruitment. In addition, cultural brokers will provide guidance on translating the research into practical tools that can be used by educators and other practitioners to help them better understand the unique experiences of refugees.

In her current position, Vanja is working on a research project with refugee youth from Somalia.  This longitudinal, multi-site research study, directed by Dr. Heidi Ellis (PI), investigates how the refugee experiences lead to diverse outcomes. Many of the youth involved in the study share similar refugee experiences, yet some become involved in destructive behaviors, such as gang violence and delinquency, while others move toward more resilient outcomes, such as civic engagement and positive mental health. The research takes a community participatory perspective, which includes working with Somali community leaders to ensure the community is part of the research. The research team involved in the project has been working with the Somali refugee population in Boston for over 10 years, and has established a trustworthy relationship with the community.

For Vanja, the process of translating the research into practice is especially interesting. The research team at the Refugee Trauma and Resilience Center recently developed a toolkit that trains practitioners who work with refugees about issues of war-related trauma and mental health. The training helps individuals working with refugee youth to become familiar with experiences of refugee populations. The long-term goal of the research program is to develop similar toolkits and other training opportunities for each community involved in the project.

Vanja’s advice to Emerging Scholars is to always be proactive. She recommends that students and early-career researchers shouldn’t just settle into their current research, but should explore various areas for involvement, including teaching and leadership roles. “Be hungry for opportunities and knowledge,” she said, “Be constantly seeking as many different opportunities as you have time for!” Vanja said that networking is extremely important, as is being open to new ideas and opportunities. In the future, she plans to pursue a position as a faculty member at a research university. However, she says that she is excited about her current position which will expose her to new experiences, and she is looking forward to where her current path will take her.

Click here to view Vanja’s CV. 

November 2012

Sara Vasilenko

Sara Vasilenko is a post-doctoral fellow at The Pennsylvania State University. Primarily, her research interests center on sexual behavior and mental health in adolescence. Sara earned her doctorate in Human Development and Family Studies, also from Penn State, and her recent career has brought a new, interdisciplinary focus to her work. She holds a unique joint position, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, in both the Prevention Research Center and the Methodology Center. The joint position allows Sara to combine her two areas of concentration: the individual development of adolescents’ sexual behaviors, and research methods for analyzing longitudinal data.

Sara’s interests in adolescent sexual development began with a concern for gender differences and women’s health issues; in particular, gender differences in standards for sexual behaviors, as well as differences between males and females in experiencing the consequences of sexual behaviors. To the extent that research could identify circumstances in which sexual experiences might be more positive, Sara believed that she could impact mental health outcomes for young women.

Sara says her interest in methodology was totally by chance. Originally an English major as an undergraduate at Kalamazoo College in Michigan, she never expected that she would have a career as a developmental methodologist. “Experience with different methods of data analysis can impact the questions you ask and conclusions you draw,” Sara said. She pursued her doctorate in developmental science, and her current methodological interests relate to using intensive longitudinal data to better understand different contexts of sexual behaviors throughout the course of adolescent relationships.

Sara’s latest project involves an application of time-varying effect modeling (TVEM) with data on young adult sexual behaviors. TVEM allows the researcher to estimate the time-varying associations between two variables at different points along a continuous timeline. For example, the amount of time a woman is in a relationship is associated with condom use, and thus predictors of condom use may vary at different points in the relationship. Sara hopes that modeling these relations will inform efforts to promote positive sexual development among young people.  She recognizes the difficulty in influencing the sexual health of adolescents, due to the controversy that can exist around sexual health education and the potential gap between research and practice. Nevertheless, Sara is primarily concerned with gaining accurate information about positive and negative experiences of sex among young people, and in disseminating that information to practitioners who will use it to frame sexual health programming. With respect to this latter goal, Sara says that it is important for researchers to learn how to discuss their work in lay terms.

In the future, Sara hopes to find a faculty position where she may continue her research in human development and hopefully teach, as well. She hopes to see the direction of the field of human development moving toward more of an emphasis on combined substantive and methodological training, recognizing the importance of interdisciplinary work and bringing multiple perspectives to one’s research. Sara’s advice to Emerging Scholars is to be proactive about your career by reaching out to others in the field and networking as much as possible. She says that sometimes, getting what you want from your professional development is just a matter of asking!

Click here for Sara’s CV.

 July 2012

Kirsten Gilbert

Kirsten Gilbert is a 4th Year Clinical Psychology Graduate Student at Yale University, primarily advised by Dr. Susan Nolen-Hoeksema and also affiliated with the Positive Emotion & Psychopathology Lab under Dr. June Gruber. She received a bachelor’s degree in Human Biology from Stanford University, and a master’s degree in Clinical Psychology from Yale University.

Much of the research examining emotion regulation in children and adolescents focuses on negative emotion regulation and a lack of cognitive control to down-regulate heightened negative emotion. Kirsten explains that to better understand why adolescence is the lifetime peak period for the onset of psychopathology, we need to examine ways adolescents can adaptively regulate both negative and positive emotion, rather than simply focusing on the negative.

Kirsten’s exciting program of research examines how positive emotion regulation in particular may be adaptive for adolescents and also how its dysregulation may lead to clinical pathology. For example, her current work examines the role of positive emotion in stress recovery in adolescent females.  In this experimental study, participants are induced with different emotional states after a lab stressor. Kirsten hypothesizes that adolescents who are induced into a positive emotional state after a stressor will both subjectively and physiologically recover faster compared with adolescents who experience a neutral or sad emotional state following the stressor.

Kirsten is particularly interested in understanding different strategies that target and increase positive emotion in adolescents, such as mindfulness and physical activity, as well as how negative and positive emotion regulation interact in these processes. She enjoys running, swimming, and teaching spinning classes in her free time as ways to increase her own positive emotion.

As an alumna of the EARA/SRA Summer Schools, Kirsten notes that her engagement in SRA has provided a foundation from which to better understand and incorporate a developmental approach to her study of adolescent clinical psychology.

For a full review of Kirsten’s accomplishments thus far, please access her C.V. by clicking here. Reach Kirsten by emailing

Select publications:

Gilbert, K. E.  (in press).  The neglected role of positive emotion in psychopathology.  Clinical Psychology Review.

Gilbert, K. E., Kalmar, J. H., Womer, F. W., Markovich, P. J., Pittman, B., Nolen-Hoeksema, S., Blumberg, H. P. (2011).  Impulsivity in adolescent bipolar disorder.  Acta Neuropsychiatrica, 23, 57-61.

Joormann, J., Gilbert, K., & Gotlib, I.H.  (2010). Emotion identification in girls at high risk for depression.  Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 51(5) 575-582.

 May 2012

Christopher Hafen
Post Doctoral Research Associate
University of Virginia

Christopher Hafen received his bachelor’s degree from San José State University, and then went on to receive both his Master’s degree and PhD from Florida Atlantic University under the guidance of Dr. Brett Laursen.

Adolescence is a period highlighted by relationship changes, and Christopher is particularly interested in understanding the function and development of close relationships in adolescence, and the ways in which context and individual differences drive changes in close relationships over time. For example, some of his recent research examines the relationship difficulties of disagreeable youth, using longitudinal multi-method data to show that being disagreeable in interactions with friends at age 14 predicts not only poorer relationships with friends at age 16 but also poorer romantic relationships at age 21. He notes that these findings highlight not only the considerable difficulties these youth have with relationships, but also the ways in which patterns formed with friends follow individuals into future relationships.

Bridging the gap between research and practice can be challenging, and his recent work with an educational intervention ( has shaped a new interest in understanding the broader contexts that best support adolescent development and learning.  He currently coordinates an ongoing randomized control trial that is testing the intervention’s effectiveness at improving teacher-student interactions and thus student outcomes.

Membership at the Society for Research of Adolescence has also played an important role in his career development, through opportunities such as the 2009 SRA/EARA Summer School at the University of British Columbia, in which he participated as an emerging scholar. He notes that this event provided a unique opportunity to form relationships to be carried throughout his career.

Christopher can be reached For a full review of Christopher’s accomplishments thus far, please click here for his C.V.

Select Publications:

Hafen, C. A., DeLay, D., & Laursen, B. (2012).  Transformations in friend relationships across the transition into adolescence.  In B. Laursen & W. A. Collins (Eds.), Relationship Pathways:  From Adolescence to Young Adulthood (pp. 69-90).  Thousand     Oaks, CA: Sage.

Hafen, C. A., Laursen, B., Kerr, M., Stattin, H., & Burk, W. J. (2011).  Stable friends, unstable friends, and homophily: Similarity breeds constancy. Personality and   Individual Differences, 51, 607-612. Laursen, B., & Hafen, C. A. (2010).  Future directions in the study of close relationships: Conflict is bad (except when it’s not).  Social Development, 19, 858-872.

Hafen, C. A., & Laursen, B. (2009).  More problems and less support:  Early adolescentadjustment forecast changes in perceived support from parents.  Journal of Family Psychology, 23, 192 – 203.

January 2012

Taveeshi Gupta

Taveeshi Gupta is a 4th year doctoral student in the Developmental Program at the Department of Applied Psychology at New York University. She received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in psychology from University of Delhi. Traversing national and cultural boundaries is a major feature of Taveeshi’s exciting program of research.

Undaunted by challenges, Taveeshi leads a three-year, longitudinal, mixed-methods research study of adolescents and their families being conducted in New Delhi, India. Taveeshi recruits participants, trains volunteer data collectors, and collects data in New Delhi. She goes to great lengths to accommodate families’ needs, even if it means driving from one end of the city to the other or doing four interviews in one day! Taveeshi does all of this while balancing course work and research projects at NYU.

Her combined experiences in New York and India offer incredible learning opportunities. According to Taveeshi, “I get to travel to another country and see first-hand the cultural variations in adolescent development. This is particularly important as the field of developmental psychology is slowly expanding theories of adolescent development to incorporate the experiences of children across the world. Studying in New York gives me the advantage of being part of research projects in NYC that explore immigrant adolescent experiences and combining that with the project in India, I am able to understand the need for expanding existing theories and creating new ones.”

Taveeshi’s dissertation work is part of the study she is integrally involved in conducting. She is interested in the way parents socialize gender stereotypes in young adolescents, especially in urban, international contexts. Her dissertation will focus on parents and peers as agents of gender socialization, and she is exploring the mechanisms underlying gender socialization in the Indian context where traditional (or stereotyped) beliefs surrounding gender are highly valued. A unique aspect of her project is the mixed methodology. She is conducting ethnographies to use multiple lenses to understand social class differences in gender socialization processes in a rapidly changing context. Using a combination of quantitative and qualitative information is important for giving depth and context to understanding gender socialization. For example, Taveeshi is learning the ways that gender socialization messages are communicated explicitly and implicitly in families.

In addition, Taveeshi Gupta is involved in several other research projects. She works on a qualitative project with Dr. Niobe Way to explore the ways in which middle and high school urban boys’ friendships reflect the large male gender stereotypes. Taveeshi also is a project director for the New York City Academic and Social Engagement Study (NYCASES) under Dr. Selcuk Sirin. This study aims to understand the demographic factors that contribute to academic, social and emotional outcomes for urban high school adolescents. Moreover, Taveeshi takes an active role in mentoring students in New York as well as India.

Taveeshi’s CV can be accessed by clicking here. Reach Taveeshi by emailing Meet Taveeshi at one of her two poster presentations in Vancouver on Thursday March 8th at 1:45pm and 3:15pm.

December 2011

Sara Johnson

Sara Johnson is a doctoral candidate in Human Development and Family Studies at the University of Connecticut. Innovative substantive and methodology research interests as well as a passion for applying research set Sara apart and put her in this month’s spotlight.

Her substantive research interests lie in identity development during adolescence and emerging adulthood, with a particular focus on implications for the design and evaluation of prevention and positive youth development programming. Sara studies how identity develops through volunteer experiences as well as “identity interventions.” She is interested in the extent to which identity development mediates or moderates intervention outcomes, and she argues that theories of identity maintenance and change can be applied to program design and evaluation to better understand the processes through which prevention and interventions work. These represent some of the questions she is addressing in her dissertation, which examines emerging adult college students participating in semester-long community service programs through the University of Connecticut’s Office of Community Outreach.

Sara did not originally intend to focus on quantitative methods, but after taking several courses, she became convinced of the far-reaching implications that methods have for program design and evaluation. Her strategy in graduate school has been to take every quantitative and qualitative methods course available, which has resulted in a certificate in Quantitative Methods in University of Connecticut’s psychology department. Sara enjoys teaching about methods and working with colleagues on methodologically-oriented research questions.

Her methodological interests are at the field’s cutting-edge: she is interested in person-centered quantitative methods (mixture modeling), and combining these person-centered methods with in-depth interviews to create mixed methods designs. Sara is also interested in methods for analyzing nested and dyadic data – types of data often encountered in evaluating prevention and intervention programs.

In fact, Sara Johnson is enthusiastically committed to applying her research, even in methods, to real-world issues. Sara says, “Even though my substantive and methodological interests can seem far removed from the day-to-day things that happen in programs and activities, I am extremely committed to making sure that my research is applicable to and relevant for practitioners and program providers.” She has authored numerous reports for state and community agencies to share information on the design and evaluation of positive youth development programs. Sara has also committed to providing in-depth information to her University’s Office of Community Outreach about students’ experiences in programs as she partners with them to do her dissertation research.

In addition to research, Sara has engaged in teaching, mentoring, and service. She was also selected to attend the 2011 EARA/SRA Summer School in Tucson, Arizona. Sara Johnson will be graduating in May 2012 and is seeking a postdoctoral fellowship. She can be reached at Click here to view her CV.

October 2011

Jan Šerek

Jan Šerek is a social psychology doctoral student and research fellow in the Institute for Research on Children, Youth, and Family at Masaryk University in the Czech Republic. Jan expects to complete his Ph.D. in 2012. His educational background includes degrees in philosophy, psychology, and political science. In investigating civic beliefs and behaviors during late adolescence, Jan takes an interdisciplinary and developmental perspective.

In researching the formation of adolescents’ civic views and engagement, Šerek’s work goes beyond the obvious to consider the role of “non-civic” developmental experiences. He argues that family and school environments share features similar to a civic context, and that cognitive schemata developed in family and school can influence adolescents’ perception of civic life, and, in turn, affect their civic behavior. In collaboration with Lenka Lacinova and Petr Macek, he has a paper on this topic that will appear in the Journal of Adolescence’s special issue on civic development early next year. The article is based on Jan’s dissertation research.

Besides his dissertation, Jan works on several other research projects. For example, he collaborates on a multinational research study funded by the European Union to focus on psychological processes through which social factors influence young people’s civic and political engagement. His team represents the Czech Republic in the project and is focusing in particular on the experiences of ethnic minority youth. Additionally, he is involved with a project that examines historical changes in adolescents’ societal views during the Czech Republic’s transition to democracy.

Jan Šerek became interested in civic engagement based on his personal experience of local involvement, but also because, as he puts it, “I am strongly convinced that there are some groups in our society that are not heard enough. This applies to ethnic minorities, poor people, and people with low education. Civic engagement can be the only way for these groups to defend their rights and to achieve better lives. I hope that research on civic engagement can identify barriers and resources, encountered by these people, and, eventually, help them to better
represent their needs and opinions.”

Šerek’s teaching experiences also capture his interdisciplinary spirit: he has taught courses in political psychology, social psychology, developmental psychology, as well as psychology for economists. As an outstanding scholar, Jan has received the Dean’s Award for the Best Doctoral Student in his department as well as a national award for the best undergraduate research paper in psychology. Jan was also selected to attend the 2011 EARA/SRA Summer School in Tucson, Arizona.

Jan can be reached at Click here to access his CV.

September 2011

Karen Bluth

Karen Bluth is a doctoral candidate in Child and Family Studies Department from the University of Tennessee.  Her research interests are focused on the practice of mindfulness during the adolescent developmental years.  Karen’s interest in mindfulness research is rooted in her own life-long practice, which she began during her teenage years.  She states, “Mindfulness encompasses the experience of being attentive and accepting of that which is occurring in one’s moment-to- moment experience.”  Moreover, mindfulness incorporates the principles of “paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally” (Kabat-Zinn, 1994, p.4).

Karen’s interest in studying the adolescent developmental period stems, in part, from her extensive teaching career.  Prior to beginning graduate school, she spent over fifteen years as a teacher, and seven of those years were spent working with middle school students.  Karen hopes to apply her expertise in mindfulness to understanding the potential role that mindfulness can play in easing the transition through this challenging developmental period.  In particular, Karen’s dissertation explores the potential mediating role of self-compassion in the relationship between mindfulness and emotional well-being outcomes among adolescents.

One of the ways Karen has distinguished herself from others in her department has been her willingness and ability to network with mindfulness researchers outside of the University of Tennessee. Karen describes herself as only one of two lone mindfulness researcher at her university, but remarks that there are a “lot of people who are the lone mindfulness researchers at their universities. So if they can do it, I can do it.” In 2009, Karen began emailing mindfulness researchers in order to get connected with those who are interested in her area of research and to find out about conferences and other learning opportunities.  From those initial email contacts, Karen has participated twice in the Mind and Life Summer Research Institute, which is a week-long intensive seminar workshop focused on bringing together mindfulness researchers, neuroscience researchers, and practitioners to learn about the application of mindfulness in a variety of contexts and discuss cutting edge research in the field. She has also attended an international conference, as well as 10 day workshop, sponsored by the Center for Mindfulness. All of these workshops and conferences enabled Karen to meet and begin professional relationships with senior scholars in her field. To her credit, Karen has kept in touch with many of these scholars and has even organized a symposium in which she asked more established mindfulness researchers to present their work.

Karen recently published an article in a prominent peer-reviewed journal for mindfulness-based research (see below for citation).  This study explored the associations between parent mindfulness, parent effort, and adolescent internalizing and externalizing symptoms.  Additionally, in the last few months Karen has also been involved in a study investigating a qualitative picture-narrative methodology, to explore how adolescents in marginalized populations perceive their sense of self.  Karen states, “If this methodology proves effective, I will be using it to investigate the interface between mindfulness practice and adolescents’ emerging sense of identity.”

In addition to her research, Karen has been an active member of the Society of Research on Adolescence, and was selected to participate in the 2011 EARA-SRA Summer School in Tucson, Arizona.  She has also served as an ad-hoc manuscript reviewer for the journals Mindfulness and Early Education and Development.  When asked about her future career goals, Karen states that she hopes to get a job investigating the potential impact of mindfulness practice on relationships within the family system, such as between parents and children as youth transition into adolescence and the adulthood years.  She is particularly curious to discover whether mindfulness-based practice by parents and adolescents can significantly improve relationships within this dyad.  Lastly, Karen hopes to utilize findings from her research to implement mindfulness-based intervention programs for adolescents and families. Reflecting back on her experiences thus far as a graduate student Karen says, “I knew there was a lot of mindfulness research going on at a lot of places. So I just made the best out of the situation. If you have really strong interests, make the most out of your situation. Seek people outside your university.”

Karen can be reached at For a full review of Karen’s accomplishments thus far, please click here for her C.V.

Selected Publication:

Bluth, K. & Wahler, R. G. (2011). Does effort matter in mindful parenting? Mindfulness, 2, 175-178.

May 2011

Josafá da CunhaJosafá da Cunha
Ph.D. Candidate in Education at the Federal University of Paraná, Brazil

Peer victimization is a serious issue in Brazilian schools, which is why Josafá Cunha decided to pursue research examining the role of teacher and peer relationships in school adjustment. Specifically, his dissertation uses a multilevel design and data from teachers and students to better understand the degree to which peer victimization and academic adjustment is influenced by the quality of the student-teacher relationship, while also examining specific strategies adopted by teachers to address peer victimization. Josafá already has several peer-reviewed publications in this area as well as numerous conference presentations that showcase his research.

Josafá da Cunha is an up-and-coming Brazilian scholar who is already perfecting the art of international collaborations. On several occasions, he has gained new colleagues from networking experiences at conferences. For example, Josafá met Dr. William Bukowski (Concordia University) at an ISSBD Workshop in Brazil and later was paired with him as part of the 2008 SRA Biennial Meeting International Young Scholars Program. These interactions led to pursuit of a grant awarded by the Canadian Government in the Emerging Leaders in the Americas Program, an opportunity that Josafá found at This fellowship allowed him to travel to Montreal to attend courses, collaborate with Dr. Bukowski and his research lab, and experience life in a new culture.

Another illustration of Josafá’s international networking skills is a paper recently accepted to the Journal of LGBT Youth on the topic of promoting schools without homophobia. His co-authors are Dr. Jonathan Santo (University of Nebraska in Omaha) whom he met at the ISSBD workshop in Brazil as well as Dr. Stephen Russell (University of Arizona) whom Josafá connected with at the 2008 SRA Biennial Meeting.

Josafá is integrally immersed in the activities of SRA and ISSBD and has taken on leadership roles in both of these societies. He serves on the Emerging Scholars Committee and Membership Committees of SRA and is E-Newsletter Editor and collaborates with the Early Career Committee of ISSBD. Josafá’s enthusiasm for building and promoting opportunities for emerging scholars around the world is inspiring. Among other reasons, Josafá says, service to academic societies is important for building relationships, learning new skills, and gaining “the unique opportunity to help shape the initiatives that will influence the future of the field.”

You can contact Josafá da Cunha at and access his CV by clicking here:

January 2011

Virginia HuynhVirginia Huynh
Doctoral Candidate in Developmental Psychology with a minor in Culture, Brain, and Development
University of California, Los Angeles,

Virginia Huynh’s research interests include the effects of ethnic discrimination on adjustment outcomes among Latino and Asian American adolescents. As a budding scholar in the field, Ms. Huynh has already received national recognition. Last summer, she was interviewed by
Time magazine, which she described as “an incredible honor and a very humbling experience.” She had the opportunity to discuss her research finding that higher rates of self-reported discrimination among Latino and Asian American youth were associated with worse daily mood, GPA, self esteem, and physical symptoms (e.g., headaches, stomach aches).
Recently, Ms. Huynh’s research has focused on more subtle forms of discrimination, reflected by interpersonal interactions that signify group-based differences known as ethnic microaggressions. Ethnic microaggressions include comments that dismiss the ethnic and racial realities individuals face (e.g. “Racism doesn’t exist”), assumptions that one is a foreigner (e.g., “Where are you from?”), and treating an individual of an ethnic or racial minority as a second-class citizen.   Although microaggressions are typically ambiguous and not always recognized as a form of discrimination, Ms. Huynh states, “Ethnic microaggressions can cause victims to ruminate about whether they are being overly sensitive, and can evoke anger, helplessness, frustration, and racial tensions when experienced repeatedly.” Ms. Huynh’s dissertation specifically investigates the effects of microaggressions on health outcomes that are susceptible to psychological stress (e.g., blood pressure) among individuals from Mexican and Vietnamese descent. In addition, Ms. Huynh has created a new measure of ethnic microaggressions that is appropriate for use with Latino and Asian American adolescents. Ms. Huynh’s work has been published in the Journal of Research on Adolescence and Developmental Psychology, and she is co-author on publications in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence, Developmental Psychology, and Child Development.

In addition to her research, Ms. Huynh has been an active member of the Society of Research on Adolescence since 2006. In 2009, she was selected as one of the participants of the EARA-SRA Summer School in Vancouver. When asked about her research goals, Ms. Huhnh states, “Ultimately, I hope my research can help immigrants, refugees, and their children become well-adjusted members of society by raising awareness to the complex ways in which differential treatment can affect development.”

December 2010

Jonathan Santo PhotographJonathan B. Santo
Associate Professor of Psychology
University of Nebraska at Omaha

Jonathan B. Santo is a recent graduate from Concordia University, Montreal. His interest centers around the role of context in shaping human development. As a graduate student, his work examined the differences and similarities in the friendships and self-esteem of early adolescents in Montreal, Canada and Bogota, Colombia. In his current position, as associate professor in the Psychology Department of the University of Nebraska in Omaha – UNO, his research focuses on cross-cultural differences in identity development through close peer relationships among adolescents from five different countries.

While a graduate student, Jonathan B. Santo has contributed to the research community by his engagement in a number of activities, including editorial responsibilities in journals such as the McGill Journal of Medicine (Senior Editor, 2004-2006), International Journal of Behavioral Development (Managing Editor, 2001-2009), and the Brazilian Journal Interação em Psicologia (English Editor, 2007-Present). Jonathan is also an ad-hoc reviewer for a number of other professional journals.

Attending events tailored to foster the collaboration among emerging scholars internationally, such as the ISSBD Workshop in Brazil, 2007, has enabled him to expand his professional network and set the path for future collaborations. Now, in his appointment at the UNO, he became the co-editor of the Journal of Latin American Studies (JOLLAS) and is conducting a cross-cultural study that involves youth from five different countries.

When asked about finding a position in tough economic times, his suggestion for job seekers is in terms of goodness of fit: “Hiring committees are going to be asking themselves how well an applicant will fit in their program/department/college, etc. As such, the biggest recommendation I have for job seekers is to learn as much as possible about the departments they are applying to and carefully craft their applications to suit that niche.”

Jonathan B. Santo can be contacted at

November 2010

Russell Toomey PhotographRussell Toomey, M.A.
Doctoral Candidate in Family Studies and Human Development
University of Arizona

Russell Toomey’s research interests center on the examination of contextual influences in the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) adolescents. Specifically, he is interested in how peer relationships and the school environment influence psychosocial well-being and academic achievement in the context of the prejudice, stereotyping, and discrimination experienced by this population. Russell has primarily focused on studying processes that explain the disparate risks experienced by LGBT adolescents, as exemplified in his recent article in Developmental Psychology. Most crucially, the findings presented in this article show that anti-LGBT bullying in school largely accounts for young adult psychosocial adjustment – an important finding given the recent attention to anti-LGBT bullying related suicides among adolescents. Toomey’s work has also been published in the Journal of Homosexuality, and he is a co-author on publications in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence, Social Science and Medicine, the Handbook of Research on Civic Engagement in Youth, and the forthcoming Handbook of Developmental Research Methods.

In addition to his research, Russell is an active member of the larger research community. He serves as the Emerging Scholar Representative to the Finance Committee of SRA and is the Student / New Professional Representative for the Feminism and Family Studies Section of the National Council on Family Relations. In 2009, he was selected as one of the participants of the EARA-SRA Summer School in Vancouver, allowing him to create international collaborations with other emerging scholars. In 2010, he served as a Junior Mentor for the Young Scholars Program at SRA’s Biennial Meeting. In the near future, he hopes to continue to form new collaborations, mentor upcoming scholars, and launch his career as a research scientist and educator.

When asked about his research interests, Russell said, “I am passionate about research because I believe that when synergistic links among research findings, practice, and policy are created, then progress can be made to improve the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender adolescents. The research that my collaborators and I conduct has direct implications for strategies that schools and family members can use to create safer and more accepting environments for these youth.”

Email Russell at

Select Publications:

Toomey, R. B., Ryan, C., Diaz, R., Card, N. A., & Russell, S. T. (2010). Gender nonconforming lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth: School victimization and young adult psychosocial adjustment. Developmental Psychology.

Russell, S. T., & Toomey, R. B. (2010). Men’s sexual orientation and suicide: Evidence for developmental risk. Social Science and Medicine.

McGuire, J. K., Anderson, C. R., Toomey, R. B., & Russell, S. T. (2010). School climate for transgender youth: A mixed method investigation of student experiences and school responses. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 39, 1175-1188.

Toomey, R. B., & Richardson, R. A. (2009). Perceived sibling relationships of sexual minority youth. Journal of Homosexuality, 56, 849-860.


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