I am currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Boston University. The following are ongoing and previous projects and collaborative relationships that have advanced my research interests and professional training. My involvement with each project or research group is highlighted below.
FACES uses cutting edge methodology (e.g., eye-tracking, psychophysiology) to explore the key components of empathy, guilt, and emotion recognition and understanding, as well as the underlying regulatory mechanisms implicated in their emergence. This study seeks to clarify how parents help to guide the development of the affective and interpersonal skills of their children, and how these processes vary across contexts.
The Preschool Shyness Study a National Institute of Mental Health-funded study examining two early intervention programs for shy children ages 45 to 64 months (3.75 years - 5 years 4 months) and their parents. Research has found that both programs are effective in helping children feel less nervous in social situations. I oversee participant recruitment, community outreach, data collection and management, observational coding and physiological editing, and data analysis. I also oversee the daily operations of our team of research staff and undergraduates.
The Family Life Project began as a five year collaboration between The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Penn State University, funded by the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. The focus of this large longitudinal study is on children and families who live in rural areas. The overarching goal of the project is to develop an understanding of the unique ways community, employment, family economic resources, family contexts, parent-child relationships and individual differences influence development and competencies in children. I served as the master coder for the parent-child interactions and trained coding teams when the participating children were 58 and 84 months of age. I also used data from the Family Life Project for my dissertation and continue to collaborate with the FLP principal investigators.
The Durham Child Health and Development Study (DCHDS) is supported by the National Science Foundation. Beginning in August of 2002, approximately 200 families from all walks of life enrolled in this study when their infants were 3-months-old and they were adjusting to the birth of their new child. Before the age of three, the study saw infants and their families at 3, 6, 12, 18, 24, 30, and 36 months of age. With the help of these families, who have shared their thoughts and experiences about parenthood and the many milestones that their infants passed as they transitioned into toddlerhood, the researchers working on this study have begun to learn more about the important contributions to their social, emotional, and cognitive development. I had the opportunity to work as an undergraduate research assistant on the DCHDS. This experience was my first introduction to research and played an integral role in my decision to return to graduate school. I continue to collaborate with the DCHDS team.
The Prenatal Experience and Pediatric Sleep Study, lead by Dr. Cathi Propper, investigates the influences of prenatal exposure to various substances on infants' regulatory capacities and the extent to which sleep mediates these relationships. As a research assistant, I have had the opportunity to work on the early stages of project development and implementation.
In addition to his work as a research assistant on PEAPS, I secured additional research funding (NIH-Cancer Institute and FDA Pilot Grant) to recruit a subsample of expecting mothers who use electronic cigarettes during pregnancy. The extent to which electronic cigarettes are viewed as a safe alternative to tobacco cigarettes by women during pregnancy has important implications for policy and practice. Nested within the larger PEAPS study, this work will provide important insight into the prevalence of electronic cigarette use among pregnant women, the ways in which electronic cigarettes are perceived by expecting mothers, and the similarities and differences in prenatal exposure to nicotine between tobacco and electronic cigarettes.
The LEAPS project focuses on exploration of the behavioral and physiological correlates of both executive functioning and emotion regulation (two forms of self-regulation that are critical for academic success) as they differentially influence functioning in preschool. This study will allow for an examination of the interplay between children’s early regulatory abilities and their interactions with parents and teachers, as well as linkages to children's successful self-regulation and performance in the pre-K classroom. I have helped to prepare physiological data for analysis by working on a team of graduate students to edit heart rate data. I continue to collaborate with the LEAPS team.
The Biopsychosocial Development and Diversity Laboratory (BDDL) is a transdicplinary research initiative directed by Dr. Roger Mills-Koonce at UNC Greensboro and Dr. Cathi Propper at UNC Chapel Hill. The topics of study are diverse, as are the populations of interest, but the common thread connecting each study is a focus on the family as a lifelong context affecting the health and well-being of the individual. Both Drs. Mills-Koonce and Propper have played a vital role in mentoring me throughout my graduate training.
Gratitude is associated with many positive outcomes including more satisfying social relationships and decreased distress in adults. However, we know very little about gratitude in children and the role that parents play in fostering gratitude. The Raising Grateful Children study examines what parents do to teach their children about gratitude and how these practices impact children’s experiences of gratitude. I supported this important work by coding parent-child interactions.