CRF Grants and Awards Support Student Research

April 25, 2014

The Center for Research on Families has given grants and awards to 13 graduate students and undergraduates to support their research on family issues.

The CRF Family Research Graduate Student Grant provides $10,000 for one year for students to work with faculty on research projects. Three pre-dissertation and dissertation grants were awarded:

Matthew LaClair is a second-year Ph.D. student in the neuroscience and behavior program. He will use the grant to complete a project examining how dysfunction within the sex steroid and the dopaminergic systems produce the cognitive and emotional symptoms of schizophrenia. By better understanding the way these two systems interact, it may be possible to discover novel therapeutic treatments for these symptoms. This project will be completed in collaboration with his advisor, Agnès Lacreuse, associate professor of psychology.

Samantha Schenck is a Ph.D. student in the economics department. She will continue to work on her research with Lee Badgett, economics, studying the effects of state-level laws that prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Her primary research interests include the usage of family leave policies among non-traditional families and the effects of state laws that expand upon the federal Family and Medical Leave Act.

Sarah Miller is a Ph.D. candidate in sociology. Her current ethnographic work explores the ecology of bullying, investigating the relationships between schools, families, and culture in youth aggression. Miller’s research focuses on youth, gender, sexuality and social inequality. Her other qualitative projects have studied community debates over adolescent sexuality and the role of slut-shaming and homophobia in girls’ bullying practices and gendering processes. Miller has worked as a research assistant for associate professor Amy Schalet, Future of Sex Education & Advocates for Youth, the National Sexuality Resource Center and the Center for Research on Gender and Sexuality.

A CRF Family Research Travel Grant, which helps students attend national and international conferences where they present their research was given to Jennifer Zenovich, a first-year Ph.D. student in the communication. She is interested in performance studies, feminist studies and critical cultural studies. Her research focuses on gender as it is performed in post-communist Montenegro. Zenovich’s essay, “Gendered Inheritance: A Feminist Autoethnography of Montenegrin Private Property,” examines the familial relations that preclude women from owning property in Montenegro. She presented at the Western States Communication Association conference in Anaheim, Calif. in February.

The CRF Family Research Honors Thesis/Capstone Award of $500 acknowledges outstanding undergraduate student research. Awards were given to the following students:

Margaret Hislop, a senior sociology major with minors in education and economics. After graduation, she will be pursuing a master’s degree in elementary education at Simmons College in Boston. Hislop’s thesis, “Comparison of Parenting Advice after the Attack on Pearl Harbor and the Attacks of September 11,” is an in-depth content analysis of parenting literature in the years following each attack. She finds similarities between the two time periods in how parents and caregivers were advised to explain these events to children, and investigates how to best help children regain their feelings of security after each event.

Nicholas Otis is a kinesiology and nutrition double-degree student with concentrations in education and global society. He is fascinated by the social undercurrents that impact health, well-being and opportunities for success. His honors research with faculty members Lorraine Cordeiro and Jerusha Peterman examines predictors of under-nutrition among rural and urban Tanzanian adolescents. After graduating, Otis hopes to return to Tanzania to disseminate the results and engage in dialogue with the communities from which the data came using a Laura Bush/UNESCO Fellowship.

Jarrod Stein is a senior psychology/neuroscience student in Rebecca Spencer’s Cognition and Action Lab. Since his freshman year, Stein has been researching age related changes in sleep-dependent memory consolidation. His recent interest in preschool-age naps has culminated in an honors thesis that examines the interactions of caregiver-child sleep behavior, mental health and socioeconomic status. Passionate about both the humanities and the sciences, Stein is looking forward to pursuing a career in health care.

Shirin Hakim is a senior majoring in public health and is a student in the Commonwealth Honors College. Her senior honors thesis focuses on the impact of social services on the lives of the homeless. In the fall of 2013, Hakim established a patient-navigation program at the Craig’s Doors homeless shelter in Amherst, dedicated to providing social service connections and case-management for homeless guests. She trained and directed 20 student advocates to provide assistance with food stamps, housing applications, resume building, healthcare and transportation. She is currently working towards transforming this program into a course that will remain after she graduates. Upon graduation, Hakim plans to take a gap year and later pursue a career in medicine.

Sarah Walsh is an undergraduate studying developmental health through the Bachelor’s Degree with Individual Concentration program. Her major looks at the interaction of ecology and biology in the context of children’s health. She is using her award to support her senior honors thesis, chaired by Karen Kalmakis of the College of Nursing. Exploring research linking adverse childhood experiences to physical and mental health issues in adulthood, her thesis takes approach to illuminate what is currently being done in response to this research in two main areas: child care settings and policy. Linking the fields of medicine, education, psychology, social work, and community development, her thesis presents a much-needed analysis of current practices and policies within these contexts with the hope of furthering a new framework for early childhood care and intervention that more effectively reflects developmental science.

The CRF Family Research Undergraduate Assistantship enables undergraduates to study with faculty on a research project through a grant of $3,000. The award was given to Sean Higgins is a sophomore majoring in political science and legal studies. The assistantship will enable him to work as a research assistant for Brenda Bushouse, associate professor of political science. Higgins will be conducting research on the effects of economic recession on state budget appropriations for pre-kindergarten funding. He will analyze individual case studies by interviewing interest groups and state actors and collecting budget data in order to gain a concrete understanding of public policy surrounding prekindergarten funding.

The CRF Family Research Methodological Studies Grant allows students to participate in the CRF summer Methodology Program for no fee. The recipients are Nan Zhou, a graduate student in the department of human development and family studies at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro; Alyson Cavanaugh, a doctoral student in the department of human development and family studies at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and Nicholas Perry, a second-year graduate student in the clinical psychology doctoral program at the University of Utah.