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Annual CRF Research & Awards Forum Celebrates a Vibrant Year

The Center for Research on Families’ (CRF) seventh-annual Family Research Forum and Awards Dinner, held on March 7th, was a wonderful celebration of a year of exciting new research and community initiatives. The program showcased the research of CRF scholars on topics such as immigration, the impact of environmental chemicals on maternal health, the neurobiology of epilepsy, and the importance of naps for young children. CRF Director Maureen Perry-Jenkins, professor of psychological and brain sciences, welcomed guests, shared highlights from the year, introduced the upcoming ('17-18) cohort of Family Research Scholars (FRS) and recognized the contributions of Deans Steve Goodwin and Robert Feldman to CRF. In her welcoming remarks, Elizabeth Chilton, Associate Vice Chancellor for Research and Engagement, spoke of CRF’s critical role in developing partnerships between researchers and community organizations in Springfield and across the state.

Gerald Downes (FRS ‘14-15), associate professor of biology, presented his innovative work with zebrafish, which has led to insights on seizure disorders and new avenues for their treatment. Laura Vandenberg (FRS ‘16-17), assistant professor of environmental health sciences, presented her first-of-its-kind research finding a small but significant linkage between low-dose exposures to Bisphenol-S (BPS), a chemical found in most plastics, and poorer quality mothering behavior in mice.

Two CRF Student Scholars presented their research initiatives. Alexandra Santiago, winner of CRF’s 2016-17 undergraduate assistantship, explained her work on the relationship between daytime naps and preschool-aged children’s development of inhibitory control, an ability strongly linked to academic achievement in kindergarten. Rodrigo Dominguez-Villegas, a Ph.D. candidate in sociology and one of CRF’s 2016-17 pre-dissertation fellows, introduced his work on the employment and education prospects of immigrant families who return to Mexico after spending time in the U.S.

In recognition of all the support they’ve provided, Steve Goodwin, Dean of the College of Natural Sciences, who is stepping down from this role, and Robert Feldman, Vice Chancellor and interim Dean of the College of Education, who is retiring, were honored. Vice Chancellor Katherine Newman offered words of praise to Deans Goodwin and Feldman for their dedication to supporting faculty on campus. The Deans shared their passion for, and commitment to, the mission of the Center.

Nearly 100 guests from across campus and the community reflected CRF’s broad and diverse affiliations of faculty, students and community partners, who came together to celebrate our vibrant, thriving center which supports faculty and student research aimed at enhancing the lives of all families.