The University of Massachusetts Amherst
University of Massachusetts Amherst

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Steering Committee

Steven Goodwin

Steve Goodwin, Ph.D.
Professor of Microbiology


Steve Goodwin's research interests include microbial synthesis and degradation of biopolymers, microbial ecology, anaerobic digestion and bioremediation, bioenergetics of microbial growth in extreme environments, microbiology and redox chemistry in groundwater, microbiology of solid waste disposal, compost microbiology and spore formation.

Dr. Goodwin most recently served as the Dean of the College of Natural Sciences at UMass Amherst for a decade.

Brigitte Holt

Brigitte Holt UMass headshot
Associate Professor, Anthropology
Family Research Scholar, 2016-2017


Brigitte Holt studies skeletal manifestations of historical changes in socio-economic structures and systems. Dr. Holt is a physical anthropologist interested in human evolution in general and in the ways humans adapt, biologically and culturally, to their environment. One of her research foci has been on the relationship between physical activity and postcranial skeletal robusticity as a means of inferring behavior in past populations. She has been able to show, for instance, that in Upper Paleolithic populations from Europe, there is a marked decline in lower limb robusticity in the latter part of the UP, after the Last Glacial Maximum (around 18,000 years ago). This confirms archeological evidence of decreased mobility during that period. An ongoing project focuses on the evolution of postcranial robusticity in Europe from Upper Paleolithic to the present, in an effort to answer questions such as: Why do Europeans have such high rates of osteoporosis and fractures? What role does decrease physical activity play in this? When did the major changes occur? What role did factors such as agriculture, social inequality, division of labor, mechanization and industrialization play?

Another research interest centers around the origins of modern humans. Since 2002, Dr. Holt, along with colleagues from Duke University, University of Pisa (Italy) and Arizona State University, have been excavating the site of Riparo Bombrini, a rockshelter that preserves Middle Paleolithic (Mousterian) and Upper Paleolithic (Aurignacian) layers.

Ezekiel Kimball

Ezekiel Kimball UMass headshot
Assistant Professor, Educational Policy, Research & Administration
Family Research Scholar, 2016-2017


Ezekiel Kimball is an assistant professor in higher education. His prior professional experience includes work as a director of institutional research, an interim director of student affairs, a residence hall coordinator, and a nonprofit program manager. He earned a Ph.D. in higher education with a graduate minor in social theory from The Pennsylvania State University, an M.S. in adult education from the University of Southern Maine, and B.A. in history also from the University of Southern Maine. His research interests include college access, student learning & development, the connection between social and educational theory, and the history of higher education. His published works include journal articles and book chapters on social theory, college admissions, and student affairs practice.

Sofiya Alhassan

Dr. Sofiya Alhassan UMass headshot
Associate Professor, Kinesiology
Family Research Scholar, 2016-2017


Sofiya Alhassan's current research interest is in using physical activity in the prevention of pediatric obesity, in particular, the utilization of community family-based physical activity interventions to reduce early onset cardiovascular disease risk factors (obesity and type 2 diabetes mellitus) in ethnic-minority children. Her research agenda also includes examining: 1) physical activity policy-base intervention in preschool-age children; 2) environmental and media influence on various health behaviors in ethnic-minority populations; and 3) after-school family-base intervention to improve physiological (obesity and diabetes risk) and psychosocial, and academic performance of minority pre-adolescents.

Lindiwe Sibeko

Lindiwe Sibeko headshot
Assistant Professor, Extension Faculty, Nutrition
Family Research Scholar, 2015-16


Nutrition researcher and Board Certified Lactation Consultant Lindiwe Sibeko possesses an expertise in maternal and child health focused on socially and economically vulnerable and underserved populations in local, national and international settings.

Her areas of research interest include community-based strategies for improving women, newborn and child nutritional health; understanding household and community influences on infant and young child feeding attitudes, beliefs and practices; exploring strategies for the promotion, support and protection of breastfeeding as a food secure practice and strategy to address health disparities; and exploring community-based participatory strategies for prevention of childhood obesity.

Gerald Downes

Gerald Downes headshot
Associate Professor, Biology
Family Research Scholar, 2014-15


Gerald Downes examines cellular and molecular mechanisms that are essential for neural network function. Epilepsies are the fourth most common neurological disorder in the United States, and many forms are resistant to current treatments. As a Family Research Scholar, Downes developed a proposal titled, “Using Zebrafish to Better Understand and Treat Epilepsies.” The aim of this project was to leverage the advantages of zebrafish for rapid genetic and behavioral analysis to develop new animal models of human epilepsies. These new models will be used to investigate cellular and molecular mechanisms disrupted in epilepsies and screen for new antiepileptic drugs.

Elizabeth Harvey

Elizabeth Harvey headshot
Professor, Psychological and Brain Sciences
Family Research Scholar, 2005-06 & 2013-14


Lisa Harvey's research interests are in the early development of ADHD, disruptive behavior disorders and emotion regulation in preschool children. Specific areas of interest include executive function, emotion regulation, parenting, parent psychopathology, fathers, gender and culture. She seeks to understand these processes by studying the interplay between different levels of functioning including neural (using ERP), behavioral, emotional, individual, family and contextual.

Joya Misra

Joya Misra headshot
Professor, Sociology and Public Policy
Family Research Scholar, 2004-05-& 2013-14


Joya Misra’s work focuses on gender inequality among advanced welfare states, where gender equality has made the most progress but also where national variation is most apparent. Her research analyzes this variation over time, considering how gender inequalities have changed over the last 25 years and the extent to which family and household dynamics contribute to this variation.

In her proposal entitled “Parenthood, Gender, and Earning Inequality in Advanced Welfare States,” she analyzed eighteen different advanced industrialized countries from 1985 through 2010 and considered how gendered cultural and policy contexts help explain variations between countries and over time. She argued that not only is the shape of gender inequality dynamic, but that the causes of gender pay gaps are also dynamic. Misra’s previous work examines policy impacts on poverty, income inequality and employment as well as carework, citizenship, and immigration in Europe. In 2010, Professor Misra won the Sociologists for Women in Society Feminist Mentoring Award. She is currently the editor of the journal Gender & Society, the top-ranked journal in gender studies worldwide.

Harold D. Grotevant

Harold Grotevant headshot
Department Head, Psychological and Brain Sciences
Chair, Rudd Family Foundation
Family Research Scholar, 2012-13


Harold Grotevant's research focuses on relationships in adoptive families, and on adjustment and identity development in adolescents and young adults. His work has resulted in over 100 articles published in professional journals as well as several books, including Openness in Adoption: Exploring Family Connections (with Ruth McRoy, Sage Publications, 1998). 

He is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association, the Association for Psychological Science, and the National Council on Family Relations. He directs the Minnesota / Texas Adoption Research Project, which focuses on relationships in adoptive families and contact between adoptive and birth family members. Dr. Grotevant is the Rudd Family Foundation Endowed Chair in Psychology and oversees the Rudd Adoption Research Program, which is affiliated with the multidisciplinary Center for Research on Families. During his time as a Family Research Scholar, Dr. Grotevant will develop a grant proposal for the project entitled, “Adjustment and relationships: Young adult outcomes of adoption.” The study will explore the long-term impacts of adoption by examining the trajectories of adjustment, emotional health, relationship well-being, and family formation of young adults who were adopted as children compared with trajectories of non-adopted young adults. New understanding of these long-term outcomes will be important for professionals placing children for adoption, providers of post-adoption services, and policy makers concerned with determining the best interests of children.

Karen Kalmakis

Karen Kalmakis headshot
Associate Professor, Nursing
Family Research Scholar, 2012-13


Karen Kalmakis studies the relationship between a history of adverse childhood experiences and the neurobiological stress response among young adults. During her year as a Family Research Scholar, Dr. Kalmakis developed a grant proposal for the project entitled, “Exploring the role of socio-environmental and demographic influences on the stress process.” This project focused on the impact that adverse childhood experiences,  socioeconomic status and individual demographics have on the coping strategies that are part of the stress process.

Dr. Kalmakis’s research expanded the current stress literature by  examining how both socio-environmental and demographic variables may influence coping strategies and thereby modify the neurobiological stress response. The research also provided knowledge about the impact of coping strategies (effective and ineffective) on allostatic load. The results of this research may be used to assist young adult patients more effectively cope with stress and avoid negative health outcomes.