The University of Massachusetts Amherst
University of Massachusetts Amherst

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Current and Past Family Research Scholars

PhD, Director of the Center for International Education and Professor in Student Development in the College of Education


Dr. Barron’s study aims to evaluate the efficacy of Progressive Counting (PC), for addressing childhood trauma, a novel and promising trauma therapy that uniquely integrates cognitive behavioral and brief-exposure approaches. Identifying effective therapies for detained youth offers the promise of breaking the cycle of transgenerational trauma and facilitating resilience at individual, familial, and community levels. Dr Barron is currently the principle investigator for trauma recovery projects running in the Middle East and Brazil. Dr Barron's partners include the Children and War Foundation, Bergen, The Center for Applied Research in Education (CARE), Ramallah, and Dr Ricky Greenwald, and the Child Trauma Institute in the U.S. 

PhD, Assistant Professor, Psychological and Brain Science, College of Natural Sciences


Dr. Grabell’s research focuses on emotion regulation and its relation to cross-diagnostic symptoms of psychopathology in early childhood.  He is particularly interested in the fine details of how the emerging emotion regulation system works and which parts of this system aren’t functioning well in young children on the cusp of persistent mood and behavior problems. Dr. Grabell’s study will test whether data collected from wearable and contactless devices can be used to detect child tantrums that indicate risk for mental disorder and predict the onset of a tantrum before it occurs in real time. The proposed study has the potential to move the field toward a future of artificial intelligence-assisted, home-based, early mental health detection and treatment.

PhD, Assistant Professor, Communication, School of Social and Behavioral Sciences


Dr. Greyson studies what people do with health information, and when this matters for health and social equity. In both the USA and Canada, cannabis (marijuana) is the most commonly used drug in pregnancy, both recreationally and for pregnancy-related ailments such as nausea and vomiting. Although research has found connections between prenatal cannabis smoking and some negative fetal and infant outcomes, there is still uncertainty regarding risks and benefits of cannabis use in pregnancy and lactation. Dr. Greyson’s study aims to understand how pregnant individuals make cannabis-use decisions amidst medical uncertainty, and how cultures, communities, and governments affect that decision-making process. The results will help clinical and public health professionals to better communicate with the public about the potential risks and benefits of cannabis use in pregnancy and lactation.

PhD, Assistant Professor, Health Promotion and Policy, School of Public Health & Health Sciences


Dr. Martínez’s research examines the sociopolitical and institutional arrangements that produce chronic disease disparities among Latinx immigrants and their US-born children. Dr. Martinez’s current research examines how the local implementation of immigration enforcement policies creates material deprivation and psychosocial stress among Latinx mixed-status families, with at least one unauthorized immigrant.

During her CRF year, Dr.  Martínez plans to examine the relationship between chronic psychosocial stressors and physiological stress, on salivary uric acid, a biomarker for oxidative stress, among Latinx families of different migrant family structures (only US-born parents, authorized immigrant parents, and families with 1+ unauthorized immigrant parents). The study hopes to demonstrate the consequences of parents’ legal vulnerabilities for children’s physical health. She hopes that her research can reverse policies excluding US immigrant populations and inform community-based prevention strategies.

PhD, Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology, School of Public Health and Health Sciences


Broadly, Dr. VanKim’s research area focuses on understanding and addressing disparities in weight-related health, primarily among LGBT populations. Aspects of weight-related health that Dr. VanKim examines include nutrition, physical activity, weight status, and type 2 diabetes.

The goal of Dr. VanKim’s research during her CRF scholar year is to develop a better understanding of how exposure to discrimination, stigma, and bias, on the basis of one’s sexual orientation, may increase risk in developing type 2 diabetes.  Specifically, she is interested in studying the potential mechanisms that contribute to sexual orientation disparities in type 2 diabetes among women; these potential mechanisms may be higher levels of cortisol and insulin resistance that exacerbate risk for type 2 diabetes among LGBT individuals. 

PhD, Assistant Professor, Health Promotion and Policy, School of Public Health and Health Sciences


Dr. Whitehill’s research centers on preventing injuries, from a variety of mechanisms (e.g., motor vehicle crashes, poisonings, gun violence), among youth and young adults. Her current work focuses on substance use as a risk factor for injury and on the injury implications of cannabis legalization. She also studies the role of new media technologies such as mobile devices and social networking sites as both a risk factor for injury and as a possible avenue for prevention.

During her CRF year, Dr. Whitehill proposes to identify associations between state policies, community factors, and individual factors and drug-involved motor vehicle crashes (MVC). Her study will provide a comprehensive look at the problem of drug- and polysubstance-involved MVCs in the U.S. and yield insights relevant to policymakers and public health advocates seeking to reduce the burden of drug-impaired driving on individuals, families, and society.