University of Massachusetts Amherst

Search Google Appliance


Current and Past Family Research Scholars

Assistant Professor, Department of Student Development, College of Education, Family Research Scholar, 2018-2019


​Sarah Fefer's study will address challenging classroom behaviors of children by testing a new intervention that encourages partnerships between parents and teachers that don't create an additional burden on parents. The intervention will use multiple approaches to increase positive parent contact as a way to improve student behavior.

Sarah Fefer’s research and clinical interests include disruptive behavior in children and adolescents, assessment and intervention related to academic and behavioral competence, and working with families and communities to support student success.  Her current research investigates a phenomenon called the Positive Illusory Bias and symptoms of ADHD. Sarah’s broad interests within the field of school psychology include implementation of Multi-Tiered Systems of Support, behavioral consultation, and social justice. 

Assistant Professor, Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, College of Natural Sciences, Family Reseach Scholar, 2018-2019


Youngbin Kwak will investigate how behaviors and neural signals change with advancing age in patients with Parkinson's disease. Her research will contribute to the understanding of motor disabilities with advancing age and disease conditions, which will inform the design of brain-based rehabilitation regimens.

Her research at the Neuro Learning & Performance Lab focuses on how humans learn, adjust, and make decisions within a new environment. In particular, I'm interested in how these abilities change across the lifespan and in neurological diseases and what the neural and physiological underpinnings of these behaviors are. She uses interdisciplinary approaches including neuroimaging (fMRI and EEG) and physiological measures (EMG, eye tracking, genetics and hormone assays) in children, adolescents, and in adults with or without neurological diseases.

Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology, College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Family Research Scholar, 2018-2019


Mark Pachucki will use a genetic risk score for early puberty to test possible associations between early puberty and socioeconomic status (SES) disparities later in life, family composition, and adolescents' friendship. The project seeks to identify modifiable points of leverage - pubertal timing and friendship network dynamics - to improve SES trajectories and reduce SES disparities.

Dr. Pachucki is a sociologist who investigates phenomena at the intersection of social determinants of health, social network dynamics, and culture. While it is commonly accepted that culture and social context reciprocally shape our health, understanding the structure and meanings of relationships can give additional insight into individuals' health behaviors over the life course. His current research is focused in three general areas:

  1. Evaluating how adolescents’ social relationships and interactions shape their weight-related health behaviors. For example, how do a teen’s changing set of relationships with people in their lives affect the decisions they make about what they eat, or how they exercise?
  2. Using wearable sensor and other passive technologies to measure social relationships and their sequelae in ways that complement (and sometimes challenge) prior self-report or observational approaches to understanding social structure. In what ways does precise quantification of interactions provide new insights into social dynamics? In which cases does an individual’s own perceptions of their relationships provide useful information?
  3. Understanding how social ties to others at a given stage of one’s life can shape one’s future prospects. For instance, how does who you know when you were 5 years old affect your health at age 55?

These projects are each motivated by the same idea: that if we can better understand how individuals are connected during and across different stages of their life, we gain insight into changes in health behaviors and health status at the individual and population levels. 


Mary Paterno, PhD, CNM, Assistant Professor, College of Nursing

Mary Paterno’s research will address the high rates of neonatal opiate exposure and maternal opioid use in rural communities in Massachusetts. She will develop and test a sustainable, community-based peer mentoring program for pregnant and postpartum women who are at high risk of relapse.

Dr. Paterno is interested in innovative community and clinical solutions to improve perinatal, postpartum, and contraceptive care for vulnerable women. Her goal is to promote healthy and supportive experiences that will lead to positive family building and successful transition to the mothering role. As a certified nurse-midwife, her research is enhanced by her extensive clinical experience in reproductive health.

Associate Professor, Department of Community Health Education, School of Public Health and Health Sciences, Family Research Scholar, 2018-2019


Krishna Poudel will test an intervention to decrease tobacco use in people living with HIV (PLHIV) in Nepal. He is proposing that the intervention will educate PLHIV, boost self-efficacy, and improve quit rates and duration.

Dr. Poudel's primary research interests lie in the areas of HIV transmission risk behavior determinants; sexually transmitted infections (STIs); hepatitis C; and depression in HIV-positive individuals, drug users, and other marginalized populations. He is also interested in designing and evaluating theory-grounded behavior change interventions, studying the role of micronutrients on various health outcomes, and advocating for translation of research findings into practice. His research to date has spanned the globe and involved diverse groups including international migrants, HIV-positive individuals, injecting drug users, men who have sex with men, female sex workers, traditional healers, policy makers, and school students. His present research projects include examinations of the determinants of STIs, hepatitis C, medication adherence, and depression; evaluation of a theory-based sexual risk reduction intervention; and a study of nutrient intake and its association with health outcomes among HIV-positive individuals.

Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, College of Engineering, Family Research Scholar, 2018-2019


Shannon Roberts will study teenage driving behaviors to determine what differences exist according to socioeconomic status (SES). She will develop and test an intervention designed to improve teenage driving and use social peer influence to reinforce learning. One objective is to mitigate the health disparity between high and low SES teenagers by reducing crash risks and fatalities.

Shannon Roberts is a trained Human Factors engineer with expertise in studying and evaluating the interaction between humans and systems within the domain of transportation safety. Much of her work is conducted with human participants in the Human Performance Laboratory’s driving simulator. Broadly speaking, her research is focused on three areas: studying and improving young drivers’ behavior, developing feedback and warning systems to improve driving behavior, and examining how advanced technology (e.g., driving automation systems) alters driver behavior. Her recent work examines how demographic variables (e.g., socioeconomic status) affect teenage drivers and how novel social influence techniques can be used to decrease their involvement in traffic crashes.