Center for Research on Families Announces 2017-18 Student Awards

Clockwise from to left, student awardees Albert Lo, Shirley Plucinski, Ragini Saira Malhotra, Sarah Lowe, Rachel Herman, Durga Kolla, Haotian Wu, Jean Cody, Laura Patrick, Chaia Flegenheimer
Clockwise from to left, student awardees Albert Lo, Shirley Plucinski, Ragini Saira Malhotra, Sarah Lowe, Rachel Herman, Durga Kolla, Haotian Wu, Jean Cody, Laura Patrick, Chaia Flegenheimer

The Center for Research on Families (CRF) has announced the 10 recipients of this year's Student Research Grants and Awards, which total of more than $26,000.

This highly-competitive awards program, which received an unprecedented number of applications this year, provides funding, methodology support and ongoing mentorship to graduate and undergraduate students in all disciplines of study and acknowledges outstanding student research on issues related to families.

Dissertation Fellowship - $10,000
Chaia Flegenheimer, a fourth-year doctoral student in the neuroscience and behavior program, is the recipient of a $10,000 Dissertation Fellowship. Flegenheimer studies, with the guidance of her mentor, Jennifer McDermott, the development of attention systems and its relationship to social cues in typically and atypically developing populations. Over the next year Flegenheimer’s work will explore the behavioral and neural effects of implicit stereotype threat on task performance and engagement in young women, and the protective impact of the stereotype inoculation model (SIM). She hopes her work will help researchers and educators better understand the extent to which the SIM can protect against stereotype threat effects, and help implement it to lessen gender disparities in STEM fields.

Pre-dissertation Fellowship - $10,000
Sarah E. Lowe, winner of a $10,000 Pre-dissertation Fellowship, is a doctoral student in community health education. Under the mentorship of Aline Gubrium, Lowe’s research focuses on psychosocial determinants of mental health and resilience amongst refugee and immigrant populations through narrative, digital and visual research methods. Her current project is a mixed-methods, community-based digital storytelling initiative in conjunction with the Bhutanese Society of Western Massachusetts titled, “Home, Health, and Solidarity: Digital Storytelling for Refugee Resilience.”

CRF Dissertation Awards - $500
Rachel Herman, a fourth-year doctoral student in the clinical psychology program, is the recipient of a $500 CRF Dissertation Award. Herman’s research focuses on how social and contextual factors influence health disparities, family processes and child wellbeing. Her dissertation research, conducted with Maureen Perry-Jenkins, will evaluate the efficacy of a group-based preventative intervention aimed at reducing depression and stress among first-time, low-income mothers and their partners early in the prenatal period.

Haotian Wu, winner of a $500 CRF dissertation award, is a doctoral student in environmental health sciences. Together with his advisor, J. Richard Pilsner, Wu examines the influence of phthalates on reproduction. In addition, he will also examine the contribution of both maternal and paternal environments to early embryonic development and overall in vitro fertilization success. Their findings will contribute to the understanding of the susceptibility of early life development to environmental factors.

Ragini Saira Malhotra, a doctoral candidate in sociology, is the recipient of a $500 CRF Dissertation Award. Under the guidance of Joya Misra, her dissertation will explore migrant children’s experiences of paid and unpaid work across family and non-family settings in India. Combining interviews, ethnographic data and basic time use surveys, Malhotra’s research responds to debates about India’s contested child labor policy, which assumes family workplaces to be more protective than the market. She will consider whether work in family contexts is substantially different and less exploitative than in other contexts.

Summer Methodology Scholarship
Laura Patrick, recipient of a Summer Methodology Scholarship, is a first-year master’s student at the University of Kentucky in family sciences with an emphasis in couple and family therapy. Patrick has worked as a cognitive behavioral therapist in England. She is interested in conducting dyadic and intervention research, specifically in the areas of attachment, partner affirmation, goals, well-being and relationship satisfaction.

Jean Cody, winner of a Summer Methodology Scholarship, is a doctoral student in the College of Nursing, where she works under the mentorship of Genevieve Chandler and Jeung Choi. Cody’s most recent clinical work focused on the use of empirical indicators to measure and track patient centered outcomes. Her research interest is in examining the predictors and outcomes of treatment retention in patients with opioid use disorders.

Undergraduate Research Assistantship - $3000
Shirley Plucinski, winner of a $3,000 Undergraduate Assistantship, is an honors student pursuing a degree in psychology with a double minor in education and political science. She is working under the mentorship of Rebecca Spencer to study the influence of daytime napping on motor memory in preschool children.

Honors Thesis / Capstone Award - $500
Durga Kolla, recipient of a $500 Capstone Award, is a public health and psychology (neuroscience) double major with a minor in biology. Working with advisor Laura Vandenberg, Kolla’s honors thesis characterized the effects of two common xenoestrogens on the female mouse mammary glands at prepubertal and pubertal stages of development. She will pursue her master’s in environmental health sciences next year where she will investigate the effects of xenoestrogens on pubertal timing and altered hormonal status.

Spring Travel Award - $300
Albert Lo, recipient of a $300 Spring Travel Award, is a second-year clinical psychology doctoral student working with Harold Grotevant. His travel award helped to fund his trip to the Society for Research in Child Development conference in Austin, Texas, where he presented “Trajectories of Birth Family Contact in Domestically Adopted Individuals Over Time.” Lo recently completed his master’s thesis, which focused on how adoptive parents’ views of adoption influence the parent-child relationship. He is currently the program coordinator for the Adoption Mentoring Partnership.

CRF is committed to supporting students engaged in family research—our student researchers are addressing family challenges such as childhood obesity, family violence, school readiness and immigration policies.