The University of Massachusetts Amherst


Rebecca Spencer, 2015 PEP Fellow, will have research featured in an upcoming Netflix documentary series and PBS Special

The sleep research of Rebecca Spencer, 2015 PEP Fellow, will be featured in a upcoming documentary series “Babies” that is set to air on Netflix beginning on Feb. 21, and in  in a PBS NOVA episode, “Mysteries of Sleep,” on Feb. 26. A film crew was on campus in March 2019 to film Spencer in her SomneuroLab at the Institute for Applied Life Sciences.​ Reported in E! NewsMassLiveNursery World and Parentology.

Linda R. Tropp, PEP Co-Director, and colleague's research on intergroup contact and prejudice featured in

For more than 50 years, social scientists and practitioners have suggested that having members of different groups interact with each other can be an effective tool for reducing prejudice. Emerging research points to a more complex and nuanced understanding of the effects of contact between groups, say Linda R. Tropp, PEP Co-Director, and colleague. Tropp says in that studies from the last 10 to 15 years suggest that the positive effects of intergroup contact tend to be weaker among members of historically advantaged groups, such as white people and heterosexuals, compared to the effects typically observed among members of historically disadvantaged groups such as people of color and sexual minorities. There has also been growing concern that contact may effectively reduce prejudice between groups but do little to change existing social inequalities, she adds. Research published in Nature Human Behaviour, and also featured in EurekAlert and News Medical Life Sciences. Tropp was also interviewed on Pell Center public television program, "Story in the Public Square", about this work.

2016 PEP Fellow, Thomas Zoeller's work with the paint company Valspar on safe substitute to BPA featured in Science

2016 PEP fellow, Thomas Zoeller's work with the paint company Valspar in the company’s search to find a safe substitute to BPA as a lining in food containers featured in Science. BPA, or bisphenol A, has been linked to cancers, diabetes and other disorders in humans. Zoeller, an expert on how BPA effects the thyroid says test data on Valspar’s latest chemical alternative to BPA suggests it does not seem to affect the thyroid system.

Elizabeth M. Schmidt, 2019 PEP Fellow, writes essay in The Conversation about whether socially responsible companies can function in a capitalist economy

Elizabeth M. Schmidt, 2019 PEP Fellow, writes an essay in The Conversation about whether socially responsible companies can function in a capitalist economy and actually make a difference for social justice rather than only generating profits. She says many companies have told the public they can do both and there are some signs of progress. Schmidt says continued pressure by shareholders, consumers and employees is needed to bring about real change.  

Donald T. Tomaskovic-Devey, 2018 PEP Fellow, and colleagues write piece in Conversation about their research on access to executive level jobs

Donald T. Tomaskovic-Devey, 2018 PEP Fellow, and colleagues write in the Conversation about their research showing that while many organizations have prioritized access to executive level jobs for minority groups, white men still hold the majority of these positions. Their analysis specifically tracked representation among Hispanic executives in different U.S. cities and found Hispanics make up 71% of the workforce, but only 4% of company executives. Reprinted in The Telegraph, the Pennsylvania Capital-Star, the Boston Business Journal, Fast Company, The Destin LogLatino USA and the Milwaukee Independent.

Paul M. Collins, 2015 PEP Fellow, comments in The Washington Post on the dilemma facing Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts in the presidential impeachment trial

Paul M. Collins, 2015 PEP Fellow, comments in The Washington Post on the dilemma facing Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts in presiding over the presidential impeachment trial. “Any decision he makes in the president’s favor will be interpreted as partisan since Roberts is a Republican. Yet any decision he makes against the president will be interpreted as biased, too,” says Collins.

Thomas Zoeller, 2016 PEP Fellow, comments in Consumer Reports about study on lead exposure in children and pregnant women.

Thomas Zoeller, 2016 PEP Fellow, comments in Consumer Reports on a study suggesting that children and pregnant women are exposed to less lead and mercury than they were two decades ago as a result of restrictions on use of these substances. Zoeller, who was not involved in the research, says this type of observational study is “never going to give us a perfect picture of what’s going on in the real world, but [it] serves as an incredibly important scientific tool in identifying potential areas of concern.”

Michael Rawlins, 2015 PEP Fellow, findings on thawing permafrost in northern Alaska featured in

Michael Rawlins, 2015 PEP Fellow and associate director of the Climate Systems Research Center at UMass Amherst, led a multi-institution team that found evidence of thawing permafrost in northern Alaska. These findings, featured in, reveal that thawing is altering the Arctic hydrological system, disrupting inhabitants and changing the environment into a source of carbon emission. Research also featured in ScienceBlog and


In appreciation of their generous support, the UMass Public Engagement Project would like to thank the Office of the ProvostUniversity Relations, and the Colleges of Natural SciencesSocial and Behavioral Sciences Humanities and Fine ArtsEngineeringPublic Health and Health Sciences, and Education.  The UMass Public Engagement Project also recognizes and appreciates in-kind contributions and collaborations with the Center for Research on Families and the Institute for Social Science Research