Fall 2022 Newsletter

autumn trees overlook campus pond

Learn about the latest alumni, student, and faculty news in our Fall 2022 Newsletter!

Read full issue

Highlights include: 

  • Message from Department Chair Maureen Perry-Jenkins
  • Is it a normal childhood tantrum or an early sign of mental illness?
  • Alumni Profile: Heather Kirkorian ‘07PhD
  • The extraordinary work of PBS summer student researchers
  • PBS Lab hosts scholars from Girls Inc. Eureka! Program

Plus other research briefs, awards, and updates from PBS.

Spotlight Scholar: Kirby Deater-Deckard

Deater-Deckard posing outside Tobin HallFor his whole life, Kirby Deater-Deckard has been an avid people watcher. Thus, he said, it was no surprise to his friends and family that he chose to study psychology.

“I’ve always been fascinated by the variety of people you see no matter where you are in the world,” said Deater-Deckard, professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences (PBS) at UMass Amherst.

Educators can help make STEM fields diverse – over 25 years, I’ve identified nudges that can encourage students to stay

Nilanjana Dasgupta, UMass Amherst

students laughing in school hallwayI am a social psychologist and the founder of the Institute of Diversity Sciences at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. For the past two decades, my research has focused on evidence-based solutions: How do we create learning and work environments that fulfill young people’s feeling of belonging, nurture self-confidence and connect their academic and professional pursuits to purpose and meaning? I’m particularly interested in the experiences of girls and women, students of color and working-class college students.

Video introduction to the Institute of Diversity Sciences

Nilanjana Dasgupta, Director of the Institute of Diversity Sciences (IDS), and Graduate Student John Vargas featured in this video showing how IDS is making a difference!

Working across colleges at UMass Amherst, IDS promotes research in science, technology, and engineering that aims to advance equity in areas such as health, learning, work, and climate change mitigation. IDS helps to match up researchers for cross-disciplinary collaborations.

Maureen Perry-Jenkins interviewed about new book 'Work Matters: How Parents’ Jobs Shape Children’s Well-Being'

still life with child's play blocks and fast food restaurant uniformMaureen Perry-Jenkins is interviewed about her new book, “Work Matters: How Parents’ Jobs Shape Children’s Well-Being,” which proposes ways to reimagine low-wage work to sustain families and their childrens’ development. Perry-Jenkins says her research for the book tried to understand how, within a group of families that held low-wage jobs, some families thrive and some don’t.

PBS lab hosts scholars from the Girls Inc. Eureka! Program

students taste various fruits

This summer, members of the Computational Memory and Perception Lab (Associate Professor Rosie Cowell, Graduate Students Natasha de la Rosa-Rivera and Anna McCarter, and Neuro Track Junior Aisling Finnegan) hosted scholars from the Girls Inc. Eureka! Program for a workshop on how our taste, vision, and memory can be deceived. Scholars rated a variety of foods on their sweetness before and after trying Miracle Fruit, a substance that makes sour foods taste sweet.

Identified protective factors to support psychological well-being among gender diverse autistic youth

three friends sit in a parkUMass Amherst faculty and alumni recently published a study focused on the intersections of gender diversity and neurodiversity among youth. Scott Greenspan (PhD, School Psychology ’20), Samuel Carr (B.S. Psychology ’19), Ashley Woodman (faculty member in PBS), Amy Cannava, and Yena Li explored school and community-based protective factors that relate to psychological well-being and life satisfaction among 31 transgender and gender diverse autistic youths between the ages of 13 to 17.

Is it a normal childhood tantrum or an early sign of mental illness?

upset child with hands covering their face

Psychologist awarded NIH grant to develop at-home tracking of young kids’ outbursts

A University of Massachusetts Amherst psychologist will use a newly awarded, two-year, $428,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to further develop and test mobile health devices worn by parents and young children that track – and perhaps can help predict – preschoolers’ tantrums.

The technology may also one day be able to identify “clinically significant tantrums,” assessing kids at high risk for mental illness, says Adam Grabell, assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences, who studies early childhood development in his Self-regulation, Emotions and Early Development (SEED) Lab.

Tammy Rahhal awarded Chancellor’s Leadership Fellowship

Tammy Rahhal
Tammy Rahhal

The Office of Faculty Development has announced Tammy Rahhal, senior lecturer II and associate chair of teaching and chief undergraduate advisor of psychological and brain sciences, as a recipient of a Chancellor’s Leadership Fellowship for the 2022-23 academic year. 

Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Tricia Serio says “I am thrilled to work with and learn alongside the Chancellor’s Leadership Fellows this year. Their projects integrate their expertise and knowledge of our campus with a new context to advance both their leadership development and our mission in new and creative ways.”