These funds are awarded to students whose research proposals merit special recognition and display a strong potential to contribute to the field of child development. The purpose of the award is to fund the research costs and professional development of the proposed dissertation research project.
Chan’s research focuses on how things like play activities, visual contexts, and examiner’s actions affect children’s attention to numbers and interpretation of number words. Her dissertation tests how non-numerical skills such as language and executive function influence mathematical thinking and learning.
The event consisted of 3 days of research presentations and educator outreach, and featured speakers from the fields of cognitive psychology, neuroscience, and educational psychology. The conference was followed by 2 days of workshops, which were attended by the U.S. delegation of eight graduate students and five faculty members.
During the post-conference workshops, Semenov and the U.S. delegation met with researchers from the Queensland Brain Institute. These workshops addressed research topics, such as new technologies, social and emotional determinants of learning, and multimedia learning. They also covered international collaboration and scientist/educator collaboration. Semenov presented his project on introducing structured family routines to Head Start and Early Head Start families as a way to improve executive function in children.
According to the blog, parents who participated in Project ADAPT reported feeling better about their parenting, which in turn leads to improvements in the child’s adjustment. The project has also reduced depression, PTSD symptoms, and thoughts of suicide for the parents involved.
Laura Reimann, a child psychology undergraduate student, shares why she chose to study child psychology and gives advice for other students pursuing the major.
How and why did you choose your major?
As a freshman, I did an internship at the Wisconsin State Public Defender’s Office, and it changed my entire outlook on mass incarceration and the effects it has on children and families. I heard devastating stories of separation, and of parents who knew their incarceration was impacting their children, but did not know how to mitigate those effects. They were scared and uncertain of where their children were and how they were doing. As I completed my internship I realized this was the area I wanted to try and help to change, but I knew that I did not want to be an attorney. So, I approached the child psychology advisor and asked for more information. He gave me some advice about how to choose a major and encouraged me to connect with Dr. Ann Masten. I read more about her research and about the classes in the major and knew this was where I wanted to be!
Please give a description (in your words) of your major including the things you learn, favorite classes, and any challenges you have faced.
The child psychology major is unique because it combines a lot of different class work with field work and research opportunities. During my time as a child psychology major, I have participated in a variety of activities, including field work at the University of Minnesota Child Development Center and have participated in research in the Masten Lab of Risk and Resilience and the Shlafer Lab, which studies the effects of mass incarceration on families.
What types of experiences outside of the classroom have you had relating to your major? (i.e. clubs, jobs, internships, volunteering, study abroad etc.)
I am involved as an officer in the Child Psychology Student Organization where we participate in various events which include community service, hosting guest speakers to talk about topics our members are interested in, and free food! During my first year, I had an internship at the Wisconsin State Public Defender’s Office where I got to see the court system in action and observe the effects of incarceration firsthand, which led to my involvement in research with Dr. Rebecca Shlafer, that systematically examines these effects. My research interests also led me to pursue an undergraduate research assistant position in the Masten Lab of Risk and Resilience, examining risk and protective factors in the lives of children experiencing homelessness and high mobility, under the direction of Dr. Ann Masten. Finally, I work on campus as a peer assistant at the University Honors Program.
In your opinion, what is one thing, or one piece of advice that other students pursuing your major should know?
Find something you are passionate about, get involved, and be assertive! The Institute of Child Development has so much to offer and it is so important to find an issue or area within the field that you are passionate about and find a way to work on it. Whether it is volunteering at a local school or spending your time in a lab doing research, make sure you love it. When you find something that you care about, be assertive and find a way to get involved. Even if you are nervous, approach professors doing research you care about and talk to them about what opportunities they know of that fall within your areas of interest. The undergraduate experience is what you make it, so pursue things you love and do not be afraid to try something new.
Ann S. Masten, Ph.D., Regents Professor and Irving B. Harris Professor of Child Development in the Institute of Child Development (ICD), was recently featured in an article appearing in the September 2017 issue of the American Psychological Association’s Monitor on Psychology.
The article, “Maximizing children’s resilience,” by Kirsten Weir, highlighted new research that examines how to foster resilience in children and adolescents and the importance of early intervention.
According to Masten, the field has shifted from focusing on traits of resilient individuals to looking at resilience from a systems perspective. For example, Masten, along with other researchers, have found that having supportive relationships, including with parents or primary caregivers, is important for healthy development.
“The resilience of an individual depends on drawing resources from many other systems,” Masten says. “A child is embedded in interactions with friends, family, community. The way those other systems are functioning plays a huge role in the capacity of that child to overcome adversity.”
Abigail Gewirtz, Lindahl Leadership professor in the Department of Family Social Science and the Institute for Translational Research, was interviewed by WCCO-TV and KSTP-TV about her research program, ADAPT, that supports military families reintegrating following deployment. The unique program provides tools and resources to support positive parenting. A U.S. Department of Defense grant is underwriting an online version of ADAPT to serve more military families.
Shlafer, who teaches an honors class titled, Incarceration and the Family, partnered with Diana Poch, a psychologist at Sandstone, to launch the project. Poch had noticed positive behavior changes in inmates who learned how to crochet and were teaching others the craft.
Last semester, Shlafer and her students collected a total of 350 pounds of yarn to provide to the inmates. With the yarn, the inmates crocheted animals for sick children at four Twin Cities Ronald McDonald Houses.
“It was so powerful for my students to learn how many consequences there are to sometimes very limited decisions,” Shlafer said. “They made an impact in a way that really challenged the students’ assumptions about who is in prison for what and why, raising questions around equity.”
Reimann plans to continue to raise awareness about Project Teddy Bear next semester as Shlafer’s teaching assistant. “People have a tremendous capacity to change if given the chance and the resources,” Reimann said. “They are creating something with another human in mind and giving something back to a community that thinks they are only taking.”
The Smith College Medal was established in 1962 to recognize alumnae who exemplify in their lives and work “the true purpose” of a liberal arts education. More than 200 Smith alumnae have received the award, including journalist and activist Gloria Steinem and U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI). Masten was one of four alumnae to receive the medal this year.
Masten is a leading psychologist who focuses on competence, risk, and resilience in human development, especially in children and families threatened by adversity. The goal of her work is to inform science, practice, and policy around human adaptation and resilience.
Masten will receive the medal during Smith College’s Rally Day, which will take place on Feb. 21, 2018.
During their trip, Thompson and Aleixo visited the SNU lab school, a training site for graduate students, and met with teachers to exchange ideas on research and best practices for early childhood education. Thompson also gave a talk on big body play and integrating early childhood education.
“It was an amazing first meeting with the faculty and grad students at SNU,” Thompson said. “The level of dedication and eagerness to learn displayed by the students shows the workings of a great potential partnership. We look forward to continuing to cultivate our relationship with SNU and its Lab School.”
The award is sponsored by the University of Minnesota’s Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost and the Women’s Center. It recognizes women faculty at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities who have achieved significant scientific accomplishments, national and international reputations, and who contribute as leaders on campus.
Up to two awards are offered per year, one in science and engineering and one in humanities, arts, and social sciences. As a recipient of a 2017 award, Koenig will receive $5,000 to support her research.
The summer institute is a community event hosted by the University of Minnesota’s Center for Spirituality and Healing. The 3-day event aimed to bring together teachers, researchers, clinicians, and practitioners to discuss mindfulness research and ways to promote practices that support wellbeing in school communities.
For the event, Zelazo delivered a keynote address that focused on how mindfulness practice has been shown to promote reflection and executive functions in children and adults.
Semenov’s presentation highlighted findings from curriculum evaluation conducted this past year. The novel curriculum, developed in collaboration with the Center for Spirituality and Healing, introduced mindfulness practice to a cohort of elementary school teachers in an effort to improve teacher wellbeing and promote mindful approaches to student-teacher interactions.
The Diversity in Psychology Program is designed for individuals who are historically under-represented in psychology graduate programs and who are interested in learning about graduate training in psychology, child psychology, and educational/school psychology at the University of Minnesota.
The program will feature a coordinated set of formal and informal experiences designed to familiarize participants with strategies for constructing successful graduate school applications, and to provide them with the opportunity to learn more about the experience of graduate education in UMN psychology departments.
To be eligible to apply, individuals must:
be enrolled in a college or university as a junior or senior, or who have graduated within the last two years (i.e., 2015 or thereafter). Individuals currently enrolled in a terminal masters-level graduate program in psychology are also eligible.
identify as a member of groups underrepresented in graduate training in psychology, including ethnic and racial minority groups, low-income backgrounds, persons with disability, LGBTQ+, military veterans, and first-generation college students or graduates.
Individuals must also meet one of the following criteria:
be committed to pursuing doctoral training in either child psychology or educational/school psychology. OR
be committed to pursuing doctoral training in psychology in one of the following programs of research offered by the Department of Psychology: clinical science and psychopathology; counseling psychology; cognitive and brain sciences; industrial/organizational psychology; personality, individual differences, and behavior genetics; quantitative psychology/psychometric methods; or social psychology.
Approximately one out of 68 school-aged children in the U.S. has a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder, and their younger siblings are at a higher risk of developing the condition. “These findings need to be replicated, but that said, we are very excited about the potential to leverage cutting edge technology to advance the search for the earliest signs of autism,” Elison said.
For the study, researchers used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to measure the brain’s functional connectivity – or how different brain regions work together – in high-risk, 6-month-old infants. The infants were considered high-risk because they have an older sibling with autism. Overall, 59 high-risk infants were included in the study. Eleven of the infants were diagnosed with ASD at 2 years old and 48 were not.
The researchers applied machine learning algorithms to the infants’ brain scans to identify patterns that separated them into the two groups. They then applied the algorithm to each of the infants to predict which infants would later be diagnosed with ASD. The algorithm correctly predicted nine of the 11 infants who were later diagnosed with ASD and all 48 of the infants who were not later diagnosed with the condition.
According to the researchers, if replicated, the results could provide a clinically valuable tool for detecting ASD in high-risk infants before symptoms set in. This in turn would allow researchers to test the effectiveness of interventions on a population of high-risk infants who have been identified as having a greater risk of ASD based on their brain scan at 6 months of age.
“The researchers will now try to confirm their findings in larger groups of children. But they already have provided proof of principle that it’s possible to detect ASD long before children show the first visible signs of the condition,” NIH Director Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D., wrote in a blog about the study. “The findings could pave the way for developing more cost-effective mobile neuroimaging tools, which might be used in early ASD screening.”
In February 2017, Elison and Wolff contributed to a separate study that used MRI scans of high-risk infants conducted at 6 and 12 months of age to accurately predict which infants would later meet criteria for ASD at age 2. The method used in the new study would only require one scan at 6 months of age.
“This is really interdisciplinary science at its very best, and I anticipate it will eventually lead to improved outcomes for children and families,” Wolff said. “The ability to predict autism in infancy opens the door for something that has long been improbable: pre-symptomatic intervention.”
ITR’s primary mission is to bridge the gap between research and practice in children’s mental health.
The fellowship aims to help graduate students pursue collaborative research projects on the development or expansion of evidence-based prevention or treatment interventions in children’s mental health. Palmer is one of four graduate students who was awarded a fellowship this year.
Palmer’s research will focus on parent self-regulation, parenting quality, and child behavioral outcomes in homeless families.
Founded in 2002, WPLC aims to raise visibility of women leaders in education and human development and provide financial support to women in educational leadership positions. Each year, WPLC makes several awards of up to $2,500 to graduate students to honor their achievement and leadership.
Fenoglio is currently a doctoral candidate working with ICD faculty Jed Elison, Ph.D., and Michael Georgieff, M.D. Her research focuses on the development of the “social brain.” In her work, she examines how atypical early experiences, such as premature birth, might affect the development of brain circuits involved in social skills like following a caregiver’s gaze or thinking about the beliefs and desires of others. The long-term goal of her research is to contribute to strategic prevention and intervention in pre-term infants and other populations at an increased risk of mental illness.
Reflective practice is a professional development approach that encourages individuals to pay attention to relationships as they examine behavior and their responses to behavior. In the infant and early childhood mental health field, reflective practice asks practitioners to explore how they relate to the children and families they work with, who may be facing multiple challenges and risks. Practitioners engage in reflective practice in partnership with a supervisor or consultant.
The new CEED center will serve as an intellectual home for high-quality, cutting-edge research in reflective practice. It will also disseminate knowledge about reflective practice, help professionals incorporate reflective practice principles into their work, and inform policy dealing with infant and early childhood mental health. The center will be the first of its kind internationally.
“We are grateful to the Lynne & Andrew Redleaf Foundation for their support as we work to impact infant and early childhood programs and providers, both in Minnesota and across the country,” says Christopher Watson, Ph.D., IMH-E®[IV], director of the new center at CEED. “This generous gift will allow CEED to bolster its work in reflective supervision and to better support staff who serve families facing complex challenges. We look forward to carrying out this work in an effort to improve developmental outcomes for infants and young children.”
The CEHD Rising Alumni award recognizes alumni who have achieved early distinction in their career (15 years or less since graduation), demonstrated emerging leadership, or shown exceptional volunteer service in their communities.
Boettcher currently serves as program director of Caring for Kids at Interfaith Outreach & Community Partners, where she is working to close the opportunity gap and provide access to high quality early education programs for children living in poverty. In her role, she partners with school districts and community agencies to increase investment in early learning.
“We are so pleased to see Rachel’s important work in securing high quality early childhood programming for families at risk recognized by CEHD,” said Ann Ruhl Carlson, M.Ed., coordinator of early childhood programs in ICD. “Throughout her budding career, she has used what she learned and practiced during her undergraduate and graduate programs in early childhood education to make a difference in the world.”
For the symposium, which was co-hosted by the Minnesota Children’s Museum, ICD faculty and staff presented cutting-edge research on play and discussed why it is critical to child development.
Presentations covered topics including play’s impact on a child’s understanding of math, how play influences the development of executive function, and how the Children’s Theatre Company is incorporating research into a preschool storytelling program. Each presentation was followed by a play-based activity that asked participants to explore what they learned.
Experts from the Minnesota Children’s Museum also provided a sneak peek of their new facility and exhibits, which will open to the public on June 7.
To learn more about why play is critical to learning and child development, read the following articles from Connect, the College of Education and Human Development’s alumni magazine.
“The power of play:” Play is essential for learning and growing, but it doesn’t get the respect it deserves. New research is changing that.
“Play lab:” Children lead at the U’s laboratory preschool