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Student Research Academy

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Student Research Academy

If you’re a BYU junior or senior in the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences and are a member of a group that is typically under-represented in graduate school (e.g., low income, first generation), we want you to apply to the FHSS Student Research Academy!

As an Academy student, you’ll work with a faculty member who is interested in building a mentoring relationship with you as you participate in their research project. You’ll also benefit from a structured Academy experience where you meet regularly with other Academy students and faculty for additional support as you prepare for graduate school and a career in academia or research. We believe participating in the FHSS Student Research Academy will provide experiences to help you make educated decisions about your future and put your best foot forward when applying for graduate school.

Benefits of the FHSS Student Research Academy:

  • Receive a $1,000 scholarship
  • Be hired as a paid research assistant to work with a faculty member (on average 10 hours per week at $10 per hour)
  • As part of this paid position, participate in the research process and gain valuable experience in data collection, analysis, and visualization as you work with a faculty mentor
  • Prepare for graduate school as you attend a 1-credit Academy class in both Fall and Winter semesters — you’ll connect with resources for GRE prep, for resume or CV creation, and for applying to and preparing for graduate programs
  • Add to your resume or CV as you present your research in a poster at the Mary Lou Fulton Mentored Student Research Conference in April
  • Enjoy an annual banquet to celebrate Academy students and highlight their research presentations

It’s easy to apply — here’s how:

  1. Identify research you want to be involved in or a professor you would like to work with. Carefully consider which projects listed below might best fit your interests. If you are already working with a faculty member on research, that’s great — you may still apply, just specify that you’d like to continue to work with that faculty member while in the program. If you need help connecting to a faculty member or research project, see below for a list of available faculty and research by department.
  2. Fill out and submit the application by June 4, noting at least three faculty members with whom you would be interested in working.
  3. Once accepted, enroll in the 1-credit FHSS Student Research Academy course. Times of available Academy classes are found in the application.

Application Deadline: June 4, 2021

Research Academy Opportunities

  • Dr. Greg A. Thompson

    Dr. Greg A. Thompson

    I am currently conducting follow-up research on differences in doctor-patient interactions between doctors born and raised and trained in Mexican culture and those born and raised and trained in mainstream American culture (work that I originally published in 2018 with a student, Leeann Whiffen). In that article, we showed how a Mexican doctor had a very different way of demonstrating care for his patients as compared to the American doctor (see Thompson & Whiffen 2018 for more details). This follow-up research will involve interviewing people from both of these cultural backgrounds with regard to their experiences with different doctors as well as their interpretations of statements of the doctors that we observed. Research assistants are needed to help identify interviewees and to conduct and transcribe the interviews. Researchers' familiarity with Spanish is highly valued, as is familiarity with Mexican culture.

    I also have ongoing research regarding language minoritized students in the U.S. and the consequences of "academic language" for these and other students (focusing on Spanish language speakers in the U.S.). A third research project that I am working on involves conducting research in South Korean elementary schools. For both of these projects, skill in the appropriate language is helpful but not required.

  • Dr. Joseph Price

    Dr. Joseph Price

    My research lab (rll.byu.edu) is constructing a longitudinal panel that includes nearly every Black family that lived in the United States between 1870 and 1940. The construction of this dataset is a combination of machine learning and traditional family history tools. We are using this to data to study factors that contribute to black-white gaps in income, education, and lifespan. We are also exploring sources of racial and ethnic prejudice and the impact that this prejudice has on the outcomes of children.

    Dr. Riley Wilson

    Dr. Riley Wilson

    The government operates many programs and policies that we collectively call the “Social Safety Net” to aid low-income households. This includes things like low-income Head Start, Food Stamps, Disability Insurance, and aspects of the tax system like the child tax credit or the earned income tax credit. In addition to providing aid, the structure of these programs creates incentives for potential participants. My research explores how government policies like these affect individuals’ and households’ outcomes and behaviors. This can help us better understand people’s incentives and decisions making, what types of government interventions are effective, and how policies could be changed to be more efficient and better alleviate poverty and boost economic mobility. To study these behaviors, I combine institutional knowledge of program structure with unique data sources to identify and estimate plausibly causal relationships and patterns.

  • Dr. Matt Bekker

    Dr. Matt Bekker

    My research is focused on tree-ring analysis, and I have three active projects in historical archaeology that are in various stages — from field collection and laboratory analysis through data analysis and writing co-authored manuscripts. The projects include an analysis of timbers used to build the Transcontinental Railroad, construction dates and practices for three pioneer-era cabins in the Utah Territorial Statehouse Museum in Fillmore, and several structures on Beaver Island in Michigan that are all associated in some way with the “Strangites” (a splinter group that broke off from the Church at the end of the Nauvoo era). I also may have some climate reconstruction-based fieldwork to do this summer. In short, I should be able to find a project that fits a broad range of interest and skill sets. I may also be able to send the student to the Greater Yellowstone area in July to receive specialized training through a fieldweek experience that has been run for over 25 years and includes intensive experience in field, lab, data analysis, writing, and oral communication skills.

    Dr. Ruth Kerry

    Dr. Ruth Kerry

    I work on spatial analysis within the environment, particularly in relation to soil and plants. My current projects focus on: 1) Response to the megadrought in the US west: spatial analysis of soil moisture and plant health to devise irrigation strategies that maintain plant health but use less water. Research involves fieldwork, GIS and statistical analysis. 2) Spatial studies investigating the impacts of mining activities in Utah on air pollution and health outcomes. Research involves analysis of remotely sensed imagery, GIS, statistical analysis, field work and working with genealogical records. 3) Determining potential shifts in the zones where particular crops can be viably grown (Land Suitability and Capability Classifications) under future climate change scenarios. Research involves online data collection, GIS and statistical analysis. 4) Determining if nutrient management zones for precision farming can be general purpose or need to be nutrient specific. Research involves statistical analysis and some GIS.

    Dr. Samuel Otterstrom

    Dr. Samuel Otterstrom

    I have opportunities for students to study historical migration using genealogical data, the geography of historical markers (nationally and internationally), historical geography of the American West, population migration and housing costs in America, and Central America geography and population change.

  • Dr. Rebecca Deschweinitz

    Dr. Rebecca Deschweinitz

    My current research explores the movement to lower the voting age to 18 and youth and electoral politics more broadly from World War II to the early 1970s. I began work on this project as I was exploring what "mainstream" youth civil rights activists were doing in the era of Black Power. It turns out they were doing lots of voter registration work, and got involved in a campaign to lower the voting age. The project has taken off from there. I am happy to have a student work on this project or to work with a student on their own research on topics related to U.S. Women’s History, 20th century African American History, or the History of Childhood and Youth.

    Dr. Ignacio Garcia

    Dr. Ignacio Garcia

    I am willing to work with a student that has interest in doing some research on Latino Latter-day Saints, particularly on those in Salt Lake City and those who worked for the LDS Church.

    Dr. David-James Gonzales

    Dr. David-James Gonzales

    The student participating in this project would be asked to assist in archival data collection and transcription of historical documents. The documents are accessible through digitized university collections. Some of this work will involve transcribing handwritten documents. If the student is fluent in Spanish, then it may also involve translating and transcribing documents and recorded interviews into English.

    Dr. Leslie Hadfield

    Dr. Leslie Hadfield

    I am looking for a research assistant to work on a pioneers in Africa booklet for use by youth groups in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

    Dr. Jeff S. Hardy

    Dr. Jeff S. Hardy

    I am able and willing to help with any project involving prisons or concentration camps or other forms of incarceration (but not slavery). I personally work on the Gulag and could supervise on one of my own projects, but am also willing to help will a student's own project.

    Dr. Amy Harris

    Dr. Amy Harris

    Project One: Historical content for new online database, London Centre Lives. A joint project between the Kennedy Center and the Center for Family History and Genealogy, londoncentrelives.byu.edu (link not yet live), traces the history of all the people who lived in the buildings that now house BYU’s London Centre. The research into the individuals is complete. Research covering the social, cultural, and political context of west London, 1870s–1960s, now needs to be conducted. This is an ideal project for someone considering graduate school in history, public history, geography, anthropology, or sociology as it requires the ability to read scholarship on the topic and synthesize it in a way that will be accessible and interesting to the public.

    Project Two: Join the Early British Census research team (https://ebc.byu.edu). A team of student researchers and volunteers are digitizing and extracting pre-1841 British census records. These documents are scattered across dozens of archives and have never been brought together in one database. Ultimately, the database will likely include nearly half a million people from across the British Isles between 1801 and 1840. Once complete the database could prove a game-changer for both genealogical and historical research covering early industrial Britain. Research assistants need the ability to read 19th-century handwriting.

    Dr. Christopher Hodson

    Dr. Christopher Hodson

    I work on early American history, broadly construed. Right now I am completing a book manuscript on the history of French colonialism in the Atlantic world from the Crusades up through the 19th century. I’m also beginning work on a new book set to be published by Wiley-Blackwell; it is a student-friendly history of the entire Atlantic world (so, Western Europe, West Africa, and the Americas) from the medieval period through the age of revolutions — I’d love to have students working on this project with me.

    Dr. Matthew Mason

    Dr. Matthew Mason

    Given the nature of my research I’d be best suited to supporting student-led research projects. My research interests are in the politics of slavery in the 18th and 19th centuries in Britain and the United States.

    Dr. George Ryskamp

    Dr. George Ryskamp

    Professor Cacey Farnsworth and I do family history research in Spanish and Portuguese. We have a couple of projects that are building websites on the Center for Family History and Genealogy website (cfhg.byu.edu). The paleography tutorials in Spanish and Portuguese at script.byu.edu are of potential value for developing skills in reading historical documents in these languages. I am also working on a public history website that is not yet posted. It has as its goals 1) Serve as a public history website, exposing users to 18th century life in a Spanish village; 2) Teach concepts that bring family history alive using geography, social history and material culture in the context of an 18th century village; 3) Demonstrate how women in Garganta la Olla exercised significant legal and economic rights, played unique and key roles in maintaining village life, and found significant means of creative expression; and 4) Act as a laboratory for teaching Spanish genealogical methodologies.

  • Dr. Michael Larson

    Dr. Michael Larson

    Dr. Larson’s Clinical Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuropsychology Lab uses electroencephalogram (EEG) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to study cognitive control and the interaction between how we implement neural control of behavior and psychiatric and neurologic difficulties (including depression, anxiety, and concussion/head injury), as well as the influence on exercise, food intake, and reward processing. Students working in the lab learn cognitive neuroscience and neuropsychology measures, assist in participant recruitment and data collection, and have opportunities for learning advanced data analytics and writing opportunities for those that stay in the lab longer term. We are excited to have students join us to learn neuropsychology and neuroscience methods that can be applied to clinical and applied questions in interesting settings.

    Dr. Jared Nielsen

    Dr. Jared Nielsen

    In the Nielsen Brain & Behavior Lab, we are interested in answering questions about the organization of the brain and how neurological and psychiatric illnesses disrupt its organization. To answer these questions, we use a variety of analytical techniques to extract quantitative information from MRI scans. We currently have projects that investigate how the brain is affected in individuals with autism, OCD, suicidal thoughts, dementia, and mood and anxiety disorders. Our hope is that the information we learn as scientists will inform and improve the way clinicians diagnose and treat their patients.

    Dr. Dixon Woodbury

    Dr. Dixon Woodbury

    My research is in cellular and molecular physiology, particularly vesicle membrane fusion in neuronal cells and its modulation by alcohol, anesthetics, and botulinum toxin. More information can be found here: http://woodburylab.byu.edu/

  • Dr. Lisa Argyle

    Dr. Lisa Argyle

    I study political psychology in the context of American politics. In particular, my research focuses on understanding when, why, and how people talk about politics with their friends and family as part of their everyday lives — both online and offline. I am currently working on projects using survey data to examine how demographic factors like age and gender affect how people talk about politics.

    Dr. Ethan C. Busby

    Dr. Ethan C. Busby

    I have a number of current projects where students could be involved. One considers how race and gender influence how elected officials respond to their constituents. Specifically, I consider how holders of public office respond to their constituents differently based on (1) constituents’ presumed racial identity, (2) constituents’ presumed gender identity, and (3) whether or not constituents bring up race or gender to public officials. We have already collected the data for this project (both how much elected officials respond to constituents and what they say when they do respond) and are working through the analysis and potentially some follow-up studies. Another project explores how members of the public and elected officials think about extremism — what they label as extremist and how different kinds of information change who they consider to be extreme. This project involves multiple data sources, including data from Twitter, survey experiments, and open-ended text analysis of people’s definitions of extremism. I have plans to expand this study to include other nations besides the United States, such as the UK, Canada, and Mexico. I am involved in other projects as well (more details at ethanbusby.com) and am happy to involve students in any of my ongoing research tracks.

    Dr. Adam Dynes

    Dr. Adam Dynes

    I study legislative politics and the factors that influence how elected officials represent their constituents. Though I have published research on the national, state, and local levels in the United States, my more recent work focuses on municipal politics. I often use surveys of elected officials in my research as well as experiments on these officials to examine their attitudes and behavior with regard to how they represent their constituents. Right now, I am compiling a massive database of municipal officials to examine how different electoral institutions affect how well municipal officials line up with their constituents' partisanship, gender, and race. I am in the process of creating the largest and most comprehensive dataset of municipal officials (including all elected municipal officials), around 200,000 or so. I also have a team of RAs who are searching for institutional data about these officials' cities. With this information, we can examine how well municipal officials represent their constituents in terms of their partisanship, gender, and race. (i.e., how well do officials match their constituents on these dimensions?) We can also examine whether different institutions (such as whether local elections are held at the same time as national ones or whether the elections are partisan or not) affect how well municipal officials represent their constituents. We are also interested in expanding this research to examine how it may impact local policies, such as policing.

    Dr. Darren Hawkins

    Dr. Darren Hawkins

    I am developing a website, impactevidence.org, that makes data about policy effectiveness with respect to human well-being (for example, income level among the poor) available to decision-makers in developing countries. I am carrying out a series of experiments about what sorts of information or psychological nudges might prompt those decision-makers to use our website and the rich data within it.

  • Dr. Bruce Brown

    Dr. Bruce Brown

    Logan Kowallis, a doctoral candidate in the Psychology Department, during July 2020 will complete a dissertation in which he created what is the largest linguistic corpus of vocal emotion recordings in existence (8GB). It is currently being archived in the Brigham Young University ScholarsArchive as a resource for future replication studies and also as seed data for many yet to be designed future vocal emotion studies. During the 2020-2021 academic year we plan to conduct a research group online through Zoom in which several small teams of students can design and carry out their own studies, analyze results, and create publishable papers. Some studies will be based upon human subjective ratings and identifications of the portrayed emotions (using Qualtrix), and some studies will involve statistical and psychometric analysis of the acoustic and linguistic properties of the vocal emotion recordings.

    Dr. Sam A. Hardy

    Dr. Sam A. Hardy

    I study adolescent and young adult religious/spiritual development. Right now I’m using longitudinal datasets to look at things like religious affiliation differences, developmental trajectories of religiosity, and processes of conversion and deconversion. Dr. Hardy is not available to run student-led projects.

    Dr. Michael Larson

    Dr. Michael Larson

    Dr. Larson’s Clinical Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuropsychology Lab uses electroencephalogram (EEG) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to study cognitive control and the interaction between how we implement neural control of behavior and psychiatric and neurologic difficulties (including depression, anxiety, and concussion/head injury), as well as the influence on exercise, food intake, and reward processing. Students working in the lab learn cognitive neuroscience and neuropsychology measures, assist in participant recruitment and data collection, and have opportunities for learning advanced data analytics and writing opportunities for those that stay in the lab longer term. We are excited to have students join us to learn neuropsychology and neuroscience methods that can be applied to clinical and applied questions in interesting settings.

    Dr. Rebecca Lundwall

    Dr. Rebecca Lundwall

    Dr. Lundwall will be working on two research projects during the Fall 2021–Winter 2022 Academic year: (1) We are comparing fecal samples in infancy to social and cognitive testing results in toddlerhood of infants with siblings with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) to infants from the same age who have no relatives with autism; (2) We are wrapping up an MRI study examining attention task performance in children and young adults with and without mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI). For more information, see https://cogdevelopment.byu.edu/research.

    Dr. Jared Nielsen

    Dr. Jared Nielsen

    In the Nielsen Brain & Behavior Lab, we are interested in answering questions about the organization of the brain and how neurological and psychiatric illnesses disrupt its organization. To answer these questions, we use a variety of analytical techniques to extract quantitative information from MRI scans. We currently have projects that investigate how the brain is affected in individuals with autism, OCD, suicidal thoughts, dementia, and mood and anxiety disorders. Our hope is that the information we learn as scientists will inform and improve the way clinicians diagnose and treat their patients.

    Dr. Niwako Yamawaki

    Dr. Niwako Yamawaki

    My research interests are often focused on examining the effects of sexism, stereotypes, and gender-role traditionality on individuals’ attitudes toward violence against women. Another area of my research is to investigate the cultural factors, such as stigma, discrimination, collectivism, and so forth that may influence one’s attitudes toward mental health services. I conduct these studies in cross-cultural settings.

  • Dr. Roy Bean

    Dr. Roy Bean

    MORE (Minority-Oriented Research Evaluation) is a cross-disciplinary content analysis project examining the social sciences literature and its attention to racial/ethnic/cultural minorities. Student researchers will categorize and code journal articles based on topic, level of minority focus, methodology and sample characteristics. Involved students will benefit in terms of: greater familiarity with PsycINFO (digital database for social science research), increased ability to dissect and understand the structure of journal articles, insight into the larger breadth of social science research topics (clinical and non-clinical), an awareness of the relative under-supply of research focused on racial/ethnic/cultural minorities. Dr. Bean will also provide orientation to the application process for graduate school (especially clinical programs), and what admissions committees look for in students. RAs can participate in the project by enrolling in SFL 403R/PSYCH 430R with Dr. Bean (offered F/W/Spring). Students are then eligible to be considered for paid RA positions. RA Tasks: Reviewing and qualitatively coding journal articles, Working in partnerships for better accuracy/reliability in coding, Working in partnerships for better accuracy/reliability in coding, Participate in weekly quality control meetings, Verify accuracy of data previously collected, Developing research posters/presentations. Contact: byumore@byu.edu

    Dr. Sarah Coyne

    Dr. Sarah Coyne

    I am working on several studies including a qualitative study on church culture and LGBTQ+ individuals, a content analysis of art related to Heavenly Mother, and studies on the impact of media on children and young adults.

    Dr. Jeff Dew

    Dr. Jeff Dew

    My research examines how money and money management influences the quality of peoples’ marriages and vice-versa. Currently, I’m doing research on two topics—how and why spouses deceive each other when it comes to their finances and how the quality of our sleep might influence our financial behaviors. I would be happy to have an interested student or two join my research group.

    Dr. Ashley Larsen Gibby

    Dr. Ashley Larsen Gibby

    Note: Dr. Gibby is on parental leave Fall 2021.
    My research considers the intersection of family, gender, and child well-being. A main goal of my work is to examine how socio-demographic characteristics, primarily gender and adoption, influence parents' decision-making and other family processes. One branch of my research focuses on adoption. Here, I consider how child characteristics (i.e., race and gender) shape adoption decisions, are correlated with family structure for adopted children, are related to parental investments and, moving forward, how child characteristics relate to motivations to adopt and sibling relationships. My gender research considers the complexity of fertility decisions for men and women as well as how parental characteristics, like gender ideology, shape adolescents’ housework.

    Dr. Chelom Leavitt

    Dr. Chelom Leavitt

    My research projects include research on healthy sexuality and sexual mindfulness. We are writing a number of manuscripts on healthy sexual functioning, how sexual mindfulness is linked to better relational and sexual outcomes, the ability to teach couples to be more mindful during sex and the change process of being able to slow down arousal, emotions, and behavior to act with more intention and purpose during sex. My research lab is still accepting student applications https://familylife.byu.edu/research-interests

    We also work on a blog/podcast on my website www.chelomleavitt.com

    Dr. Loren Marks

    Dr. Loren Marks

    For 20 years, the American Families of Faith (AFF) research project has explored how high quality, enduring marriages and families are built. Specifically, we conduct and analyze in-depth interviews with wives and husbands from diverse races, religions, and regions of the country. To date, more than 100 publications have come out of this project, including three student-led “Paper of the Year” award winners. Large subsets of interviews are available for coding and analysis by interested and motivated students. These data sets include: Strong Black Families (43 families), Strong Latino families (30 families), Strong Asian families (24 families), and Strong Native American families (10 families). Interested students may contact Dr. Loren Marks at loren_marks@byu.edu.

    Dr. Jason Whiting

    Dr. Jason Whiting

    I am leading a large-scale qualitative project to better understand the patterns in intimate relationships that partners identify as healthy and unhealthy. This project will help scholars and practitioners focus on these essential areas, and help couples understand how to strengthen their relationships and identify and change problems. Research assistants will help with interviews, transcription, and data analysis.

    Dr. Jocelyn Wikle

    Dr. Jocelyn Wikle

    Dr. Wikle is beginning a state-wide family policy initiative to use research to build better public policy for families in Utah. This project involves collecting past research on family policy topics and creating research briefs. This project also involves sharing findings with state legislators and staff at state agencies.

    Dr. Jeremy Yorgason

    Dr. Jeremy Yorgason

    Dr. Yorgason studies how married couples manage illness in their relationships. He is currently studying older couples wherein one spouse has a sensory impairment (hearing loss, vision loss), and how social connections buffer the impact of sensory impairments on later cognitive functioning. He is also looking for a student to join his research lab as they study young married couples where one spouse has type 1 diabetes. Interested students would be able to work on one or both of these projects.

  • Dr. Cole Hooley

    Dr. Cole Hooley

    I study mental health services and how we can get what works to the people who need it more efficiently, more quickly, more lastingly, and more equitably. Right now I have a project assessing the supply of the mental health workforce in Utah, a project building a computer simulation modeling the scale-up of mental health services, a project working with tech companies to improve the mental health of their employees, and a project building a repository of tools to measure the availability and accessibility of mental health services. I’m also happy to mentor a student-led project within my area of expertise (e.g. I have a student doing a review study on the gamification of psychotherapy).

  • Dr. Curtis Child

    Dr. Curtis Child

    I am currently researching how our relationships become commercialized in modern society, as well as how we navigate those relationships when they face commercializing pressures. I investigate these issues by looking at the multi-level marketing industry. To date, I have conducted scores of in-depth interviews with multi-level marketing sellers and people who have been sold to by friends and family. I also have lengthy fieldnotes taken from my attendance at several multi-level marketing conventions. Student collaborators would be involved in analyzing these data (reading them, identifying themes, etc.) and writing about them. See this example paper from this project: https://sociologicalscience.com/articles-v8-1-1/.

    Dr. Eric Dahlin

    Dr. Eric Dahlin

    In partnership with Chris Mattson (faculty member in Mechanical Engineering), the research project has been funded twice by the National Science Foundation and examines the social impacts of products designed by engineers for communities in developing countries. I would need an RA to do a variety of research tasks including literature searches, data collection (primarily qualitative at this stage), data analysis, and writeup. As part of the research team, the RA would attend weekly meetings with other sociology and engineering students. We help RAs oversee individual research projects that fit within the broader scope of our research and work toward publishing the results in peer-reviewed journals.

    Dr. Lance Erickson

    Dr. Lance Erickson

    Using a sample of high school juniors and seniors from Washington State from 1966, we are examining how early-, mid-, and later-life social environments might trigger genetic propensities to cognitive decline and dementia in the elderly. Without any effective treatments for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, scientists are increasingly hoping to find avenues for prevention. The problem is that little data is available on older adults from earlier on in their lives. These data provide a unique opportunity to examine how early-life experiences might influence the genetic expression of late-life dementia. We are currently collecting data from a survey, telephone interview, and saliva samples but are nearing the data cleaning stage, which will be followed by data analysis.

    Dr. Jane Lilly López

    Dr. Jane Lilly López

    I have two ongoing projects related to immigration and citizenship. The first is an interview-based project examining the experiences of integration and belonging for immigrants living in Utah. The second is an archival project examining the meaning and substance of the obligations associated with citizenship (like taxation, jury duty, and military service). If you're interested in honing your qualitative research skills, one or both of these projects could be a great fit.