Graduate student in Human Development and Family Sciences. Interviewed by Larissa Herold.
You received a prestigious predoctoral fellowship from the National Institutes of Health to support your research. What ages do you study?
A lot of my research focuses on the adolescent/young adult population. That’s a really important, formative time for development. For people having negative experiences early in their adolescence, there can be implications down the line for their health as adults. Understanding how experiences and events earlier in your life are related to health outcomes later on in life, that’s what I’m really interested in, and looking at transitions from adolescence to adulthood and the effects of those early aversive experiences.
Lessening health disparities, including for sexual minorities, is part of your focus. What motivates you?
I guess there are two things. I’m a curious person, so there is the intellectual piece that’s intrinsically motivating. But, also, I go back to this core ideal or value that people should be able to live their lives authentically, and if my research can help them do that, then it’s important.
How does being at UT Austin affect your work?
UT is a cool place, and Austin is a fun city. Faculty give a lot of feedback. My advisor has been really supportive of me both working on his research but also giving me flexibility to do projects that I’m interested in and pursuing research that’s a little different.
Have you found any solutions that would improve health for vulnerable groups?
In a paper two colleagues and I just published, we found that bullying explained the higher risk for alcohol use among sexual minority youth. This is evidence that interventions for bullying at schools can help mitigate health risks.
What’s the case for this research, and why would people care about what you find?
We need more information to best help people. Understanding different experiences can help, and we can make our research more inclusive.
There’s this movement to try to make research more aligned with reality, rather than a specific way of looking at reality that doesn’t necessarily match people’s experiences. When we do research like that, research that has more applications to real life, then I think people care.