Every semester our faculty offer opportunities for undergraduate students to work in their labs and participate in research. These are perfect opportunities for students to learn useful skills that will prepare them for graduate school and jobs.

Below are projects available in Spring 2024, Summer 2024, and Fall 2024.* (updated 9/6/2023)

*This list may not be exhaustive. If you are interested in working with a specific faculty member/project not listed here, contact the individual faculty member to discuss any opportunities.

Adolescent Development and Parenting during Transitions (ADAPT) Lab

The Adolescent Development and Parenting during Transitions (ADAPT) Lab is seeking undergraduate research assistants. Students have opportunities to gain valuable research experience in the areas of adolescent stress, parent-adolescent communication, and adolescent sleep. Students will participate in lab meetings and may assist with any of the following: data collection; data management and coding (e.g., entry, cleaning, analysis) of survey, interview, and observational data; literature reviews; translating research findings for families.

Students will have opportunities to work on any of the following projects: (1) Middle School Transition Project (examining mother-youth problem-solving discussions and youth well-being), (2) Parent Emotion Mindset (examining the link between mothers’ mindsets about adolescent emotions and their parenting), (3) United for the Well-being of Latino Families (a graduate student’s dissertation study examining cultural values, parenting, and adolescent well-being). We are seeking highly motivated students who are interested in adolescent stress and well-being, parenting, and parent-adolescent communication.

Commitment to the lab for one academic year or two consecutive semesters is strongly preferred (e.g., Fall-Spring, Summer-Fall). Students will register for anywhere from 1-3 credit hours of HDFS 294 depending on project needs and student availability (1 credit hour = 3 hours of work per week). To apply, please complete an application, which can be found at the ADAPT Lab website (please note application deadlines; feel free to inquire about available positions before applying) and submit to Dr. Kelly Tu. (available Spring 2024)

African American Family (AAFam) Stress and Resiliency Lab

The African American Family Stress and Resiliency Lab is looking for undergraduate research assistants interested in understanding the connections between race-related stress, mental health, and social support within African American families. Students will have the opportunity to gain experience with multiple research-related activities including, but not limited to, literature reviews, participant recruitment, data management, data analysis, and writing. Lab members must attend biweekly lab meetings and register for 2-3 credits (3 hours of work a week per 1 credit hour) of HDFS 294. It is expected that lab members are motivated, reliable, and able to work both independently and collaboratively. Additional information can be found at the AAFam lab website. To apply to be a research assistant, please contact Dr. Shardé Smith. Limited opportunities are available. (available on a rolling basis)

Food Equity and Dignity (FED) Lab

The Food Equity & Dignity (FED) Lab is seeking undergraduate research assistants to work on a project exploring themes of isolation, connection, and food within the context of living alone. This project has four goals: 1) to explore how and why people who live alone eat what they do, 2) to examine how social inequalities manifest in single-living contexts to shape food decision making, 3) to assess the implications of this group’s food practices on their physical and mental health, and 4) to better understand how food is used to build & maintain social relationships outside dominant family and household forms.

Through their involvement in this project, students will have the opportunity to develop research experience in the areas of food, health and social justice, as well as their connections to relationships and life course stages such as emerging adulthood, middle age and/or older adulthood. This year, students may be involved in assisting with some of the following: translating research findings for individuals and/or organizations; analyzing findings from community asset mapping workshops; literature reviews; gathering, coding, and/or analyzing discourse data (e.g., newsmedia, food blogs, cookbooks, SNAP ED & Extension materials). Students will register for 2-3 credits (3 hours of work/ week is equal to 1 credit hour) of HDFS 294. Commitment to the RA position for more than one semester is strongly preferred, and those who remain on the project for more than two semesters may have the opportunity to present research findings and co-author posters/publications. We are accepting undergraduates with any level of research experience. To apply, please contact Dr. Merin Oleschuk. (available on a rolling basis)

Healthy Experiences Across Relationship Transitions (HEART) Lab

Why do some relationships succeed when others fail? How do dating couples transition in and out of relationships? How do couples manage conflict, and other relationship threats? The Healthy Experiences Across Relationship Transitions (HEART) lab is looking for undergraduate research assistants to help answer questions like these. Qualified students will take part in various activities including, but not limited to, data management, coding, analysis, literature review, and lab meetings. We are accepting undergraduates with any level of research experience. Interested students should send an email to Dr. Brian Ogolsky, briefly explaining their background and interest in the project. (available Fall 2023)

Humans in Nature Project

The Humans in Nature project uses technology and social media to encourage individuals and families to spend time in nature as a way of: (a) maintaining physical health, (b) managing stress and restoring the ability to focus on important life tasks, and (c) fostering positive social interactions and satisfying relationships. Students will be part of a team that will develop research-based multimedia products that will include (a) visually rich web-based articles, (b) video interviews and documentary style short films, (c) audio interviews and podcast style “micro documentaries”.

Students will gain experience in research by writing for lay audiences, illustrating articles with artwork or digital photography, developing short audio and video productions, using online tools for communication, and developing and implementing social media strategies. Students can volunteer or earn 2 or 3 hours of HDFS 294 course credit (6-9 hours of work per week; Must be available on Thursdays from 3:00 – 4:30 PM). To apply, contact Dr. Aaron Ebata. (available Spring 2024)

Interdisciplinary Lab for Social Development

We seek motivated, detail-oriented students who are interested in learning about early social and emotional development while gaining valuable research experience. Undergraduate research assistants have opportunities to assist with a variety of research tasks, including data collection with parents and children, behavioral coding of mother-child interaction, editing and processing of child ECG data, speech annotations of children and family members’ vocalizations, and annotations of child motors activities from videos of parent-child interactions. Additionally, students will attend weekly team meetings related to their research task and responsibilities. We have a strong preference for students who can commit to 2 credit hours (6 hours per week) for two or more semesters. Students who stay on the lab for more than two semesters have opportunities to become involved in a variety of tasks and also have the option to complete an independent study or honors project. Currently we have positions open for Spring 2024, Summer 2024, and/or Fall 2024. To apply, please email Jordan Bodway.

Moms' and Kids' Experiences In Transition (MAKE IT) Lab

The Moms’ and Kids’ Experiences In Transition (MAKE IT) Lab conducts quantitative and qualitative research to understand the intersecting experiences of intimate partner violence (IPV), separation and divorce, and coparenting after separation with abusive former partners. Past projects have explored partner relationship dynamics and the effects of IPV on mothers and children during and after separation. Most recently, our work centers on family court responses to IPV in the context of divorce and child custody cases.      

We involve highly motivated, responsible, and dependable undergraduate students in our research team. Undergraduate RAs have the opportunity to work on the Assessing Safer Attorney Practices (ASAP) Project. This project involves assessing the efficacy of a training program designed to promote IPV-informed decision-making among family law attorneys. We are collecting both survey and in-depth interview data. Undergraduate RAs may be involved in a variety of activities, including: gathering information on family law practices across the U.S., reviewing literature, recruiting participants, transcribing and coding data, organizing and managing data, analyzing data, and attending regular team meetings.

RAs in the MAKE IT lab gain valuable research skills and experience working in a collaborative team environment. Commitment to the RA position for more than one semester is strongly preferred. Students who remain on the project for at least two semesters may have the opportunity to prepare posters/presentations. Students will register for HDFS 294 for 1-2 credit hours (3 hours of work per week for each credit hour). For James Scholar honors students, opportunities are available to fulfill the independent research project and presentation requirement. To apply, send a resume and brief statement describing your interests to Dr. Jennifer Hardesty and/or Dr. Brian Ogolsky. (available on a rolling basis)

Prevention Science and Family Health in a Digital Age

The Prevention Science and Family Health lab is seeking motivated undergraduate research assistants. The research and outreach projects sponsored by our lab are grounded primarily in the fields of family science and prevention science. For Summer 2023 and/or Fall 2023, students will have the opportunity to participate in projects involving the development, implementation, and evaluation of digital interventions for individuals and families.

Current projects are focused on promoting couples’ relationship stability and safety as well as reducing individuals’ tobacco use. Students may support various aspects of digital program delivery and evaluation, including participant recruitment, website development, project communications, data management, data analyses, and report/manuscript writing. Interested students should send an email to Dr. Allen Barton, briefly explaining their background and interest in this content area. (Spring 2024, Summer 2024, and/or Fall 2024)

Social Inequality Dynamics (SID) Lab

In the Social Inequality Dynamics (SID) Lab, we care about the critical issues facing children growing up in the United States including racial health disparities, educational inequality, and poverty. We use rigorous research methods to examine the mechanisms of inequality that impact the life outcomes of children, adolescents, and their families. We are looking for highly motivated and detail-oriented students who are interested in gaining research experience by joining our Neighborhoods, Schools, & Access to Opportunity Project.

Commitment to the lab for one academic semester is permitted, but two consecutive semesters is strongly preferred (e.g., Fall-Spring, Spring-Summer). Students will register for anywhere from 1-3 credit hours of HDFS 294 depending on project needs and student availability (1 credit hour = 3 hours of work per week).

Responsibilities may include any of the following: 

  • Participation in lab meetings 
  • Conducting literature reviews 
  • Editing and formatting manuscripts for publication 
  • Data preparation and management including download and variable extraction, data cleaning, and preliminary descriptive analyses. 

Students interested in joining the lab are encouraged to have taken HDFS 290 Research Methods (or equivalent) but concurrent enrollment may also be considered. Knowledge of APA formatting and style guidelines is required. The Social Inequality Dynamics (SID) Lab uses quantitative research methods, so some familiarity with a statistical software program is a plus (SPSS, Stata, or R).

To apply, contact Dr. Christy Lleras. (available Fall 2023, Spring 2024, Summer 2024)

Stress and Coping in Farm Families

People in agricultural communities readily share that agricultural work is stressful. Psychological distress, anxiety, depression, and suicide rates are higher among farmers than the general population, but factors and mechanisms contributing to poor mental health outcomes are not well understood and stigma creates barriers to help-seeking. Research about farm stress has not been as attentive to origins and manifestations of stress across diverse groups within agriculture.

This research opportunity is to assist in mixed methods (i.e., quantitative and qualitative) projects about farm stress among agricultural community members in Illinois, the Midwest, and the U.S. more broadly. Two projects include surveys and interviews to explore the prevalence of mental health and substance use issues, as well as their meanings and impacts on farm families, barriers to accessing help, and ideas for programmatic solutions. One project focuses on agriculturalists who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer (LGBTQ+) to understand unique aspects of stress and wellbeing in farming contexts. Findings across projects will be used to inform development and implementation of programs and resources through Illinois Extension.

We are seeking highly motivated, responsible, dependable undergraduate students to join the projects. Students will learn hands-on research skills in quantitative and qualitative methods. RAs will be trained in research processes such as literature reviews, data entry, data management, and analysis. RAs may enter survey data, transcribe interviews, code interviews, engage in research translation work, write reports, and attend regular research meetings. Students will register for 2-3 credits of HDFS 294. RAs who commit to two or more semesters of working with the project will be eligible and may be invited to present findings, co-author publications, and/or work with Illinois Extension educators on subsequent program development, implementation, and evaluation. Interested students should submit a letter to Dr. Courtney Cuthbertson describing their interest and past research experience (if applicable, including other RAs, internships, and research methods coursework). (available on a rolling basis)

STRONG Kids Program

The STRONG Kids Program is a comprehensive and transdisciplinary approach to the study of the connections between food and family and how these relationships can contribute to child and family health. STRONG Kids accepts a team of undergraduate research assistants each spring for the following academic year (year-long commitment). Applications typically open in April and rising Sophomore-Senior students are welcome to apply.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Latinx Work and Family Outcomes

The recent COVID-19 pandemic has thrown many families in US into a turmoil. Families are affected not only by the virus itself and the resulting social isolation and stress, but also by the loss of job security or actual job loss.

Black and Latinx families and individuals are especially vulnerable to the negative impact of COVID-19 on work and family. This is due to systemic racial and ethnic inequalities and because the US provides a minimal social safety net for low-income families. For example, the US is the only developed country with no paid family leave and paid sick days for working people; and, the US is ranked 38 out of 41 developed countries in the adequacy of income to jobless families. I focus this study on Black and Latinx families because initial data shows that they were more negatively impacted by the pandemic, possibly because many are working in industries that were severely impacted by the pandemic, many live in a multigenerational family arrangement, and some receive even lower or no benefits at all because of their immigration status. In this study I explore the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on family and work outcomes among Black and Latinx families. The study includes data being collected in the US and will potentially include data collected in the Champaign-Urbana community.

As a result of taking part in this research opportunity, you will: (1) Develop an understanding of quantitative and qualitative research methods; (2) Become familiar with the topic; (3) Gain knowledge in family, sociology, and economics theories; and (4) Gain experience in writing a review paper. Expectations: Students and I will collaboratively develop a research question related to a joint area of interest that relate to the broad research topic (2-3 weeks). Following the development of the research question students will identify 20 (4 credits) or 10 research papers (2 credits) and will write a review of the current literature, identify gaps and limitations of the current research, and identify future research directions. Students will meet with me regularly and will send a draft of their paper as it progresses every two weeks. Alternatively, students will work on data collection in the Champaign-Urbana area. Prerequisites: Students must be juniors, seniors or graduate students who completed a research methods class. Interested students should email Dr. Karen Kramer. (available on a rolling basis)

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Learn about undergraduate research opportunities with Dr. Hardesty.