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University of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignCollege of ACES
Department of Human Development and Family Studies
Give to Human Development and Family Studies

Research Opportunities for Undergraduates

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

Below are descriptions of projects available for students in Spring and Summer 2017.* (updated 1/31/17)

  • Culture and Family Life Lab
  • Effects of the Natural Environment on Families Study
  • Healthy Experiences Across Relationship Transitions (HEART) Lab
  • Mother-Child Relationships Project
  • Multimedia Outreach in HDFS
  • School Readiness: Connecting African American and Latino Families and Schools
  • Stay-at-Home Fathers Study
  • STRONG Kids 2: Protective Parents
  • The Autism Program (TAP)
  • The Middle School Transition Project

Read the expectations, requirements, and other information. If you have questions about the projects, contact the individual faculty member listed for each project.

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

Culture and Family Life Lab

Sophomores or juniors interested in culture, globalization, and the well-being of youth/families across countries are invited to apply to join our international research lab as a Research Assistant (RA). RAs in the CFL lab need to be energetic, self-organized and reliable, with the ability to follow detailed instructions. No prior research experience is required, but a willingness to learn and work hard is crucial. A commitment to the RA position for a full academic year is preferred. RAs can choose to volunteer or register for HDFS 294 initially (Research Internship), with the possibility of HDFS 295 (Independent Study or Research) in the second semester.

Responsibilities and Benefits: RAs are assigned to one main research project in the lab. They participate in lab meetings and events; conduct literature reviews/annotations; enter/code data; prepare handouts, posters, and presentations from study findings; maintain lab website; and possibly assist in developing and executing a new research study. RAs gain research skills and experience needed for graduate school applications; learn more about globalization and families; develop a strong mentorship relationship with Dr. Ferguson and PhD students; have a self-directed and flexible work schedule; and present a research poster at 2016 UIUC Undergrad Research Symposium (for those with HDFS 295 option).

To Apply: Browse the Lab website then email Dr. Gail Ferguson your resume to schedule an interview. (rolling availability)

Effects of the Natural Environment on Families Study

Interested in research or outreach on families and nature?  This project explores how exposure to natural environments impact family interactions and relationships. Specifically, we are interested in if short-term individual outcomes achieved from nature transmit to family interactions as well as how ritualized experiences in nature influence families. Students will be trained to assist in multiple aspects of the analysis process, as well as in developing outreach and education programs.  Students can volunteer or earn 2 hours of HDFS 294 course credit (project involves 6 hours of work per week; with a flexible schedule).  To apply, contact Dina Izenstark and/or Dr. Aaron Ebata. (available Spring 2017)  

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. Interested students should send an email to Dr. Brian Ogolsky, briefly explaining their background and interest in the project. We are accepting undergraduates with any level of research experience. (available Spring - Summer 2017)

Mother-Child Relationships Project

The Mother-Child Relationships Project seeks undergraduate research assistants. Students will participate in weekly team meetings, assist with mother-child research visits at the Early Child Development Laboratory, and participate in coding maternal and child behaviors during a variety of observational tasks. We seek motivated students who are interested in learning about relationships between mothers and young children while gaining valuable research experience.  To apply, please contact Dr. Nancy McElwain. (available Spring - Fall 2017)

Multimedia Outreach in HDFS

A small team of grads and undergrads will develop and disseminate multimedia products through online platforms. These will include 1) research-based messages to promote healthy development and positive relationships; 2) profiles of current HDFS students, faculty, and alumni to promote the program; 3) previews or reviews of HDFS-related events; 4) responses to breaking news. Students will develop skills in translating and applying theory and research by writing for lay audiences, developing short audio and video productions, using online platforms and tools for communication, and developing and implementing social media strategies. Students will register for HDFS 294 for 2-3 credit hours.

Requirements include Junior or Senior standing in HDFS by Fall 2016; minimum 3.0 GPA; self-starting, able to take initiative; able to work independently AND in teams; not afraid to take responsibility for independent learning; able to meet deadlines; not afraid of technology/proud of geeky side. Preference will be given to those with previous experience with at least one of the following: audio recording and/or editing, video recording and/or editing, blogging, digital photography AND editing, non-academic writing. For more information or to apply, contact Dr. Aaron Ebata. (available Spring 2017)

School Readiness: Connecting African American and Latino Families and Schools

This project explores how preschools, elementary schools, and families facilitate low-income, African American and Latino preschoolers’ transition to kindergarten. The project is based on qualitative interviews with preschool teachers, kindergarten teachers, and parents, neighborhood observations, and photographs from African American and Latino parents on daily family life. Students will work in our ethnographic research lab with data that have already been collected. Students will have an opportunity to become familiar with the literatures on family resilience, parenting practices and schooling, and family-school collaborations and to learn qualitative data analysis skills. Developing data analysis skills will entail coding interviews and photo documents. As part of the project activities, we will work on developing a parenting curriculum that facilitates greater parental engagement with schools and communities. The project provides an excellent opportunity to work as part of a research team with other undergraduate and graduate students. Students will register for 1-3 hours of HDFS 294. Interested students should contact Dr. Robin Jarrett. (available Spring 2017)

Stay-at-Home Fathers Study

What are the reasons that lead fathers to reduce their workload in order to participate more in their parenting roles? This study uses a combination of qualitative (interviews) and quantitative (surveys) methods to identify the reasons that lead fathers to invest more time in their family at the expense of time at work. Possible reasons may include inability to work/work full time (disability, illness, no job opportunities), enough income from other sources (e.g., spouse), and general desire to dedicate more time to the family. As a result of this course, you will: (1) Develop an understanding of quantitative and qualitative research methods; (2) Become familiar with the topic of stay-at-home parents; (3) Gain knowledge in sociological and economics theories; and (4) Gain experience skills in interviewing and survey design and distribution. Interested students should email Dr. Karen Kramer. (available Spring 2017)

Expectations: Students and I will collaboratively develop a structured interview and a survey based on literature review of the current literature (4-6 weeks). Following the development of the structured interview and the survey tool (and IRB approval) students will identify and sample ten (4 credits) or five (2 credits) families (both spouses) using the structured interview and the survey. Students will code and aggregate the results and write a short (5 pages) paper on their findings.

Prerequisites: Students must be juniors, seniors or graduate students who completed a research methods class.

STRONG Kids 2: Protective Parents

The STRONG Kids 2 Protective Parents Subproject is a transdisciplinary research program lead by Dr. Kelly Bost in the department of Human Development and Family Studies, and is designed to learn about the environmental, relational, biological, and behavioral characteristics related to child and family health in the first two years of life. The home visits subproject aims to learn about 18-24 month old children's temperament and self-regulation, parent-child relationships, and routines around family mealtimes. Undergraduates interested in participating as research assistants should plan to spend about 6-10 hours per week in various duties, and must register for Research Internship course credit through HDFS 294 for at least 2 credit hours (corresponds to about 6 hours per week of work). Duties include (but are not limited to): article summarization, data entry, coding observational data, presenting at group meetings, etc.

Requirements: Sophomore standing or above, availability on Fridays from 3-4pm for bimonthly group lab meetings, commitment to 1 full academic year of work with the lab, excellent communication and social skills, patience, ability to work in teams, and willingness to ask for help when needed.

Please send a resume to Jaclyn Saltzman if you are interested in this opportunity. (available Spring 2017)

The Autism Program (TAP)

This course will provide students with experience in working at The Autism Program by staffing the information and outreach center on autism spectrum disorders (ASD) for families and professionals who work with families, and to participate in programs that provide supports or services related to ASDs to families and professionals. Coursework will enable students to qualify for certification as a Registered Behaivoral Technician.

Requirements: The internship is open to students in the social and behavioral sciences, with priority given to students in HDFS, SPED, or SHS. This opportunity is limited to Juniors, Seniors, and Grad Students. Students are required to complete an application and interview with The Autism Program staff.

Additional information and the application form can be found at the TAP website. For additional information contact Anne Hall (The Autism Program, 904 W Nevada, 217 244-1395). (available Spring 2017)

The Middle School Transition Project

The Adolescent Development and Parenting during Transitions (ADAPT) Lab is seeking undergraduate research assistants (RAs) for a project on the transition to middle school. The project broadly focuses on (1) the social and academic challenges that children encounter as they make the transition to middle school, and (2) the ways in which parents may help children navigate these challenges. The project involves collecting observational and physiological (e.g., heart rate, breathing, skin conductance) data during mother-child discussions about social and academic challenges, as well as survey data.

The ADAPT Lab is seeking highly motivated students who are interested in parenting, peer relationships, academic achievement, or physiology (e.g., stress response system, emotion regulation). RAs must be at least sophomore standing. Commitment to the RA position for one academic year is strongly preferred (Fall-Spring). Students have opportunities to gain valuable research experience. RAs will be trained to collect data, code observational data, and transcribe video recordings. RAs will also participate in lab meetings and prepare posters and presentations for the project. Students will register for 1-3 hours of HDFS 294. To apply, please contact Dr. Kelly Tu. (available Spring - Summer 2017)