Research

I am interested in how individual differences in personality influence the ways in which people approach and interact with concepts and ideas. I am particularly interested in developmental issues that arise as children transition through the educational system and gain knowledge and beliefs about how the world works. I hope that this work can inform the discussion of how to best help children achieve to their full potential. To accomplish this goal, I am exploring the dynamic relation between children and their learning environment, and how the unique characteristics of the individual child influence personal, academic, and social growth over time. I use a variety of methods to explore these topics including structural equation modeling, longitudinal data analysis, and behavior genetics. In an effort to broaden my methodological and theoretical background, I spent two years as a NICHD Ruth L. Kirschstein NRSA pre-doctoral trainee through the Population Research Center. This experience gave me advanced theoretical and methodological training in population-level processes that I plan to integrate with traditional psychological approaches in my ongoing research. Currently, I am working on project that simulates the interconnection between genetic influences and environmental experiences. Researchers typically like simple explanations for problems, but real-life is highly complicated with many dependent processes all unfolding across development. By using a simulation approach, I am attempting to meet this complexity head-on to identify likely combinations of ways that genes and environments can work together and independently to influence psychological development. Beyond this project, I have several streams of research focused on child personality development: what makes up a “trait” and how can we understand the way that sub-traits are all mutually reinforcing one another across development? what mechanisms drive personality development? what role to genes, life experiences, and randomness play in maturation?

Current Research Projects

Illinois Twin Project

The Illinois Twin Project is directed by Dr. Daniel Briley (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) and Dr. Jennifer Tackett (Northwestern University). The Illinois Twin Project recruits families who have twins (or other type of multiple) to be a part of a pool of participants for future studies testing genetic and environmental hypotheses about mental and physical development in children.

Unraveling the interplay between genetic influences and environmental context remains a central impediment to progress in public health. Our project will further the understanding of healthy child development. Our team of clinical and developmental psychologists are interested in the trajectories of child development associated with positive life outcomes predictive of health (e.g., academic success) as well as mental health issues (e.g., internalizing and externalizing).

Illinois Twin Project Website