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Research Practicum (HDF 355R)


Students gain a deeper understanding of the theoretical framework of Human Development and Family Sciences and learn about the research process through working 10 hours a week in a faculty member’s lab for 2 consecutive semesters. Students are required to attend lab meetings and complete research tasks such as conducting literature searches, entering and coding data, and assisting with data collection. Tasks vary throughout the semester and across labs. The HDF 355R Research Practicum course carries an Independent Inquiry Flag. Please see the following link for more information: https://ugs.utexas.edu/flags/students.

Requirements: A minimum requirement of a 3.0 GPA and a maximum of 17-credit hours taken in the semester unless given permission by the faculty member. Please see your Academic Advisor for additional information on pre-requisites.

Please see the Application Procedure tab on the left of this page for more information. 

Students already accepted to the Honors in Advanced Human Development and Family Sciences (HAHDFS) program have a different registration process for 355H. Please contact the Program Coordinator, Ladia Hernandez, at Ladia.Hernandez@austin.utexas.edu with any questions.



Maria Arredondo is interested in how infants and children acquire their languages, especially when raised in bilingual environments. The questions that guide her work are: What are the neuro-cognitive mechanisms supporting dual-language learning and proficiency? How does the brain come to organize language and cognitive networks across development, and how do these support successful language acquisition? How does culture support children’s language learning abilities? Lastly, how do these mechanisms provide diverse and multilingual children with the skills to succeed academically? The methods of my studies include experimental designs, neuroimaging (fNIRS), standardized assessments, surveys, and one-on-one qualitative child-friendly interviews.

Aprile Benner’s research interests center on the development of low-income and race/ethnic minority youth, investigating how social contexts influence school transitions, experiences of marginalization, and health and well-being during adolescence. Recent research practicum activities have included participating in survey data collection with middle and high school students, coding interviews and focus groups conducted with adolescents and educators, and coding neighborhood content and quality data via Google streetview.

Karen Fingerman‘s research focuses on the role that family relationships play in the well-being of adults during middle and late life. She has studied generational differences in emotion during family conflict, systems of family obligation and resource exchange, the implicit rules that regulate social exchanges across generations, and how conflicts between adult family members are initiated and resolved.  She focuses on the support one generation gives to another and on the emotional impact of providing such supports across generations.

Elizabeth Gershoff focuses on the impacts of poverty, community violence, and neighborhoods on child and youth development over time. Her research combines longitudinal and hierarchical methods for understanding the dynamic and multilayered contexts of children’s lives. Other areas of research/scholarly interest: school-based violence prevention, the impact of various parenting techniques on child behavior.

Marci Gleason is interested in dyadic functioning, especially the nature of close relationships examined over time. Her current work explores how cancer patients and their family members make decisions about cancer treatments and how they support each other through cancer treatments.  In addition, she is interested in how personality disorders present across the lifespan.

Nancy Hazen-Swann and Deborah Jacobvitz’s research is based on The Partners and Parents Project. The aim of the Partners and Parents Project is to follow first-time parents over the transition to parenthood to see what factors predict positive styles of parenting, and positive outcomes for children. Beginning in October 1992, we recruited 125 couples that were expecting their first child. Follow up with these families has been on a continuous basis. Student participation may include the following: Office/organizational work, computer work, and coding/ rating videotaped data, which includes parent-child, marital, and family interactions.

Su Yeong Kim studies culture, parenting, and adolescent development in Asian and Latino immigrant families in the U.S. Student responsibilities include coding, entering, cleaning, managing, and analyzing both qualitative and quantitative data. Students will also write reports and recruit families for research participation. Students receive training on the use of bibliographic, data management, and statistical software. All students carry out an independent research project during the semester..

Lisa Neff studies how and why romantic relationships change over time. She has conducted multiple studies examining newlywed couples during the early years of their marriage. Recently, she also completed data collection for a study examining differences in the relationships of older (age 50+) and younger adults. She is particularly interested in understanding how stressful experiences external to a relationship (work stress, financial difficulties, etc.) may affect spouses’ thoughts and behaviors within the relationship. She also is interested in couples’ communication, such as how they resolve conflict and how they support one another’s goals. Research assistants assist with many different tasks in the lab, including interviewing couples, data cleaning and entry, and coding videotapes of couples’ discussions.

Stephen Russell's research focuses on the role of sexual orientation and gender identity in human health, development, and rights. His lab’s work advances the scientific understanding of stigma against and health disparities among sexual and gender minorities, as well as multiple aspects of development with particular focus on sexuality, schools and family relationships for vulnerable youth.

Please know that all faculty members listed may or may not be taking students during the semester you apply. For a more comprehensive list of faculty, please see their research interests here: