Baby Study

Background

We study why some children exposed to early life stress develop problems with self-regulation while others do not. We are starting to tackle this problem by studying women who have mood disorders, like depression or anxiety, while pregnant. We collect physiological and behavioral measures from them, their placenta once they have given birth, and then we evaluate their newborn's behavior. The goal is to better understand how prenatal exposure to maternal mood disorder can impact newborn neurobehavior at multiple levels of analysis: physiologically, behaviorally, and at the level of the genome. We are then following up with our participants to get a better sense of how their infants self-regulate at 7 and 18 months of age. This research will advance our understanding of which children are particularly susceptible to early life experiences, and why. Please see more information about this research study and others at canlab.psych.utah.edu.

Student Role

First and foremost we work with each student to determine what their summer goals are. We then assign each student to one of several teams:

  • prenatal assessment team (working directly with pregnant women)
  • newborn evaluation team (assisting our graduate students with newborn exams)
  • 7 month assessment team
  • 18 month assessment team, where RAs will have the opportunity to work with infants and their caregivers.

We also have a physiological data cleaning team, where RAs will learn more about how to clean and analyze physiological data. Finally we have a data management team that involves entering and cleaning behavioral and questionnaire data. Please see more under the "for students" tab at canlab.psych.utah.edu.

Outcomes

The vast majority of our research assistants go on to graduate school, medical school, or dental school. We have many pre-med students because our research is interdisciplinary: we work closely with OB/GYNs and pediatricians. This experience will also prepare students well for graduate school, given that the majority of our research is NIH-funded, and at the cutting edge of science. Students will have the opportunity to participate in all phases of the research process: from research design to data collection to data analysis, interpretation, and publication of research.

Elisabeth Conradt
Assistant Professor

Psychology
College of Social & Behavioral Science

I prefer a collaborative mentorship style whereby I meet with the student to determine their interest in the project and then find activities that fit well with that interest. Each student will then be assigned to a specific team. As a lab we meet weekly to discuss progress on each of the teams. I also meet individually with students if they are actively pursuing a research project, which I encourage. The feedback I have gotten from my students is that I am very open, supportive, and available to my students. I learn just as much from my students as they learn from me.