Internships at the Yale Child Study Center – Summer 2013

For 15 Sewanee students, an intensive 8-week summer research experience culminated in a public presentation of their work on July 25th.  Sewanee’s Vice-Chancellor John McCardell, Provost John Swallow, Vice-President for University Advancement Jay Fisher, and Professor of Psychology Karen Yu travelled to New Haven to join members of the Yale faculty and community for this event.

Linda Mayes, M.D., Sewanee class of 1973, offered a summer internship at the Yale Child Study Center to one Sewanee student in 1996.  The program has now expanded to include approximately 15 Sewanee students per summer, as well as students from several other institutions.

Each student works under the dedicated mentorship of one or more professionals.  While the program is still organized by Dr. Mayes and virtually all faculty have some affiliation with the Child Study Center, many other Yale entities are involved;  in 2013 these were the School of Public Health, the Department of Psychiatry, the Department of Computer Science, the Cancer Center, the OCD Research Clinic, the Section of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology, the interdisciplinary Yale Stress Center, and the Yale School of Nursing.  Other New Haven-based organizations providing researchers were Cogstate (Clinical Trials), Haskins Laboratories, Southern Connecticut State University Psychology Department, and the New Haven MOMS Partnership.

Marcela Weber ’13 presented Alpha Power Differences between smoking and non-smoking mothers at rest;  project with Helena Rutherford and Linda Mayes.  Adult mothers with infants up to 3-months-old at the time of participation completed questionnaires;  Electroencephalographic data were also recorded.  In medial-frontal sites, during the eyes-open condition, alpha power was higher for women who smoke.

Jaclyn Valadka ’15 did a Comparison of Cognitive Tests Scores completed in individual and group settings.  Mentors were Brian Harel, Karen Yu, Linda Mayes, and Jason Cromer.  While the participants perceived the group administration to be more distracting, the difference in the measures was minimal, i.e., obtaining cognitive baseline data in healthy young adults in a controlled group environment is valid.

Allison Stewart ’13 reported on the Effects of Prenatal Cocaine Exposure on language and cognitive function in adolescence;  project with Jia Wu, Diana Gal, Linda Mayes, and Nicole Landi.  Adolescents 14 to 18 years indicated better performance if exposed prenatally to other drug groups or not exposed at all relative to prenatally cocaine-exposed participants.  Measures included both behavioral and electrophysiological measures.

Caitlin Sneeden ’13 worked with Lois Sadler on Minding the Baby®: A comparison of maternal health outcomes.  She compared mothers who participated in this community-based home visiting program for high-risk first-time mothers with a control group … on breastfeeding patterns (control mothers more likely to select it at birth, but intervention mothers more likely to be breastfeeding at 12 months), patterns of tobacco use during pregnancy (intervention mothers somewhat less likely to smoke), and contraceptive use one and two years after the babies’ births (more likely with intervention mothers).

Willow Smith ’14 presented A Qualitative Examination of changes in mother’s mood as a result of participation in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, a project with Anna Kruse, Heather Howell, Linda Mayes, and Megan Smith.  Participants came from The MOMS Partnership, which concentrates its activities on low-income, racially and ethnically diverse, pregnant and parenting women who live in New Haven.  It appears that the women do utilize stress coping skills from the CBT class.

Stephanie Lussier ’14, a Biochemistry major, worked with Hanna Stevens on The role of inhibitory neurons in Fibroblast Growth Factor Receptor 2 mutant mice exposed to prenatal stress.  Mice were evaluated in standard behavior tests such as Open Field and Y–Maze Spontaneous Alternation.

Daxi Liang ’15 examined Teacher-Child Interactions, Teacher Mental Health and Child Behavioral Problem under the guidance of Walter Gilliam.  Archival data from 2005 and early 2006 showed that job control correlates with teacher-child interaction;  job demands correlate with oppositional behavior, hyperactivity and impulsivity/restlessness.  Thus finding ways to reduce teachers’ job stress will improve the behavior of their students.

Elizabeth Lee ’14 studied Audiovisual speech perception in children with Autism Spectrum Disorders and typical development;  Jacqueline Turcios, Lawrence Brancazio, Julia Irwin, and Nicole Landi were the mentors.  Eye tracking methods showed that children with ASD showed more interest on non-focal areas (ear, cheek, forehead, space between the eyes, ears) and less gaze to the speaker’s mouth;  they also looked less to the face of the speaker as compared with control participants.

Natalie Jones ’14 presented Where the Magic Happens:  the effects of camp programs on positive youth development . . . a literature review with traditional residential and days camps as well as camps for children with serious illnesses.  Three constructs that repeatedly appear in the literature are Hope, Self Identity, and Social Connection.

Lauren Joca ’13 worked with Megan Smith on A critical review of implementing urban interventions in a rural setting.  She examined the data available about translating interventions specifically from urban areas to rural areas (particularly Grundy County TN).  There is a general lack of data, especially on family, mental and physical health, and risk prevention programs.  Lauren is a double major:  psychology and Environmental Studies: Ecology and Biodiversity.

Anna Carr Faurot ’13, a Classical Languages major, worked with Kate Jopling and Briana Favale on An analysis of Data Query Rates at Clinical Study Sites in Five Countries.  Data from Cogstate Clinical Trials were used to compare Australia, Canada, France, United States, and South Africa.  The types of frequent discrepancies, particularly missing data, provide useful information to pharmaceutical companies.

Eleanor Ezell ’13 worked with Christopher Pittenger and Helen Pushkarskaya on Uncertainty Intolerance in Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.  Behavioral economics instruments showed OCD subjects with higher risk aversion but lower ambiguity aversion than Healthy Controls.  OCD with and without Hoarding symptoms may be clinically different.

Christopher Daniell ’14 presented Increased affect and interest in children with autism through social robots:  a behavioral coding analysis.  Coauthors were Corinne Makar, Julia Elia, Elizabeth Kim, Rhea Paul, Brian Scassellati, Elizabeth Simmons, Megan Lyons, Sophy Kim, Katarzyna Chawarska, and Frederick Shic.  The project involved coding archival data from a 2012 study to better understand the nature of the increase in the children’s verbal production.  When interacting with the robot, children displayed more positive affect, greater interest, and more social engagement than when interacting with an adult;  deficits in social affect still seem to translate to both human and robot interaction.

Channon Conner ’14 presented Maternal Influence on their child’s weight and health:  making lifestyle changes despite stress and other barriers.  Mentors were Matthew Stults-Kolehmainen and Rajita Sinha.  This search of the 2000–2013 literature revealed a half dozen stressors and ten barriers to diet and exercise that need to be considered in designing parent-based (the most successful type) interventions relative to childhood obesity.

Benjamin Almassi ’14, a Biology major, studied Neurocognitive and emotional functioning in survivors of childhood cancer under the guidance of Lyn Balsamo and Nina Kadan-Lottick.  In addition to measurement of functioning during routine clinic follow-up, the project compared performance-based and patient-self-report methods.

The summer research internship in the Child Study Center is the oldest of the Sewanee–Yale Collaborations.  A more intensive experience is available to Sewanee students:  spending a contiguous semester in addition to the summer at Yale.  The Sewanee-At-Yale Directed Research Program, launched in 2011, carries a full semester of academic credit.  (The summer internships are solely experiential, no academic credit.)

Through these two programs, Sewanee students are able to experience not only the benefits of an exceptional small liberal arts institution, but also those of a premier research-intensive university and medical school.

But stay tuned . . . for more on the growing collaborations between Sewanee and Yale . . .

Child, Family, and Community Development in Rural Appalachia . . . a psychology seminar with sessions led by four Sewanee faculty and sixteen visiting faculty recruited by Dr. Mayes . . . was offered spring 2013.  While in Sewanee, many of the visitors gave a public presentation.  Topics ranged from cultural considerations in neuropsychological assessment –to– interactions between the physical environment and human communities;  from literacy to promote social competence & foster resilience –to– the medical challenges of childhood;  from framing science for social change –to– models for re-imagining and re-making communities.     The seminar is next scheduled for spring 2014.

Camp Discover . . . a two-week summer camp developed collaboratively by Sewanee, Yale, Scholastic, Friends of the South Cumberland, South Cumberland State Park, and the Tracy City TN Elementary School . . . provides a model for fostering social connectedness by familiarizing children with the people, places, and stories in their own local community.  First held in June 2012, with 24 students in grades K–2 (and a reunion October 4), the 2013 session involved more than 75 students in grades 1–6.  At the celebration with families on the last day, several participants recorded their impressions.