4 Postdocs add fresh perspectives to center work

“One of our main goals in the BCTR is to help train the next generation of translational researchers in the field of human development,” said Karl Pillemer, director of the BCTR. “These emerging scholars greatly benefit our work, bringing in fresh perspectives and new models and methods of connecting research to real-life settings.”

elizabeth day

Elizabeth Day

Elizabeth Day is working on Project 2Gen, a new project that will serve as a hub for research, policy, and practice focused on supporting parents and children together. The mission of 2Gen is to build a vibrant research community of scholars who are focused on building programs and researching how families can fair better when support services focus on both parents and children.

“I was drawn to this post-doc because it offered the opportunity to work on a wide range of issues to find the best ways to support vulnerable families, including work on bridging research and policy,” Day said. “My background involves working at the state and federal levels of government and I have seen first-hand the need for this type of resource.

“I also knew of the high-quality work and high-caliber programs that are housed in the BCTR and was excited for opportunity to work here!”


Kristen Elmore

Kristen Elmore is working on the Program for Research on Youth Development and Engagement, or PRYDE, an effort to partner with 4-H around the state of New York to research programs and factors that encourage healthy youth development.

“My particular research interest is in understanding how youth think about their identities and what goals are possible for them and people like them,” Elmore said. “My work with 4-H examines how experiences in 4-H may shape how youth respond to challenges when pursuing their goals—when do they persist versus move on to something else?”

Elmore’s goal is to create programs that encourage youth from all backgrounds to pursue positive academic and health behaviors. “4-H is the largest youth-serving organization in the U.S., so it’s an ideal setting for designing and implementing programs to support healthy youth development,” she said.

Elmore was attracted to working at the BCTR because of the center’s commitment to using social science to serve the public good. “The wealth of experience and practical knowledge in conducting translational work that can be found among our colleagues at the BCTR is an incredibly rich and unique resource for postdocs,” she said.


Rachel Sumner

Rachel Sumner is also working on PRYDE, and hopes to focus her research on identity and inclusion in youth programming.

“I hope to conduct research that helps inform decisions made by youth development programs and practitioners, especially decisions related to diversity and inclusion and promoting the development of purpose and identity,” she said.

Sumner was drawn to the BCTR because she wanted to collaborate with people who are working directly with youth. “Involving practitioners throughout the research process yields questions that are more relevant to real-world contexts than questions generated by researchers alone,” she said. “Collaborating with both practitioners and researchers helps me think about the topics I study – purpose in life, identity, diversity in new and interesting ways.”


Frank Edwards

And Frank Edwards is working with the National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect (NDACAN) to develop new ways to evaluate how surveillance systems work, how casework assignments affect families, and whether immigration detention and deportation requires Latino families to use the foster care system more often.

“My work focuses on how social policy institutions affect child and family inequality,” he said. “BCTR provides an exciting combination of applied researchers engaged in improving policy for kids and families, and unparalleled access to administrative data through the NDACAN. Given my research interests, BCTR is a near perfect place to work.”

Edwards’ goal is to better understand how government institutions affect children and to “move the needle on the causes and consequences of family inequality.”

“I hope to shed light on how policy institutions like the criminal justice and means-tested welfare programs contribute to racial inequality that we see in the more disruptive interventions available to child welfare agencies,” he said. “In so doing, I hope to spur conversations about reducing inequalities that take an ecological approach to the relationship between policy environments and child and family well-being.”