Closeup of three, gray, felt pinwheel lamps in the Dorothy O'Brien Innovation Lab.

Research & ScholarshipResearch Labs

Research underlies the work of faculty. Human Ecology faculty specialize in diverse areas, and regularly offer students opportunities to work in labs, to become involved and engaged in research. 

Behavioral Research Insights Through Experiments (BRITE) Lab

Established in 2012, the BRITE Lab is a state-of-the-art facility for laboratory data collection for business, consumer science, and other social sciences. Located in room 2117 of Nancy Nicholas Hall, it is a joint-effort by the UW–Madison School of Business and SoHE. The BRITE lab is used by faculty and graduate students in a variety of research areas.

Child and Family Ecologies (CAFÉ) Lab

The Child and Family Ecologies (CAFÉ) Lab is directed by Dr. Janean Dilworth-Bart, Professor  of Human Development and Families Studies. The goal of the CAFÉ Lab is to conduct research that can better inform parents and schools about healthy parent-child relationships and safe environmental spaces for children to live in. Our lab focuses on the intersections of environment, family structure, and race, and their relationship to early childhood school readiness. Because social science research often oversimplifies or excludes the experiences of families and children of color, our mission is to make these families more visible.

Cognitive Development and Media Learning Lab

The Cognitive Development and Media Learning Lab is directed by Dr. Heather Kirkorian, Associate Professor of Human Development and Family Studies. Her research is at the intersection of early cognitive development and media effects and explores how young children pay attention to and learn from television and interactive screen media such as video games and touchscreen apps. For information please email Dr. Kirkorian at 

Couples Lab

Dr. Lauren Papp directs the Couples Lab, where she and her students investigate couple and family relationships as key contexts for health and well-being across the lifespan. Recent and on-going studies investigate the predictors and consequences of day-to-day risky experiences (focusing on substance use and relationship conflict) among couples in dating relationships and midlife marriages.

Thomas Youth Resilience Lab

The Thomas Youth Resilience Lab, headed by Dr. Alvin Thomas, engages child and community mental health research to understand the factors that hinder or contribute to positive outcomes in youth, particularly those exposed to greater risks in their day-to-day environments. The lab also explores father-child relationships as an under-examined resource in the lives of families and youth.

Frances and Elliot Lehman Family Research Center: Child Development Lab

As part of the Child Development Lab, this interaction lab promotes research combining behavioral observations with indices of individual and family well-being and development across the lifespan including physical, cognitive, emotional, relational, cultural, and economic well-being. The facility has two research rooms, one for families and one designed for infants and children. Each research room has a one-way mirror and an adjoining observation room. For more information or to discuss your project please email

Hartley Lab

The Hartley Lab is run through the UW–Madison and the Waisman Center. The principle investigator is Dr. Sigan Hartley, Associate Professor of Human Development and Family Studies, and her students study the resources and contexts underlying positive well-being in individuals with developmental disabilities and their family members.  Their research investigates many aspects of individual well-being and family relationships, such as marital quality, parent-child interactions, healthy aging, mental health conditions, and stress and coping.

Dr. Poehlmann-Tynan

Dr. Poehlmann-Tynan has two lines of research: 1. children with incarcerated parents, and, 2. preterm infants. Dr. Poehlmann-Tynan and her students recently completed a 6-year longitudinal study of preterm infants that was funded by NICHD that examined early parent-infant interactions and emerging self-regulation skills on children’s social, behavioral, and academic outcomes. Dr. Poehlmann-Tynan and her colleagues and students also in the middle of two studies examining young children of jailed parents and several intervention studies.