Research links together the academic efforts of the College. Research informs our teaching and our outreach. It exposes us to innovative methods for dealing with the problems faced by individuals and families, and it positions us to address change and to contribute to innovation. The College of Human Ecology has a long history of creating and embracing change. We seek to continue that tradition.

Research Themes

Our research allows us to examine individuals and families throughout the lifespan and to explain the forces that drive our daily lives. We investigate how children and teens learn and how childhood affects the transition to adulthood. Psychologists are uncovering how emotions impact wellness. And nutritionists are learning how maternal and early childhood nutrition impact our health and development throughout life.

We are developing evidence that has a direct impact on policies and programs that make an important difference in the lives of individuals, families, and communities. Economists are contributing to a growing body of data on education policy including curriculums, school funding, teaching, costs, and standardized testing. Demographers are exploring how family patterns provide insight into child well-being, immigration, and other social trends. And, social scientists from across the college are examining policies that address the challenges faced by poor and disadvantaged groups.

Sustainability is a core value at the College, woven throughout the institution in our facilities, in faculty research, and in the courses offered to students. We explore energy use in the built environment, the materials we use in our everyday products, how and where we buy our food, how we design our communities, who is impacted by climate change, and how we can engage all populations in environmental stewardship. We come together from a broad range of disciplines to collaborate on new discoveries, policies, and programs that lead to a healthier, more sustainable world.

We are engaged in research that helps us understand the variety of factors that influence human health – the intricate working of the human body, policies that impact lifestyle choices, and how environments affect wellness. Molecular biologists are investigating how microscopic proteins influence disease. Sociologists and physicians are partnering to improve pain management for older adults. Nutritionists are designing intervention programs that encourage healthy eating and exercise among disadvantaged populations. Economists are looking into the causes and consequences of obesity. And psychologists are developing the best methods for translating medical research into policies and practices that help people.

Our researchers are working to understand and shape how design influences human health. We make connections between the built environment and psychology, health care outcomes, child development, and health care delivery. We help to create environments that promote physical activity, support child education, build the the health care facilities of tomorrow, and improve hospital patients’ experiences.

Researchers here are finding innovative ways to combine form and function. We explore the intersection of ergonomics, clothing design, and body kinetics; improve the safety of U.S. troops and firefighters; create clothing to prevent disease and improve health; and develop a better understanding of how globalization, technology, and sustainability influence design across the globe.

The College is home to a host of experts in economic and policy, whose research assesses the work of federal and state governments and translates into recommendations that have tangible, positive impacts on programs, policies and laws. Economists are exploring topics ranging from the viability of Social Security to transportation funding. Health care experts are evaluating new medical technologies, the impact of disease prevention campaigns, and outcomes from health care reform. Nutritional science researchers are helping to determine which nutrients to include in fortified foods and to establish food security in developing nations.

New research techniques allow scientists to peer inside the brain in action, leading to a wide range of discoveries in fields ranging from child development to economics and gerontology. We are working at the forefront of this area of discovery, building collaborations among social, behavioral, and life sciences that are leading to new breakthroughs in understanding how people remember, imagine, make decisions, attain happiness, and react in emotional and social situations.