Research

A cornerstone of the land-grant mission of Iowa State University is a focus on research. And in the College of Human Sciences, our research has a direct impact on the way our communities live and learn. Consider some of the current projects:

  • Joanne Olson, a professor in the School of Education, was awarded $4.5 million by the National Science Foundation to lead a research partnership that will enhance teacher education at Iowa State and improve the teaching of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics in Des Moines Public Schools. Learn more about this research.
  • Tricia Neppl, a professor in human development and family studies, evaluates influences on personal characteristics to see which are associated with outcomes that relate to occupational attainment, satisfaction of close relationships, academic failure, emotional distress, antisocial behaviors, and substance use and abuse. Learn more about this research.
  • Susan Wohlsdorf-Arendt, a professor in apparel, events, and hospitality management, and a team of ISU researchers are working to create safer food handling practices to lessen the risk of foodborne illnesses in restaurants, schools, and universities. Learn more about this research.
  • Anne Foegen, a professor in the School of Education, teamed up with the University of Missouri-Columbia and teachers and high school students in three states to develop and refine brief assessments to monitor student progress in algebra. Learn more about this research.
  • Elizabeth Shirtcliff, a professor in human development and family studies, measures maturation and stress hormones in children reaching puberty to see which changes can increase risky decision-making during this life transition. Learn more about this research.

These are just five examples of the many outstanding research efforts being conducted in the College of Human Sciences. Whether it’s a focus on the effects of singing on speech for those with Parkinson’s disease or exploring the impact of digestion-resistant starches, our research is at work around the world, improving the lives of others.

Research News

Joe Webb and Hannah Chute, founders of Iowa State Alzheimer’s-related clubs, educate others about Alzheimer’s disease research and caregiver support. Photo by Ryan Riley.Human Sciences students form campus clubs to increase Alzheimer’s disease awareness

Every 66 seconds, someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s disease. However, students within the College of Human Sciences are working to bring healing and hope to persons affected by Alzheimer’s, and to raise awareness for battling the disease.



Helping parents understand BMI may lead to positive changes in childhood obesity

Schools are taking a proactive approach to get students to move more and improve their eating habits. But it takes a team effort at both school and home to make a difference, said Greg Welk, a professor of kinesiology at Iowa State University.



School of Education doctoral student Ashley Nashleanas will explore how high school math teachers nationwide accommodate students with blindness and low vision when using graphics in their teaching. Photos by Ryan Riley.Doctoral student aims to improve accommodations in STEM education

Ashley Nashleanas didn’t have a model or rule book to follow while growing up blind in the small northwest Iowa town of Hinton. Braille helped her to read textbooks in school, but graphics in math and science lessons were often just — missing.



Elizabeth “Birdie” Shirtcliff, an associate professor in human development and family studies, examines the long-term impacts of positive parenting. Photo by Ryan Riley.Positive parenting produces lasting effects at biological level

Parents getting under a teen’s skin? It isn’t always a bad thing. When parenting is positive, it can have a lasting effect.

That’s according to Elizabeth “Birdie” Shirtcliff, an associate professor in human development and family studies at Iowa State University and the primary author of a newly released paper in the journal Developmental Science.

“Positive parenting and a safe and supportive environment sets a person up for years,” Shirtcliff said. “What parents do matters long-term — across a lot of different outcomes. They are actively shaping who their children are at a biological, and maybe even cellular, level.”



Tera Jordan, an assistant professor in human development and family studies, researches black men’s views of a husband’s role, and social fathers’ influence. Photo by Ryan Riley.Iowa State research shows power of father figures for building views of husband’s role

New research from Iowa State University shows that black men build their perceptions of a husband’s role from a variety of experiences and examples.

“Fathers are not working in isolation to raise and rear their children,” said Tera Jordan, an assistant professor in human development and family studies. “Boys exist in a complex network.”



Brian Burt, an assistant professor in the School of Education, will receive the NSF CAREER award, the National Science Foundation’s most esteemed recognition for junior faculty members conducting scientific research. Photos by Ryan Riley.Iowa State professor to lead ‘transformative’ NSF project

An Iowa State University faculty member will receive the National Science Foundation (NSF)’s most esteemed recognition for junior faculty members conducting scientific research.

Brian Burt, an assistant professor in the School of Education, is the recipient of a five-year, $569,702 Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) award, which supports early career development activities of teacher-scholars who are most likely to become the academic leaders of the 21st century.

The grant will support Burt’s research on leveraging learning and engineering identity to broaden participation of black males in colleges of engineering.



New Iowa State research shows that people with a health club membership exercise more. Study suggests gym membership to improve health, exercise

If your New Year’s resolution was to exercise more in 2017, chances are you’ve already given up or you’re on the verge of doing so. To reach your goal, you may want to consider joining a gym, based on the results of a new study from a team of Iowa State University researchers.



School of Education professors Michael Clough and Joanne Olson will receive the national Innovation in Teaching Science Teachers award at the Association for Science Teacher Education international conference in Des Moines. The conference is co-chaired by Olson. File photo by Wyeth Lynch.Iowa State shines at international gathering of science teacher educators

Iowa State University will showcase its expertise and leadership in science teacher education at a gathering this week of 500 science teacher educators from across the nation and world.

The Association for Science Teacher Education (ASTE) will hold its 2017 international conference, Jan. 12 to 14 at the Des Moines Marriott Downtown. It’s a chance for those who prepare science teachers — from colleges both big and small — to network, present scholarly papers and posters, and attend professional development workshops aimed at informing their work and improving the preparation of science teachers.



Iowa State University researchers say higher levels of the enzyme autotaxin significantly predict memory impairment and Type 2 diabetes. Just a one-point difference in autotaxin levels – for example, going from a level of two to a three – is equal to a 3.5 to 5 times increase in the odds of being diagnosed with some form of memory loss, said Auriel Willette, an assistant professor of food science and human nutrition at Iowa State. Photo by Christopher Gannon.New biomarker predicts Alzheimer’s Disease and link to diabetes

An enzyme found in the fluid around the brain and spine is giving researchers a snapshot of what happens inside the minds of Alzheimer’s patients and how that relates to cognitive decline. 



From left, Monica Primacella, Joshua Nazareth and Kangzi Ren, all graduate students in food science and human nutrition at Iowa State University (ISU), were named finalists in the American Society of Baking (ASB) Product Development Competition. They will travel to Chicago at the end of February to take part in the competition. Photo by Whitney Sager.ISU students selected as finalists in major baking competition

A team of three graduate students will be heading to Chicago in February to showcase their proposal for a new bakery food product.



  • Research Support Opportunities

    The College of Human Sciences sponsors a number of internal grant competitions. These competitions provide initial support to CHS faculty members for interdisciplinary, collaborative projects that can provide results likely to engender significant external funding.

    CHS Internal Funding

  • Contact Information

    Carla Peterson
    Associate Dean of Research Education
    carlapet@iastate.edu
    515 294-7804 

    Sarah Carlson
    Grant Coordinator
    scarlson@iastate.edu
    515 294-0211 

    Jamie Wilson
    262 Lagomarcino Hall
    901 Stange Road
    Ames, IA 50011-1041
    515-294-9207
    jrwilson@iastate.edu