Campus Spotlight

Emily Cook

Assistant Professor in Psychology
Horace Mann Hall 317

Year began at RIC: 2011

From Left to Right: Dr. Emily Cook, Kelly Pisapia, and Amanda Welch

Dr. Emily Cook is an assistant professor of Developmental Psychology, with a focus on adolescent development. Though she has only been at RIC since 2011, Dr. Cook has already received funding through the INBRE program, funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), for her study titled, “Effects of Autonomy-Relatedness and Stress Response on Adolescent Risk Behavior.”

Dr. Cook has concentrated on the adolescent age group because she believes, “it is a critical period of development for understanding the impact of stress on adolescent adjustment that has been relatively overlooked in the past.”

After she completed her undergraduate program, Dr. Cook was employed working with teens in the juvenile justice system. This experience drives her to want to understand the risk behaviors that become more common in this age group and what aspects of their biology, society, and relationships contribute to such behaviors.

The study focuses on how an adolescent’s body handles stress experienced in important relationships, primarily the relationship between mother and child. Dr. Cook believes the implications of this information will be vital “to identify vulnerabilities during adolescence that change the course of risk behaviors and will inform more targeted prevention efforts.”

Dr. Cook works with four research assistants; Kristen Wilkinson, Trisha Kiley, Amanda Welch, and Kelly Pisapia. In pairs, the assistants visit adolescents and parents in their homes. For about two hours the research assistants collect cortisol, heart rate, and blood pressure from teens and have teens and moms interact in a task where they discuss an issue of conflict designed to invoke a stress reaction in the participants.

Both Kristen Wilkinson and Amanda Welch agree that working with Dr. Cook has been a wonderful experience. Ms. Welch, a grad student who has been working with Dr. Cook for one-and-a-half years said, “I really value the experience I received trying various recruitment methods and learning to establish an immediate rapport with subjects.” Dr. Cook is working closely with all her research assistants and is even mentoring Ms. Wilkinson on her honors thesis.

“Getting to work with students and watch them develop throughout the course of the project is something I really enjoy,” said Dr. Cook.

Page last updated: May 8, 2014