Spotlight on Research
Keith Burt, Ph.D.
After growing up in New England, I wanted to see another part of the country but also attend college at a small liberal arts school. Combining these led me to Pomona College in the greater Los Angeles area, where the swim team has only outdoor pools and there are beach volleyball courts outside the dorm rooms. Academically, I became interested in Psychology after having some incredible professors. I began working in a research lab with Dr. Michelle Wierson, whose focus was on child clinical psychology. Graduating with a Psychology degree at Pomona required an empirical thesis, and for this I analyzed data on family structure and family process (e.g., conflict, cohesion) and their relationships with children's academic achievement.
Post-B.A. and Graduate School
After graduating from Pomona, I spent a year completing an M.Phil. in Social and Developmental Psychology at Cambridge University, England, where I had studied abroad as an undergraduate. Returning to the Boston area, I then spent some time doing research assistant work for the School of Education at Harvard University (summarizing research articles for a parent-oriented website under the broad umbrella of Howard Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences) and Wellesley College (working on a study of domestic violence and relationship dynamics in Navy families).
I was able to focus my own research interests after starting graduate study at the University of Minnesota, where I obtained a Ph.D. in Developmental Psychopathology and Clinical Science in 2007 (following a clinical internship year at Children's Hospitals at Clinics of Minnesota). My work in Minnesota, under the supervision of Drs. Alan Sroufe, Byron Egeland, and Ann Masten, focused on two long-term longitudinal studies: the Minnesota Study of Risk and Adaptation and Project Competence. Although both of these research projects have followed samples for over 20 years, they differ in their target population, research questions, and methodology. Working on these projects gave me an appreciation for the various challenges facing young people who are making the transition to adulthood, and made me especially interested in the varied links between areas of competence---such as academic achievement, work success, and social ties---and broad dimensions of psychopathology, often called internalizing and externalizing problems.
Our work in the Risk and Resilience Lab is currently focused on studies of late adolescence and the transition to adulthood. While our assessment focus is broad, we are especially interested in the competence/psychopathology connections mentioned above, as well as examining how life stress and other factors, such as a strong sense of self as well as coping skills, interact to predict positive or negative outcomes across this transitional period. We are beginning to incorporate physiological measurements of stress reactivity (heart rate reactivity and skin conductance level) as an added source of information above and beyond self-reports of stressful life events.