We All Live Here

We have the unprecedented technological ability to study health and human behavior at a time when our communities are becoming increasingly diverse and complex. The things we can learn and the ways we can use that knowledge to help people thrive are revolutionary.

Despite these advances, many children in Central Texas aren’t thriving.

Children enter the world with tremendous potential, but early adversity can derail it. Although everyone experiences hardships, extreme or prolonged exposure to stress can lead to lifelong challenges. Those stressors can include poverty, family separation, exposure to violence, abuse, or experiencing discrimination.

For many children, these adverse childhood experiences take a serious toll on their biological systems, increasing the chance of physical and mental health problems as well as school failure, unemployment, and shorter life expectancy.

However, despite the experience of adversity, some children will thrive — what we call resilience. We don’t know all the reasons why some children are more resilient than others, but access to supportive relationships can play a protective role.

What else may shield children from risk so they all can thrive?

To find out, we’re doing things differently. We’re meeting families in their homes and neighborhoods. We’re welcoming them as engaged, contributing community scientists — finding answers to their questions and sharing results with them in real time.


Our Goal: Community-Engaged Research

When scientists want to learn about a group of people, they design what’s known as a cohort study. This is a way of observing similar people — a cohort — over time to learn about them. But the tried-and-true way of designing these studies has severe limitations, especially for the very people who most need our help.

Here’s why: Scientists recruit people to participate in a study, take samples, and ask questions. Then, they seem to disappear. There’s a gap between when scientists have results from a study and when participants find out about those results, if ever.

Additionally, many groups, especially the most vulnerable, are underrepresented in traditional research, which means we often lack data that accurately reflect our varied communities. Whole Communities–Whole Health wants to change this.

Our goal: Make sure that the most cutting-edge advances in behavioral and health science reach the children and families who need them the most.

Our Plan: Bringing Science Home

Traditional research studies take “snapshots” of people’s lives at different points in time. Those snapshots give us information, but it’s incomplete. That means we might make incorrect assumptions or develop policies and interventions that are not helpful. But through a combination of biological tracking, environmental sensors, and behavioral monitoring, we will have a more complete view — a movie, compared to a snapshot — of the factors that affect a child’s wellbeing. We’ll do this by working with families to figure out what questions they have and then by bringing the most advanced technology into their homes to help get the answers they need. Just as important, families will be able to log on to a secure website to access their information, learn about their health, and find community resources that can help them make improvements.

Using science to transform lives is the beacon that will guide the work of Whole Communities–Whole Health.

Biology

Blood samples, cheek swabs and baby teeth give clues about a child’s health history.

Technology

Wearable tech monitors sleep, circadian rhythm, activity type, and heart rate.

Environment

Home sensors will measure water quality, air quality, and mold and bacteria levels.

Behavior

Apps will help people track their emotions, experiences, and daily interactions.

Meet the Team

Whole Community–Whole Health brings researchers and advisors together from wide-ranging backgrounds across UT and Central Texas.

Read full bioLourdes Rodríguez

Lourdes Rodríguez

DirectorCenter for Place-Based Initiatives

My research focuses on community-engaged research and practice projects that build on ideas elicited from community colleagues from Austin, Travis County and Central Texas.

Read full bioDavid Schnyer

David Schnyer

ProfessorPsychology / Psychiatry

My background is in clinical neuropsychology, and I specialize in applying multimodal neuroimaging techniques to study normal and impaired cognition, including aging, neurotrauma, and mental illness.

Read full bioZoltan Nagy

Zoltan Nagy

Assistant ProfessorCivil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering

As a roboticist and building scientist, I focus on smart buildings and cities, renewable energy systems, and the influence of occupants on energy performance.

Read full bioJulie Maslowsky

Julie Maslowsky

Assistant ProfessorKinesiology and Health Education / Population Health

I am a developmental psychologist focusing on adolescent health risk behavior and developing prevention and intervention programs for substance abuse, teen pregnancy prevention, and mental health.

Read full bioMichael Mackert

Michael Mackert

ProfessorAdvertising & Public Relations / Population Health

My research focuses on using traditional and new digital media to provide effective health communication in areas such as tobacco cessation and opioid overdose prevention.

Read full bioKarla Lawson

Karla Lawson

Clinical Assistant ProfessorSurgery and Perioperative Care / Population Health

I am an epidemiologist and clinical scientist with research exploring the prevention and clinical decision-making of child maltreatment, injury surveillance, and best clinical practices.

Read full bioKerry

Kerry

ProfessorCivil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering / Population Health

I’m trained as an environmental engineer focusing on human exposure to contaminants in the built environment (homes and schools) and health outcomes such as childhood asthma.

Read full bioKaren Johnson

Karen Johnson

Associate ProfessorNursing

As a public health nurse, my research experience includes tracking and addressing health and social disparities among adolescents from historically marginalized groups.

Read full bioFrances Champagne

Frances Champagne

ProfessorPsychology

My research explores how life experiences lead to behavioral and neurobiological variation through epigenetic factors, particularly early exposure to stress, toxins, nutrition and social environment.

Read full bioDarla Castelli

Darla Castelli

ProfessorKinesiology and Health Education

My background is in exercise physiology and pedagogy, and my research focuses on how physiology and metabolism affect cognitive health in children and emerging adults.

Read full bioSarah Kate Bearman

Sarah Kate Bearman

Assistant ProfessorEducational Psychology / Psychiatry

I’m a child clinical psychologist, and my research focuses on the implementation and dissemination of effective mental health interventions for traditionally underserved children and families.

Read full bioAmanda Barczyk

Amanda Barczyk

Clinical Assistant ProfessorPopulation Health

I am a mixed-methods researcher focusing on youth suicide, child maltreatment, childhood adversity, injury prevention, and pediatric trauma.

Ana Aguilar

Graduate Student ResearcherCommunication Studies

Kaya de Barbaro

Assistant ProfessorPsychology

Amanda Barczyk

Clinical Assistant ProfessorPopulation Health

Sarah Kate Bearman

Assistant ProfessorEducational Psychology

Sheri Burson

Graduate Student ResearcherHealth Behavior and Health Education

Darla Castelli

ProfessorKinesiology and Health Education

Frances Champagne

ProfessorPsychology

Jason Choto

Graduate Student ResearcherEducational Psychology

Joshua Cone

Graduate Student ResearcherHealth Behavior and Health Education

Cameron Craddock

Associate ProfessorDiagnostic Medicine

Virginia Cumberbatch

Director, Community Engagement CenterDivision of Diversity and Community Engagement

Monique Vasquez

Graduate Student ResearcherSocial Work

Latrice Sales

Graduate Student ResearcherCurriculum & Instruction

Segun Owotomo

Graduate Student ResearcherHealth Behavior and Health Education

Michael Mullarkey

Graduate Student ResearcherClinical Psychology

Melissa Miller

Graduate Student ResearcherCell and Molecular Biology

Zachariah Marrero

Graduate Student ResearcherPsychology

Hongwan Li

Graduate Student ResearcherCivil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering

Hannah Levin

Graduate Student ResearcherInformation Studies

Dominique Egger

Graduate Student ResearcherEducational Psychology

Estevan Delgado

Graduate Student ResearcherPublic Affairs

Cara Young

Assistant ProfessorNursing

Paul Toprac

Associate Professor of InstructionComputer Science

Hannah Williamson

Assistant ProfessorHuman Development and Family Sciences

Edison Thomaz

Assistant ProfessorElectrical and Computer Engineering

David Paydarfar

ProfessorNeurology

Keryn Pasch

Associate ProfessorKinesiology and Health Education

Juan Pedro Maestre

Research AssociateCenter for Water and the Environment

Nanshu Lu

Associate ProfessorAerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics

Unmil Karadkar

Assistant ProfessorSchool of Information

Christine Julien

ProfessorElectrical and Computer Engineering

Paige Harden

Associate ProfessorPsychology

Kacey Hanson

Program ManagerPopulation Health

Suchitra Gururaj

Assistant Vice PresidentDivision of Diversity and Community Engagement

Sam Gosling

ProfessorPsychology

Kelly Gaither

Senior Research ScientistTexas Advanced Computing Center

Niall Gaffney

Director, Data Intensive ComputingTexas Advanced Computing Center

David Schnyer

ProfessorPsychology / Psychiatry

Lourdes Rodríguez

Associate ProfessorPopulation Health

Zoltan Nagy

Assistant ProfessorCivil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering

Julie Maslowsky

Assistant ProfessorKinesiology and Health Education

Michael Mackert

ProfessorAdvertising & Public Relations / Population Health

Karla Lawson

Clinical Assistant ProfessorSurgery and Perioperative Care

Kerry Kinney

ProfessorCivil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering

Karen Johnson

Associate ProfessorNursing

Dennis Wylie

Research ScientistCenter for Biomedical Research Support

Patrick Bixler

Assistant Professor of PracticeLBJ School of Public Affairs
Nain Yepez

Nain Yepez

Parenting Education InstructorAny Baby Can
Vanessa Castro

Vanessa Castro

Stronger Austin Program ManagerIt's Time Texas
Ada Ohueri

Ada Ohueri

VolunteerSickle Cell Association of Texas
Ana Acosta

Ana Acosta

Bilingual EducatorManor ISD
Melissa Ibarra

Melissa Ibarra

Bilingual Educator and Graduate StudentAustin ISD
Liliana Martinez Howard

Liliana Martinez Howard

LibrarianT.A. Brown Elementary School
Charles Moody

Charles Moody

Founder and CEOCommunity Coalition for Health
Avi Santos

Avi Santos

Registered Nurse (retired)Pflugerville ISD
Carol Lilly

Carol Lilly

Co-founderBoomers Collaborative
Deborah Rosales-Elkins

Deborah Rosales-Elkins

Peer Support SpecialistMulva Clinic for the Neurosciences

News and Events

Children Are Researchers, TooNovember 27, 2018

Children Are Researchers, Too

Photovoice seeks understanding through photography. It is an engaging approach to data collection that encourages children’s participation in research and seeks to understand their perspectives.

Children Are Researchers, TooNovember 27, 2018

Children Are Researchers, Too

Vice President for Research Makes Grand Challenge Announcement to UT CommunityOctober 25, 2018

Vice President for Research Makes Grand Challenge Announcement to UT Community

Researchers from nearly two dozen disciplines have been working for more than a year to build a grand challenge project that produces a new way to study human communities while, at the same time, responding to a critically underserved group in Central Texas: children and families living with adversity.

Fenves Introduces New Grand Challenge in State of the University AddressOctober 19, 2018

Fenves Introduces New Grand Challenge in State of the University Address

Faculty members from across the university will work together to explore ways to foster the healthy development of children and families, struggling with adversity, by fundamentally rethinking how cohort studies are conducted on social, behavioral and health issues.

Making Research Useful in Real-TimeOctober 18, 2018

Making Research Useful in Real-Time

We’re collaborating with communities to figure out what questions they have and what answers they need, right now.

Giving You the Whole PictureOctober 16, 2018

Giving You the Whole Picture

Scientists struggle with how to share research findings in ways that help people make changes quickly. Figuring out how to do this is our grand challenge.

Children Are Researchers, TooNovember 27, 2018

Children Are Researchers, Too

Children Are Researchers, TooNovember 27, 2018

Children Are Researchers, Too

Photovoice seeks understanding through photography. It is an engaging approach to data collection that encourages children’s participation in research and seeks to understand their perspectives.

Making Research Useful in Real-TimeOctober 18, 2018

Making Research Useful in Real-Time

We’re collaborating with communities to figure out what questions they have and what answers they need, right now.

Giving You the Whole PictureOctober 16, 2018

Giving You the Whole Picture

Scientists struggle with how to share research findings in ways that help people make changes quickly. Figuring out how to do this is our grand challenge.

Vice President for Research Makes Grand Challenge Announcement to UT CommunityOctober 25, 2018

Vice President for Research Makes Grand Challenge Announcement to UT Community

Researchers from nearly two dozen disciplines have been working for more than a year to build a grand challenge project that produces a new way to study human communities while, at the same time, responding to a critically underserved group in Central Texas: children and families living with adversity.

Fenves Introduces New Grand Challenge in State of the University AddressOctober 19, 2018

Fenves Introduces New Grand Challenge in State of the University Address

Faculty members from across the university will work together to explore ways to foster the healthy development of children and families, struggling with adversity, by fundamentally rethinking how cohort studies are conducted on social, behavioral and health issues.