Student’s research explores child cognitive development

VIDEO: For undergraduate students passionate about learning, conducting research side-by-side with a faculty mentor can be an invaluable experience.

By: Michael McDade
Human development and family studies major Lauren Lomas is taking her learning experience to a whole new level, conducting a research study alongside Associate Professor Jennifer Zosh that looks at the impact of technology on child cognitive development.

“We’re looking at two questions,” explained Associate Professor of Human Development and Family Studies Jennifer Zosh. “How does the parent-child interaction change when playing with one type of toy versus another and does the type of toy children play with impact their ability to regulate their own behavior?”

Lauren Lomas conducts research

Lauren Lomas works with a research participant in Penn State Brandywine’s Child Development Lab.

Image: Mike McDade

During the research study, Lomas video records parents and children playing with traditional toys (such as building blocks) or electronic toys (such as an iPad). She then goes back and watches the sessions to determine whether the type of toy the parent and child play with impacts the parent-child interaction.

“This research is really meeting a need that we’re seeing.” -- Jennifer Zosh

In the second part of the study, Lomas places a snack in front of the child and offers the choice to either eat the snack now, or wait for several minutes and in return be rewarded with two snacks. The team then examines whether the type of toy children played with impacts their later ability to regulate their own behavior and wait for the second snack.

“This research is really meeting a need that we’re seeing,” Zosh said. “Technology changes quickly but research hasn’t quite caught up yet. We don’t know exactly how technology use impacts children.”

“The goal of this research is to inform the community and parents on how technology might be impacting parent-child relationships and children in general,” Lomas added.

Lauren Lomas at the Middletown Free Library

Lauren Lomas prepares to conduct her research project at the Middletown Free Library.

Image: Mike McDade

Lomas and Zosh conduct their research study at Penn State Brandywine’s Child Development Lab, the Middletown Free Library in Media and the Delaware Children’s Museum in Wilmington, Delaware.

“Dr. Zosh has been a huge mentor throughout every step of the research process,” said Lomas. “I can't imagine going through this project without the help and support from my entire Penn State Brandywine family.”

A senior Schreyer Honors Scholar, Lomas became one of only eight Penn State students from across the Commonwealth selected to showcase their research in Harrisburg at the 13th annual Undergraduate Research at the Capitol – Pennsylvania (URC – PA) conference.

“The goal of this research is to inform the community and parents on how technology might be impacting parent-child relationships and children in general." -- Lauren Lomas

The poster session conference allowed undergraduate students enrolled in Pennsylvania’s universities and colleges to present their exceptional research projects to Pennsylvania’s key state legislators. She becomes only the fifth Penn State Brandywine student selected for this significant honor in the campus’ history.

Lauren Lomas presents research

Lauren Lomas was presented the Social Science and Humanities Research Award at Brandywine’s annual spring undergraduate research showcase called EURECA.

Image: Mike McDade

“Seeing Lauren grow as a researcher and a scholar has been a tremendous experience,” Zosh said. “A smaller campus like Brandywine can more easily afford students the opportunity for this type of growth.”

She also presented her work at Brandywine’s annual spring undergraduate research showcase called EURECA (Exhibition of Undergraduate Research Enterprise and Creative Accomplishment) and took home the Social Science and Humanities Research Award, which recognizes a social science and humanities project that holds importance in the field of study and has a potential impact on the public.

“Research gets students more actively engaged in their educational experience as an undergrad,” she said. “I feel that this research really gave me an opportunity to personalize my academic experience.”

More on undergraduate research at Penn State Brandywine

Undergraduate researchers can be found across all academic buildings on campus and across the arts and humanities, social sciences, and sciences and engineering. Research opportunities are open and available to the larger student population, not just to seniors or to the top students. Penn State Brandywine believes firmly in the transformative impact undergraduate research can have on students.