Research & Discover

Lauren Papp

Dr. Lauren Papp, Associate Dean for Research

As the Associate Dean of Research for the School of Human Ecology at UW–Madison, I am pleased to introduce you to our robust research program. SoHE’s dedicated team of experienced research support staff help faculty and their teams identify and win millions of dollars in competitive grants every year from federal, private, university, and community sources investing in the human ecology approach to research and engagement.

Across our various labs and initiatives, and in collaboration with our five Centers of Excellence, SoHE supports researchers across their career stages to execute high-level, high-impact work that improves wellbeing and quality of life for children, families, consumers, and communities. I invite you to learn more in the sections below and to reach out to me with questions or to connect with our research program.


Lauren Papp, PhD
Associate Dean for Research; Vaughan Bascom Professor in Women, Family and Community, Human Development and Family Studies Department

Recent highlights

Ashton on food safety policy history and economic research opportunities

Foodborne illness ranks seventh globally among major health hazards, falling between air pollution and tuberculosis. Yet food safety is relatively understudied by economists. Dr. Lydia Ashton, Assistant Professor of Consumer Science, is coauthor on a new paper in Applied Economics Perspectives and Policy that provides an introduction to food safety for economists new to the subject. It presents an overview of the problem, the history of major policy reforms, and the structure of food safety governance in the United States and internationally. It also identifies potential opportunities for economists in interdisciplinary food safety research and presents one example of this kind of collaboration, namely research focused on identifying the food sources of U.S. Campylobacter infections.

Shin on community design for aging residents

Dr. Jung-hye Shin, Chair of the Design Studies department, is coauthor on a new paper in the Journal of Urban Planning and Development proposing how to identify the ideal distribution of community-based comprehensive service facilities for older adults in response to population aging and greater service needs of older adults in urban areas, specifically by combining the nested ecological model of aging in place as the theoretical foundation with a geographic information system as the methodological tool (GIS-NEMA). The findings indicate that many essential services, particularly health care and places for socialization, are lacking in urban areas when walkability and accessibility to public services are considered. The findings also indicate that the downtown and main factory areas with higher population density have a higher need for developing community-based comprehensive services facilities for older adults. The proposed method shows strong potential for locating service networks and provides useful information for policy development, urban planning, and architectural programming.

Muentner and Poehlmann Tynan: Witnessing a father’s arrest causes stress in children

Human Development and Family Studies major alum Luke Muentner, currently earning his PhD in the Sandra Rosenbaum School of Social Work at UW, and Dr. Julie Poehlmann-Tynan, the Dorothy A. O’Brien Professor in Human Ecology, have published a new paper in Developmental Psychobiology, “Getting under the skin: Physiological stress and witnessing paternal arrest in young children with incarcerated fathers.” Their study finds that the impacts may be greater for young children who witness the arrest of their father prior to his incarceration.

Departments and centers

The School of Human Ecology hosts a broad range of innovative work in research, art and design, and community-based projects across our four departments and five centers. Learn more about the specialties of each via the links below.


Civil Society and Community Studies
Consumer Science
Design Studies
Human Development and Family Studies

Centers of Excellence

Kohl’s Center for Retailing
Center for Child and Family Well-being
Center for Financial Security
Center for Community and Nonprofit Studies (“the CommNS”)
Center for Design and Material Culture

Key SoHE Research Intersections

At SoHE, we find strength in thoughtful cross-unit collaborations. These efforts expand our capacity to seek and obtain funded research support and provide students with high-impact research and learning opportunities. Currently, we are particularly focused on two broad intersectional themes that bridge research, scholarship, teaching, and outreach across multiple SoHE departments:

Ecology of human interdependence with natural environments

Human well-being and the ecology of relationships and contexts that support it are the core of SoHE’s identity. Generally, though, when people hear the term “ecology,” they think only of relationships with the natural world. We know these two ecological frameworks are intimately linked; that is, human thriving and healthy natural environments are interdependent, and there is a pressing need for work at this intersection. SoHE researchers pursue these critical nodes of inquiry, including on topics of environmental hazards and public health, adaptive built environments, sustainable consumption and design, and food security and sovereignty.

Health and well-being across the lifespan

The School of Human Ecology supports its faculty members as they conduct impactful research on growth and development from the prenatal period into older adulthood.  The need to understand individuals, relationships, and families across the lifespan – and in social, community, and financial contexts – is recognized and distinguishes the research and scholarship conducted in the School.  Efforts to characterize at-risk populations, transition periods, and implications for policy and practice are particularly valued.  Our faculty members’ focus on health and well-being is broadly defined and can include measures of biological, physical, emotional, cognitive, environmental, and financial health, among others.  Understanding these relationships and outcomes with respect to diverse populations and in health equity terms is critically needed and appreciated.