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

Hartley and Waisman colleagues win NIH funding for Alzheimer’s–Down Syndrome research

A team of UW–Madison researchers is part of a new multi-institution effort to better understand Alzheimer’s disease in adults with Down syndrome. The new effort, funded by up to $109 million from the National Institutes of Health over the next five years, is focused in part on identifying early biological signatures of Alzheimer’s disease in adults with Down syndrome. Dr. Sigan Hartley, SoHE’s 100 Women Chair in Human Ecology, is a lead investigator on the project.

CFS RDRC awarded third year of funding to support research on financial vulnerability

The U.S. Social Security Administration approved 11 major projects, investigating topics including vulnerability to Social Security scams, identity theft among seniors, older Americans’ changing work, and the impact of employment shocks. SoHE is home to the UW Center for Financial Security Retirement and Disability Research Center, and three SoHE faculty are among the projects’ lead investigators.

SoHE and CommNS to partner on 3 major new Wisconsin Partnership Program grants

The School of Human Ecology and the Center for Community and Nonprofit Studies will partner on three of six new grants announced Friday by the Wisconsin Partnership Program at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. The grants, each of $1 million over five years, support community-academic partnerships designed to improve health outcomes by addressing the social determinants that influence health and well-being over the course of a lifetime.

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.