Meet the Research Collaborative

The Research Collaborative is made up of Purdue faculty and staff engaged in research related to one or more of the Steps to Leaps pillars (i.e. well-being, grit/persistence, leadership, networks and impact).

The Research Collaborative seeks to establish evidence-based approaches to assessing and enhancing student well-being and resilience. View published work featured in Well-Being Tips of the Week.


Steve Amireault

Steve Amireault

Steve Amireault is an assistant professor in the Department of Health and Kinesiology. He examines the primary drivers of sustained engagement in physical activity behavior across the adult lifespan. His research interests include the identification of the primary drivers of sustained engagement in physical activity participation in order to design effective interventions to help people adopt and maintain an active lifestyle.

Dr. Jorge A. Banda

Jorge A. Banda

Jorge Banda’s research merges the fields of exercise science, public health and social psychology to develop creative solutions to improve child health. His research interests focus on 1) developing, evaluating, and disseminating community-based interventions to decrease sedentary behavior, increase physical activity, and prevent and treat obesity in children and 2) using accelerometers and innovative data analysis strategies to improve estimates of child sleep, sedentary behavior, and physical activity. Banda’s research uses an interdisciplinary team approach to accomplish these research aims, involving social psychologists, exercise scientists, nutritionists, statisticians and physicians.

Dr. Emily Buehler

Emily Buehler

Emily Buehler is an assistant professor in the Brian Lamb School of Communication. Her research focuses on how people seek, provide and receive social support in both face-to-face and online contexts. Her work centers on the following questions: When people need advice or comfort, what can they say to activate helpful responses from others? In response, what can people say and do to help alleviate another person’s distress? And how does technology affect what people say and how they interpret others’ messages? Buehler’s research and teaching focus on how effective interpersonal communication can promote emotional and relational well-being.

Steps to Leaps Related Research:

Well-Being / Networks
Seeking Support on Social Media


Kirsten Davis

Kirsten Davis is an assistant professor of

Kirsten Davis

 engineering education at Purdue University. Her research explores the intentional design and assessment of global engineering programs, student development through experiential learning and approaches for teaching and assessing systems thinking skills. Davis’ research is inspired by her engineering industry experience and observations of the disconnect between what is taught in the engineering classroom and what happens in the engineering workplace. Engineering programs typically focus on closed-ended math and science problems while real engineering problems are interdisciplinary, open-ended and involve working with people from different backgrounds. Davis’ research addresses this disconnect by exploring educational experiences that better align with the realities of engineering work and identifying methods for teaching and assessing professional skills that will prepare engineering students to succeed in the work environment. 

Heather A. Eicher-Miller

Heather A. Eicher-Miller

Heather A. Eicher-Miller is an associate professor in the Department of Nutrition Science in the College of Health and Human Sciences. Eicher-Miller is a nutrition epidemiologist experienced in dietary patterning and assessment, focused on improving food security among low-resource populations. She works to improve nutrition education and food assistance programs by evaluating their impact on dietary intake and health. Eicher-Miller also develops new methods of dietary assessment, discovers and evaluates dietary and lifestyle patterns. Eicher-Miller engages in outreach to food insecure groups through a website for food pantry workers and clients in Indiana and through Purdue University Nutrition Education programs.

Dr. Elliott Friedman

Elliot Friedman

Elliot Friedman is the William and Salley Berner Professor of Gerontology in Human Development and Family Studies in the College of Health and Human Sciences. His research interests include how psychological experiences affect biological processes related to health with an emphasis on physiological regulation in middle and later life, psychological well-being and health, biopsychosocial integration and successful aging.

Steps to Leaps Related Research:

Influencing the Development of Social and Emotional Learning Skills

Susan Gordon

Susan Gordon

Susan Gordon is an associate professor in the White Lodging-J.W. Marriott, Jr. School of Hospitality & Tourism Management at Purdue University. Her research focuses on employee well-being in the hospitality industry, which is known for stressful working conditions including long hours, unstable schedules, emotional labor when serving guests and physically demanding jobs. She is particularly interested in how organizations can improve employee well-being through increasing supervisor and organizational support. Recent ongoing projects include support of employee well-being for women and those in racial-ethnic minority groups. Prior to entering academia, Gordon worked for more than 10 years in the hospitality industry, holding various management positions with Walt Disney World, Starwood Hotels & Resorts, and Marriott International.

Abrar Hammoud

Abrar Hammoud

Abrar Hammoud is a clinical assistant professor in Purdue Polytechnic’s Department of Technology Leadership & Innovation. She teaches project and problem-based design through approaches that blend and integrate traditional academic disciplines.

Her research interests include processes of resilience as communicated through meaningful work, in addition to narratives of failure expressed via visual, artistic, and technical mediums, and their impact on failure tolerance and creativity. Through this blend of topics, she believes that students will engage in both art and technology with a deeper understanding of the impact they have in their lives and well-being and the lives of others.

Dr. Valerie Knopik

Valerie Knopik

Valerie Knopik is department head and the Ben and Maxine Miller Professor of Human Development and Family Studies in the College of Health and Human Sciences. Her research focuses on joint effects of genetic, epigenetic and environmental (specifically prenatal and early postnatal) risk factors on birth outcomes, externalizing behavior (ADHD, conduct disorder), associated learning and cognitive deficits, and subsequent substance use. She is also interested in the role of stress on both physiological health and mental health/wellness and the effects of yoga and mindfulness on quality-of-life and well-being.

Ellen Ernst Kossek

Ellen Ernst Kossek

Ellen Ernst Kossek, the Basil S. Turner Distinguished Professor of Management at Purdue University Krannert School of Management, is one of the leading researchers in the U.S. on work and family policies. She studies how work‐life boundaries, work‐life‐family and diversity employment practices impact workplace inclusion and gender career equality. Kossek is a founding contributor to the field of work and family research and her scholarship has had a highly influential impact on the scientific community (over 23,265 google scholar citations). She is a fellow in the Academy of Management and the Society of Industrial Organizational Psychology. Her research has a number of significant best paper of the year awards, the Work Life Legacy award for helping to start or advance the work-life movement, the SAGE scholarly achievement award from the Gender and Diversity in Organizations Division of the Academy of Management for advancing understanding of gender and diversity in organizations, a Fulbright scholar award to the United Kingdom to advancing understanding of flexibility in the workplace, and the Lu Ann Aday Award, Purdue University’s highest research award for contributions to research in the social sciences and humanities. He research has been funded by National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, Russell Sage Foundation, Sloan Foundation and the Gerber Foundation among other sponsors. Kossek has contributed significant policy and advisory work for firms and governments on effectively implementing workplace flexibility to jointly support employee and employer needs. Some past clients include the U.S. Postal Service, U.S. Office of Personnel, U.S. Department of Labor, Singapore government, MD Anderson, Hitachi, Booz Allen, and DTE Energy. She holds a Ph.D and Master of Arts in Organizational Behavior from Yale University; a Master of Business Administration from Ross School of Business, University of Michigan; and a Bachelor of Arts (cum laude) in Psychology from Mount Holyoke College. Kossek was previously a university distinguished professor of labor and industrial relations at Michigan State University.

Dr. Franki Kung

Franki Kung

Franki Kung is an assistant professor of industrial-organizational psychology and directs the Conflict and Mindset Collaboratory at Purdue University. His interdisciplinary research generates knowledge to improve conflict management of individuals and organizations. Ongoing projects focus on transforming tensions in social conflicts into synergy, developing better conflict communication tactics, and identifying healthier approaches to manage multiple personal goals.

Dr. Nasreen Lalani

Nasreen Lalani

Nasreen Lalani is an experienced researcher, clinician and educator with a diverse background in nursing and health disciplines for more than 25 years. Her experience spans three continents—working in Pakistan, Australia and North America (U.S. and Canada). Lalani is primarily a qualitative researcher, with a research focus in the areas of aging and palliative care, spirituality and wellbeing, caregiving, and resilience in disaster recovery. Her current AgSEED grant is aimed at improving palliative care services in rural Indiana, USA. She is working on a community engagement initiative “Families tackling tough times together,” to improve the resilience and well-being among families during COVID-19 with an interdisciplinary team of researchers and Purdue Extension groups. Lalani is also working with research collaborators from the U.S., U.K. and Pakistan developing models to improve spiritual and existential well-being of university students and caregivers in the community. She has contributed to multiple publications and given presentations at regional and international levels.

Dr. Seugnyoon Lee

Seungyoon Lee

Seungyoon Lee (Ph.D., University of Southern California) is an associate professor in the Brian Lamb School of Communication at Purdue University. Her research focuses on the evolution of communication, knowledge, and collaboration networks and its implications for individual well-being and community resilience. Her recent projects examined the evolution of creative interaction and social ties in project teams; social support and social networks among people and organizations in disaster recovery and resilience; and the determinants and outcomes of network multiplexity.

Steps to Leaps Related Research:

Patterns of Social Support

Nicole Ramirez

Nichole Ramirez

Nichole Ramirez is the assistant director of the Vertically Integrated Projects (VIP) program in the College of Engineering. In an effort to promote well-being at all levels in education, her research focuses on the experiences of engineering students and practitioners living with mental health conditions. Ramirez served as president of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) West Central Indiana and she currently advises NAMI on Campus at Purdue University, a student-led affiliate. She received her doctorate in engineering education and Master of Science in Aviation and Aerospace Management from Purdue University.

Dr. Yumary Ruiz

Yumary Ruiz

Yumary Ruiz is an associate professor in the Department of Public Health at Purdue University. Her research focuses on reducing health disparities and identifying factors that enable youth to overcome adversity. She uses mixed (quantitative and qualitative) methodologies to identify specific interactions between cognitive processes and social factors that affect health. Her work has also identified health-promoting mechanisms, such as social support and individual characteristics that can be targeted to mitigate the harmful effects of socioeconomic and health disadvantages. The overarching goal of her research program is to develop innovative and empirically based interventions to reduce health disparities among youth.

Louis Tay

Louis Tay

Louis Tay is an associate professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences. He has expertise in well-being, assessments, and data science. He is a Provost Fellow on the Steps to Leaps initiative and oversees the following: (a) Steps to Leaps assessments; (b) research on Steps to Leaps topics (e.g., leadership, grit); (c) developing evidence-based interventions for students; and (d) creating and teaching courses aligned with Steps to Leaps (e.g., Science of Well-Being). 

Steps to Leaps Related Research:

Well-Being / Grit/Persistence
Crafting Within and Across Life Domains

Jason Ware

Jason Ware

Jason Ware is a clinical associate professor in the John Martinson Honors College. He focuses on community well-being in his research and investigates the impact and educational effect of developing quality-of-life indicators with communities at the neighborhood and institutional level. Ware’s research also includes exploring the effect of undergraduate research on the ability of students to think analytically as well as their propensity to address problems from varying disciplinary perspectives.

Dr. Kelly Wilson

Kelly Wilson

Kelly Schwind Wilson is an associate professor of management in the Organizational Behavior and Human Resources Area within the Krannert School of Management at Purdue University. Her research specifically focuses on two main areas including the work-nonwork interface and leadership, with a common theme concerning interpersonal relationships throughout most of her work. In her research, Wilson examines the implications of conflict and congruence between individuals' and couples' work and nonwork domains for employees and their family members. In addition, Wilson also conducts research examining leader and follower relationships, resources as well as leader behaviors and effectiveness. 

Steps to Leaps Related Research:

The Impact of Leader Emotions on Employee Emotion and Performance

David J. Yu

David J. Yu

David J. Yu is currently an assistant professor in the Lyles School of Civil Engineering and the Department of Political Science. He is also part of Purdue’s Building Sustainable Communities cluster. His research centers on using a multi-method approach as a tool to systematically study the resilience and sustainability of human-dominated complex systems (social-ecological, engineered-social or socio-hydrological systems). Yu brings diverse knowledge sets together to engage in this research: resilience thinking, human behavior, collective action and the commons, dynamical systems theory and experimental economics.

Dr. Xiang Zhou

Xiang Zhou

Xiang Zhou is an assistant professor of counseling psychology in the College of Education. He has provided counseling services to students at multiple university counseling centers during his clinical training. His research focused on ethnic-racial minority youth and families, and his work has examined the ethnic-racial minority college students’ ethnic identity development, experiences of discrimination and sense of belongingness in college.

Steps to Leaps Related Research

The Mental Health if International Students Studying in the U.S.