Preconception Stress Exposure: Impact on Pregnancy and Offspring Neurodevelopment

“Directed research is a challenging experience but worth every second. I thoroughly enjoyed working with Dr. Hipwell. She is pleasant, accommodating, and resourceful and her research will appeal to anyone with an interest in developmental and cognitive psychology.”


Supervising Faculty:

Alison Hipwell, PhD., ClinPsyD.



Jen Wilson

(412) 383-5018


Area of Research:  Clinical Psychology/Health Psychology/Developmental Psychology


Description of Research:

The directed research students will work on a large-scale prospective study: ‘Preconception stress exposure: Impact on pregnancy and offspring neurodevelopment’ (PIs: Alison Hipwell & Kate Keenan) that is part of the NIH Environmental influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) initiative. The project recruits pregnant participants from the ongoing Pittsburgh Girls Study (PGS) to examine the effects of lifetime stress exposures, occurring prior to conception, on prenatal health and stress regulation, birth outcomes and offspring health and development during the first 3 years of life.


Duties of Students:

This is an excellent opportunity for students who are interested in a career in Clinical/Health and/or Developmental Psychology. The selected students will assist with lab-based assessments of stress reactivity among young pregnant women, and will assist with coding videotaped mother-infant interaction data. In addition, students will gain experience in neural measures (using fNIRS) of executive function and psychophysiological measures of stress reactivity among infants. Students will also have the opportunity to develop a broader range of knowledge and research skills as part of the PGS and the chance to actively participate in an interdisciplinary research effort.


Terms offered: fall, spring and summer


Number of Students: 2