Faculty Member Wins National Science Foundation Award

Faculty Member Wins National Science Foundation Award

Yang QuDevelopmental psychologist Yang Qu, previously named a "Rising Star," won an Early Career award.

Northwestern University’s Yang Qu received a Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award from the National Science Foundation to further his multidisciplinary work on teen stereotypes and adolescent development.

The CAREER Award, the agency’s most prestigious honor for promising young academics, supports junior faculty members who have already proven to be exceptional teachers and scholars. He is the eighth faculty member or alumnus of SESP to earn the award since 2011.

A developmental psychologist and assistant professor of human development and social policy, Qu will study how  adolescents’  views of the teen years change over time, and how these views affect their development. He’ll also look at how parents’ views of the teen years can influence their children’s beliefs, behavior and brain development.

Although often characterized as moody, rebellious, and irresponsible in the society, adolescents also show positive and constructive qualities during a time of rapid physical and emotional change, research suggests. The same neurobiological influences that lead to risk-taking and self-destructive behavior can also stimulate positive changes in a supportive environment, Qu says.

Qu’s research approach uniquely draws on developmental psychology, cultural psychology and neuroscience to examine how adolescents in diverse cultures grow and thrive. He uses a range of methods, including surveys over time and neuroimaging, to capture what’s happening in the brain.

His current work builds on previous research that suggests negative views of the teen years are culturally influenced and can negatively affect adolescents’ behavior and brain development.

For example, children who see the teen years as a time of being irresponsible or shirking family duties are at higher risk of turmoil and stress during adolescence as they tend to be less engaged in school and more involved in risky activities.

Qu wants to find out whether these negative views change as children grow older, and whether unflattering stereotypes can have long-term impacts on their academic, social, and neural development.

He’ll also look at the influence of parents who hold stereotypes about the teen years, since parents’ views of adolescence may be transmitted to their children.

As part of his CAREER award, Qu will incorporate research findings on myths and facts of adolescence into his teaching. He’ll also work with Northwestern’s Office of Community Education Partnerships to help parents and educators cultivate positive views of teens.

“Guiding youth to see teens as responsible can help them thrive during adolescence,” said Qu, whose research highlights the importance of changing negative stereotypes about adolescence at both the policy and societal level. “When society begins to view teens more positively, the adolescents themselves may hear more positive messages, which may further promote their development in constructive ways.”

SESP Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Awards from NSF
Yang Qu, Northwestern University
2019: Sepehr Vakil, Northwestern University
2016: Melissa Luna (PhD13), West Virginia University
2015: Michael Horn, Northwestern University 
2014: Michelle Wilkerson (PhD12), University of California, Berkeley
2012Pratim Sengupta (PhD09), University of Calgary
2011: Victor Lee (PhD08), Utah State University
2011: Ravit Golan Duncan (PhD06), Rutgers University
2011: Paulo Blikstein (PhD09), Columbia University


By Julie Deardorff
Last Modified: 8/11/20