The University of Texas at Dallas School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences


NSF REU ImageNational Science Foundation (NSF) Research Experiences for Undergraduates (NSF REU Site)

NSF REU Center for Children and Families

Program Description

The National Science Foundation (NSF) Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) site at The University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) is a yearlong, 42-week paid internship that provides 10 college students from historically underrepresented groups with the tools and connections to combine high-quality, developmental research with an empirically driven, community-based outreach program. This REU offers a truly unique research experience through the UTD Center for Children and Families (CCF) given (1) a well-established, empirically driven community-based outreach program, Play With Me (Juega Conmigo), which serves young, at-risk children and their parents in North Texas, and which provides the backbone for engagement in community-based field research and (2) faculty mentors with a strong commitment to undergraduate research training and mentoring the next generation of research scientists.

Award Abstract #2048507 — Download the abstract

This Research Experiences for Undergraduates internship program is ONLY for UT Dallas and DFW area community college students.

Please note: students accepted into the NSF REU in developmental science cannot also complete the ENSURE research program at the same time.

During their time participating in this REU, students develop research skills through hands-on experience conducting experimental and observational research with children and families. In addition, they learn how to disseminate high-quality developmental research to academic audiences and journals as well as parents and caregivers in the broader communities in which we work and reside.

  • Students are supported to work within the Center for Children and Families’ community-based outreach playful learning programs, engaging with the parents and their young children (0-3 year-olds) to provide parents with research-based tools and knowledge to take an active role in promoting their child’s healthy development.
  • In addition to engaging in formal training in developmental science in the fall and spring, students participate in hands-on research experiences, professional development workshops, academic writing, and preparation for the graduate school application process, including the GRE.
  • Students participate in weekly research lab meetings with their chosen research mentors, one-on-one sessions with their mentors and occasional social gatherings.
Figure 2

NSF REU Play With Me Image

The REU is led by several UTD faculty mentors whose research covers many areas of developmental sciences, including, but not limited to child development and psychology.

Mandy Maguire, PhD — PI

Melanie Spence, PhD

Lisa Goffman, PhD

Shayla Holub, PhD

Jackie Nelson, PhD

Meghan Swanson, PhD


Margaret Owen, PhD — Co-PI

Heidi Kane, PhD

Candice Mills, PhD

Raúl Rojas, PhD

Andrea Warner-Czyz, PhD

Pamela Rollins, PhD

See more information about the outreach program Play With Me.

See more information about the REU experience from the current cohort.

Information Sessions

Tuesday, March 22 – 2:30-3:30pm

Thursday, March 10 – 11am-12pm

Breakdown of the Fall, Spring, and Summer Time Commitments:

  • The REU requires a 10-hour weekly commitment over the course of a year (42 weeks).
  • Fall: Hands-on experience with children and their parents in the Play With Me program, overseen by CCF staff and faculty. Research training with presenting faculty on formulating important basic and applied research questions and appropriate methodological approaches to studying underrepresented populations in culturally responsive ways.
  • Spring: The primary focus of spring training is to conduct theoretically driven, high-quality research (including recruiting, data collection, coding and data entry) with current or past participants in Play With Me families while remaining engaged with the Play With Me program.
  • Summer: The primary focus of summer training is analyzing and interpreting collected data and disseminating research findings to academic and non-academic audiences.
Figure 1


  • Students receive a $6,300 stipend over the course of the year for their participation.
  • Parking passes for meetings on The University of Texas at Dallas campus are made available to non-UTD student Fellows.

Eligibility Requirements

General Requirements

  • Students who are 18 or older and enrolled part-time or full-time at UTD or in a local community college
  • First-generation college students, historically underrepresented minorities such as African Americans, Hispanics, American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders, persons with disabilities, and veterans of the U.S. Armed Services.
  • Although Spanish fluency is not a requirement, some of the Fellows should be fluent Spanish speakers to facilitate effective teams for implementation of the mentored research projects.

Residency Requirements

  • U.S. citizens, Nationals, or Permanent Residents only (DACA and International Students are not eligible to apply due to NSF requirements and program constraints)

Academic Requirements

  • Students must have a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher.
  • Students must have successfully completed at least one course in Child, Language, or Lifespan Development, or have relevant previous experience.
  • Students must have at least 2 semesters of undergraduate coursework remaining before receiving their baccalaureate.

April 8: Applications Due. Students will be asked to describe their interests in child development research and career goals.
(Extended from original April 1 deadline)

Students will be notified by May 1 if they are invited to the next round. Top candidates will be asked for transcripts and a letter of recommendation that speaks to students’ career goals, work ethic, academic abilities and potential.

For questions, please contact [email protected].

Apply for the 2022-2023 REU Experience

Apply Now

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is an REU?

REUs, or Research Experience for Undergraduates, are competitive research programs for undergraduate students at various university sites, funded by the National Science Foundation. Each student is associated with a specific research project within the host institution where they work closely with faculty and other researchers.

What is Unique About This REU?

Instead of a typical summer research experience, this REU offers a year-long, 42-week paid internship to 10 qualified candidates.

Our goal is to mentor and develop future scientists from historically underrepresented backgrounds to encourage their interests in developmental science.

Who Should Apply?

We encourage students with the following characteristics to apply:

  • Students who currently attend The University of Texas at Dallas or a local community college.
  • Students from backgrounds that are traditionally underrepresented in research: First-generation college students, Hispanic students, Black students, etc.
  • Students interested in children and families and using science to make a positive impact on the community.
  • Students interested in learning more about a graduate-level career in the field of developmental science.
  • Students with no or limited research experience in the field are encouraged to apply.

Is This REU for Me?

This REU is meant to give experience to students with no or limited prior research experience. The long-term goal of this funding is to diversify the field of developmental scientists (see this goal from the Society for Research in Child Development). You will be at the center of some of the most relevant and high-quality research in the field and will be able to gain hands-on experience while working with top researchers. If this sounds like something you would be interested in pursuing, then we strongly encourage you to apply.

What Skills Might a Student Involved in This REU Gain?

  • How to conduct culturally sensitive, multi-generational, science-based developmental research.
  • How to write about research findings in both academic and non-academic avenues.
  • Networking opportunities with faculty mentors, who are some of the top researchers in the field of developmental science.