In 2008, the American Psychological Foundation (APF) awarded its Elizabeth Munsterberg Koppitz Fellowship
to Jody Nicholson, PhD, now a psychology professor at the
University of North Florida. The grant funded her research
project, “Get the Lead Out,” which sought to identify efficient
methods to reduce subthreshold lead levels among children in
low-income families. A recent policy change from the Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention will bring more awareness
to the lower levels of lead exposure on which Nicholson’s
research was focused. She is encouraged that her past and future
research will make a strong contribution to the literature with
this recent policy change.
Nicholson talked with gradPSYCH about how the fellowship
influenced her career.
Can you describe your research design for
I randomly assigned families to four different groups that
tested ways to reduce lead in their homes. My baseline control
group was given Environmental Protection Agency brochures
about lead reduction. Another group received cleaning kits,
one group received a home risk inspection and the last group
tested the interaction between the inspection and the cleaning
kit. There were no differences among the groups, but all groups
showed a significant decrease in the children’s blood lead levels.
Furthermore, 95 percent of all participants had reduced lead
levels, and my project was able to keep all of the children at
a level below what is considered lead poisoning. Now, I’m
trying to tease apart what made these interventions effective to
identify the most cost-effective method for helping families.
How does research in this area need to
There’s a lot of wonderful research, but it doesn’t come from
the perspective I have as a developmental psychologist, such as
considering barriers to intervention. Something I’m trying to
develop right now is a measure of self-efficacy that helps parents
control their children’s environment and exposure to lead. We
have to come up with very low-cost initiatives and figure out
how we can educate parents better.
How has the fellowship helped your career?
I was encouraged that APF helped me see that I was a worthy
investment. I also think it really helped on job interviews because
potential employers appreciated my experience in community-based research, which the fellowship funded. Receiving
this fellowship has given me the confidence, and feeling of
responsibility, that my research can make an impact.
What’s next for you?
This fall, I’m collaborating with a local Head Start program to
integrate what my study’s shown about how we can help parents
reduce their children’s risk. For this study, I’m developing a
measure of self-efficacy to examine as a moderator and mediator
for intervention effectiveness. The data I collect will be important
for applying for external funding to continue to develop this line
of research. n
— COLLEEN WILSON
Is there an APF grant in your future?
Each year, the American Psychological Foundation
awards more than 45 grants worth $700,000. To
find out if there’s one right for you, go to www.
APF helps a psychologist
‘get the lead out’