Undergraduate Research Opportunities

Student Research Opportunity

Fall 2022 through Spring 2023

How do chemicals in our environment affect human health, development, and learning? Can social factors offset these effects?

Help us discover the answers!

Corvallis campus students


OSU-Cascades students


Flame Retardants, Home Environments and Children’s School Readiness

This project works well for: Honors, Layman Fellowships, URSA-Engage, academic credit or volunteer

The research

We are studying the effects of chemical flame retardants on young children's learning and development. More importantly, we are looking for protective factors (like quality preschool and supportive relationships) that protect children from potentially toxic effects of chemical exposures.

For more information visit OSU Flame Retardant Study.


Ways to get involved

(plan now for Fall 2022 and Spring 2023)

  • Honors Thesis Project
  • Research Credits (option to apply for Layman and URSA Fellowship)
  • Volunteer
  • Work Study


Minimum requirements

  • Background check.
  • 6 or more hrs./week for 2 or more academic quarters. Preference for year- long commitment.
  • Professionalism and strong communication skills.


Children arm in arm


This study looks at how young children’s chemical exposures and social experiences interact to affect their development from preschool through first grade. Children in the United States are frequently exposed to polybrominated diphenyl ethers (BDEs) and organophosphate-based compounds (OPFRs) that are used as flame retardants in consumer goods. Although BDE exposure is understood to increase the risk of adverse outcomes in young children, evidence of effects of OPFRs on children’s development is lacking. Another line of research demonstrates that adverse childhood experiences are detrimental to development whereas positive social experiences support resilience. The current study brings these lines of research together. We examine interactions between children’s chemical exposures and their social environments (including social stressors related to the COVID-19 crisis) on development.



(For student opportunities academic year 2022-2023)

This study will utilize baseline (preschool) data. To measure chemical exposures children wear wristbands for 7 days and mail them to Corvallis for analysis. Parents report social experiences through surveys. Research assistants measure children’s development through structured tasks (early literacy, math, and self-regulation) and teachers report social behaviors. If COVID-19 precautions do not allow for in-person assessments, data collection will occur remotely. The research will continue.


Student Role(s)

Student researchers will learn to measure chemical exposures, and ethically and systematically assess children’s skills (self-regulation, early literacy, and early math). They will gain skills in research design, data collection, ethics and data security, data entry and analysis, literature reviews, and interpretation and presentation of findings. They will develop professional relationships with faculty, graduate students, research staff, and other undergraduate students in Corvallis as well as Cascades, in multiple disciplines. Additionally, the undergraduate researcher will participate in team meetings and trainings in which they will practice discussing issues of equity, race, trauma, and resilience. These experiences will help position them for a wide-array of future education and/or career opportunities.


For Student Fellowships (Layman, URSA) and Honors College Projects

Undergraduates and faculty will jointly identify specific research questions aligned with student interests. Sample research questions include, “How is physical activity [or preschool attendance or neighborhood safety] related to exposure to flame retardants?” “Are there disparities in exposure to flame retardants by race/ethnicity, income, or disability status?” “Do children with more adverse experiences also face higher social and economic stressors from the COVID-19 pandemic?” The student will create a poster presentation and/or additional deliverables for their fellowship or project.



  • October 2022 - January 2023: apply for undergrad research experience and receive training
  • October 2022 - June 2023: collect data and enter data into databases
  • April - May 2023: analyze data


Additional Timeline for Fellowships and Honors Projects

  • February 2023: prepare outline for poster presentation
  • March 2023: complete Background and Methods section of poster
  • April – May 2023: complete Results section of poster and draft Research Brief (if applicable)
  • May 2023: finish poster preparation, practice presentation with the research team prior to symposium



For more info contact: [email protected]

This study is funded by the National Institutes of Health and is led by faculty at the Cascades and Corvallis campuses.

*Safety protocols will be followed in response to COVID-19


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