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Shannon P

- Research Program Mentor

PhD candidate at University of Denver


Parenting, MRI analysis, fNIRS, substance use, mental health, emotion, statistics


Hi! My name is Shannon and I am a fourth-year Developmental Psychology PhD student at the University of Denver. I focus on studying cannabis use during pregnancy and plasticity in the brain during the pregnancy and postpartum period. I really love using different statistical models to answer complex longitudinal questions. In my research, I am particularly interested in understanding reasons why pregnant people might use during this time period and mixing qualitative data with quantitative results. I have successfully mentored 6 students, as well as successfully got their worked published if that was their goal. In my free time, I like to spend it outside in the mountains of Colorado with my dog, and reading fiction novels. I am really passionate about teaching. I love learning new ways and uses of technology to convey information and bring excitement back to science, and hope to do that in an industry job one day. I want to mentor to share my joys of teaching with you, and also to give insights and topics I didn't have in my high school career that would have better prepared me for a career in science.

Project ideas

Project ideas are meant to help inspire student thinking about their own project. Students are in the driver seat of their research and are free to use any or none of the ideas shared by their mentors.

Perceptions of cannabis use during the pregnancy period

Often people assume substance use is a easy choice, that people have not thought about the effects on them or their families. In recent literature, we have found the opposite. People often really weigh the decision of using cannabis during pregnancy quite heavily and chose to use for personal reasons. This project would explore those reasons for use depending on legalization, and access to other treatment.

Mental health during pregnancy among caregivers

Mental health can be a large obstacle for many to deal with during their life, and pregnancy and becoming a new parent often adds some addition challenges. We could investigate mental health and interventions for all types of caregivers. While there is some research on mental health and pregnancy, little investigates how fathers, secondary caregivers, and other types of caregivers' mental health effects the transition to parenthood, and their new infant.

Caregivers and the transition to parenthood

New research is transitioning away from looking at just traditional maternal and paternal figures in parenthood, and is finding that even non biological parents have the same re-wiring in the brain when given a new child. This project would look at different types of caregivers and the transitions their brain/body makes to prepare them for a new child. This project would focus on helping them make that transition more smoothly (such as what interventions for adoptive parents can speed up this process, or do we even need these interventions? Some research is showing that they are biologically prepared even without them!)

Introduction to Analyzing Statistics

This project could be focused on any larger data set that you want, and we would focus on the beginning steps to learning how to run simple analysis to answer your questions. Large available data sets such as the ABCD data set, have a plethora of data on child to adolescent development.

Coding skills

Matlab; Python; SPSS; R

Teaching experience

Currently, in my lab I mentor 3 graduate students, and 1 undergraduate student on different research projects. In addition, I have TA'ed each year for one course which has included an Introduction to Psychology, Adult Pscyhopathology, Neuroscience of Cognition, and Science of Love. I have taken a graduate-level Teaching Course in the Psychology department. Previously before graduate school in my undergraduate career for my final thesis, I developed and taught an introduction to special topics in Neuroscience course.


Work experience

Medical University of South Carolina (2017 - 2019)
Program Coordinator I
University of North Carolina (2013 - 2017)
Research Assistant


University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill (UNC Chapel Hill)
BA Bachelor of Arts (2016)
University of Denver
MA Master of Arts candidate
Developmental Psychology
University of Denver
PhD Doctor of Philosophy candidate
Developmental Psychology

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