IARYD Senior Colleagues

Roya Abbasi-Asl

Roya earned her Ph.D. in Educational Psychology from the University of Mazandaran in 2019. Her doctoral training focused on 4 Components of Moral Decision Making. During her PhD, she served one year as a visiting research scholar at Duke University, Empathy Development lab. As a Postdoctoral Scholar at the Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development, she will primarily be working on the Tufts IARYD and Turnaround for Children Collaboration, Thanda Study of Character and Health and The Compassion International Study of Positive Youth Development. More broadly, Roya interested in children’s Moral, Socio-Emotional development, such as empathy, prosocial behavior and 4 components of moral decision making (4CM).

Mary Buckingham, Ph.D.

Mary earned her Ph.D. in Child Study and Human Development from Tufts University in 2019. Her research focuses on positive youth development and, in particular, on the development of empathy. Mary’s dissertation examined the connection between empathy and identity in adolescence, as part of the Connecting Adolescents’ Beliefs and Behaviors (CABB) Study. Mary then became a postdoctoral scholar on the IARYD and LEAP Innovations research partnership. LEAP is a national organization based in Chicago that connects innovation and education to transform how students learn. LEAP works with schools to implement personalized learning In June 2020, she was promoted to a Research Assistant Professor.  In collaboration with Dr. Richard Lerner and Dr. Jackie Lerner from Boston College, Mary is currently the project director of the Reconnection and Replication of the 4-H Study of Positive Youth Development. This project aims to extend and replicate the 4-H Study of Positive Youth Development (2002-2012).  The new 4-H Study of PYD study aims to recontact as many of the participants of the original study, who are now young adults, and collect information about work activities, health and well-being, and, especially, the family, community, and national contributions and civic engagement of these young people. In addition, to extend the youth-development leadership of 4-H programs to the current generations of American youth, the research team is conducting a small replication of the original 4-H study.

Elizabeth Dowling, Ph.D.

Elizabeth was the first doctoral student to graduate from IARYD, in 2004. She is interested in research focused on the contexts and strengths that support PYD for the world’s most vulnerable youth. After graduation from E-P, Elizabeth became the Director of Research for ImagineNations Group where she designed and led research and evaluation on youth employment and business development for ImagineNations and its global, multi-sectoral partners. She felt so fortunate to be able to return to IARYD in 2016. She currently serves as the Deputy Director of the lab. Elizabeth manages all domestic and international projects for IARYD, serving as the liaison between our research partners, funders and NGOs/iNGOS. She also has over a decade of experience as a classroom teacher in elementary schools.

Jonathan Tirrell, Ph.D.

Jonathan’s research focuses on positive youth development and, in particular, on moral character development and thriving among youth living in poverty in low- and middle-income countries.  He completed his Ph.D. in 2017 at the Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development at Tufts, with a focus on forgiveness as a character virtue among elementary school students as part of the Arthur Interactive Media Study.  He served as a postdoctoral scholar on the Compassion International Study of Positive Youth Development, a collaboration with Compassion International, Boston College, Fuller Theological Seminary, and Tufts University, evaluating the child-sponsorship intervention programs of Compassion International in El Salvador and Rwanda and their impact in promoting thriving among youth living in poverty.  Jonathan is now a Research Assistant Professor in the Institute, working to expand the scope of the Compassion International Study of Positive Youth Development to focus on idiographic assessments and evaluations of youth-development intervention programs in majority-world countries.

In addition, Jonathan is the Managing Editor of the Journal of Character Education (Information Age Publishing), and the Associate Editor, Character Development, of Applied Developmental Science (Taylor & Francis).

Dian Yu, Ph.D.

Dian earned her Ph.D. in Human Development and Family Science from the University of Georgia in 2019. Her doctoral training focused on early self-regulation development in low-income diverse families. She served as a postdoctoral scholar on the Methods and Measures across the Developmental Continuum (MMDC) project in 2019 and was promoted to Research Assistant Professor in September 2020. She leads the data analysis for the MMDC project and is interested in applying dynamic system and person-specific approaches in the development of self-regulation and related constructs across developmental stages from childhood to adolescence. Her current responsibilities include the conceptualization of research questions, data analyses, manuscript writing, and measurement development. Currently, she is also appointed as a visiting assistant professor at the Department of Psychology in the University of Utah.