A short interview with Tracy Spinrad, PhD, from ASU's Sanford School

January 29, 2018

Meet Tracy Spinrad, PhD, a professor in the T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics.

Question: What research are you currently working on? Profile picture of Tracy Spinrad, PhD Tracy Spinrad, PhD Download Full Image

Answer: We just completed a project called Project KID (Kindness in Development). This was a project designed

 to understand children’s sympathy and kindness toward others. In this study, we were really interested in seeing if children seem to differentiate between recipients of caring behavior. For example, imagine (probably not hard to imagine this!) that you get 10 requests for donations — and you simply can’t give to all 10 requests.

Are they sharing/helpful to all groups or just to groups of children who are more similar to themselves? It’s an interesting question, and truthfully, very few researchers have examined this type of question. We know a lot about general sharing and helping in children, and as you might expect, children tend to be more helpful towards parents, friends, and family members. However, we know almost nothing about when and why children extend helpfulness to those that may be different from themselves (i.e., different gender, different race, different background, etc.).

Q: Which research project was the most challenging and why?

A: The most challenging project was most likely the PEERS project. In this study, Drs. Valiente, Eisenberg, and I studied children’s emotions in school. It was challenging because we were sending undergraduate research assistants all over the Valley to follow the children in the longitudinal study! We started in five schools and ended the project in probably something closer to 80 schools! Every participant is like gold to us, so we do whatever it takes to keep following the same children over time! But it’s challenging for sure! We had to get permission to go to all of those schools — so in addition to dealing with all of the parents, we also had to talk to all of the teachers and principals! We are so lucky that we had an amazing and VERY organized staff for that project! 

Q: Which research project was your favorite and why?

A: My favorite project was called TED (Toddlers’ Emotional Development). We started that project many, many, many years ago to study the emotional development of very young children longitudinally. We had our first laboratory visit with the children when they were 18 months and completed the study when the children were in 2nd grade. I loved that project because it is incredible to see the emotional changes in young children during that period when emotion regulation skills are really coming on line. Also, we had such rich data on the families, including obtaining genetic data, observations of the toddlers and a parent, questionnaire data, and even physiological data. I also just love babies and toddlers, so that is another reason I loved that project.

Picture of Tracy Spinrad and children holding a sign from Project Kid.

Tracey Spinrad with children from Project Kid.

Q: How has your research contributed to the success of ASU and the education of our students?

A: One of the fun parts of doing research at ASU is getting the opportunity to work with both undergraduate and graduate students. Undergraduate students who work with me on my study are trained to collect the data (so they get to work with the children) as well as to often watch the videos of the children to code their behaviors. When we are collecting data, we can work with anywhere from 10 to 30 undergraduate students! Also, I work closely with graduate students who work with all of our rich data. We work together to write journal articles and come up with ideas about our research findings. 

Q: How has your research impacted the lives of people outside of the ASU community?

A: Our work contributes to knowledge about children’s social and emotional development. Once we have science to tell us the predictors of children’s positive social competence, we can begin to develop programs that apply our research to help improve the lives of children and families. The basic research must happen first! We feel very strongly that our work is relevant to the lives of young children and their families.

Q: What impact has your research had on you?

A: I think one thing I’ve learned is that the more you know, the more you really don’t know! My research projects help me to develop new questions and new ideas. I think the most exciting thing about my work is that I get to think about interesting questions that will impact children’s lives — and then figure out the best way to answer those questions. That’s pretty fun!

John Keeney

Media Relations Coordinator, T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics


ASU launches Psyche mission website

Psyche, NASA’s Discovery mission to a unique metal asteroid, has a new digital home at ASU

January 29, 2018

Psyche, NASA’s Discovery mission to a unique metal asteroid, has a new digital home at ASU as of this week.

The ASU mission website, psyche.asu.edu, will be a resource for the public to learn about the mission, the spacecraft, the asteroid, the instruments being developed and the team behind the mission. The website also features a countdown clock, a mission timeline, the latest news, a blog, a photo library and details for upcoming events. The ASU mission website will complement NASA’s official Psyche Mission site. Artist's rendition of the Psyche asteroid Psyche, an asteroid orbiting the sun between Mars and Jupiter, is made almost entirely of nickel-iron metal. As such, it offers a unique look into the violent collisions that created Earth and the terrestrial planets. Learn more about Psyche and the journey to a metal world at psyche.asu.edu. Image credit: ASU/Peter Rubin Download Full Image

“A major purpose of space exploration is to inspire everyone, everywhere, to stretch and think and be bolder,” said Lindy Elkins-Tanton, Psyche principal investigator and director of the School of Earth and Space Exploration. “This website is designed to give everyone an opportunity to not only learn about, but also participate in the mission.”

The site offers a variety of ways the public can get involved, including links to information about careers and internships, becoming a NASA Solar System Ambassador, and printing your own 3-D model of the asteroid and spacecraft.

For ASU students, the site features information on Psyche mission-centered senior capstone projects, as well as a multidisciplinary arts program called “Psyche Inspired,” where undergraduate students can use their creative talents from photography to ceramics to share the excitement for Psyche with the public. Both of these programs are being piloted at ASU and will be available nationally next academic year. 

“We encourage everyone to visit the ‘Get Involved’ section to learn about existing NASA programs and internships, as well as connect with special Psyche opportunities we are developing,” said Cassie Bowman, Psyche co-investigator and student collaboration lead. “Through our Psyche-specific programs, everyone can learn about and contribute to the excitement, innovation, and scientific and engineering content of the mission both at school and at home.”

The Psyche mission

Psyche, an asteroid orbiting the sun between Mars and Jupiter, is made almost entirely of nickel-iron metal. As such, it offers a unique look into the violent collisions that created Earth and the terrestrial planets.

The Psyche spacecraft is targeted to launch in August 2022 and travel to the asteroid using solar-electric (low thrust) propulsion, arriving in 2026, following a Mars flyby and gravity-assist in 2023. After arrival, the mission plan calls for 21 months orbiting the asteroid, mapping it and studying its properties.

The scientific goals of the Psyche mission are to understand the building blocks of planet formation and explore first-hand a wholly new and unexplored type of world. The mission team seeks to determine whether Psyche is the core of an early planet, how old it is, whether it formed in similar ways to the Earth's core, and what its surface is like.

The spacecraft's instrument payload will include a magnetometer, a multispectral imager, and a gamma ray and neutron spectrometer. The mission will use an X-band radio telecommunications system and will test a sophisticated new laser communications technology, called Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) that encodes data in photons.

The Psyche Mission was selected for flight under NASA's Discovery Program, a series of lower-cost, highly focused robotic space missions that are exploring the solar system. The Psyche Mission’s principal investigator, Lindy Elkins-Tanton, is the director of the School of Earth and Space Exploration. In addition to Elkins-Tanton, ASU researchers on the Psyche mission team include Jim Bell (deputy principal investigator and co-investigator), David Williams (co-investigator), and Catherine Bowman (co-investigator).

The NASA mission is led by Arizona State University. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory is responsible for mission management; spacecraft assembly, test, and launch operations; mission operations; and navigation. The spacecraft’s solar-electric propulsion chassis will be built by SSL.

For additional resources about the mission, visit https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/missions/psyche and https://www.nasa.gov/psyche.

Karin Valentine

Media Relations & Marketing manager, School of Earth and Space Exploration