MEET OUR TEAM

Principal Investigator

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April Gile Thomas, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, University of Texas at El Paso

Dr. April Thomas received her MS from Colorado State University in Human Development and Family Studies and her Ph.D. from the University of California, Irvine, in Psychology and Social Behavior. She joined the faculty in the Department of Psychology at the University of Texas at El Paso in 2017.

 

Her research addresses the question “Why do adolescents take risks?” Broadly, she studies adolescent development, particularly as it pertains to risk-taking and problem behavior. Her training in developmental psychology has led her to view the increase in risk taking that occurs during adolescence, as compared to childhood or adulthood, as a normative response to the many changes that occur during this developmental phase. She is also interested in what happens when adolescents engage in risky behavior that is also illegal. As a result, her research is not limited to community samples, but has also included first-time juvenile offenders, as well as more serious, felony-level juvenile offenders. A unifying theme of her work is that it seeks to use developmental science to inform best practices for working with adolescents, particularly within the justice system. 

Graduate Researchers

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Isabelle M. Clough, M.A.

Doctoral Student 

Isabelle is a fourth-year Legal Psychology doctoral student at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP). She graduated from Christopher Newport University in 2018 with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology, a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology with a concentration in Criminology, and a minor in Leadership Studies. Isabelle also received her Master of Arts in Experimental Psychology from UTEP in 2020. Her research interests include how adolescent psychosocial maturity influences their involvement in and experiences with the criminal justice system, as well as how different factors influence adolescents’ legal decision-making (such as the decision to take a plea bargain).

Photo coming soon
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Anna D. Drozdova, M.A.

Doctoral Student 

Anna is a third-year Legal Psychology doctoral student at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP). She earned her MA in Experimental Psychology from UTEP in 2021. Her research interests broadly focus on juvenile offending, recidivism, and substance use. More specifically, she is interested in studying the effects of juveniles' social relationships on their offending and substance use patterns, particularly as this applies to areas of policy development. Prior to starting her graduate study, Anna completed her BA in Psychology at California State University, Fullerton and worked as an undergraduate research assistant at California State University, Fullerton and the University of California, Irvine.

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Claudia I. Cota, B.A.

Doctoral Student

Claudia is a first-year Legal Psychology doctoral student at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP). She graduated from the University of California, San Diego in 2017 with a Bachelor of Arts in Cognitive Science. She worked as a research associate on adolescent brain development and substance use research projects before starting her graduate studies. Her research interests focus on examining how external influences such as substance use, peer influences, and family background contribute to adolescents' criminal justice involvement and risk-taking. 

Undergraduate Research Assistants

Alumni