Principal Investigator

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 Clough

Doctoral Student 

Isabelle is a second year Legal Psychology doctoral student at the University of Texas at El Paso. 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. Her research interests include why adolescents recidivate or desist from crime over the course of their development, as well as how different factors influence adolescents’ legal decision making such as the decision to take a plea bargain.

Anna Drozdova

Doctoral Student 

Anna is a first year Legal Psychology doctoral student at the University of Texas at El Paso. She received her undergraduate degree in Psychology from California State University, Fullerton in 2017.  Her research interests broadly focus on adolescent delinquency and how social and legal factors influence juvenile recidivism patterns. More specifically, she is interested in program and policy development within the juvenile justice system as it relates to rehabilitative programs in juvenile incarceration settings and re-entry programs implemented for adolescents following release from incarceration. She is also interested in legal decision making in the context of adolescents’ interactions with legal actors, including their interactions with law enforcement officers upon arrest and their interactions with law enforcement officers during interrogation procedures.

Kityara James

Doctoral Student 

Kityara is a first year Legal Psychology doctoral student at the University of Texas at El Paso. She received her undergraduate degree in Psychology with a minor in Criminal Justice from Armstrong State University in 2018. She has experience working in the residential treatment facilities for adolescents and foster care. Her research interests include racial bias in determining adolescent delinquency and how it effects their experiences within the criminal justice system and development outside of the system.

Undergraduate Research Assistants

Mariana Cardenas Dominguez

Paulina Rubio

Mariany Gainza

Karla Corral

Genevieve Perez

Allyson Miller

Dominique Harris

Andrea Villanueva

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April Zacarias

Arielle Marquez

Adria Corral

Daisy Guzman

Noor Ali

Jacquelyn Medina

Jhairo Ajtun

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Elizabeth Purser (Lab Manager)

Desiree Pimentel

John Bennet

Mayra Solis