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Our research team consists of undergraduate, post-graduate research assistants, and one graduate student, led by faculty mentor Dr. April Gile Thomas.

The Adolescent Development and Delinquency Laboratory is currently recruiting research assistants until April 12, 2024. To be considered, please navigate to the 'Student Training' page to apply.

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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Claudia I. Cota, B.A.

Doctoral Student

Claudia is a third-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. 

Photo coming soon

Anna D. Ziencina, Ph.D.

Doctoral Graduate

Anna graduated with her PhD in Legal Psychology from the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) in Fall 2023. She is currently a Trial Consultant at Edge Litigation Consulting, LLC. She earned her MA in Experimental Psychology from UTEP in 2021 and is currently studying adolescent offenders’ social relationships and how such relationships impact adolescents’ criminal offending and substance use. She is particularly interested in opportunities that allow her to communicate her findings to broad audiences, including the general public, academic researchers, and stakeholders.


Isabelle M. Clough, Ph.D.

Doctoral Graduate

Isabelle graduated with her PhD in Legal Psychology from the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) Spring 2023. She is currently a Research Analyst II at the Minnesota Judicial Branch. She graduated from Christopher Newport University in 2018 with a B.S. in Psychology and B.A. in Sociology, and received her M.A. in Experimental Psychology from UTEP in 2020. Her research broadly examines how adolescents' psychosocial maturity influences their involvement in and experiences with the criminal justice system. Specifically, her dissertation research examines how psychosocial maturity and pretrial detention—among other factors—influence adolescents’ plea bargain decision-making.

Undergraduate Research Assistants


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