Sep 2023 Spotlight – Dr. Ka I Ip, PhD

  1. Can you write a couple sentences on some aspect of your career development: feel free to pick one or any other related question among these: a) what drew you to do work on Asians, Asian American children and youth, or another topic that is important to you now? b) who was an important mentor to you in this work, or an influential particular study in the field or in a related field? c) any particular advice or tips to someone starting out in the field who is doing work in your area? 

I think a lot of students, including myself, have once questioned about whether academia is the “right” path for them. While there is no one-size-fit-all answer, one important motivation for me to pursue an academic path is my career goal to use knowledge of my work to promote cultural diversity and inclusion, to inform policy that aims to reduce social and structural inequalities and advance health equity, and to optimize intervention efforts for healthy development and child well-being.

Over the years, my identities as a first-gen college, first-gen immigrant and a queer faculty of color have really shaped my research directions as well as helping me to find my research “soul mate”. I think having this research “soul mate” is important to keep you going through challenging time. 

I’m also very fortunate to meet amazing formal and informal mentors that have continuously supported my professional and career development.  This is another reason that has motivated me to pursue a faculty career because I hope that my identities and journey can inspire and help students, especially those who are under-representative, to navigate their academic journey and to achieve whatever they want to achieve.

  • A short paragraph describing a particular recent finding, current study, or recent publication and what makes you excited about it.  Feel free to describe its importance from any one or more of these lenses: a) research contribution; b) our knowledge about Asian or Asian American populations; c) our knowledge about other [understudied?] populations; d) practice or policy relevance. 

My research focuses on a) typical and atypical emotion regulation development, b) examining the ways that cultural contexts shape emotion regulation, and c) how early adversity, social and structural inequalities may “get under the skin” to confer risk for developmental psychopathology and health disparities, and how individuals may adapt to these contexts.

A significant discovery in my work was that the HPA axis (as indexed by cortisol responses) is already more reactive to psychosocial stressors that are salient to preschoolers’ everyday socio- cultural experiences than to stressors that are not culturally salient (Ip et al., 2021, Psychological Science). By examining cortisol reactivity among preschoolers living in the US, China and Japan, my work found that Chinese preschoolers’ HPA axis were most responsive to an achievement-related stressor, whereas Japanese preschoolers showed increased cortisol levels in response to an interpersonal- related stressor, consistent with their cultural emphasis during the preschool years respectively.

These findings offer three implications. First, children’s biological responsivity to culturally salient stressors suggests that cultural context is deeply “embedded” in our biological systems, such that it shapes the HPA axis response and furthers our potential for cultural learning. Second, cultural heterogeneity exists even within so-called “Eastern” cultures, highlighting the importance to capture the complexities and subtleties of cultural norms and socialization processes driving cultural phenomena. Third, these findings have implication in thinking about the culturally specific mental health challenges among Asian and Asian American children.

  • If you have any thoughts about your experiences with the Asian Caucus, that would be great!  These can be just for the Caucus leadership to know, and/or a message to the Caucus community. 

My experiences with the Asian Caucus have been great and I’d love to get more involved on the leadership and mentoring committees. I highly recommend students who are new to join because it is a collectivistic and supportive environment.

  • Any upcoming talks or presentations we should know about?

I will be presenting in International Society for Developmental Psychobiology (ISDP) this July and attending flux in September. Please come say hi if you are there too!

  • A weblink you prefer to share?

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