Students Present Research on Early Development

At Tuesday’s meeting of the Early Childhood Development Collective, Ananda M. Martin-Caughey ’13 presented her research from this summer: Martin-Caughey studies Mauá and Diadema, two municipalities within São Paulo, Brazil, that have vastly different child health and education statistics.

Martin-Caughey and three graduate students—Marina Correia of the Harvard Graduate School of Design, and Jonathan P. Phillips and Alecia J. McGregor of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences—traveled to São Paulo this summer after receiving funding from the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies.

Upon their return to campus in the fall, they founded the ECDC. The student-run research group holds monthly seminars to discuss the São Paulo research and early childhood development research more generally.

Martin Caughey said presenting her summer research, upon which she hopes to build a thesis, before a diverse audience was an invaluable experience. “I think it’s very easy when writing your thesis to get stuck in your way of thinking,” Martin-Caughey said. “Everyone today gave me great feedback and I was busy scribbling notes throughout.”

As Timothy P. Linden ’12, a post-graduate fellow with DRCLAS, said the grants that took Martin-Caughey and her peers to São Paulo hinged on a recent partnership between Harvard and Brazilian researchers. Fundação Maria Cecília Souto Vidigal, a non-governmental organization based in São Paulo, financed both Harvard student and faculty research on early childhood development in Brazil. “[The funding]’s coming through us,” Linden said, “but it’s all made possible by the foundation.”

Holding diverse academic backgrounds, the four Harvard student researchers who traveled to São Paulo this summer tackled their research from different perspectives. Phillips, a Ph.D candidate in Government, examined how government accountability relates to health and education services. Meanwhile, Marina Correia, an architect, studied the how urban infrastructure affected early childhood development.

Despite the differences in their research objectives, the four found in each other an academic support network. According to Phillips, group discussion helped everyone clarify their understanding of the political and economic systems at work in the country.

“Understanding just the mechanics of what goes on, I don’t think that would have been possible to do alone just because it’s such a big country,” Phillips said.