Deborah Nichols headshot photo

Pronouns: she/her

Phone: 765-496-0137


Hanley Hall Room 223
1202 W. Mitch Daniels Blvd.

Curriculum Vitae Selected Publications Back to Directory

Deborah Nichols

Associate Professor, Department of Human Development and Family Science

Areas of Expertise

  • technology and media, child and family policy, poverty and socioeconomic factors, cognition, learning, data analytics

HHS Signature Research Area(s)

  • Developmental Health and Wellness

Department of Human Development and Family Science Research Area(s)

  • Culture and Diversity
  • Early Childhood Education and Care
  • Health and Well-Being


I study cognition and the independent and interacting effects of 3 robust sets of predictors: person factors, content attributes, and contextual features. My work bridges the gap between academic research and translational activities that inform policy/practice. I developed a complex media effects model to test how these predictors interact and shape cognition, culminating in a co-edited book that combines basic research and industry/policy leaders’ implications for their own work. I recently expanded this model to new populations (young adults, informal caregivers), content (science, mHealth), and contexts (aging in place, culture). Collectively, my research stresses the need to identify resources and contexts that are valued, preferred, and available for people to succeed. Past consultancies: media (Sesame Workshop, Disney, Benten Tech, SandwYch); policy-makers (Indy Mayor’s Office, Senators Domenici, Franken, & Cochran); and non-profits (CIFF; World Bank; Turn on the Subtitles, UK).


  • Ph.D., 1998, University of Texas at Austin
  • M.S.Ed., 1995, University of Kansas
  • B.A., cum laude, 1991, University of Rochester

Social Media Accounts

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

  • Nichols, D. L. (2022, March). The differential impacts of educational media: Considering individual differences across diverse contexts using a social justice framework. Presentation given for the Office of Interdisciplinary Graduate Programs’ Social Justice Seminar. Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN.
  • Steering Committee Member, Purdue University Board of Trustees (BOT) Equity Task Force. 2020 – 2021
  • Member, Communications Strategy and Key Messages Review Sub-Committee for BOT Equity Task Force, 2020 – 2021
  • Member, Data Set Sub-Committee for BOT Equity Task Force, 2020 – 2021
  • Urban Leader Fellow, Public Service and Policy Development, Indianapolis, IN Mayor's Office, June - July 2019

Current Courses

  • HDFS 311 - Child Development
  • HDFS 346 - Research Methods

Selected Honors/Awards

  • Editor's Focus, Background TV Exposure Impacts Executive Functioning, Pediatric Research - October 2022
  • Great Lakes Region Discovery Fellow, NSF Innovation Corp - September 2022
  • IMPACT Teaching and Data Science Fellow, Purdue University - January 2020
  • Urban Leader Fellow, Indianapolis, IN Mayor's Office - June 2019
  • Conference Spotlight Paper, Investigating Individual Differences, Diverging Normative Development, and Developmental Change, European Conference on Psychology and Behavioral Science - June 2015

Selected Grants

  • Principal Investigator, System Impact and Programmatic Outcomes Evaluation of YES Indy. EmployIndy. Period: 1/2020 - 4/2021. Total: $47,478.
  • Principal Investigator, Argument-Based Inquiry, Multimodal Representations, and Young Children's Growth in Informational Text Use, Caplan Foundation Foundation. Period: 7/2018 - 6/2019. Total: $56,240.
  • Co-Investigator, CAFE Consortium: Comprehensive Assessment of Family Exposure. Children and Digital Screens Grant Program. Rachel Barr (PI). Period: 7/2017 - 6/2018. Total: $100,000.
  • Principal Investigator, Lessons from Cookie Monster: Learning to Delay Gratification from Watching Sesame Street, Sesame Workshop.. Period: 6/2013 - 6/2014. Total: $45,000
  • Principal Investigator, Ready to Learn Literacy Initiative Cycle 3, Corporation for Public Broadcasting/US Department of Education, Institute for Education Sciences Cooperative Agreement. Period: 9/2005 - 9/2010. Total: $5,133,087.

Professional Affiliations

  • Purdue University COACH Survey Development Committee, 2021 - 2022
  • Chair, Protect Purdue Leadership Group, 2020 - 2021
  • Purdue University Senate Chair, 2020 - 2021 | Vice Chair, 2019 - 2020 | Steering Committee Member, 2019 - 2021; Chair, 2019 - 2020 | Faculty Affairs Committee Member, 2017 - 2019; Chair, 2018 - 2019
  • Member and Chair, Senate Advisory Committee to Purdue University President Daniels, 2018 - 2022
  • Society for Research in Child Development: Member, since 1995 | Co-Chair, Review Panel 24 for 2023 Biennial Meeting (2022 - 2023) | Task Force on Interdisciplinary Research (2006 - 2007)

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