Research on Intersectional Sexual and Gender Identity Experiences (RISE)

 Research on Intersectional Sexual and Gender Identity Experiences (RISE)

Kimberly F. Balsam, Ph.D.



The RISE Research Lab is focused on the study of mental and physical health concerns of LGBTQ+ people over the lifespan, identifying factors and processes that that contribute to health disparities between LGBTQ+ and heterosexual/cisgender populations, and developing strategies to address these disparities and promote health and well-being among LGBTQ+ individuals, couples, and communities.  All of our research takes an intersectional and social justice lens.  Students in the lab have the additional benefit of receiving mentoring from Dr. Em Matsuno, who is funded by the CLEAR postdoctoral fellowship through 2021. For more information about the lab’s projects, students, postdoctoral fellows, and alumni, please see the RISE Research Lab website. (

The RISE lab provides opportunities for students to engage in research projects at all phases, including brainstorming ideas, conducting literature reviews, writing grants, translating research questions into research designs, developing human subjects proposals, developing surveys and interview guides, developing intervention protocols, recruiting and engaging with research subjects, collecting data, managing databases, conducting statistical analyses, and preparing presentations and manuscripts based on results.  Dr. Balsam has a particular interest in mixed-methods research and measure development.  Students may also have the opportunity to work with Dr. Balsam on other research-related tasks, such as peer review of manuscripts submitted to academic journals and assisting in her role as a Guest Editor of some forthcoming journal issues related to gender minority health. Dr. Balsam is often asked to write book chapters for edited books on clinically-related topics and students have often co-authored these chapters.  Student training experiences are individually tailored to student educational and professional goals.

Currently, we have several active projects in data collection phase, all focused on diverse and under-studied populations, approaches, and topics within LGBTQ+ psychology. We recently launched a survey in Spanish and English focused on stress, resilience and well-being among Latinx LGBTQ+ adults, and another survey regarding sexual risk among transgender men who have sex with men.  As part of Dr. Balsam’s work through CLEAR, we also just launched a collaborative partnership with Santa Clara County Behavioral Health Services to develop, implement and evaluate an “LGBTQ+ academy” to train county-level mental health services providers to become culturally competent with diverse LGBTQ+ populations.  We have two projects currently under review by the IRB – one looking broadly at stressors and well-being among plurisexual (e.g., bisexual, pansexual, etc.) adults and including oversampling of individuals who participate in kink, and the other focused on developing and testing an anti-bullying intervention with middle school youth.

We are particularly interested in gender diversity, with several innovative projects focused on transgender and non-binary populations.  The Enby Project is a mixed-methods study aimed at understanding and measuring the unique aspects of minority stress experienced by those whose gender identity is under the non-binary umbrella.  We are in the process of conducting online focus groups with diverse non-binary adults and will then develop and test a new survey measure based on our qualitative work.  We recently completed data collection on Gender Kaleidoscope, a large survey of non-binary, binary trans, and cisgender sexual minority adults, as well as the Cognitive and Risk Variables Associated with Gender survey which focused on comparing binary trans and binary cisgender adults on forensic and neuropsychology-related variables. Additionally, we are interested in research that has direct clinical practice implications, including intervention development and promoting access to culturally competent services.  For example, we recently completed a randomized trial of a compassion- and mindfulness-based psychosocial group for LGBTQ+ adults.

An additional benefit of the lab is that Dr. Balsam has ongoing collaborations with colleagues who are expert researchers on LGBTQ+ psychology at other universities nationally and internationally and can facilitate collaborations between students and external projects based on their specific interests.

During the first year in the lab (typically the 2nd year in the Ph.D. program), students will work with Dr. Balsam and the advanced students in the lab on one or more of our ongoing projects in order to gain hands-on experience with research.  By the second year in the lab (3rd year in the Ph.D. program), students will identify their own research questions and will begin to pursue their own dissertation research project under Dr. Balsam’s mentorship and guidance.  In their 4th and 5th years, students focus more on their own dissertation research, which may be part of a larger collaborative lab project or an individual effort, depending on interests. All students will be expected to familiarize themselves with the current body of empirical literature on LGBTQ+ psychology and will be encouraged to think critically and creatively about the challenges and strengths of this population.


Lab expectations

  • Mandatory attendance at lab meetings.  Meetings are held on Wednesday afternoons, weekly, for 90 minutes  
  • Individual mentoring meetings with Dr. Balsam at least once per quarter, more as needed.

  • Generating and working on small, concrete, behaviorally-defined dissertation goals monthly

  • Completing assigned tasks by agreed-upon deadlines.  A research lab works best when expectations are clear and deadlines are respected by all members. 

  • Willingness to participate in a variety of research tasks as described above.
  • Working at least 4-5 hours per week or more, depending on goals and the needs of projects in the lab. 
  • Willingness to complete readings as assigned.  This may involve purchasing some assigned books – we often read a book together on topics related to academic writing and dissertation support.  We also often have a “journal club” in which we all read and critique an article selected by one student that relates to their dissertation topic.

  • Presentations and publications: Students are expected to submit at least one first-author poster or conference presentation by their second year in the lab (3rd year in the program).  Students are also expected to serve as a co-author on at least one manuscript submitted for publication during their time in the lab.  Other opportunities for presentation and publication, both as first author and a co-author, will be available for students who are interested and willing to do the work.


Lab philosophy/approach

The above guidelines are the minimum requirements for participation in the RISE lab.  However, it is Dr. Balsam’s sincere hope that all students in the lab will take advantage of the multiple opportunities for learning that are presented to them.  Mentoring is a two-way street, and research skills are best learned through mentored, hands-on experience.  Students who approach their work in the lab with a willingness to work hard and a desire to learn will inevitably gain more skills to help launch their careers.  While students’ work in my lab will begin with assisting on existing lab projects, they will be expected to begin developing their own ideas by the end of their first year in the lab.  The lab has a supportive, collaborative social environment and we all provide feedback to each other in a collegial spirit.  As evidenced by the success of RISE lab alumni, students in the lab gain the skills and knowledge to be able to conduct high-quality, publishable research and to become experts in the emerging field of LGBTQ+ psychology – expertise that is increasingly valued by employers of professional psychologists in the 21st century.

Openings: 2 members to join the lab for 2020-2021.  Upon acceptance, lab members may begin attending meetings and working with us in Spring Quarter 2020, time permitting.

Apply: Submit the following items to Dr. Balsam by the PAU deadline:

  • Curriculum Vitae
  • One-two page cover letter describing past research experience and research interests related to LGBTQ+ psychology, including current/recent RISE lab studies that you would be interested in getting involved in and your tentative idea for a dissertation topic
  • Your current PAU transcript
  • Your Research Methods proposal paper from Fall quarter

Notification: Students accepted into RISE lab will be notified by email at the standard notification deadline.

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