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.  The group also includes a particular emphasis on the intersection of sexual and gender identities with other identities, particularly race and ethnicity.  Additionally, we have conducted research on how gender and sexuality are related to health and well-being more broadly in populations other than LGBTQ. For more information, please see the RISE Research Lab website. (

The lab provides opportunities for students to engage in research projects at all phases, including conducting literature reviews, writing grants, translating research questions into research designs, developing human subjects proposals, developing surveys and interview guides, recruiting and engaging with research subjects, collecting data, managing databases, conducting statistical analyses, and preparing presentations and manuscripts based on results.  Students may also have the opportunity to work with me on other research-related tasks, such as peer review of manuscripts submitted to academic journals. I am often asked to write book chapters for edited books on clinically-related topics and students have often co-authored these chapters with me.  Student training experiences are individually tailored to student goals.

I recently completed four years of NIH funding for a longitudinal study of same-sex and heterosexual couples that my colleagues and I have been following since 2002.  You can read more about this study at We are currently in the preliminary stages of preparing another NIH grant application to conduct a follow-up focusing on healthy aging and intimate relationships among older adults, as our cohort is now on average over the age of 60.  There will be opportunities for students to get involved with this process and attend meetings with grant collaborators.

Other current or recent projects in the lab include studies of serious mental illness among LGB adults, stress and mental health among LGB people currently serving in the military, personality and health factors among adult gay and bisexual men, adults whose gender identity is non-binary, experiences of transgender people who are parents, a randomized controlled trial of a compassion-based psychoeducational group for LGBTQ adults, sexual risk issues among transgender men, stress and resilience among Latinx LGBTQ people with surveys in English and Spanish, and forensic risk factors among transgender adults compared to their cisgender counterparts. I also have done a great deal of work and have archival data on minority stress, trauma, and mental health outcomes among diverse LGBTQ people.  I am particularly interested in developing new projects related to intersectionality and multiple identities, non-binary gender and sexual identities, and interventions to reduce stigma and its effects. I also have a contract with APA Press to write a book on re-conceptualizing gender as a non-binary construct and will be conducting qualitative interviews for the book during the next year.  I also have ongoing collaborations with colleagues who are expert researchers on LGBTQ psychology at other universities and often have opportunities to facilitate collaborations between my students and external projects based on their specific interests.

During the first year in the lab (2nd year in the Ph.D. program), students will work with me 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 program), students will identify their own research questions and will begin to pursue their own dissertation research project under my mentorship and guidance.  In their 4th and 5th years, students are no longer required to attend lab meetings but instead meet with individually on a monthly basis to work on their dissertation.  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 will be held weekly for 1 1/2 hour. 
  • Individual mentoring meetings with me at least once per quarter.
  • Generating and working on small, concrete, behaviorally-defined dissertation goals monthly
  • Completing assigned tasks by agreed-upon deadlines.  I find that a research lab works best when expectations are clear and deadlines are respected by all members.  Students will generally have assignments that are due 24 hours prior to each meeting.
  • 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.
  • 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 my 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 me in my projects, they will be expected to begin developing their own ideas by the end of their first year.  My goal is for students to 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.


Openings: 2-3 members to join the group in September 2019.  Upon acceptance, lab members may begin attending meetings and working with us in Spring Quarter 2019, 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 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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