Youchuan Zhang receives 2024 College of Social Science Graduate Student Research Award


The MSU College of Social Science chose MSU Human Development and Family Studies doctoral candidate Youchuan Zhang for the 2024 Graduate Student Research Award.

Zhang has conducted a series of studies examining sleep disparities among U.S. adolescents with intersecting social identities, in addition to interpersonal discrimination and structural stigma as contributing factors to these disparities.

“Sleep is fundamental for adolescents’ everyday functioning, and sleep disturbances are consistently linked to developmental problems such as depression, anxiety, obesity, aggression and substance use,” Zhang said. “Historically marginalized youth, including ethnic-racial minorities and sexual minorities are at even higher risks for developing sleep disturbances.” 

Using a nationally representative sample of adolescents from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study, findings from her studies are highly informative for policy and practices and could make an impact on a wide range of diverse youth in the United States.

“Youchuan’s work is cutting-edge and highly significant,” said Yijie Wang, Ph.D., professor and co-nominator. “Existing research on sleep disparities has focused on youth with a single dimension of social identities, but Youchuan’s work contributes to this literature by taking an intersectionality perspective to understand youth with intersecting social identities of race/ethnicity and sexual orientation, particularly those who occupy double marginalities, which means her research has a strong social justice and equity orientation.”

Building on her research, Zhang’s future research will maintain its focus on adolescent sleep health disparities. During her postdoctoral training, she will investigate how structural stigma, disadvantages in other contexts such as family, school and neighborhood and their interplay can jeopardize adolescents’ sleep health, leading to sleep health disparities.

“Ultimately, my long-term career goal is to use research to inform policies and intervention programs to combat youth sleep health disparities and to promote healthy development for marginalized adolescent populations,” she said.

By Katie Frey