Dr. Katie Fallin has found a way to improve the lives of thousands of children throughout Los Angeles County. “In my position as a senior research analyst, I provide background research and data support to inform the planning and implementation of our funding initiatives; I design and manage contracts with independent research organizations and universities who conduct large-scale, longitudinal evaluations of our funded initiatives; I work closely with outside partners on research projects funded by First 5 LA; and I work with organizations who have received our programmatic grants to assist them with their program evaluations." First 5 LA is the Los Angeles County Proposition 10 commission. Proposition 10 established a tax of 50 cents-per-pack on tobacco products which generates approximately $700 million a year to be invested in the healthy development of California's children from prenatal to age 5. Most of the money is distributed to the counties on the basis of population, to be spent with local needs and priorities in mind. Thus, Los Angeles County receives about $135 million each year to allocate wisely in support of children.
Katie goes on to say, "My career path has been one of opportunity and instinct rather than planning ahead. In college I had a vague notion that I wanted to do something having to do with improving the lives of young children but I didn’t know how I would accomplish that. I knew that an academic career was not for me because it felt too far removed from children’s lives – I think I felt a need to have a more direct impact. Clinical work, on the other hand, felt too 'close' – I knew that I would have a difficult time working directly with children who had clinical issues. Applied psychology offered the right balance."
"Throughout my graduate career I held a part-time research assistant position conducting lab-based research looking at preschoolers’ understanding of emotions and emotion regulation. Through this position I learned basic research methods; I presented at conferences, wrote and published articles."
Katie’s advice for current students who are thinking about an applied career is to gain breadth of knowledge and experiences. She says, "Both academic and applied career paths require a strong grounding in research principles, methods, statistics, and psychological science. However, an applied career can require greater breadth of knowledge and experience across a variety of topics and domains than an academic career. For example, in my current position I have worked on projects dealing with preschool, child abuse and neglect, early literacy, parent support and assistance, child health and nutrition, breastfeeding, health insurance, child care quality, as well as program evaluation, non-profit management, capacity building, and community strengthening."
By following her interests and developing her skills as a scientifically trained developmental psychologist, Katie was well prepared for this position, even though it did not even exist while she was a student.