APA member since: 2000
Hometown: Elkhart, Ind.
Datasmith: Lefever is associate director of the Center for Children and Families at the University of Notre Dame, where she is also a research assistant professor. As the "resident data nerd" at the multidisciplinary research center, she helps fellow faculty prepare grant proposals, sort out methodology and analyze data. A favorite project has been helping a professor secure funding for a study in which robots teach social skills to children with autism. "The children are often more attracted to robots than people," says Lefever. "You can isolate mannerisms in robots and teach the children what they mean, which is harder to do with humans."
Prompting better parenting: Lefever also uses her stats smarts for her own research on adolescent parenting and early child development. With funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for example, she is testing a mobile phone system that teaches mothers at risk for child neglect how to be better parents. She's found that moms who receive regular phone reminders about consistent bedtime routines and other good parenting strategies become more engaged in the intervention than moms who learn parenting skills through home visits only.
Bleeds blue and gold: Lefever earned her dual-doctorate in developmental and quantitative psychology at Notre Dame. She is proud to have found a job at the renowned Catholic university. "I'm Irish Catholic, and we all make a pilgrimage here at some point. I've just extended mine," she says.
Farm grown: Lefever is the youngest of 10 children—seven girls and three boys—raised on a farm outside of Chicago. As she and her nine siblings have married and started their own families, the extended Burke clan now totals 90 people. "We rent a hall and all celebrate Christmas together, and that's the one time we all get together each year," says Lefever, who brings her husband and two sons—Alex, 8, and Duncan, 4.
A big tripper: Lefever loves to travel, an interest she developed when visiting her older siblings at college and cemented while studying Japanese in Hirakata-shi, Japan, as an undergraduate. For her next adventure, Lefever plans to visit Ireland this fall with her high school best friend of 25 years to celebrate milestone birthdays—they both turn 40 this year.
"I'm looking forward to seeing the rolling green hills and rocky coastline and having a few pints in a cozy pub," Lefever says.