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UMass Lowell will resume on-campus instruction, research and campus life for Fall 2020. View the plan for more info.

Vulnerable Populations

Our research focused on vulnerable populations, from people with mental illness to recent immigrants, is one of our greatest strengths, as you can see from this sample of recent projects.

Associate Professor Wilson Palacios and graduate students talk to workers at a needle exchange program.
Assoc. Prof. Wilson Palacios, back center, and graduate students talk to workers at a needle exchange program.


Labor trafficking in North Carolina.
Sheldon Zhang and others: $777,000, National Institute of Justice.

Measuring modern slavery in the Indian state of Bihar. 
Sheldon Zhang and others: $617,000. This project consisted of three parts: (1) Prevalence estimation of the worst forms of child labor in Bihar (a peer-reviewed journal paper can be found here); (2) Prevalence estimation of bonded labor in Bihar; and Prevalence estimation of sex trafficking in Bihar’s sex work industry (a peer-reviewed journal paper can be found here).

Understanding and measuring bias victimization against Latinos.
Sheldon Zhang (site PI for San Diego) and others: $200,000, National Institute of Justice.

Annual Rapid Assessment of Consumer Knowledge (RACK) survey among people who inject drugs. 
Wilson Palacios and others: $60,000 annually, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

Peer health education and needle-exchange program for people who inject drugs. 
Wilson Palacios and others: $130,000, multiple federal agencies.

Criminal justice responses to the mentally ill in Boston and Lowell.
Melissa Morabito and others: $275,000, Bureau of Justice Assistance.

Inequities in the court processing of racial and ethnic minorities.
Pauline Brennan: $150,000, National Institute of Corrections and other sources.

Unaccompanied minor refugees’ experiences of smuggling and waiting for asylum decisions.
Amber Horning-Ruf: $40,000, Swedish Ministry of Culture and university seed grant.

Creation of a human trafficking screening and health risk assessment tool for use by the court system.
Amber Horning-Ruf: university seed grant.

Minority perceptions of procedural justice and immigrant women’s views of police legitimacy.
Joselyne Chenane and Teresa Gonzales (sociology): new faculty support and university seed grant.

Sheldon Zhang

Prof. Sheldon Zhang is renowned for his research on transnational human smuggling and trafficking, including labor trafficking, sex trafficking and drug trafficking. He also works extensively on offender reentry and recidivism prevention programs, and has recently expanded his research into bias victimization. He has been the principal investigator on nearly $12 million in funded projects, and he is the author, co-author or editor of nine books and edited volumes. He has served on two White House task forces and is frequently consulted as an expert by the United Nations, the International Labor Organization, government agencies and international groups.