When Rimonda Maroun began the Ph.D. program in criminology and criminal justice, she wasn’t sure exactly what kind of research interested her. The faculty invited her to explore different areas.

“What’s really great about UMass Lowell’s criminal justice program is the diversity of the faculty research,” she says. “Everyone is doing something different, and everyone is really open to talking to you about their research. It helped me formulate who I am as a researcher.”

Maroun, who majored in criminal justice at Saint Anselm College as an undergraduate with the goal of becoming an FBI agent, gradually became more interested in research and evidence-based practice, so she applied for Ph.D. and master’s programs. UMass Lowell offered her a teaching assistantship, including a full waiver of tuition and fees. But she wanted a research career, so she has sought out extra research experience, as well.

After working on different projects, such as looking at whether Google Street View is as accurate as direct videotaping for assessing a neighborhood’s level of social disorder – important for research on social disorganization and the “broken windows” theory of policing – she found her focus in a juvenile justice project.

Working with Assoc. Prof. Kareem Jordan, she analyzed the effects that higher black or Hispanic population, voting and employment rates in urban counties have on the length of sentences imposed on juveniles tried in adult courts. Their paper was published in the Journal of Crime and Justice.

For her Ph.D., which she expects to complete in 2017, she is looking at whether juveniles receive more punitive sentences and fewer opportunities for community service and diversion programs in communities with higher poverty, unemployment, minorities and single-parent families, compared to teens in more affluent areas who commit the same crimes.

“My dream project is to investigate the school-to-prison pipeline, to better understand how we’re funneling kids out of the school system and into the juvenile justice system,” she says.

This summer, she will work as a research assistant for the Massachusetts Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice Leadership Forum. The forum is doing research with police and social service agencies on which juvenile diversion programs are most effective and promote positive youth development.

Maroun got the placement through Prof. Paul Tracy, who oversees the doctoral program, and Assoc. Prof. Andrew Harris.

“I am thankful to have been recommended,” she says. “It’s a very ambitious project that’s just getting off the ground, so it should be really interesting – and it aligns with my research interests.”