Despina Stavrinos.

Associate Professor
Director, Developmental Psychology
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916 Building
(205) 934-7861

Research Interests: Transportation safety across the lifespan (teens, older adults, developmental disabilities, traumatic brain injury), cognitive development and injury prevention, translational research, virtual reality/simulation methods

Teaching Interests: Undergraduate statistics, research methods and design, adolescent development, cognitive development

Dr. Stavrinos will be reviewing applications to admit new graduate students for Fall 2021 admission. Deadline for UAB Graduate School applications is December 15.

Office Hours: By appointment


  • B.S., University of Alabama
  • M.A., University of Alabama at Birmingham, Developmental Psychology
  • Ph.D., University of Alabama at Birmingham, Developmental Psychology
  • Postdoc, University of Alabama at Birmingham, UAB Injury Control Research Center, UAB University Transportation Center, UAB Department of Medicine

Dr. Stavrinos is the Director of the Translational Research for Injury Prevention (TRIP) Laboratory. The TRIP Lab offers students at various levels of training (high school, undergraduate, graduate, post-doc) and from various disciplines (e.g., psychology, medicine, public health, engineering, computer science) the opportunity to conduct high quality behavioral research. Since its establishment in 2009, nearly 100 students have been trained under Stavrinos’ mentorship.

Experiential learning is one of the key principles guiding Dr. Stavrinos’ teaching philosophy. She is a firm believer that students learn best when they actively participate, whether in a research or classroom setting. Within a research context, experiential learning takes place when students are actively involved in all aspects of the research process. Under her direction, students:

  • assist with the development of protocols
  • recruit research participants
  • run participants through experimental protocols
  • process and enter data into statistical software
  • disseminate research findings through presentations at scientific conferences and publications in scientific journals.

These experiences challenge students to truly grasp what research is all about, from start to finish, and they reflect on these experiences through weekly writing assignments and presentations. Dr. Stavrinos provides constructive feedback in a timely manner, and fellow students also provide comments to each other, thus providing a bidirectional opportunity for learning; those providing feedback further their understanding and advance their critical thinking skills, and those receiving feedback learn how to accept critiques from multiple perspectives. Experiential learning enables students to develop a strong research skill set they can apply towards future work.

For more information about the TRIP Lab, please visit our website.

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Research Interests

For the past decade Dr. Stavrinos has been conducting research in transportation, for which she has received funding from multiple federal agencies including NIH, NSF, CDC, and USDOT. The focus of her research program is the prevention and control of unintentional injuries, particularly those resulting from motor vehicle crashes, the leading killer of people ages 5-24. Dr. Stavrinos’ research considers the broad context of unintentional injury prevention and control, and in particular examines driving in at-risk populations, including novice, teen drivers, distracted drivers, drivers with developmental disabilities such as ADHD and Autism, and older drivers. Dr. Stavrinos employs a variety of methodologies to study driving behavior, including driving simulation, self-report surveys, police crash reports, and naturalistic (observational) data capture.

In Fall 2017, Dr. Stavrinos and the TRIP Lab will launch a new 5-year study funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NIH-NICHD). This longitudinal study will test the influence of age and driving experience on driving attention development under various conditions, and will identify underlying cognitive mechanisms of attention development and ultimately the occurrences of MVCs. Findings will have significant implications for targeted interventions to reduce MVCs and policy regarding optimal age and experience for licensure. It will be the first longitudinal study of attention in the driving context.

As seen on TODAY Show and CNN.

Select Publications

  • Stavrinos, D., *McManus, B., Underhill, A.T., *Lechtreck, M. (2019). Impact of adolescent media multitasking on cognition and driving safety. Human Behavior and Emerging Technologies (Special Issue: Effects of Emerging Technologies), 1, 161-168.
  • *Pope, C.N., Mirman, J.H., Stavrinos, D. (2019). Adolescents' perspectives on distracted driving legislation. Journal of Safety Research, 68, 173-179.
  • Stavrinos, D., *Pope, C.N., Shen, J., & Schwebel, D.C. (2018). Distracted walking, bicycling, and driving: A systematic review and meta-analysis of mobile technology use and youth crash risk. Child Development (Special Issue: Contemporary Mobile Technology and Child and Adolescent Development), 89, 118-128.
  • *McManus, B., Heaton, K., & Stavrinos, D. (2017). Commercial motor vehicle driving performance: An examination of attentional resources and control. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 23, 191-203.
  • *Bishop, H.J., Biasini, F.J., Stavrinos, D. (2017). Social and non-social hazard response in drivers with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 47, 905-917.
  • *Pope, C.N., Bell, T.R., & Stavrinos, D. (2017). Mechanisms behind distracted driving behavior: The role of age and executive function in the engagement of distracted driving. Accident Analysis and Prevention, 98, 123-129.
  • *Pope, C.N., Ross, L.A., & Stavrinos, D. (2016). Association between executive function and problematic adolescent driving. Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, 37, 702-711.
  • Stavrinos, D., *Garner, A.A., Franklin, C.A., *Welburn, S.C., *Johnson, H.D., Griffin, R., Underhill, A.T., & Fine, P.R. (2015). Distracted driving in teens with and without Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. Journal of Pediatric Nursing (Special Issue: Health Care Transition for Adolescents and Emerging Adults with Special Health Care Needs and Disabilities), 30, e183-191.

(*indicates trainee co-author)

Academic Distinctions and Professional Societies

  • Faculty Fellow in Undergraduate Research, 2019
  • Dean’s Award for Excellence in Mentorship, 2017
  • Society of Pediatric Psychology Routh Early Career Award, 2016
  • Appointed Member of National Academies of Science Transportation Research Board Operator Education and Regulation Subcommittee
  • Department of Transportation Dwight D. Eisenhower Fellow
  • Society for Public Health Education Injury Prevention Fellow
  • Society for Pediatric Psychology/CDC Injury Prevention Research Award
  • Association for Psychological Science
  • Society for Pediatric Psychology