Research Priority Areas & Foci

Recognizing the essential nature and value of all scholarly and creative activity undertaken at a comprehensive, land-grant institution, the University’s mission and the current financial environment compel a focus on research where the needs of Kentuckians and the Commonwealth are most pressing, and the University can continue to compete successfully for external research support.

College of Social Work Research Foci

College of Social Work faculty, staff, and students conduct cutting-edge research in a range of diverse areas that impact and intersect with the University’s priority research areas. Here are but a few examples of that work.


The Suicide Prevention and Exposure Laboratory (SPEL) is explicitly dedicated to examining suicide and its impact. SPEL focuses on research related to exposure, prevention, and the understanding of this phenomenon. Additionally, the lab is involved in broad-ranging outreach initiatives designed to better educate communities about suicide. Through the lab, students, faculty and staff have the opportunity to uniquely engage in a wide-array of experiential learning activities.

Military Behavioral Health

The Military Behavioral Health Lab (MBH) is a unique lab focused on generating empirical knowledge and testing clinical interventions to address mental health and wellness issues that affect active-duty, reserve, and veteran military populations and their families. The lab builds on CoSW’s considerable expertise in working with military populations. In addition to research and outreach, MBH educates social work students about career opportunities within the Department of Defense (DoD) and Veterans Administration (VA), while training them to be the best candidates for those jobs.


The Self-Care Lab (SCL) is the first known lab specifically dedicated to empirically investigating self-care among helping professionals. SCL conducts broad ranging research and training for social workers, educators, nurses, law enforcement, and students, among others. To date, SCL has established an array of formal partnerships with researchers and academic institutions around the world. Through its work, the lab seeks to address potentially toxic employment conditions.

Children and Families

Both the Interdisciplinary Research Center on Children and Families and the Kentucky Kinship Resource Center play a leading role in advancing and disseminating research informed by the lived experiences of youth, caregivers, and providers across multiple disciplines to promote child safety, permanency, and well-being.

Training Resource Center

The College of Social Work’s Training Resource Center (TRC) promotes and supports the well-being of families, children, and communities through research and evaluation, training, technical assistance, and service and program development. For more than two decades, the TRC has been a source of innovation, information, and integral collaborations. As a nationally recognized leader in the fields of child welfare research and training, the TRC serves more than 50,000 caregivers, and professionals each year. Moreover, the TRC is committed to being a catalyst organization – one that brings meaningful change – to the institutions, organizations, and agencies with which it partners and collaborates.

Research Supports

Like the University, CoSW seeks to foster a robust culture of research predicated on consistent faculty and student development, intentional investment in research infrastructure, mutual support, and rigorous evaluation of CoSW research initiatives.

The Office of the Vice-President for Research at the University of Kentucky offers a number of unique supports to researchers and students.