Ryan Watson

Ryan Watson, PhD

Associate Professor, University of Connecticut

My program of research is focused on reducing health disparities among sexual and gender minority (SGM) youth and young adults. Motivated by the urgent need to reduce the inequities in health for vulnerable populations, I have focused my scholarship on SGM youth and young adults, their relationships within family and school contexts, and their health experiences. Collaborating with a prolific team of scholars, I have been awarded over a million dollars in federal funding and published more than 120 peer-reviewed papers in the spirit of better understanding the mechanisms that drive well-documented injustices in health, school, and community experiences for SGM individuals. In particular, I have recently focused on health experiences (e.g., substance use and disordered eating) among SGM adolescents (funded by NIH, R03DA046827) and emerging adults. Related to this line of research, I have utilized data from my team’s LGBTQ+ National Teen Survey, a dataset collected in 2017 of 17,000 SGM youth aged 13-17 from across the United States. More recently in 2022, my team collected a contemporary dataset of over 17,000 SGM youth aged 13-18. A complimentary body of research (funded by NIH, K01DA047918) focuses on preventing health disparities (e.g., HIV) through prevention and intervention strategies (e.g., PrEP) attuned to intersectionality.

My research has been featured on CNNNPRWashington PostUSA Today, and several other media outlets. I have leadership roles in the Society of Research on Adolescence and I am a consulting editor for the Journal of Research on Adolescence, Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, LGBT Health, and AIDS & Behavior. In 2024, I am the co-chair of the Society for Research of Adolescence annual meeting in Chicago.

Please visit the SHINE Lab website for free copies of publications and more information about the lab’s research.


Post-Doctoral Fellow, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, 2015-2016
Ph.D., Family Studies and Human Development, University of Arizona, 2014
M.S., Family Studies and Human Development, University of Arizona, 2012
B.A., Psychology, Political Science, UCLA, 2009

Professional Interests

  • Sexual/Gender Minority Youth and Young Adult Health
  • Sexual Health, HIV Prevention
  • Family Acceptance and Rejection
  • Intersections of Family, School, and Sexuality
  • Hooking Up among Sexual/Gender Minorities

Active Research Funding

Principal Investigator“PrEP and substance use among sexual minority young adults”

K01DA047918; National Institutes of Health—NIDA, Career Development Award

Duration: 4/1/2019 – 3/31/2024; Total: $952,225

Principal Investigator, SGM youth substance use: Subgroup differences and protective factors”     

R03DA046827;  National Institutes of Health—NIDA, R03

Duration: 9/15/2019–8/31/2022; Total: $182,051