Ryan J. Watson

Associate Professor



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. Working with National Science Foundation support as an early career scholar, I employed quantitative techniques using large non-probability and representative datasets to better understand the mechanisms that drive well-documented injustices in health, school, and community experiences for SGM individuals. This work was completed in the US, Norway, and Canada.

As a faculty member at UConn, I have extended these experiences to focus on the health (in particular, substance use and disordered eating) among SGM adolescents (funded by NIH, R03DA046827) and emerging adults. My research utilizes 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. We are currently collecting the next wave of data. A related body of research (funded by NIH, K01DA047918) focuses on preventing health disparities (e.g., HIV) through prevention and intervention strategies (e.g., PrEP) attune to intersectionality.

My research has been featured on CNN, NPR, Washington Post, USA 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. I am accepting graduate students and invite any prospective students to contact me with questions.

Please visit our lab website for free copies of our publications and more information about our 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

Ryan J. Watson
Contact Information
Mailing Address348 Mansfield Rd U1058 Storrs, CT, 06269
Office LocationFSB 335