Vera Lopez is an associate professor of justice and social inquiry in the School of Social Transformation at Arizona State University. She received an MA in Program Evaluation and a PhD in School Psychology from the University of Texas at Austin. She also completed a one-year child clinical research internship at the University of Illinois at Chicago, a two-year NIMH-funded research postdoctoral fellowship at ASU's Prevention Research Center (now REACH Institute), and a clinical internship at the Arizona Department of Juvenile Correction's Black Canyon Correctional School for girls. In 2009, Lopez was selected from a national competition to be a visiting scholar at the Univeristy of Houston's Center for Mexican American Studies where she spent the 2009-2010 academic year conducting research on Mexican American girls' relationship power, trust, and infidelity.
Lopez maintains several research affiliations at ASU and other universities. She is currently a research associate with the Center for Drug and Social Policy Research at the University of Houston, a visiting associate research scientist at the Columbia University School of Social Work, a faculty research affiliate at ASU's Southwest Interdisciplinary Research Center, and a research affiliate at ASU's Center for Population Dynamics.
Lopez has extensive research and clinical experience working in juvenile justice and residential treatment settings. Her research areas include adolescent delinquency, sexual risk taking, substance use, and prevention research with a major focus on girls. She was a PI on a subcontract for a project examining girls’ sexual risk taking as it relates to attachment, gender, relationship power, and drug use. In addition, Lopez was a co-investigator on two other pilot projects focused on adolescent girls’ sexual risk taking and sexualities.
Lopez's work has been featured in a number of journals including the Journal of Adolescence, Youth & Society, Journal of Family Issues, Journal of Youth and Adolescence, Feminist Criminology, Family Relations, and Criminal Justice & Behavior. Her book "Complicated Lives: Girls, Parents, Drugs, and Juvenile Justice" was released in 2017 (Rutgers University Press).
Currently, Lopez is beginning a new research project on Latina girls and sports, which is funded by a seed grant from the ASU Global Sport Institute. To date, Lopez has conducted focus groups with 78 Latina girls and intensive interviews with 10 coaches. Data collection is ongoing.
As a youth advocate, Lopez has taught a number of courses related to adolescent issues including Juvenile Delinquency, Latina Girls: Risk and Resiliency, Adolescent Girls: Risk and Resiliency, and Youth and Justice. In addition to these youth-focused courses, Lopez has taught research methods and statistics at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.
Finally, Lopez is actively involved in the community. She served on the Arizona Girls’ Roundtable Steering Committee from 2008-2012 and has written in the popular press about girls’ issues. She was also recently selected to serve on the Board of Directors for the Maricopa and Pinal county chapter of Girls on the Run.