In My Feelings! The Science of Emotions

Dr. Jennifer Hughes
UT Southwestern
Central Texas Teen Science Cafe


All of us experience stress and negative emotions in our lives for many different reasons. Maybe you have a big test coming up that has you way stressed. Or maybe you just had a big fight with your parents or best friend. What better time to talk about emotions than at the Central Texas Teen Science February café on Valentine’s Day?

We invited Dr. Jennifer Hughes to share with us her research and knowledge regarding emotions and coping strategies to handle negative feelings. Dr. Hughes is an assistant professor at UT Southwestern and Head of the Risk and Resilience Network in the UT Southwestern Center for Depression Research and Clinical Care. She spends much of her time working with teens and families to work through difficult situations and feelings.

Our café began with pizza, veggies, and Valentine’s Day sweets. Then we broke the ice with a category game at each table. It was loads of fun!

Dr. Hughes shared with us where emotions come from in the brain, her research at the Center for Depression Research and Clinical Care, and a few coping mechanisms to handle stress, anger, and sadness. Teens asked very good questions about dealing with stress in school and handling emotions that come with experiencing relationship problems.

Hands on Activity

For our activity, teens were allowed to explore three different activities. We created stress balls using balloons, flour, and baby oil. It was both messy and fun! Teens also participated in an experiment. We had teens press ice compacts to their face and monitor their heart rate to see if it slows down. This is a good coping method to help deal with emotions like anxiety or anger that can raise your heart rate. Lastly, we had teens walk through breathing exercises and we shared with them an app that they can download to guide them through the breathing exercises.