RWJF Health & Society Scholar:
Health Psychology, Psychoneuroimmunology
Area(s) of Expertise:
Inflammation, Stress, Neuroendocrine and Autonomic Regulation, Psychological Well-Being, Sleep, Health Disparities, Discrimination
I have always been interested in how psychological experiences affect biological processes related to health. As a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I pursued training in behavioral neuroscience and immunology, and my doctoral research examined the immunological consequences of psychological stress as well as how behavior is affected by chemicals released by the immune system in response to viruses or bacteria. My postdoctoral work at the University of California, San Diego focused on abnormal immune function in a genetic animal model of depression. After teaching at Williams College for a number of years, I became increasingly interested in the links between social context and health, and I returned to the University of Wisconsin-Madison to pursue additional training in population health through the Robert Wood Johnson Health & Society Scholars program. As an RWJ scholar, I began my current research program centered on the connections between psychological well-being and biological functioning in older adults. I joined the HDFS department at Purdue in 2012.
My research continues to focus on health-related biological processes – most notably circulating levels of inflammatory proteins – and examines the ways in which they are patterned by social factors (e.g. socioeconomic status; discrimination), psychological functioning, and behavior (e.g. sleep) interacting with one another over time. I am particularly interested in aging as a biopsychosocial process and the extent to which positive psychological functioning may slow or compensate for the health effects of changes and challenges in later life.
My research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.