Debra Umberson (Project Director) is Professor of Sociology and Co-Director of the Texas Aging & Longevity Center at the University of Texas at Austin, where she also holds a courtesy appointment in the Steve Hicks School of Social Work.
Her research focuses on the impact of relationships on health across the life course, and gender, sexuality, and racial variation in relationship and health experiences. Her recent publications have focused on racial/ethnic differences in exposure to the death of family members across the life course and the implications for long-term health and mortality disparities.
Umberson is current vice president of the Association of Population Centers, an elected Fellow of the Gerontological Society of America, and the recipient of numerous awards from the American Sociological Association, including the 2015 Matilda White Riley Distinguished Scholar Award for research on aging, the 2016 Leonard I. Pearlin Award for Distinguished Contributions to the Sociological Study of Mental Health, and the 2020 Leo G. Reeder Award for Distinguished Contributions to Medical Sociology.
Robert Hummer (Co-Investigator) is the Howard W. Odum Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Fellow of the Carolina Population Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is also Co-Director of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health) and President-Elect of the Population Association of America. He came to UNC in summer of 2015 after spending 19 years at the University of Texas at Austin, where he served as Director of their NICHD-supported Population Research Center between 2001–05 and Chairperson of their Department of Sociology from 2006–10. In 2010, he was presented with the Clifford Clogg Award for Early Career Achievement by the Population Association of America.Dr. Hummer’s research focuses on the accurate description and more complete understanding of population health and mortality patterns and trends in the United States. He has been funded by NICHD, NIA, and/or NSF throughout most of his career to date and has published more than 150 journal articles, book chapters, and books in this area. His work has been cited over 12,000 times to date. He is particularly experienced with developing conceptual and analytic models for the understanding of racial/ethnic, immigrant-native, and socioeconomic differences in population health/mortality, as well as with the collection and effective use of very large data sets to study U.S. health/mortality patterns and trends. Dr. Hummer’s most recent book, co-authored with Erin R. Hamilton, is Population Health in America (2019, University of California Press).
Hui (Cathy) Liu (Co-Investigator) is a Professor of Sociology and Director of the Family and Population Health (FPH) Laboratory at Michigan State University. Before joining MSU in 2008, she received her B.A. and M.A. in economics from Nankai University, China, her M.S. in Statistics, and Ph.D. in Sociology and Demography from the University of Texas at Austin.
Her research is broadly guided by the aging and life course perspective to study social determinants of population health. Specifically, Dr. Liu has focused on using innovative quantitative methods to develop, test, and promote scientific understanding of marriage and family processes related to population health and well-being over the life course. Her interests in marriage also extend to other “marriage-like” intimate relationships such as LGBTQ relationships and partnered sexuality, and how they are linked to population health and well-being.
Dr. Liu has received several prestigious national awards including an NIH Career Award (Mentored Research Scientist Development Award). Her research has been widely reported in prominent national and international news outlets including the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN, USA Today, US News and World Report, TIME, ABC News, CBS News, Los Angeles Times, Daily Mail, Sydney Morning Herald, The Times of India, China Daily and Iran Daily.
Belinda L. Needham (Co-Investigator) is Associate Professor of Epidemiology and Co-Director of the Center for Social Epidemiology and Population Health at the University of Michigan.
Her research focuses on health disparities. In general, members of socially disadvantaged groups have worse mental and physical health than those who have higher social status. Her work seeks to identify, explain, and reduce racial/ethnic, socioeconomic, gender, and sexual orientation health disparities.
Her primary research goals are to use novel approaches to assess health disparities across the life course and to identify the social structural, psychological, behavioral, and physiological mechanisms by which social disadvantage leads to health disparities.
She is currently Multiple PI of an R01 award from NIMHD to examine race/ethnic differences in DNA methylation as a mechanism underlying racial/ethnic disparities in cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. She is also multiple PI of an R21 award from NIMHD to examine whether second-hand exposure to the Flint Water Crisis during pregnancy exacerbated racial/ethnic disparities in birth outcomes in Michigan.
Sara Mernitz (Post-Doctoral Researcher) is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Population Research Center.
Her research broadly focuses on romantic relationships and their longitudinal associations with mental and physical health. Drawing on interdisciplinary perspectives from across the social sciences, she focuses on romantic involvement from casual relationships to cohabitation and marriage during the transition to adulthood.
Her research has been supported by the National Institutes of Health and published in journals such as Journal of Marriage and Family, Demographic Research, and Journal of Family Psychology.
Hye Won Chai (Post-Doctoral Researcher) is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Population Research Center.
Her research focuses on family and social relationships of middle and older adults and their associations with physical health in later life.
She is particularly interested in examining how the dynamics of social relationships and health unfold across different time scales, connecting daily interactions to long-term health outcomes. Her interest also includes studying the role of SES characteristics in the associations between relationships and health.
Zhiyong Lin (Post-Doctoral Researcher) is a Postdoctoral Fellow of the Population Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin. He received his Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Maryland, College Park.
He is a social demographer and medical sociologist studying family dynamics and health inequalities over the life course. One line of his research consists of social determinants of well-being, mostly among older adults. The other strand of his research investigates the changing patterns of intimate relationships in non-Western social contexts undergoing dramatic social transitions.
His work has appeared in Demography, Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences, Journal of Health and Social Behavior, Demographic Research, Chinese Sociological Review, and other academic journals.
Hyungmin (Min) Cha (Graduate Student Researcher) is a social demographer who takes a demographic and life-course approach to the study of health disparities.
His primary research addresses how life course exposures and events influence the morbidity and mortality experiences of the population and how individual agency influences and moderates the effects of life course exposures.
His investigations span the range from macro-social determinants of population health (e.g. income inequality, social cohesion), to meso-level influences (neighborhood and workplace contexts), down to the individual-level (stress, and psychosocial risk factors).
Michael A. Garcia (Graduate Student Researcher) is a doctoral student in the Department of Sociology and Population Research Center (PRC) Graduate Research Trainee.
Her primary research interests are social relationships, health, and well-being. Her current research projects explore gendered marital processes surrounding stress and well-being within same-sex and different-sex marriages as well as how racial/ethnic differences in exposure to family loss contribute to health disparities.
Michael’s research has been supported by the National Institutes of Health and published in journals such as Journal of Marriage and Family, Social Science & Medicine, and The Journals of Gerontology: Series B.
Kaitlin Shartle (Graduate Student Researcher) is a fourth-year doctoral student in the Department of Sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Her primary research interests are in life course and aging, population health, and social relationships. Kaitlin’s Master’s thesis investigates how adolescent peer networks are associated with smoking trajectories and how this association differs by gender.
Her current research explores how social support, strain, and isolation impact health across the life course and varies by race, gender, and SES.
Prior to enrolling in graduate school, Kaitlin received her B.A. in Sociology and the Communication Ars and Sciences from the Pennsylvania State University in 2016.
Yiwen Wang (Graduate Student Researcher) is a doctoral student in the Department of Sociology and Population Research Center (PRC) Graduate Research Trainee.
Her primary research interests are in family demography and health, with a specific focus on health implications of family structures and dynamics in childhood as well as intimate relationship dynamics in adulthood.
Jaime Feng-Yuan Hsu is a 1st-year doctoral student in the Department of Sociology and Population Research Center (PRC) Graduate Research Trainee.
Muffin is proud to represent the HEALING Project as the official mascot and wellness ambassador. Muffin’s research focuses on identifying the best leisurely walking spots in the Austin area and regulating the squirrel population. When she is not enjoying an active lifestyle, she can be found curled up napping on furniture or scavenging for human food scraps. She was recently designated as one of the “Nation’s Most Loveable Dogs” and uses this platform to request belly rubs.
Eileen Crimmins is a University Professor and the AARP Chair in Gerontology at the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology. She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Medicine, and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She is currently the director of the USC/UCLA Center on Biodemography and Population Health, one of the Demography of Aging Centers supported by the U.S. National Institute on Aging. She is also the Director of the Multidisciplinary Training in Gerontology Program and the NIA-sponsored Network on Biological Risk. Crimmins is a co-investigator of the Health and Retirement Study in the U.S. Much of Crimmins’ research has focused on changes over time in health and mortality. Crimmins has been instrumental in organizing and promoting the recent integration of the measurement of biological indicators in large population surveys. She recently served as co-chair of a Committee for the National Academy of Sciences to address why life expectancy in the U.S. is falling so far behind that of other countries. She has recently co-edited several books with a focus on international aging, mortality and health expectancy: Determining Health Expectancies; Longer Life and Healthy Aging; Human Longevity, Individual Life Duration, and the Growth of the Oldest-old Population; International Handbook of Adult Mortality; Explaining Diverging Levels of Longevity in High-Income Countries; and International Differences in Mortality at Older Ages: Dimensions and Sources. She has received the Kleemeier Award for Research from the Gerontological Society of America.
Mark Hayward is Professor of Sociology, Centennial Commission Professor in the Liberal Arts, a faculty research associate of the Population Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin. His research program is embedded in an “aging and life course” perspective in which childhood health problems, social disadvantages, and adverse events give rise to a web of biological and social pathways throughout the life course that, together, increase the risk of adult morbidity and mortality. A central theme in his work is the “long arm of childhood” where events and conditions launch social and biological pathways that are important for adult health decades later in life. His work has contributed significantly to understanding how childhood health, social advantage and early life education have influenced trends and disparities in dementia, disability, and mortality. Hayward served as president of the Southern Demographic Association, and he chaired the Aging and Life Course and Sociology of Population sections of the American Sociological Association. He is a former member of the Committee on Population, National Academy of Sciences, and the Board of Scientific Counselors at the National Center for Health Statistics. He also served on the National Advisory Committee for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Health and Society Scholars Program. Currently, Hayward is the editor of Demography and is the president-elect of the Interdisciplinary Association of Population Health Science. Hayward received his Ph.D. in sociology from Indiana University in 1981.
Bridget Goosby is a Professor of Sociology at the University of Texas at Austin. She is also co-director of the Life in Frequencies Health Disparities (LifeHD) Research Lab. Her primary research area specializes in identifying pathways linking racial discrimination and other forms of social marginalization to racial inequities in health over the life course and across generations. Her current research in this area integrates biological markers and innovative biometric technology to dynamically examine how inequality gets under the skin to impact health and chronic disease risk in targeted groups. This work leverages population-based, sociological, and experimental models to assess how various dimensions of race-specific stressors are connected with upregulation of physiologic, behavioral, and psychological stress responses dynamically and in real time. Her research has been supported by various funders including the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Dr. Goosby was a National Institute of Mental Health postdoctoral fellow in the Program for Research on Black Americans at the University of Michigan. She holds a PhD in Sociology and Demography from the Pennsylvania State University. Her work has appeared in such venues as Annual Review of Sociology, Social Science and Medicine, International Journal of Psychophysiology, Journal of Health and Social Behavior, Journal of Marriage and Family, and American Journal of Human Biology.
Linda M. Burton is dean of Berkeley Social Welfare and holds the Eugene and Rose Kleiner Chair for the Study of Processes, Practices and Policies in Aging. Prior to her arrival at Berkeley in 2019, Burton was the James B. Duke Professor of Sociology and director of the Center for Child and Family Policy at Duke University. In her role as dean of Social Sciences at Duke University’s Trinity College of Arts and Sciences, she was responsible for handling all matters relative to 239 faculty members in 14 departments and programs, including African/African American Studies, Economics, History, Political Science, and Women’s Studies. She simultaneously co-directed the undergraduate program on International Comparative Studies, was co-chair of the university’s Task Force on Bias and Hate Issues, and served on the university’s union bargaining team in negotiations with the Service Employees’ International Union (SEIU) on behalf of Duke’s adjunct professors. Prior to joining Duke, she was a faculty member at Penn State for over 20 years and served as director of its Center for Human Development and Family Research in Diverse Contexts from 1998 to 2006. She holds a PhD in sociology from the University of Southern California.
Gilbert C. Gee is a Professor in the Department of Community Health Sciences at the Fielding School of Public Health at UCLA. He received his bachelor degree in neuroscience from Oberlin College, his doctorate in Health Policy and Management from the Johns Hopkins University, and post-doctoral training in sociology from Indiana University. His research focuses on the social determinants of health inequities of racial, ethnic, and immigrant minority populations using a multi-level and life course perspective. A primary line of his research focuses on conceptualizing and measuring racial discrimination, and in understanding how discrimination may be related to illness. He has also published more broadly on the topics of stress, neighborhoods, immigration, environmental exposures, occupational health, and on Asian American populations. His research has been honored with a group Merit Award from the National Institutes of Health for the development of multicultural measures of discrimination for health surveys. In addition, he received two Scientific and Technical Achievement Awards from the Environmental Protection Agency for development of the Stress-Exposure-Disease Framework.
Rachel Donnelly is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Vanderbilt University.
Her research focuses on the social determinants of mental and physical health, with an emphasis on stress/adversity and family relationships throughout the life course. She also examines how disparate experiences based on gender, sexual orientation, and race shape disparities in health, including the processes contributing to health.
In recent research, Dr. Donnelly considers how race differences in exposure to the death of family members across the life course contribute to disparities in mental health, physical health, and mortality risk in mid- and later-life.
Her research has been supported by the National Science Foundation and published in journals such as Journal of Health and Social Behavior, Social Science & Medicine, and Society and Mental Health.
Patti Thomas joined the Sociology Department at Purdue in 2013 as an Assistant Professor after a postdoctoral fellowship at The University of Texas at Austin. She received her Ph.D. in Sociology at Duke University in 2010.Her research focuses on the impact of social relationships and social position (e.g., race, gender, socioeconomic status) on health outcomes across the life course. She has examined support and strain in social relationships and their impact on health across different stages of the life course, social engagement among older adults, giving and receiving social support among older adults, and the impact of socioeconomic status on racial variations in mortality. Her research has appeared in American Journal of Public Health, Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences, Journal of Health and Social Behavior, and Social Science & Medicine. She is a Faculty Associate in the Center on Aging and the Life Course.
Deborah Carr is Professor and Chair of Sociology at Boston University. She earned her Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1997. Dr. Carr has held faculty positions at University of Michigan, University of Wisconsin, and Rutgers University. She is the author of over 120 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters, as well as the author of several books including Worried Sick: How Stress Hurts Us and How to Bounce Back (Rutgers, 2014). Her latest book Golden Years? Social Inequality in Later Life (2019, Russell Sage) received the Richard Kalish Innovative Publication Award from the Gerontologicial Society of America. Dr. Carr has written widely on bereavement, advance care planning, and well-being at the end of life. Carr is fellow of the Gerontological Society of America and was editor-in-chief of the Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences from 2015-20. She is a member of the honorary Sociological Research Association and former chair of the Aging and Life Course and Medical Sociology sections of the American Sociological Association (ASA). She is the principal investigator of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 (NLSY79), a co-investigator of the Midlife in the United States (MIDUS), and former Chair of the General Social Survey board of overseers. Dr. Carr’s research has been featured in major media including The New York Times and Washington Post.
Courtney Boen is an Assistant Professor and Axilrod Faculty Fellow in the Department of Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania. She is also a Research Associate in the Penn Population Studies Center and Population Aging Research Center, an Affiliate in the Center for the Study for Ethnicity, Race, and Immigration, and a Senior Fellow in the Leonard Davis Institute for Health Economics at the Penn. Dr. Boen’s research focuses on the social determinants of population health inequality, with particular attention to the social factors producing racial-ethnic, immigrant-native, and socioeconomic health inequities across the life span. Her work aims to improve scientific understanding how macro-level systems of social inequality shape micro-level biophysiological processes to produce health disparities from birth through late life. Her research has been published in a number of outlets, including the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, Social Science and Medicine, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, The Journals of Gerontology, Biodemography and Social Biology, the Journal of Aging and Health, Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers, and Prevention, and the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Dr. Boen received her PhD in sociology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and her MPH from Tufts University.