About Me

I am a Professor of Sociology and the Gerald B. Cramer Faculty Scholar of Aging Studies at Syracuse University. As a sociologist and demographer, I am interested in the “social causes” of death and disease among adults in the United States. The social cause I am most interested in is educational attainment, but I also examine gender, geography, and the intersection of these three causes.

I received my PhD in Sociology with a Demography Specialization from the University of Texas at Austin in 2011, where I was trained and mentored by several remarkable scholars including Mark D. Hayward, Robert A. Hummer, and Debra J. Umberson. There I developed my core interest in how educational attainment shapes adult mortality risk. I then spent two years (2011-2013) at Harvard University as a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholar. Working closely with renowned scholars Lisa Berkman, Ichiro Kawachi, and Subu Subramanian, I developed an interest in how broader contexts-e.g., state policies, income inequality-might alter the importance of education for adult mortality. I took these interests with me to Case Western Reserve University in 2013 where I was an Assistant Professor of Sociology until joining Syracuse University in the fall of 2015.

Academia was not my first career, however. Before starting the PhD program at UT-Austin in 2006 I had worked in the private sector for over a decade. I spent the early part of my private sector career as a research statistician in the medical diagnostics industry, the food and beverage industry, and finally in the petrochemical industry (where I spent most of my career). As a research statistician, I worked with chemists and engineers to design new products and improve the reliability of manufacturing processes. Eventually I took on other roles in the petrochemical company, including marketing research, internal business consulting, and global strategy. This may sound exciting, but it was not for me. My heart and mind always belonged in academia, conducting research on the topics that are most important to me: improving population health and longevity, and reducing disparities in health and longevity. 

I eventually decided to pursue a M.A. in Sociology part-time while continuing to work full-time in the private sector. It was during my M.A. at the University of Houston where I discovered the exciting field of Demography, thanks to two amazing scholars, Karl Eschbach and Jacqueline Hagan. I finished the M.A. in 2004 and took it, along with my B.S. in Mathematics (Purdue University 1992) and M.S. in Statistics (Purdue University 1994), to UT-Austin in the fall of 2006 to begin my doctoral study in Sociology and Demography. The rest is history.