Scientist Recognized for Outstanding Dissertation
May 2, 2008
Dr. Jennifer Lodi-Smith, a post-doctoral fellow in the UT Dallas School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences, has received a Seymour Sudman Dissertation Award for excellence in survey research on her doctoral dissertation from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Lodi-Smith received her Ph.D. in personality psychology last year from the University of Illinois.
Lodi-Smith’s dissertation, “Examining the social investment hypothesis: The relationship of social role investment and personality trait development in adulthood” focused on how the commitments people make to their careers, families and communities affect changes in their personality during adulthood. For example, her findings showed that spending time on community activities, like church groups or volunteer activities, can predict increases in older adults’ conscientiousness and emotional stability over a five-year period.
“My main research aim is to understand how personality traits change in older adulthood,” said Lodi-Smith. “These questions of aging are so important right now as our population is getting older.”
Lodi-Smith’ methodology used random sampling from a very large pool: the entire state of Illinois. Any Illinois resident between the ages of 20 and 90 could have been selected. Her method created a sample that was representative of the state’s population and since the Illinois population is a good representation of the country’s population, her findings could easily be applied nationally.
The data was also significant because the study was longitudinal in nature. Lodi-Smith surveyed residents at two different times during the five-year period. This allowed her to make inferences about the cause and effect of social commitments on personality.
After finishing her doctoral work at the University of Illinois, Lodi-Smith moved to the UT Dallas Center for BrainHealth to continue her line of research with Dr. Denise Park, the T. Boone Pickens Distinguished Chair in Clinical Brain Science.
There she is part of a team of scientists working on the Dallas Lifespan Brain Study, a 10-year study funded by the National Institute on Aging that is the first comprehensive study of the middle-aged brain. More than 300 volunteers between the ages of 20 to 89 will participate in computer-based mental tasks and MRI scans of their brains. Dr. Park is the lead investigator for the study and Lodi-Smith will look at how neurocognitive functioning impacts personality changes over time.
Lodi-Smith’s faculty adviser was Dr. Brent Roberts, and their work was funded by a grant from the National Institute on Aging.
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