Faculty Profile

Jennifer A. Smith, PhD, MPH

Jennifer A. Smith, PhD, MPH

  • Associate Professor of Epidemiology
  • 2631 SPH I
  • 1415 Washington Heights
  • Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109-2029

Dr. Smith received her master's degree in Public Health, master's degree in Statistics, and doctoral degree in Epidemiology from the University of Michigan. She joined the Epidemiology Department faculty in 2012, and is also a faculty member at UM's Survey Research Center, Institute for Social Research. Broadly, her research investigates the relationship between genetic, epigenetic, and transcriptomic variation and age-related chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease and cognitive decline. She is affiliated with the Michigan Center on the Demography of Aging (MiCDA), the Center for Midlife Science, the Center for Social Epidemiology and Population Health (CSEPH), and the Population, Neurodevelopment and Genetics (PNG) Program.

  • PhD, Epidemiology, University of Michigan, 2011
  • M.A., Statistics, University of Michigan, 2009
  • MPH, Health Management and Policy, University of Michigan, 2005
  • B.S., Biological Sciences, Cornell University, 2001

Dr. Smith's overarching research focus is on the genetics and epigenetics of age-related chronic diseases and their risk factors. She works with three large, multi-ethnic cohort studies: the Health and Retirement Study (HRS, N=20,000), the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA, N=6,000), and the Genetic Epidemiology Network of Arteriopathy (GENOA, N=3,000). Her work encompasses a broad range of traits, including cardiovascular disease, hypertension, dementia, cognition, and health behaviors. She studies genetic/epigenetic determinants both as direct risk factors for chronic disease, as well as the interaction between genetic and non-genetic factors in shaping disease risk. In particular, she is interested in genetic interaction with social, psychosocial, and neighborhood determinants of health, particularly those that influence health disparities.

She is the Principal Investigator of an NIH-funded project to explore the relationship between changes in epigenetics (DNA methylation) over time and subsequent organ damage from hypertension in African American sibships. This project integrates DNA sequence data, DNA methylation, and measures of gene expression to provide a deeper understanding of the functional mechanisms underlying damage to the heart, brain, peripheral arteries, and kidneys.

A large component of Dr. Smith's work is in the field of social epigenomics, which investigates the ways that social factors impact the epigenome. She is the PI of a NIH-funded project to investigate how socioeconomic (education, income, wealth) and neighborhood (neighborhood SES, social environment, land use) factors influence DNA methylation and cardiovascular disease risk factors in four multi-ethnic cohorts. This project involves the development of high-dimensional mediation methods to test the effects of multiple social factors on multiple DNA methylation sites, and evaluate their impact on risk factors for cardiovascular disease including obesity, diabetes, and hypertension.

  • International Genetic Epidemiology Society
  • American Society of Human Genetics
  • Society for Epidemiologic Research
  • American Heart Association