Faculty Profile

Jennifer Smith

Jennifer A Smith, PhD, MPH

  • Associate Professor of Epidemiology
  • Research Associate Professor, Survey Research
  • Director, Certificate in Public Health Genetics

Dr. Smith is a genetic epidemiologist who investigates the relationship between genetic, epigenetic, and transcriptomic variation and age-related chronic diseases. She works with large, multi-ethnic cohort studies to investigates 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 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, especially those that influence socioeconomic and race/ethnic health disparities.

Dr. Smith is the Associate Director of the Cohort Development working group for U-M Precision Health and the Michigan Genomics Initiative. She is a core faculty member of the Center for Social Epidemiology and Population Health (CSEPH) and is affiliated with the Michigan Center on the Demography of Aging (MiCDA), the Center for Midlife Science, and the Population, Neurodevelopment and Genetics (PNG) Program. She also directs the U-M School of Public Health's Certificate Program in Public Health Genetics.

  • PhD, Epidemiology, University of Michigan, 2011
  • MA, Statistics, University of Michigan, 2009
  • MPH, Health Management and Policy, University of Michigan, 2005
  • BS, Biological Sciences, Cornell University, 2001

Research Interests:
Genetic Epidemiology, Epigenomics, Aging, Cardiovascular Disease, Cognition, Dementia, Social Determinants of Health

Research Projects:
Dr. Smith investigates the impact of genetic variation on cardiovascular disease, cognition, and their risk factors in large, multi-ethnic cohort studies including the Health and Retirement Study (HRS, N=20,000), the Genetic Epidemiology Network of Arteriopathy (GENOA, N=3,000), the Study of Women's Health Across the Nation (SWAN, N=1,100 with genomic data), the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA, N=6,000), and the Longitudinal Aging Study in India (LASI, N=3,000 with genomic data). As part of this work, she collaborates with several field-leading consortia including the Cohorts for Heart and Aging Research in Genomic Epidemiology (CHARGE) consortium and NHLBI's TransOmics for Precision Medicine (TOPMed) initiative. Another component of Dr. Smith's work is in the field of social epigenomics. She is interested in how socioeconomic (education, income, wealth) and neighborhood (neighborhood SES, social environment, land use) factors influence DNA methylation and subsequent risk of cardiovascular disease and dementia in multi-ethnic cohorts. Her work includes the development of high-dimensional mediation methods and their application to social epigenomics.

Wang Y, Zhao W, Ammous F, Song Y, Du J, Shang L, Ratliff SM, Moore K, Kelly KM, Needham BL, Diez Roux AV, Liu Y, Butler KR, Kardia SLR, Mukherjee B, Zhou X, Smith JA. (2022) DNA methylation mediates the association between individual and neighborhood social disadvantage and cardiovascular risk factors. Frontiers in Cardiovascular Medicine 9:848768. PMID: 35665255; PMCID: PMC9162507.

Ammous F, Zhao W, Ratliff SM, Mosley TH, Bielak LF, Zhou X, Peyser PA, Kardia SLR, Smith JA. (2021) Epigenetic age acceleration is associated with cardiometabolic risk factors and clinical cardiovascular disease risk scores in African Americans. Clinical Epigenetics 13(1):55. PMID: 33726838; PMCID: PMC7962278.

Schmitz LL, Zhao W, Ratliff SM, Goodwin J, Miao J, Lu Q, Guo X, Taylor KD, Ding J, Liu Y, Levine M, Smith JA. (2021) The socioeconomic gradient in epigenetic aging clocks: Evidence from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis and the Health and Retirement Study. Epigenetics 17(6): 589-611. PMID: 34227900; PMCID: PMC9235889.

Smith JA, Kho M, Zhao W, Yu M, Mitchell C, Faul JD. (2021) Genetic effects and gene-by-education interactions on episodic memory performance and decline in an aging population. Social Science and Medicine 271:112039. PMID: 30449520; PMCID: PMC6510651.

Smith JA, Zhao W, Yu M, Rumfelt K, Moorjani P, Ganna A, Dey AB, Lee J, Kardia SLR. (2020) Association between episodic memory and genetic risk factors for Alzheimer's Disease in South Asians from the Longitudinal Aging Study in India - Diagnostic Assessment of Dementia (LASI-DAD). Journal of the American Geriatrics Society 68(Suppl 3):S45-S53. PMID: 32815605; PMCID: PMC7507858.

Shang L, Smith JA, Zhao W, Kho MJ, Turner ST, Mosley TH, Kardia SLR, Zhou X. (2020) Genetic architecture of gene expression in European and African Americans: An eQTL mapping study in GENOA. American Journal of Human Genetics 106(4):496-512. PMID: 32220292; PMCID: PMC7118581.

Full publication list:

Email: smjenn@umich.edu

Office: 734-615-9455

Fax: 734-764-3192

Address: 2631 SPH I
1415 Washington Heights
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

For media inquiries: sph.media@umich.edu