Rebecca L. Utz photo
“just last semester, I pulled out my notes from John Knodel's class when I had to prepare a new graduate-level seminar in Population Studies”

Rebecca L. Utz

Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Utah.

Ph.D. 2004 Sociology, University of Michigan

Personal Notes
I am married to Steve Altman, who I met while living in Ann Arbor. We have a two-year old daughter, Carolyn, who keeps us busy. For those of you who know him, Leo (our shihtzu) is now 13 years old. We live in Salt Lake City and thoroughly enjoy the landscapes and adventures that the nearby mountains afford us.
Research Activities

I am currently an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Utah, where I am also affiliated with the Center on Aging, Gerontology Interdisciplinary Program, and the Institute for Public and International Affairs. I teach both undergraduate and graduate courses related to research methods, epidemiology, medical sociology, and population studies.

My approach to research is influenced by my training in social gerontology, developmental psychology, and demography. Given my overarching interests in the interdisciplinary and applied study of human development, I have embraced a "lifecourse" perspective to ground my diverse research interests within the traditions of sociology. My research interests fall within two substantive areas, both related to health and aging in American society:

  1. widowhood & end-of life caregiving;
  2. cohort-based influences on health (primarily related to obesity).

The first research area is primarily based on intervention studies, where we have designed and evaluated intervention programs to assist older adults cope with the loss of a spouse over the first three years of bereavement (funded by NIA and NCI). The second research area has developed through a unique data resource available in the state of Utah called the Utah Population Database. This genealogically linked clearinghouse of administrative and vital records have been enhanced with medical records and neighborhood-level characteristics, allowing me to study the multilevel determinants of childhood obesity for multiple birth cohorts.

Honors have included:

  • Superior Teaching Award, University of Utah, 2010
  • Roberta G. Simmons Dissertation Award, Medical Sociology Section of the American Sociological Association, 2005
  • University of Michigan Distinguished Dissertation Award, 2004
PSC's Influence on Career
Most specifically, my training at PSC has been incorporated into how I teach courses in Epidemiology and Population Studies. I will never forget John Knodel's Population Studies course. It is a class that I think about often, whether doing my own research or whether I am preparing lectures for class. In fact, just last semester, I pulled out my notes from John's class when I had to prepare a new graduate-level seminar in Population Studies. That course has been invaluable to my understanding of basic population dynamics.
Memories of PSC
During my tenure at PSC, we were located on the second floor of the Border's building. I remember studying and working hard with my peers (Sapna Swaroop, Erin Reidy, Cindy Colen, Sarah Avellar) in the center lobby, but then taking breaks in the evening to go see a movie at the Michigan Theater. What I remember the most, however, was the brownbag seminars in the downstairs conference room. As a young grad student, I wondered whether I would ever be able to ask sophisticated questions to the speakers. Not sure if I do or not....
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