Chair: Thomas W. Kamarck, PhD
Health Psychology is an interdisciplinary field that examines the role of behavioral, psychological, and social factors in prevention, onset, course, and treatment of disease. One of the strengths of the graduate program in Biological and Health Psychology at the University of Pittsburgh involves our emphasis on the biological mechanisms involved in these processes. Our program has been training research scholars in this area for over 20 years, and our alumnae are among the top investigators in this field nationwide.
Research and Training Themes
Course curriculum and training experiences in the Biological and Health Psychology program at Pitt emphasize the development of:
1. A multilevel and mechanistic understanding of the determinants of health and illness, including
Biological pathways (e.g., autonomic, cardiovascular, cellular, circadian, endocrine, genetic, immune, metabolic, and neural),
Behavioral pathways (e.g., dietary, physical activity, sleep hygiene, and substance use),
Psychological pathways (e.g., emotion, emotion regulation, coping, personality, and stress), and
Social environmental pathways (e.g., social relationships and stressor exposures).
2. Expertise in multimethod tools for facilitating this type of research, including
Biological assessments (e.g., immunological and molecular assessments, metabolic assessments, neuroimaging and human brain mapping methods, genetic methods, neuropsychological assessments, peripheral neuroendocrine assessments, physical fitness and body composition measures, preclinical disease markers, psychophysiological and psychopharmacological methods),
Behavioral assessments (e.g., actigraphy assessments for physical activity and sleep, behavioral observation methods, dietary assessments, ecological momentary assessments),
Psychosocial assessments (e.g., interview-based assessments, psychometric methods, geographic information system mapping), and
Other methodological tools (e.g., experimental, longitudinal observational, and clinical trials designs, multilevel modeling, structural equation modeling, machine learning and other advanced quantitative tools).
3. Exposure to lifespan developmental influences on health, with focus on children and early family influences, adult health, and aging.
4. Knowledge of major determinants and patterns of health disparities (e.g., sex and gender, race and ethnicity, and socioeconomic disadvantage).
Along with these core themes, we are embedded in a university urban environment that is rich in collaborative resources facilitating multidisciplinary team science, including direct connections with:
University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC)
UPMC Hillman Cancer Center
UPMC Aging Institute
Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition
University of Pittsburgh Brain Institute
Carnegie Mellon-Pitt Brain Imaging Data Generation and Education (BRIDGE) Center
University of Pittsburgh Healthy Lifestyle Institute
Center for Sleep and Circadian Science
Center on Race and Social Problems
University of Pittsburgh Center for Behavioral Health and Smart Technology
Mobile Sensing and Health Institute
University Center for Social and Urban Research
Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Center
The program allows for intensive study in basic or clinical research and has a joint Clinical/Health Psychology track for students who want to obtain clinical psychology training. Research opportunities are the same in both tracks, and most faculty in the program share broad interests as well as more focused research and clinical activities.