Jennifer Gay, an assistant professor in the College of Public Health, conducts research that aims to help people incorporate more physical activity into their daily lives and currently is working on projects to prevent the onset of Type 2 diabetes.
Where did you earn degrees and what are your current responsibilities at UGA?
I earned my Ph.D. in health promotion, education, and behavior from the University of South Carolina Arnold School of Public Health, my Master of Science in sport and leisure services from the University of Nevada Las Vegas, and my Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of South Carolina. You could say I took the scenic route to public health.
I am currently an assistant professor in the department of health promotion and behavior in the College of Public Health. My current responsibilities include conducting research on physical activity and health, and teaching master’s and doctoral level courses.
When did you come to UGA and what brought you here?
I came to UGA in 2011 because I was excited about the opportunities to collaborate with faculty from a wide array of disciplines within and outside of public health. I now work with colleagues in kinesiology, foods and nutrition, computer science, and geography.
What are your favorite courses and why?
What I like most about teaching and mentoring is seeing students grow in their understanding of community health and research. This can happen in any course or learning experience. Sometimes it occurs early in a student’s career, and other times it isn’t until I have them in the doctoral seminar toward the end of their time at UGA that you can see the connections being made between what we do in research and how it can be used in the community. Regardless, seeing students excited about what they are learning is my favorite part.
What interests you about your field?
My main goal for my research is to be able to find ways for people to incorporate physical activity into their daily lives. It doesn’t have to be running or going to the gym. Little things like walking after dinner and taking the stairs can make a difference in your health. I value the opportunity to share my research with people who are inactive in the hopes of getting them to move more.
What are some highlights of your career at UGA?
Seeing my students present their own research at conferences, and being able to work with faculty from so many different departments.
How does your research or scholarship inspire your teaching, and vice versa?
I use my research and outreach projects as examples in my classes. Similarly, my research is a foundation upon which I can mentor students to become independent researchers. And when my students come up with new ideas for data, it always impacts how I think about my own work.
What do you hope students gain from their classroom experience with you?
Learning can be challenging, but it also can be fun to see your world from a different perspective.
Describe your ideal student.
My ideal student is open-minded, motivated and curious.
Favorite place to be/thing to do on campus is…
I love trying new running routes through campus. It is exciting to see the way the campus changes throughout the seasons. And it’s a great way to learn where everything is when you’re new to the area.
Beyond the UGA campus, I like to…
I love watching sports. I am a spectator of all sports. I also enjoy hiking in the state and national parks, and reading.
Favorite book/movie (and why)?
My favorite books are from the modernism movement in literature. I read at least a few books by Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and William Faulkner each year. I also love Joan Didion’s fiction and nonfiction.
Proudest moment at UGA?
When my students share that they’ve gotten a job or have been accepted into a new academic program.
(Originally published Jan. 29, 2017)