Emma Adam Named APS Fellow

Emma Adam Named APS Fellow

Emma AdamNorthwestern University’s Emma Adam, Edwina S. Tarry Professor of Education and Social Policy, was named a fellow of the Association for Psychological Science for her outstanding contributions to the field of developmental psychobiology of stress and sleep.

Adam joins a distinguished group of APS fellows from the School of Education and Social Policy, including Lindsay Chase-Lansdale, Mesmin Destin, Dan McAdams, and David Uttal.

“Emma changed not only the way I think about the world but also my own research trajectory,” said School of Education and Social Policy Dean David Figlio. “Before I arrived at Northwestern, I didn’t think about the intersection of health and human development. “Now, almost 12 years later, I can’t think of anything else, which I owe to a number of scholars, but especially Emma.”

Adam, a psychobiologist, bridges health and human development with social policy. A driving force behind SESP’s new initiative on Culture, Brain, Biology, and Learning, she has devoted her career to examining how stress gets “under the skin,” or how everyday life experiences -- including work, school, family, and peer relationships -- influence levels of stress, health, and well-being in parents and their children.

Some of her most pioneering research, which revealed an association between racial discrimination, stress hormones and sleep patterns—led her to identify new concepts in social justice: stress equity and sleep equity. Her current research involves interventions designed to reduce these disparities in stress and sleep and their effects.

“Stress—and thus sleep—are unequally distributed in society,” says Adam. “African Americans, in particular, carry an unfair burden of stress due to structural inequalities and personal experiences of racism. Stress disparities, in turn, create sleep disparities that have very real implications for daily functioning and well-being.”

In 2005, Adam, a psychobiologist, co-founded Cells to Society (C2S): The Center on Social Disparities and Health, housed within Northwestern’s Institute for Policy Research (IPR) where she is a fellow, with biological anthropologists and IPR fellows Thomas McDade and Christopher Kuzawa to better understand how experiences shape biology.

At the time, some questioned whether it even belonged under the umbrella of the Institute for Policy Research where it was housed – whether it was “policy enough” or it mattered to things like education.

“You can’t even ask that question anymore because of such a tremendous contribution from Emma and her devotion to rigor and methods,” McDade said.

Adam received her PhD in child psychology from the University of Minnesota and an MA in public policy from the University of Chicago.  She is a member of the American Psychological Association, the Society for Research in Child Development, the Society for Research on Adolescence, and the International Society of Psychoneuroendocrinology.

She received a National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation Post-doctoral Fellowship, a William T. Grant Scholars Award, and the prestigious Curt Richter Award from the International Society of Psychoneuroendocrinology.    


By Julie Deardorff
Last Modified: 1/29/20