Emma Adam Named Associate Vice President for Research

Emma Adam Named Associate Vice President for Research

Emma AdamProfessor Emma Adam directs the Contexts of Adolescent Stress and Thriving (COAST) lab at SESP.Emma Adam, the Edwina S. Tarry Professor of Human Development and Social Policy in the School of Education and Social Policy, has been named associate vice president for research at Northwestern University’s Office of Research.

Adam, an applied developmental psychobiologist, is a leading expert on the psychology and biology of stress and sleep in everyday settings. Her pathbreaking work, which has earned her distinction in her field, traces how stress impacts the lives of children and adolescents.

“I’m confident that social science at Northwestern will be stronger as a result of Emma’s new role,” said School of Education and Social Polic Dean David Figlio, Orrington Lunt Professor of Education and Social Policy.

Most previous work on stress and sleep had been done in labs. Adam developed methods that allow study participants to keep diaries of daily events and emotions and submit saliva samples for cortisol testing.

She demonstrated that naturally occurring negative feelings such as sadness, anger, and loneliness can lead to both acute and chronic changes in stress hormones.

She was also the first to reveal ethnic and socioeconomic disparities in cortisol rhythms in adolescents, showing that youth of color and lower-income children who are exposed to discrimination have hormone patterns associated with lower daily energy levels and later health issues. This helped her identify an important new concept in social justice: sleep equity.

Her addition to the Office of Research team will help support a wide array of Northwestern investigations across the fields of sociology, psychology, anthropology, social policy, and more. Adam is also a faculty fellow at Northwestern’s Institute for Policy Research (IPR), one of 40 interdisciplinary research hubs at the University.

At IPR, she co-founded Cells to Society (C2S), a multidisciplinary group that researchers how broad social, race/ethnic, and economic disparities "get under the skin" and affect human development and physical health. She also directs the Contexts of Adolescent Stress and Thriving (COAST) lab at SESP.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Adam’s expertise has helped shed light on how the global health and economic crisis has increased stress levels in children. Her research group is currently implementing multiple interventions designed to reduce youth stress and its consequences.

 “Having a multidisciplinary social science background, I particularly look forward to helping highlight and support the groundbreaking social science research being conducted at Northwestern,” Adam said. “I also will explore new ways and new resources to bring the University’s researchers together to help understand and address the pressing social problems facing the world today.”

By Julie Deardorff/photo by Steve Drey
Last Modified: 10/15/21