Meet the Research Team

James S. House, PhD

James S. House, PhD

Founding ACL Director

Jim is the founding director of the Americans’ Changing Lives study and Professor Emeritus of Epidemiology, Sociology, Public Policy and of the Survey Research Center at the University of Michigan. Over his long research career, he has focused on social and psychological factors related to health and illness, such as work-related stress, social support, and health inequalities in aging. Using information from the ACL study, Jim has written a book on the importance of focusing on social and economic policies to promote healthy aging.
Sarah Burgard, PhD

Sarah Burgard, PhD

ACL-LIFE Director

Dr. Burgard is the principal investigator for ACL-LIFE and the wave 5 of the Americans’ Changing Lives study. She conducts research on the social stratification of aging and health with population-based survey data, and has published extensively on the social factors underlying health disparities by socioeconomic status, gender, and race/ethnicity across the life course. She has focused particularly on the links between employment and health in later life, including mental health, chronic disease and overall health status, and health behaviors. Some of her recent research and funding has centered on understanding these questions in the context of economic recessions, which disrupt career, economic, and health paths for many adults, but especially for socioeconomically-marginalized groups. She has published on the influences of job loss, financial shocks, debt, housing instability, and material hardship, with a focus on creating life course measures of cumulative disadvantage for which retrospective or prospective life history data are essential.
Margaret Hicken, PhD

Margaret Hicken, PhD

Wave 6 Director

Dr. Hicken is the wave six director. Dr. Hicken is an epidemiologist who has made substantial contributions to our understanding of the sources of racial health inequalities. Much of her work has been on the role of environmental hazards such as air pollution and heavy metals such as lead. Furthermore, through her research, we have a clearer understanding of the vulnerability that socially disadvantaged groups experience to environmental hazards. By adding information from the 2019 ACL interviews along with the home visits, Dr. Hicken will study how our neighborhood context over the course of our adult lives can impact healthy aging. In particular, she will examine how neighborhood context can change certain small molecules that attach to DNA (a field of study call “epigenetics”). In other words, with the help of ACL, she will examine how our neighborhoods can change the molecules in our bodies!
Erin Ice, MA

Erin Ice, MA

ACL-LIFE Study Manager

Erin is a sociologist and survey researcher interested in the caregiving that people perform across their lives. As the study manager, she will oversee the data collection process and coordinate the work of the study team members.
Megan Chenoweth, MLS

Megan Chenoweth, MLS

Data Manager and ACL-6 Study Manager

Megan joined Americans’ Changing Lives in wave 6 as the study coordinator. Now she is working on cleaning, documenting, and protecting the data we received in wave six, so that researchers can use it and our participants’ privacy is protected. Megan enjoys working with data and also manages the National Neighborhood Data Archive at ISR. She spends her free time reading, baking, volunteering, and caring for her eight-year-old son.
Kelly Bakulski, PhD

Kelly Bakulski, PhD

Kelly is an epidemiologist with substantial expertise in epigenetics. Her research looks at the environmental and genetic causes of neurological disorders such as autism spectrum disorder and Alzheimer’s Disease. She will be taking the epigenetic information that ACL participants provide and creating the measures of “epigenetic patterns”. The research team will take this information and link it to the neighborhood and interview information to examine how neighborhoods affect the epigenetic molecules in our bodies.
Jacqui Smith, PhD

Jacqui Smith, PhD

Dr. Smith will bring her expertise working with experimental and cross-sectional studies of age differences and development of survey measures for collecting adult life experiences. She will consult on the design of questionnaire measures for the ACL-LIFE interview instrument, based on her work leading the adaptation of the English Longitudinal Study on Aging (ELSA) and Survey on Health and Ageing in Europe (SHARE) life history interview instruments and protocols for use in a related data collection for the Health and Retirement Study.
Michael Elliott, PhD

Michael Elliott, PhD

Dr. Elliott is a biostatistician and survey methodologist with over a decade of experience working with the Americans’ Changing Lives study, including the development of the analytic weights and the imputation of missing data for the project. For this project, Dr. Elliott will assist with the design of the ACL-LIFE life history instrument, assist with all statistical analyses and data imputation
Philippa Clarke, PhD

Philippa Clarke, PhD

Philippa is a gerontologist with extensive experience investigating the ways in which neighborhood context can promote or inhibit healthy aging. In particular, she has clarified how disabilities are not simply a state of the person, but rather a reflection of the environment. In other words, our environments (like the state of our sidewalks, how safe our neighborhoods are) are a large part of whether we are “able” to conduct our daily lives as we age. Furthermore, she has used the information from ACL to show the importance of our social connections and outlook on life are to our aging process.

Mick Couper, PhD

Dr. Couper is a Research Professor in the Survey Research Center, with extensive expertise in the design and implementation of survey data collection and overall survey methodology. Dr. Couper will provide expertise in survey design to enhance the comparability of the ACL-LIFE interview questions and the ACL-1 through ACL-6 interview instruments, given the core goals of validation. He will also provide expert guidance on maximizing sample response and data quality for the retrospective ACL-LIFE interview.
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