Emerging Scholar Spotlight: Meghan Martz

June 2015

Meghan Martz is a doctoral candidate in Developmental Psychology at University of Michigan. Meghan’s primary research interests include studying the psychosocial and neural mechanisms that underlie substance use trajectories from late adolescence through early adulthood. Building upon research she began through a NIDA-funded T32 Substance Abuse Interdisciplinary Training Program, Meghan’s dissertation integrates the breadth and depth of two widely known, longitudinal studies on substance use: 1) The Monitoring the Future (MTF) study, a school-based, national-representative survey study of American youth, focused particularly on attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors pertaining to drug use and abuse; and 2) The Michigan Longitudinal Study (MLS), a prospective community-recruited study consisting primarily of families with parental substance use disorder. MLS also includes a neuroimaging sub-sample of participants studied longitudinally through fMRI assessments. Meghan’s research in survey research, psychosocial processes, and neuroimaging has been published in peer-reviewed journals and presented through guest lectures and at professional conferences.

Meghan’s diverse experiences leading up to entering Michigan’s doctoral program have enhanced her perspective on adolescent development and life as a researcher. As an undergraduate at Indiana University majoring in psychology and minoring in human development and family studies, Meghan enjoyed her role as a research assistant in Dr. John Bates’ Social Development Lab. Yet, Meghan’s experiences in Big Brothers Big Sisters and clinical coursework largely contributed to Meghan deciding to pursue a career as a psychotherapist. Thus, Meghan attained a Master’s degree in Clinical Social Work from University of Chicago. In this program, Meghan completed clinical internships at a LGBT community mental health center and at a hospital-based adolescent psychiatric program. While working as an individual-level and group-based therapist in the adolescent program, Meghan counseled several youth with comorbid mental health and substance use disorders. In this role, Meghan observed the prevalence of substance abuse and its devastating effect on the lives of her patients. She also observed how the many changes – social, emotional, biological – associated with adolescence and the transition to adulthood affected the well-being of these youth. Additionally, she saw the important role of research to inform developmentally-appropriate, empirically-based interventions.

Also during this time, Meghan worked as project director for the research lab of Dr. Dolores (Dodie) Norton through the Colver-Rosenberger Scholarship. Her work with Dr. Norton gave her a greater understanding of academia and a more “behind the scenes” perspective on the life of an academic researcher. Dodie’s influential teaching methods and passion for research contributed to Meghan realizing that as a professor she could continue using her clinical skills through teaching and mentoring students, while also conducting research. Upon deciding that she preferred to be a researcher rather than a clinician, Meghan strengthened her research skills as a project director for two projects in the University of Chicago Health Studies department. This role provided experience in fMRI research, where Meghan became fascinated with the use of neuroimaging, particularly fMRI, to better understand psychological and behavioral processes.

Meghan decided that pursuing a doctoral degree in developmental psychology at University of Michigan would be the best fit to study her research interests in the psychosocial and neural processes involved in substance abuse among adolescents and young adults. Given her background in social work, psychology, human development, and brain imaging research, Meghan joined the Population, Neurodevelopment, and Genetics (PNG) Collaborative at Michigan, which has given her a great opportunity to see how an interdisciplinary group of researchers can learn to speak each others’ languages and effectively address the same research question from different perspectives. Meghan’s experience in the T32 Substance Abuse Interdisciplinary Training Program and current dissertation research have strengthened her use of interdisciplinary methods, which she plans to continue through her career as a research scientist.

At Michigan, Meghan has worked primarily with Dr. John Schulenberg, the current president of SRA. Through his mentorship, she has not only strengthened her understanding of substance use research, but also learned the value of becoming more involved in professional societies, such as SRA. In 2012, Meghan was elected as an SRA Emerging Scholars Representative on the Consensus Committee, which has produced policy statements published in the Journal of Research on Adolescence. This summer, Meghan is eager to attend the EARA/SRA Summer School to strengthen the methodological approach of her dissertation research. Meghan’s advice for other emerging scholars is to take advantage of the many professional development opportunities and resources available through SRA. Not only are there a variety these opportunities at the biennial conference, but also year-round.

 

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