Principal Investigators


Leif Jensen, Penn State

Dr. Leif Jensen is a Distinguished Professor of Rural Sociology and Demography at Penn State. He has been a Research Associate of Penn State’s Population Research Institute for 30 years, where he served as Director from January 2003-June 2006. He is currently Associate Director of Penn State’s Social Science Research Institute, which brings together researchers from different disciplines around the focal areas of the human system, social disparities, smart and connected health, innovative methods, and dissemination and implementation of science. His areas of specialization include demography, social stratification, and the sociology of international development and economic change. Jensen has over 80 academic publications, government reports, and publicly accessible research briefs on topics including rural poverty, underemployment and other forms of employment hardship, informal work and household economic strategies, rural health and aging, the circumstances of well-being of U.S. immigrants and their children, new immigrant destinations, and issues in international development. His research in these areas has been supported by USDA, NICHD, NSF, USAID, and the Ford, Spencer, and Russell Sage foundations.


Shannon Monnat, Syracuse University

Dr. Shannon Monnat is an Associate Professor of Sociology and Senior Research Associate at the Center for Policy Research at Syracuse University.  She also serves as the Lerner Chair for Public Health Promotion and Co-Director of the Policy, Place, and Population Health Lab at Syracuse.  Much of her research is related to geographic disparities in population health, the social and spatial determinants of opioid misuses and mortality, and the social determinants of health.  She has consulted with the USDA Office of Rural Development on the upstream drivers of the opioid crisis and is currently collaborating with them on the development of an opioid vulnerability index that captures both upstream (e.g., social, economic) and downstream factors (e.g. access to treatment) contributing to substance use disorder.  She has published over 70 peer-reviewed academic journal articles, book chapters, research briefs, and reports, and has presented her research to numerous public, academic, and policy audiences, including the United Nations, the National Academy of Sciences, the Aspen Institute, and at Congressional briefings.  Monnat has expertise in disseminating research to public audiences, and her research has been featured in several media outlets, including CNN, NPR, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and the Atlantic.


John Green, The University of Mississippi

Dr. John Green is a Professor of Sociology at the University of Mississippi and Director of the Center for Population Studies at UM.  He also serves as the Director of the Society and Health undergraduate academic minor.  His research background includes population studies, community and regional development, and population health.  Green’s research is primarily concerned with the intersections between community context and health and wellbeing, considering the latter as both driving and resulting from uneven forms and patterns of development.  Much of his research focuses around the intersections of development and health of infants, youth, and young adults in rural areas with aging populations, multi-generational households, and grandparents playing key caregiving roles.  He believes that engaging with community organizations and beneficiaries in rural areas would help to advance knowledge and inform the development of policy and practices around aging and lifestyle related chronic health conditions.


Lori Hunter, University of Colorado, Boulder

Dr. Lori Hunter is a Professor of Sociology at the University of Colorado, Boulder.  She also serves as a Faculty Research Associate for the Institute of Behavioral Science’s Research Programs on Environment & Society.  As Director of CU Boulder’s Population Center, she facilitates research on migration, health, and population-environment interactions.  She was editor-and-chief of Population and the Environment for 10 years before resigning in 2017.  Some of Hunter’s past research has included topics such as demographic change and economic well-being of rural U.S. households, international demographic dynamics in rural areas, and migration as related to environmental conditions in both South Africa and rural Mexico.  She has published over 50 peer-reviewed manuscripts and book chapters on these topics and is regularly invited to speak on climate-migration connections.


Martin Sliwinski

Dr. Martin Sliwinski is a Professor of Human Development and Family Studies and Director of the Center for Healthy Aging at Penn State.  His research contributions cover a broad range of topics in the domain of health and aging, including cognition, dementia risk, stress, and emotion regulation.  Past research has included using advanced longitudinal methods to evaluate cognitive aging theory and examining risk and protective factors for dementia and methods for improving the early detection of subtle cognitive decline.  Currently, his research is working to develop and validate novel ambulatory methods for measuring cognitive function using mobile technology in naturalistic settings.