Jennifer Unger, PhD

Professor of Population and Public Health Sciences; Vice Chair for Faculty Development; Director of Ph.D. Program in Health Behavior Research


Health Equity Interests

I study the psychosocial and cultural risk and protective factors for health-related behaviors across diverse populations.


Jennifer B. Unger, Ph.D. is a Professor of Population and Public Health Sciences at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine.  Her research focuses on the psychological, social, and cultural influences on health-risk and health-protective behaviors among diverse populations.  She currently serves as an Associate Director of the USC Coronavirus Pandemic Research Center (CPRC) and co-leads studies of rapid antigen testing in schools and vaccine hesitancy among college students.  She and her colleagues have conducted longitudinal studies of acculturation, cultural stress, and substance use among Hispanic adolescents, highlighting the role of discrimination in health-risk behaviors.  Her research also has examined cultural influences on tobacco use among American Indian adolescents, Chinese adolescents, and African American adults and neighborhood influences on adolescent cannabis use.  She has collaborated on the design and evaluation of fotonovelas and telenovelas about secondhand smoke exposure in multiunit housing; diabetes; asthma; immunization; and kidney transplantation.  She is a Project Leader in the USC Tobacco Center of Regulatory Science (TCORS), where she studies diffusion of messages about emerging tobacco products to vulnerable populations through social media and leads the Population Core, which conducts annual surveys of three longitudinal cohorts of adolescents and young adults.  She is a Program Leader of the Cancer Control program at the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and Director of the Ph.D. program in Population and Public Health Sciences / Health Behavior Research.  She teaches predoctoral courses in research methods and grantwriting.  

Research Interests

  • Population Characteristics
  • Social Environment
  • Disparities
  • Racial Disparities
  • Ethnic Disparities
  • Immigrant Health
  • Neighborhood
  • Community
  • Community-based Participatory Research
  • Social Determinants of Health
  • Socioeconomic Characteristics
  • Risk Factors
  • Tobacco Control
  • Adolescents
  • Race
  • Ethnicity
  • Cancer
  • COVID-19
  • Community Health
  • Health Promotion
  • Disease Prevention
  • Health Behavior
  • Primary Prevention
  • Secondary Prevention
  • Surveillance
  • Population Surveillance
  • Stress
  • Cohort Studies
  • Lifestyle
  • adolescence

Courses Taught

  • Directed Research
  • Intervention Research Grant Proposal Development
  • Directed Research in Health Behavior
  • Research Seminar in Health Behavior
  • Research
  • Doctoral Dissertation
  • Health Behavior Research Methods
  • Behavioral Epidemiology
  • Basic Theory and Strategies for Compliance/Adaptation


  • BA in Behavioral Biology
    at Johns Hopkins University
    Baltimore, MD
  • Ph.D. in Preventive Medicine
    at University of Southern California
    Los Angeles