Health psychology is dedicated to conducting basic and applied research on determinants of health, illness, and disability. Health psychologists are concerned with promoting and maintaining health through the prevention and treatment of illness across the lifespan and the improvement of systems that promote and maintain health.

The health psychology area is committed to the mission of Oregon State University and its Signature Area of Improving Health and Wellness, as well as the Strategic Plan of the Oregon Health Authority. The goal of our program is to produce outstanding research scientists who will contribute to the understanding of how psychological processes intersect with physical and mental health and wellness in diverse populations with regard to age, gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic background, and health status. To this end, our program provides training in the development and use of psychological theories, research findings, and methodologies to elucidate issues in physical and mental health. The health area is applied by nature because it solves real-world problems and promotes health and well-being.

SPS faculty have special interests in the developmental and cultural contexts of health and disability, the promotion of health among underrepresented groups, and the intersections of health psychology with other areas and disciplines; specifically, neuroscience, gerontology, developmental, social, and clinical psychology, women’s and gender studies, and disability studies.

The graduate program in the health psychology area trains students for post-graduate research positions and careers in academia, government, industry, and healthcare facilities conducting biomedical and bio-behavioral investigations, and providing consultation on health care and health policy. Please note that our program does not provide clinical training and is not designed to prepare students for clinical licensure.

Students who enroll in the SPS Ph.D. program concentrating in Health Psychology are expected to develop a strong background of research skills and a broad knowledge of health and social psychology, as well as a variety of related subfields as appropriate to their specific interests and mentor match.

What we look for in applicants to the Health Psychology Area:

  • A Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in psychology, sociology, gerontology, public policy, or other related discipline
  • A combination of a strong academic background and relevant experience
  • At least 18 credit hours of prior coursework in psychology, including Introductory Psychology, Research Methods, and Statistics
  • One or more courses in Health Psychology or related topics


Our faculty conduct research in the following areas:

Dr. Kathleen Bogart (Disability and Social Interaction Lab): – Research interests include disability from a social/health psychology perspective, examining others’ attitudes toward disability and the way people with disability adapt to their conditions, manage stigma, and develop disability identity, especially around the psychosocial implications of facial paralysis and rare disorders. (Currently accepting students.)

Dr. Anita Cservenka (Substance Use & Neurocognition (SUN) Lab) – Research interests include the effects of adolescent and young adult substance use (particularly cannabis and alcohol use) on neuro-cognitive functioning, and how personality factors, socio-demographics, as well as internalizing and externalizing symptoms, are related to substance use patterns and methods of use. (Not accepting students for Fall 2021.)

Dr. Jessee Dietch (Sleep Health Assessment, Intervention & Dissemination (SHAID) Lab) - Research interests include 1) behavioral sleep health intervention development, adaptation, accessibility, and dissemination, 2) sleep, mental, and physical health in special populations and sleep health disparities, and 3) sleep and sleep disorders measure development, validation, and evaluation. (Accepting students for Fall 2021.)

Dr. David Kerr (Youth Adjustment Lab) – Research interests include social influences on substance use, depression, and suicide risk among adolescents and young adults, often using long term longitudinal data or large survey data. Examples of recent projects include studies of behavior changes following recreational cannabis legalization; etiology and prevention of seasonal depression; and differences in depression and substance use by young adults’ sexual, gender, and ethnic identities. (Currently accepting students.)

Dr. Aurora Sherman (Lifecourse Development Lab) – Research interests include gender, gender socialization and health and social relationships across the life span, as well as personality factors in satisfaction with relationship, and the impact of sexualization on psycho-social and cognitive functioning in childhood and adulthood. (Currently accepting students.)