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Student & Alumni Achievements

Student & Alumni Achievements

UNC Alumna Awarded for Outstanding Research on E-Cigarettes

Dr. Jessica Pepper, postdoctoral research associate at UNC’s Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center and 2014 alumna of Gillings School of Global Public Health, has received the Society of Behavioral Medicine’s Outstanding Dissertation Award. She will be recognized at a ceremony at the Society’s annual meeting April 22-25 in San Antonio, Texas.

[Photo: Dr. Jessica Pepper]

“[Dr. Pepper] is an intelligent, hardworking and highly productive young scientist,” wrote Dr. Noel Brewer, associate professor of health behavior at the Gillings School, in his nomination letter. “Her dissertation is typical of her research – precise, thoughtful, hypothesis-driven.”

Dr. Pepper’s dissertation focused on e-cigarette use. One chapter, a systematic review on behavioral aspects of e-cigarettes, was published in the journal Tobacco Control.

“I believe this paper will become a classic in the field,” Dr. Brewer said. “It was published in fall 2013 and has already been cited 68 times. She has published four other papers from her dissertation on topics that include adoption and cessation of e-cigarette use and risk beliefs about e-cigarettes. Her experimental paper on aspects of e-cigarette advertising was both rigorous and practical, identifying characteristics of ads that increase interest in e-cigarettes.”

Dr. Pepper said she was honored to win the award and to have collaborated with Dr. Brewer, Dr. Kurt Ribisl, professor, Dr. Christine Rini, research associate professor, and Dr. Brian Southwell, adjunct associate professor, all in health behavior at the Gillings School, and Dr. Sherry Emery, research professor of health policy and administration at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) School of Public Health. Dr. Southwell is also senior research scientist at RTI International; Dr. Emery is also senior research scientist at UIC’s Institute for Health Research and Policy.

“When I first expressed interest in doing research on e-cigarettes for my dissertation,” Dr. Pepper said, “not that many people were using them, and it was still a very understudied topic. Today, they’re so popular that more adolescents have used an e-cigarette in the past month than have smoked a cigarette in the past month. It really has been exciting to study this topic during the same time that this huge shift is happening, and I’m honored that the Society of Behavioral Medicine is recognizing my work.”

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