McCormack Speaks sat down with Dr. Wendy Wang, a recent graduate of the Gerontology PhD program and one of the department’s first two postdoctoral fellows.
SA: What year and program did you graduate from? What was your research focus as a student?
WW: I graduated in May 2018 from the Gerontology PhD program. My research focused on marital relations, intergenerational relations, and health in later life. For my dissertation, I examined how providing grandchild care affect grandparents’ marital quality.
SA: What is the main focus of your postdoc fellowship?
WW: I focus on two main areas. The first area is healthy aging and senior transportation. I work with Dr. Elizabeth Dugan and her research team. Our team creates Healthy Aging Data Reports that report indicators of healthy aging for every community in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire. We also do research on transportation options available for older people in Massachusetts, safety of older pedestrians for MassDOT, and the Governor’s Council to Address Aging Issues in Massachusetts to improve transportation safety.
The second area is family relations in later life. I am currently working on transforming my dissertation into publishable manuscripts. Other studies I conduct examine older couples’ marital quality, personality similarity, health, and relationships between adult grandchildren and grandparents.
SA: Are there any new or expanded projects you are able to pursue now that you were not able to do as a student?
WW: Many of the research ideas stem from when I was a student, but as a student, I didn’t have that much time to explore all these topics. Coursework and dissertation were my main focus at that time. Now, I have more time and freedom to contribute more to the research team; I also do research that I always wanted to do but didn’t have time to.
SA: How have the resources at the McCormack Graduate School and at UMass Boston assisted with your postdoc goals?
WW: The faculty here are very supportive and easy to work with. I not only work with my mentor, Dr. Elizabeth Dugan, but also collaborate with other faculty members with similar interests on publications. Whenever I have problems, they are always there to help. In addition, the Gerontology Department provides funding for attending conferences, and sponsors activities like job-talk practices and conference presentation practices, which helped our professional development. Finally, I am very grateful that I have my own work space, computer, and printer, which allow a very comfortable environment to work efficiently.
SA: How do you view your work as connecting to the values and mission of the McCormack Graduate School?
WW: My work contributes to the understanding of population health and well-being among older adults and their family members. We care about disadvantaged groups and racial minorities, and emphasize equal opportunities. Our research ideas stem from real-life problems that the society is facing or will face. By conducting the research projects, our team tries to provide suggestions to local government and service providers to reduce social isolation, improve health and well-being, and preserve older adults’ freedom and dignity. I believe that the work I’m doing aligns with MGS’s mission to understand and remedy important social, political, economic, and environmental issues, and to promote social justice and equity.
SA: What do you hope to do after you complete your postdoc fellowship?
WW: I hope I will become a more competitive candidate to find a faculty position in a university, and continue my research.
SA: Anything else that you would like to note?
WW: I would like to thank my mentor Dr. Elizabeth Dugan and the McCormack Graduate School for providing me this postdoc opportunity. By doing this postdoc, I am able to work with the professors I am familiar with and develop more research experiences. This also gives me a transitional time to be more prepared for my future work.