Jennifer D. Roberts

Headshot of Fellow Jennifer Roberts
Associate Professor

Director, Public Health Outcomes & Effects of the Built Environment Lab, Department of Kinesiology
University of Maryland School of Public Health. College Park, MD,

Fellowship Project: Gauging Effects of Neighborhood Trends and Sickness (GENTS) Study: Examining the Perception of Transit-Induced Gentrification in Prince George’s County

Jennifer D. Roberts is an Associate Professor of Kinesiology at the University of Maryland School of Public Health. She is also the Director of the Public Health Outcomes and Effects of the Built Environment (PHOEBE) Laboratory. Her research interests focus on the relationship between the built environment and physical activity in addition to its impact on obesity and other public health outcomes. More specifically, much of her research has explored the dynamic relationship between environmental, social and cultural determinants of physical activity and using empirical evidence of this relationship to infer complex health outcome patterns among adults and children.

PHOEBE Laboratory research, such as Jennifer’s Built Environment and Active Play (BEAP) and Physical Environment and Active Transportation (PEAT) Studies, have incorporated state of the art techniques including spatial analysis and geographic information system modeling in order to objectively capture the role and relationship of physical activity determinants. While relying heavily on mixed methodology, crosscutting health issues, along with exposure (e.g. transit deserts) and outcome (e.g. childhood obesity) disparities, have also been addressed in her physical activity and public health research program.

Jennifer was awarded a University of Maryland Faculty Incentive Program grant to initiate the collection of data for a natural experiment examining the health impacts related to the introduction of a new 16.2-mile light rail line. This Purple Line light rail began operation in 2022 and traversed through Prince George’s County, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, D.C. comprised of over 80% African American and Hispanic residents and where more than two-thirds of adults are obese, overweight and not achieving physical activity guidelines. Jennifer is leading the Purple Line Light Rail Impact on Neighborhood, Health and Transit (PLIGHT) Study in order to investigate changes in light rail use, active transportation, overall physical activity, obesity and obesity related cardiovascular risks among Prince George’s County adults in a prospective pre-post, case-comparison design. The PLIGHT Study will also explore how contextual effects (e.g., built environment; “sense of community”) moderate these health outcome changes.

A native of Buffalo, New York, Jennifer graduated from Buffalo Seminary High School and received her Bachelor of Arts (AB) degree from Brown University. She holds a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree from Emory University Rollins School of Public Health and earned her Doctor of Public Health (DrPH) degree from Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health. Since she joined the University of Maryland School of Public Health, Jennifer has received research and travel grants and was invited to be a Visiting Researcher at the University of Otago School of Physical Education, Sport, and Exercise Sciences in Dunedin, New Zealand.