Jennifer D. Roberts
Assistant Professor, Kinesiology
Faculty Affiliate, UMD Population Research Center and Prevention Research Center; Faculty Affiliate, UMD Maryland Transportation Institute; Faculty Affiliate, UMD Consortium on Race, Gender & Ethnicity; Co-Leader, NatureRx@UMD
Campus: UMD | Building: School of Public Health | Room: 2136
Phone: (301) 405-7748 | |
Laboratory Website: 
Public Health Outcomes and Effects of the Built Environment (PHOEBE) Laboratory
Jennifer D. Roberts' Professional Website
CV / Resume
PDF icon APT Curriculum Vitea - Jennifer D. Roberts - 1.15.2021.pdf

Jennifer D. Roberts is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Kinesiology, School of Public Health at the University of Maryland College Park (UMD).  Dr. Roberts is also the Founder and Director of the Public Health Outcomes and Effects of the Built Environment (PHOEBE) Laboratory as well as the Co-Founder and Co-Director of NatureRx@UMD, an initiative that emphasizes the natural environmental benefits interspersed throughout and around the UMD campus.  Her scholarship focuses on the impact of built, social, and natural environments, including the institutional and structural inequities of these environments, on the public health outcomes of marginalized communities.  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 and disparities among adults and children.  

PHOEBE Laboratory research, such as the 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. obesity) disparities, have also been addressed in her physical activity and public health research program. Presently, Dr. Roberts’ 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, Maryland adults, a population comprised of over 80% African American and Hispanic residents who are predominately obese or overweight.  In a prospective pre-post, case-comparison design, the PLIGHT Study will also explore how contextual effects (e.g., “sense of community”) moderate these health outcome changes with the intended 2022 introduction of this new 16.1-mile light rail line.

Dr. Roberts’ was awarded a JPB Environmental Health Fellowship by Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. This three-year fellowship will support her forthcoming research study, Gauging Effects of Neighborhood Trends and Sickness (GENTS)Study: Examining the Perceptions of Transit-Induced Gentrification in Prince George’s County. GENTS will examine the risk of transit-induced gentrification and the associated health effects (e.g., anxiety) as related to the aforementioned Purple Line light rail.  While the introduction of light rail in communities often encourages physical activity by way of active transportation, gentrification is often an unintended consequence and socioeconomic by-product of these types of transit-oriented developments.

Education and Training
  • Dr.PH., Environmental Health Sciences, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, 2004
  • M.P.H., Environmental and Occupational Health, Emory University, Atlanta, GA, 2000
  • A.B., Health and Society, Brown University, Providence, RI, 1996

Course Instruction

  • Kinesiology 401: Zip Code - Its Prediction on Physical Activity and Public Health
  • Kinesiology 497: Built Environment, Physical Activity and Public Health
  • Kinesiology 600: Kinesiology in Public Health
  • Kinesiology 601: Epidemiology of Physical Activity

Letters of Recommendation

  • Please request Dr. Roberts' Letters of Recommendation Policy 
Honors and Awards

Research Grants

  • National Science Foundation RAPID-1 Grant Award, 2020
  • National Science Foundation RAPID-2 Grant Award, 2020
  • Maryland Transportation Institute Seed Grant Award, 2019
  • Harvard University JPB Environmental Health Fellowship, 2018
  • National Science Foundation Grant Award, 2018
  • University of Maryland Faculty Incentive (Tier I) Seed Grant Award, 2017
  • Global Partnerships Faculty Travel Grant Award, 2017
  • Consortium on Race, Gender and Ethnicity, 2017

Honors and Awards

  • Muriel R. Sloan Communitarian Award, 2019
  • Dean Nominated Honoree of Inaugural Maryland Research Excellence Celebration, 2019 
  • Featured Faculty in UMD Terp Magazine - "These Commutes are Made for Walking - Professor Explores How Built Environments Affect Health", 2017 
  • Yancey and Darlene Edgley Fellowship for Health Promotion, Physical Fitness and Community Health Education Conference Travel Award, 2017
  • Inducted to Gamma Zeta Chapter of Delta Omega National Honorary Society for Public Health, 2016
  • National Research Mentoring Network Academic and Professional Development Conference Travel Award, 2015
  • Robert Wood Johnson Foundation New Connections Seventh Annual Symposium Travel Award, 2013
  • Robert Wood Johnson Foundation New Connections Research and Coaching Clinic Travel Award, 2012
  • “The Daily Record's” Very Important Professionals Successful By 40 Award, 2012
  • U.S. Environmental Protections Agency Appreciation Award, Children’s Health Protection Advisory Committee (CHPAC), 2011
  • Malcolm X University, Second Annual Science Careers Seminar Series Honoree, 2010
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – Region 5 Women’s Program, Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) Honoree, 2010

Selected Publications

Roberts JD., Ada M., and Jette SL.  (2020). NatureRx.@.UMD: A Review for Pursuing Green Space as a Health and Wellness Resource for the Body, Mind and Soul. American Journal of Health Promotion.

Roberts JD., Dickinson KL, Koebele EA, Albright EA, Neiberger L, Bancos N., Blanch-Hartigan D., Welston-Mitchell C. (2020). Clincians, Cooks, and Casheris: Examining Health Equity and the COVID-19 Risks to Essential Workers. Toxicology and Health. doi: 10.1177/0748233720970439.​

Hu M., Roberts JD., Azevedo GP, Milner D. (2020). The Role of the Built and Social Environments in COVID-19 Transmission: A Look at America's Capital City. Sustainable Cities and Society.​

Hu M.and Roberts JD. (2020). Built Environment Evaluation in Virtual Reality Environments: A Cognitive Neuroscience Approach. Urban Science. 4(4), 48.

Roberts JD., Tehrani SO., Isom R., Stone EA., Garcia VN. (2020). A Case-Comparison Study Protocol for Gauging Effects of Neighborhoos Trends and Sickness: Examining the Percetions of Transit-Induced Gentrification in Prince George's County. BMJ Open. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2020-039733.​

Roberts JD. and Tehrani SO. (2020). Environments, Buildings and Inequalities: Reflecting on the Impact and Reimagining a New Normal in Response to the COVID-19 PandemicInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 17(12). doi: 10.3390/ ijerph17124484.​

Stone EA. and Roberts JD. (2020). Park Spaces and the User Experience: Reconsidering the Body in Park Analysis Tools. Journal of Nature and Culture, 15(2).

Patrick P., Wang N., Hu M. and Roberts JD. (2020). Editorial – Sustainable, Healthy Buildings and Communities. Building and Environment, 174.

Hu M. and Roberts JD. (2020). Connections and Divergence between Public Health and Built Environment Design – A Review. Urban Science, 4(1). 

Tehrani SO., Wu SJ., Roberts JD. (2019). The Color of Health: Residential Segregation, Light Rail Transit Developments, and Gentrification in the United States. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 16(19). doi: 10.3390/ ijerph16193683.​

Roberts JD, Mandic S, Fryer CS, Brachman ML, Ray R. (2019). Between privilege and oppression: An intersectional analysis of active transportation experiences among Washington DC area youth. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 16(8). doi:10.3390/ijerph16081313.

Puett R, Huang D, Montresor-López, Ray R, Roberts JD. (2019). Relationship of sociodemographic factors with indoor and outdoor physical activity environments among Washington DC area children. Journal of Physical Activity and Health, 16(7). doi: 10.1123/jpah.2019-0142.

Roberts JD, Hu, M, Saksvig BI, Brachman ML, Durand CP. (2018). Examining the influence of a new light rail line on the health of a demographically diverse and understudied population within the Washington, DC metropolitan area: A protocol for a natural experiment study. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 15(2). doi:10.3390/ijerph15020333.

Roberts JD, Rodkey L, Ray R. Saelens B. (2018). Don’t forget about public transportation: Analysis of the association of active transportation to school among Washington DC area children with parental perceived built environment measures. Journal of Physical Activity and Health, 15(7). doi: 10.1123/jpah.2017-0266​.

Roberts JD, Rodkey L, Grisham C, Ray R. (2017). The influence of family dog ownership and parental perceived built environment measures on childrens' physical activity within the Washington DC area. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 14(11). doi:10.3390/ijerph14111398.

Ray R, Sewell AA, Gilbert KL, Roberts JD. (2017). Missed opportunity? Leveraging mobile technology to reduce racial health disparities. Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law, 42(5). doi: 10.1215/03616878-3940477

Roberts JD, Rodkey L, Ray R, Knight B, Saelens B. (2017). Electronic media time and sedentary behaviors in children: Findings from the Built Environment and Active Play Study in the Washington DC Area. Preventive Medicine Reports, 6. doi: 10.1016/j.pmedr.2017.02.021.

Roberts JD, Knight B, Ray R, Saelens. (2016). Parental perceived built environment measures and active play in Washington DC Metropolitan children. Preventive Medicine Reports, 3. doi: 10.1016/j.pmedr.2016.04.001.

Roberts JD, Ray R, Biles A, Knight B, Saelens B. (2015). Built environment and active play among D.C. Metropolitan children: A protocol for a cross-sectional study. Archives of Public Health. 73(22). doi:10.1186/s13690-015-0070-3.

Roberts JD, Voss JD, Knight B. (2014). Physical inactivity, ambient air pollution and obesity in the United States. PLoS ONE. 9(3). doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0090143.