My training and background is in two areas: social demography & the sociology of religion. Bridging these two fields, my work features the demographer’s characteristic concern with data and denominators and an insistence on connecting demographic processes to questions of meaning. I ask a lot of questions about data quality, and I may or may not be addicted to data collection.
I’ve written extensively on the role of religion in the AIDS epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa, but religion permeates my research, even when it isn’t present as a variable. Since 2008 I have been the principal investigator of Tsogolo la Thanzi (TLT)—an ongoing longitudinal study of young adults in Malawi. Demographers use terms like “relationship instability” and “fertility trajectories,” but very plainly: TLT asks how young adults negotiate relationships, sex, and childbearing with a severe AIDS epidemic swirling around them. The TLT research centre, located in Balaka (Southern Malawi), is staffed by over two dozen talented locals and supported by grants from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
I am the co-author of Religion and AIDS in Africa (Oxford University Press, 2012), and my research has been published in numerous journals, including the American Sociological Review, the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes, and Demographic Research. In 2012, she received the Roy C. Buck Award from The Pennsylvania State University’s College of the Liberal Arts, in recognition of the best article published by a refereed scholarly journal in the social sciences by a junior faculty member.
I hold a BS in Latin American studies and Spanish from Marquette University, and an MA and PhD in sociology from The University of Texas at Austin.