It’s Pride Month, and to celebrate, TSC has invited LGBTQ researcher Dr. Jessica Owens-Young, an assistant professor at American University, to take part in our Science is Everyone: Voices in STEM campaign.

Dr. Owens-Young is a former collegiate athlete turned artist turned accomplished researcher whose work is supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Inspired by the intersections of community, health, and economics, her interdisciplinary work is aimed at using community-focused methods to improve social outcomes.

Below, Dr. Owens-Young reflects on key aspects of her research.



Each day brings its own unique set of challenges and excitement. It’s one of the things I love most about my field of study! One day I can be working with my research team to design surveys or interview protocols and another day I could be visiting a site to engage with community members. If I’m not on the go, I’m probably sitting at my desk searching for literature to inform a research proposal or manuscript to submit for peer review, or I could be using the American University library’s databases to download data for analysis. It really depends on the day!


I cannot overstate the important role technology plays in supporting my research. Digital innovations enable my work to be conducted more efficiently with researchers at universities across the U.S. – and hopefully internationally in the future! Computer-based data analysis programs, such as NVivo and SPSS, ensure my research teams and I can quickly organize and analyze data. Without technological innovation, my research could not be as collaborative and interdisciplinary as it is now.


When I am out in the field conducting my research, I’m seeing community members energized and interested in making changes in their communities that support their health. I’m excited about the creative approaches to identify opportunities for community-based innovations and practices that improve health, such as increasing food access through community gardens or increasing access to midwives and doulas through community-based birthing centers. There is a lot of positive community-based work that is promising for improving health.


When we lack data, we lack information that can inform appropriate and effective interventions. Data is essential for fostering innovation, making changes, and for tracking how much and how well we are doing. Data is important for identifying problems and opportunities for intervention and is just as critical for helping us understand the outcomes of our work. But we can only obtain this information if we have consistent and predictable federal funding. Anything less stunts our ability to stay at the cutting edge of innovative research and remain a scientific leader around the globe.