About Dr. Roberts

  • Dr. Jennifer D. Roberts is an Assistant Professor of Kinesiology at the University of Maryland School of Public Health in College Park. 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.  


  • Ongoing research, such as her Built Environment and Active Play (BEAP) and Physical Environment and Active Transportation (PEAT) Studies have incorporated state of the art techniques, such as spatial analysis and geographic information system modeling in order to objectively capture the role and relationship of physical activity determinants. Crosscutting issues including exposure (e.g. recreational deserts) and outcome (e.g. childhood obesity) health disparities have also been addressed in her research physical activity and public health programs. With the forthcoming 16-mile Purple Line light rail as an expansion of the Washington D.C. metropolitan area transportation system, Dr. Roberts will conduct the Purple Line  Light Rail Impact on Neighborhood, Health and Transit (PLIGHT) Study.  The PLIGHT Study will be a natural experiment examining pre- and post-Purple Line light rail active transportation behaviors and attitudes  among Prince George’s County, Maryland residents.  


  • In addition to research funding from the National Science Foundation, Dr. Roberts has also been awarded funding from the National Institutes of Health as well as professional development awards from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Her research has been cited by the American Heart Association and featured in the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health Friday Letter, the Washington Post, Reuters, Baltimore Sun, Bethesda Magazine and on the local Maryland News Station, WDVM TV News. She was inducted into the Gamma Zeta Chapter of Delta Omega National Honorary Society for Public Health and was selected as for a “Very Important Professionals Successful By 40” Award by “The Daily Record”.   


  • A native of Buffalo, New York, Dr. Roberts 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.  



Cover Photo by John T. Consoli  

Active Living Researcher

Where we live, work and play can affect our health.

Dr. Roberts is the Director of the Public Health Outcomes and Effects of the Built Environment (PHOEBE) Laboratory.  The mission of the PHOEBE Laboratory is to gain an improved understanding of how our built environments or rather the man-made places and spaces of our neighborhoods and communities, such as buildings, parks, and transportation systems, can impact the health and well-being of individuals of all ages.  


Dr. Roberts examines social and environmental determinants that encourage or discourage all domains of physical activity (e.g. recreational, transportation) and how these determinants may be associated with physical (e.g. obesity) and mental (e.g. depression) public health outcomes among adults, adolescents and children.


PHOEBE Laboratory research follows a broad approach to active living by investigating the following questions.

  • How is the relationship between various built environments (e.g. home neighborhood) and types of physical activities (e.g. active transportation) mediated or moderated by social environmental factors (e.g. social capital)?
  • How do environmental disparities (e.g. access to recreational spaces) impact health behavior (e.g. physical activity) and health outcome (e.g. obesity) disparities?
  • How can we use community-based participatory research to introduce individual and community level interventions that promotes sustainable active living for the improvement of health and well-being.



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The Purple Line Light Rail Impact on Neighborhood, Impact and Transit (PLIGHT) Study will exam pre- and post-Purple Line public transportation use, active transportation behaviors and attitudes and physical activity among Prince George’s County, Maryland residents.

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Harvard University Fellow

Dr. Roberts has been selected by Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health as a JPB Environmental Health Fellow. Funded by the JPB Foundation, this fellowship program supports a new generation of Environmental Health scholars who are committed to developing solutions and supporting policy changes that address environmental, social, and economic health disparities in the United States.  

Teaching and Mentoring

Current Courses

Dr. Roberts teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in public health, built environment and physical activity epidemiology at the University of Maryland School of Public Health. 


  • Kinesiology 497: Physical Activity, Built Environment and Public Health
  • Kinesiology 600: Kinesiology in Public Health
  • Kinesiology 601: Epidemiology of Physical Activity


Dr. Roberts mentors students through independent studies, internships and graduate assistantships.

Speaking Engagements

  • “Community Based Active Living Research in the Washington DC Area”. NIH/National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, DC Cardiovascular Health and Obesity Collaborative, Community Advisory Board Meeting. Howard University, Washington, DC, June 25, 2018.


  • “Transportation Equity Issues in the State of Maryland”. 4th Symposium on Environmental Justice and Health Disparities in Maryland and the Washington, DC Region, College Park, MD, May 12, 2018.


  • “Piscataway Park Rx Day Keynote Speaker”. Park Rx America and Accokeek Foundation, Accokeek, MD, April 29, 2018.


  • “Sedentary Behaviors Among Washington, DC Area Children: Findings from the BEAP Study”. Arlington Partnership for Children, Youth & Families Foundation, Arlington, VA, December 18, 2017 


  • “Transit, Obesity and Public Health”. Action Committee for Transit, Silver Spring Civic Center, Silver Spring, MD, October 10, 2017.


  • “Symposium Speaker Presentation - Active Living Among Washington, DC Area Youth”. International Symposium "Active Living and Environment: Towards a Healthier and More Sustainable Future", University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand, August 29, 2017.


  • “Active Transportation Behaviors and Perceptions Among Washington, DC Area Youth”. International Symposium "Active Living and Environment: Towards a Healthier and More Sustainable Future", University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand, August 28, 2017.   


  • “Built Environment and Active Living Among Washington, DC Area Youth”. Active Living Laboratory Research Seminar Series, School of Physical Education, Sport and Exercise Sciences, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand, August 8, 2017.


  • “Kids, Let’s Stand Up!: Findings from the Built Environment and Active Play Study”. Counseling Center’s Research and Development Series, University of Maryland, College Park, MD, October 19, 2016.


  • “Active Transportation Among Washington, DC Area Children”. National Center for Smart Growth, 2016 Brown Bay Webinar Series, University of Maryland, College Park, MD, October 3, 2016. 


  • “Sedentary Behaviors Among Washington, DC Area Children”. Fall Seminar Series, Department of Human Development and Quantitative Methodology. University of Maryland, College Park, MD, September 28, 2016.


  • “Where Have All the Children Gone: Findings from the Built Environment and Active Play Study”. Maryland Center for Health Equity (M-CHE) Collegium of Scholars, University of Maryland, College Park, MD, March 9, 2016.  

In The News

Video Interview


Radio Interview

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Jennifer D. Roberts, DrPH, MPH

University of Maryland, 8400 Baltimore Ave, College Park, Maryland 20742, United States

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University of Maryland

PHOEBE Laboratory