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Teaching Adolesence

Emerging Scholar Spotlight: Jackie Nesi

February 2016

Jacqueline (Jackie) Nesi is a doctoral student in the Clinical Psychology program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.   Her primary research interest is in examining the developmental and clinical implications of adolescents’ social media use.  In her work, she draws on traditional interpersonal models of developmental psychopathology, peer and romantic relationships, and mass media and communications theories.  Her program of research seeks to integrate and build on these perspectives in the study of adolescents’ modern technology-based social environments.

Jackie was awarded a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, which has allowed her to pursue a variety of research projects under the mentorship of Dr. Mitch Prinstein at UNC.  A sample of her recent studies includes: investigating the role of adolescents’ social-media based social comparison and feedback-seeking on the development of depressive symptoms; examining the influence of adolescents’ frequent communication with romantic partners via technology on the development of essential interpersonal communication skills; determining the longitudinal associations between adolescents’ exposure to peers’ alcohol-related social media postings and initiation of drinking milestones; and exploring adolescents’ use of social media to communicate with romantic partners about safer sexual behaviors.

Jackie is also interested in the development and application of novel methodologies in the study of adolescent social media use.  Most recently, Jackie designed and implemented a study combining daily diary measures of mood and behavior with real-time observational coding of participants’ social media pages.  Jackie has developed a coding system for use on adolescents’ Instagram pages and currently leads a team of research assistants in applying this coding system to a sample of over 300 participants.  Jackie is also interested in the application of more sophisticated data mining techniques to larger-scale social media networks.  Jackie has been thrilled to share her findings through publication in peer-reviewed journals, presentations at national conferences, and, most recently, attendance at the EARA/SRA Summer School in Atlanta, GA.

Jackie’s path to Clinical Psychology began as an undergraduate at Harvard University.  Working as a research assistant in the lab of Dr. Jill Hooley, Jackie was introduced to the world of clinical psychology and gained valuable quantitative and methodological research skills.  Outside of lab-based experiences, Jackie pursued her interests in adolescent development and psychology more broadly.  She was awarded a $4000 grant to intern in the Department of Public Affairs at MTV, specifically working on the company’s teen-centered Internet safety initiative.  She spent a semester volunteering in Huanchaco, Peru, at a home for adolescent boys with mental health and behavioral challenges.  She also spent multiple summers leading groups of high school students on international service and adventure trips.  During these trips, in which students were forced to be entirely “unplugged,” Jackie became convinced that modern technologies were fundamentally transforming the adolescent experience, and she became passionate about pursuing this topic through a career in research.

During her time at UNC, Jackie’s research has continued to develop in important ways.  She has received training in advanced statistical methodologies through a concentration in Quantitative Psychology.  She has also had the opportunity to learn from adolescents and college students in a variety of settings.  Her research is constantly informed by her clinical experiences with adolescents, including work with patients in an adolescent DBT program, outpatient anxiety disorders clinic, and high school-based practicum setting.  She has enjoyed independently teaching an undergraduate course and mentoring students, through supervision of multiple undergraduate honors theses and involvement in the APA Division 53 mentorship program. Finally, Jackie has been fortunate to collaborate with a number of talented colleagues across multiple disciplines.

Jackie believes that an investigation of social media use is critical to any comprehensive understanding of adolescent development, and she looks forward to continuing her research in the future!

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