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Marguerite DeLiema

Q&A with Marguerite "Marti" DeLiema, PhD, from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Le CouteurMeet Marti.

"Cultivate relationships with three or more senior mentors in your specific area of research or a parallel area. Their broad networks and clout will help move your career forward. I also recommend using your time in graduate school to take as many methods classes as possible. You never know what techniques will come in handy to answer future research questions, and having a foundation in various methods improves your ability to critique articles and give valuable feedback."

Q: How long have you been a GSA member? What GSA member benefit do you like best and why?
A: I have been a GSA member for nearly 10 years. I joined the organization my first year of graduate school at USC Davis School of Gerontology. While there are a number of unique benefits to GSA membership, I particularly value GSA Connect. It is a fantastic resource to share information on programs and initiatives that focus on different aspects of aging and professional development in our field.

Q: How has membership in GSA benefited you? How does GSA assist with your professional development?
A: The networking opportunities available through GSA have helped advance my career. I love coming to the annual scientific meeting to catch up with old colleagues and make new connections with future collaborators. Many research ideas were sparked by conversations at the scientific meetings. Another way that GSA membership has facilitated my professional development is through the ESPO and section awards. As a graduate student I eagerly applied for paper and poster awards and would encourage current graduate students to do the same.

Q: How did you get interested in the field of aging?
A: I first became interested in aging as an undergraduate at the University of California, Los Angeles. I enrolled in a year-long freshman seminar focused on the bio-psycho-social aspects aging. The course also involved a volunteer placement at an adult day health center to gain hands-on experience. Through the course I discovered that there are so many lenses through which to explore human aging. The challenge was to find my focus area in such a multidisciplinary field.

Q: How do you feel GSA serves the field of gerontology and aging research?
A: GSA serves as a bridge for researchers to cross disciplinary boundaries. Without the organization the field would be even more siloed, reducing opportunities to collaborate and slowing innovation and practice improvements. Gerontology is an inherently multidisciplinary community and there needs to be a hub that brings us all together.

Q: Are you a member of a GSA Interest Group? If so, which ones?
A: I am a member of the Elder Mistreatment Interest group. In addition to current research, the interest group gets me up to speed about what is happening on the policy front.

Q: What are your key responsibilities at your job?
A: As an assistant professor I wear a lot of hats in the School of Social Work at University of Minnesota. In addition to teaching and serving on committees, I am leading multiple research studies on financial victimization targeting older adults, writing grants, and traveling to give talks all over the country. I also am the mother of an active 2-year-old and the partner of another busy academic (who thankfully is in another academic field).

Q: What is your most memorable research/patient experience? OR What has been your most memorable experience in gerontology and aging research?
A: I have had so many memorable and rewarding experiences in my short academic career. As a postdoc I was fortunate to lead Stanford University’s top social psychologists in a working group to apply social-psychological principals to fraud protection. I have been invited to speak about my work with numerous industry and professional audiences which has given me a glimpse into the issues they confront and where there is room for innovation. I’ve brainstormed exciting new research ideas with fraud investigators in Washington DC and other professionals on the frontline. And while it is not a research experience per se, last year I was interviewed in studio on NPR’s Marketplace Morning Report by David Brancaccio who was doing a special feature on aging and vulnerability to financial crimes.

Q: Do you have any tips for emerging gerontologists?
A: My recommendation is to cultivate relationships with three or more senior mentors in your specific area of research or a parallel area. Their broad networks and clout will help move your career forward. I also recommend using your time in graduate school to take as many methods classes as possible. You never know what techniques will come in handy to answer future research questions, and having a foundation in various methods improves your ability to critique articles and give valuable feedback.

Q: Tell us a little about your most recent activities/accomplishments.
A: This is my first year as an assistant professor and first year living in the Midwest (I was born and raised in California) so I am still getting my bearings. That said, I’ve had lots of successes recently. I was awarded my first R01 as a co-PI from the National Institute of Justice to conduct a randomized controlled intervention trial to protect mass marketing fraud victims from subsequent scams. I’ve also received funding from AARP to develop a Conversation Guide to encourage aging adults to plan for changes in financial decision-making capacity and communicate their values and goals with trusted loved ones. I have a few other grants in the pipeline as well, but like all professors I wish I had more time to write!

Q: Have you had an important mentor in your career? If so, how did s/he make a difference?
A: Strong mentorship has been pivotal in my academic career. My writing, analytic, and research design skills have certainly improved thanks to solid mentorship, but my advisors and peers also provided important emotional support to keep me moving along an academic path which can sometimes feel isolating and demoralizing in the beginning (and even today at times, if we are being honest). Professors Kate Wilber and Zach Gassoumis steered me in the direction of my current research focus on elder financial exploitation and fraud, and Professor Laura Carstensen connected me to very influential people in aging research and in industry, opening new doors for collaboration and impact. These are just a few of the amazing individuals who have moved my career forward.

Want to ask Marti a question? Contact her on GSA Connect!

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