Nisha Gottfredson

Nisha Gottfredson is an assistant professor in the Department of Health Behavior within the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and a faculty affiliate within the Center for Developmental Science. Her research focuses on how substance use affects human development. She also studies how statistical models perform and can be used to better capture research questions in the real world.

Nisha Gottfredsonphoto by Megan May
January 23rd, 2019

When you were a child, what was your response to this question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

A princess ballerina — and a lawyer, because my parents told me that I was good at arguing and because I watched “My Cousin Vinny” frequently.


“Recovery is hard — prevent addiction.”

Share the pivotal moment in your life that helped you choose your field of study.

When I was a senior in college, I attended a talk given by an eminent criminologist, John Laub. He discussed how some criminal offenders have “turning points” in their life trajectories. I was fascinated by the fact that it was possible to use statistics to model and understand life trajectories.

Gottfredson (left) with her two kids and husband.

Gottfredson (left) with her two kids and husband.

Tell us about a time you encountered a tricky problem. How did you handle it and what did you learn from it?

For one study, I needed to collect multiple measurements from each participant using different schedules for every person. There was no software available that would allow me to do exactly what I needed, so my computer scientist husband and I worked together every night for months to generate code that would do what I needed it to do. It got the job done, and I was very proud — and grateful for my husband’s help!

What are your passions outside of research?

Being a working mom, it’s difficult to spend time on much else. But I am passionate about trying to raise good human beings. Other than that, I make time to exercise almost every day because it improves my mood and gives me energy to keep up with everything else going on in my life.

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