Rebecca Tippett

Rebecca Tippett is the founding director of Carolina Demography, a research consulting service at the Carolina Population Center. Her research focuses on informing decisions at local, state, and national levels through analyzing demographic data on topics like where and why people move, educational attainment and employment rates, and the housing market.

photo by Alyssa LaFaro
December 13th, 2017

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

Describe your research in five words.

“Explaining impacts of population change.”

Everything from truck driver to president.

Share the pivotal moment in your life that helped you choose research as a career path.

Entering my senior year of college, I planned to pursue a year-long public service fellowship after graduation, then apply to law school and become a civil rights lawyer. At least, that was the plan. Then, I went to an information session and realized the fellowship would be a terrible fit. My senior thesis adviser encouraged me to apply to doctoral programs in sociology instead. I had no idea what I was getting into, but I liked school and research so figured, why not?

a girl in spandex and a tank top lifts a weighted exercise ball over her head

In her non-academic life, Tippett and her husband own a CrossFit gym in Charlottesville, Virginia.

What’s an interesting/funny story from your time doing research?

The first time I attended an academic conference was the week before my graduate school orientation. I had the opportunity to present my undergraduate research and was excited to get a taste of what my future life was going to be like. After a few days of trying to attend every possible session, I confided to a mentor that I had concerns graduate school wasn’t the right next step for me. I was finding it hard to stay motivated and engaged in session after session. He laughed and said: “Why do you think we have them in great cities? Give yourself a break.” I took his advice and spent most of the next day enjoying San Francisco!

What advice would you give to up-and-coming female researchers in your field?

First, make time for yourself outside of research. Research can be all-consuming; my friends and I have all struggled with the sense that you always could — or should — be doing more. It’s vital for long-term mental and physical health to make time for non-work activities and hobbies.

Second, know that you have valuable skills and knowledge — and learn how to communicate this. You don’t have to be a professor or working at a university to do research. Research training in sociology has broad applications, but graduate school has, historically, done a poor job of training students how to promote their skills and expertise outside of the academic setting.

UNC Research is proud of every scientist on this campus, but we are especially excited to promote our female researchers in 2017. Each week this year, we will publish a short Q&A feature on one of them — whether she is an undergrad, PhD candidate, or full professor. Please click here to make a recommendation.