Jessica Saunders

Degree: Ph.D. in Psychology

College/School: School of Integrated Science and Humanity, College of Arts, Sciences & Education

Massachusetts native Jessica Saunders discovered her passion for psychology in high school and pursued her bachelor’s degree at Wellesley College. Despite her fear of statistics courses, she found her calling in quantitative methods. She worked in psychology research labs in Boston and Chicago, but an eating disorder led her to Miami for treatment.

Through her recovery, she found inspiration and enrolled at FIU to pursue a master’s degree in psychology. As she approached graduation in 2016, a close friend died of anorexia nervosa. Devastated, Jessica relapsed with her own eating disorder just as she was embarking on her pursuit of a Ph.D. She eventually realized she could no longer put her academic success ahead of her well-being and entered intensive treatment. Months later, she was on the road to recovery, but the treatment was costly. Her Ph.D. advisor Asia Eaton recognized Jessica’s potential as well as her struggles and her determination. Wanting to help, Eaton welcomed Jessica into her home so she could continue her studies. Jessica found the stability she needed.

Jessica is earning a Ph.D. in psychology with a focus on developmental science. Her research aims to optimize developmental outcomes for girls and women. She investigates the impacts of media and cultural beliefs on disordered eating and recovery. Her work has been published in leading peer-reviewed journals. She now works as a postdoctoral researcher at the UNLV Women’s Research Institute and plans to pursue a tenure-track position to teach, mentor and continue her research.

By Katrina Moreira, Student Assistant
College of Arts, Sciences & Education