Professor's work addresses new perspectives in behavioral science

It’s an exciting time to be a behavioral scientist, with scientific revolutions in several areas that have led to new perspectives, says Ronald Simons, newly appointed Foundation Professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice in the College of Public Programs.

New genetic models emphasize the way that social environmental factors turn on genes, thereby influencing a person’s health and well-being. Medical research has found that social experiences can influence biological processes and the probability of disease.

“Our research team is concerned with developing and testing biosocial models of crime, mental illness and physical disease that build upon these new findings regarding the nature of human beings,” says Simons, who has brought his interdisciplinary research to ASU from the University of Georgia, where he was a Distinguished Research Professor.

As one of the most highly regarded contemporary scholars in the field of criminology, Simons’ approach has the potential to reshape our understanding of antisocial behavior and the most effective policy responses to such problems. He hopes to bring his research findings into the classroom, to help students understand the factors that contribute to social problems and the potential solutions.

Much of his research has been supported by the National Institute of Mental Health and the National Institute on Drug Abuse. He received the Outstanding Article Award from the American Society of Criminology this year, and other articles have won awards from the National Council on Family Relations and the American Association of Criminal Justice.

Simons says he came to ASU because of its progressive view of the research enterprise, which fits the approach of his team.

“Recent research findings suggest that a comprehensive understanding of human beings and their problems must be conducted from an interdisciplinary perspective," he says. "Our team consists of sociologists, criminologists, psychologists, geneticists and psychiatrists. Under President Crow, ASU has taken steps to create an organizational environment conducive to such endeavors.”