We are excited to launch our “COAH Champion” series this year, which is a fun and informal way to become better acquainted with our team members as both people and professionals. Our inaugural COAH Champion is Alden L. Gross PhD, Associate Professor with the Bloomberg School of Public Health. Alden is known for his work in Alzheimer’s disease, and he has a keen knack for harmonizing (combining) data across multiple studies, including international studies of aging. Let’s learn a little more about him!
Tell us about your background, education, and path to COAH.
My admiration for psychology began in high school when I took a college level Psych 101 course at a local college. I majored in Psychology as an undergraduate student (University of Maryland, College Park), and that fascination with the mind coupled with my love for my own grandparents to fortify my interests in gerontology and mental health once I entered graduate school. I think that classes in graduate school began on a Friday and by 9am the following Tuesday, I was meeting with my future mentor, Dr. George Rebok. My interests were settled by then!
Why did you choose to go into this field of work?
I have always had an interest in mental health of older adults, specifically cognitive health. I spent a lot of time with grandparents while growing up. Professionally, there are a slew of measurement challenges in cognitive aging research that keeps me fascinated, including selection effects, measurement biases, and more.
What are you currently researching?
Cross-national comparisons of cardiovascular and socio-economic correlates of cognitive performance across high-income and low-income countries.
What paper are you most known for or most proud of?
Can I give two? I’m going to give you two papers. The first is a 2012 paper called “An Exploratory Data Analysis of a Graduate Student (N=1).” I wrote this paper in one day on a weekend while in graduate school, after prodding from one of my doctoral defense committee members, Dr. Elizabeth Stuart. It was a fun reflection paper, and it even got an honest peer review. I was able to dig into 400 years of my own family history to illustrate some very basic concepts.
My second paper, and probably emblematic of what I am most known for, was a 2015 paper, “Effects of Education and Race on Cognitive Decline – An Integrative Study of Generalizability Versus Study-Specific Results.” This study was my first big integrative data analysis of multiple studies. It took a long time to write up, both because the methods were new and because I was harmonizing together 4 disparate cognitive aging studies. A lot of the work was interfacing with multiple groups of investigators and my own mentors. The revision with the Journal’s reviewers was actually pretty straightforward after all that hard work on the front end of writing this paper.
America and the world are celebrating the life of the late famed actress Betty White right now. As a tribute to her memory… and to quote Betty White’s Golden Girls character, Rose Nyland… “If you could invite any two people, living or dead, over for dinner, what would you eat?”
I would love to feast on steak and pasta.
Now, who would those people be?
I’m an introvert, so my approach to meeting people is to prepare a flamboyant initial greeting, and perhaps an opening conversation topic. But heaven help me, if I had to be part of a conversation for a whole dinner, especially after two years under a pandemic lockdown, I’d be terrified. And it’s just for one meal, right? I’d like some longer-term follow-up. I suppose a smattering of distant family ancestors would be nice to hear from.
What is the top item on your bucket list?
In the short term, I have a lot of lawn work to do and I need to get 2 important papers out the door. So those are 2 competing priorities. In the longer term, well I’m pretty content where I am on my current research and personal tracks. In terms of research, I really need to hire a postdoc and staff to help with expanding work.
Tell us about your hobbies…. What renews you?
My hobbies include building with Legos, spending time with my family (I have 2 toddlers roaming about), and yardwork!
Give us a short list of favorites….
- Author/Book–Academically, Denny Borsboom! In fiction, Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck.
- Song/Performer–Michael Jackson
- Actor/Film–Leonard Nimoy
Is there any additional fun fact to know and tell you’d like us to know about your home life, family, where you grew up, etc.?
I have been a treasurer of some organization or another for 64% of my life, since 1997. I’m a former world champion powerlifter and 4-time marathoner. I was born here, grew up here, went to school here, and now I work here.
By Anthony Teano, Communications Specialist