Psychology professor S. Alexandra Burt named inaugural Diamond Distinguished Professor

December 15, 2022 - Shelly DeJong

A headshot of Dr. BurtMSU Psychology faculty, S. Alexandra Burt, has been selected as the inaugural SSC Diamond Distinguished Professor in College of Social Science.  

Dr. Burt, a Clinical Science professor who also co-directs the MSU Twin Registry, has several research interests including mitochondrial DNA, cyberaggression, and the development of novel experimental behavioral genetic methods. Most of her work, though, has focused on the development of antisocial and acting-out behaviors. Her particular focus is on the role of neighborhood disadvantages, and specifically how neighborhoods may act to turn genes related to these outcomes on and off.  She is equally interested in understanding how it is that some youth continue to thrive despite exposure to high levels of disadvantage. 

"I am deeply honored and excited to receive this professorship from the College of Social Science,” said Dr. Burt. “It means the world to me, as does the College’s unwavering support over the last 15+ years. Most of all though, I am full of immense gratitude for my brilliant collaborators, trainees, and colleagues in the Department of Psychology, without whom none of this work would have been possible.”  

The College of Social Science established the Diamond Professorships this year in honor of its 60th anniversary, traditionally referred to as the diamond anniversary. In total, there will be eight SCC Diamond Distinguished Professorships awarded through the year 2036. The recognition is intended to assist MSU in the retention of outstanding faculty who are widely recognized for their inclusive excellence in teaching, research, and service, and who have demonstrated scholarly impact. 

“Dr. Alex Burt is well deserved of this title,” said Dean Mary Finn. “She is an internationally recognized expert concerning the etiology and development of antisocial and aggressive behaviors in multiple forms. Classically trained as a clinical psychologist specializing in twin designs, she has creatively applied twin designs to study the impact of neighborhood disadvantage on the development of antisocial behavior net of genetics or confounds.”  

Dr. Burt has been continuously funded by NIH since 2008 with twelve large-scale grants as a Principal Investigator or Co-Investigator. Dr. Burt has over 200 publications and according to Google scholar, she has a citation count of 12,021 and an h-index of 59.  

“On behalf of the Psychology Department, we’re thrilled that Dr. Burt has been awarded this prestigious honor. She is truly deserving of this award,” said psychology department chair Dr. Kevin Ford. “During her time at MSU, she has helped establish MSU as one of the preeminent places to conduct genetically informed research on the etiology of clinical disorders. Congratulations, Dr. Burt on the conferral of this honor.” 

Diamond Distinguished Professors will receive $60,000 in research support per year for the first five years of their appointment.  

“I will continue to develop novel methods and samples to illuminate the ways in which disadvantage gets ‘under the skin' to shape risk and resilience in youth,” said Dr. Burt.