Jessica Weiss Utley is a Clinical Psychology PhD student at Mississippi State University, and currently assists in managing the Social Relations Collaborative. Jessica’s research interests include aggression, social rejection, intimate partner violence, stalking, child maltreatment and foster care, psychology and law, and suicide. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Mississippi State University in 2009. Jessica was an undergraduate research assistant for the Advanced Social Psychology Lab in 2008 and 2009, which initially piqued her interest in stalking, aggression, and social rejection research.
After graduation, Jessica spent three years working with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services as a Child Abuse and Neglect Investigator, and then as an Adoption Specialist. As a “front-line caseworker,” Jessica often responded to real-life crisis situations such as drug raids, family violence situations, and accidental child deaths and serious injuries. Jessica also secured foster homes for displaced children and worked with biological families to help them keep their children safe. As an Adoption Specialist, Jessica worked to find adoptive families for children in long-term foster care, guided families through the adoption process, monitored foster placements to ensure child safety, and often helped children maintain a link to their biological families. Jessica’s experiences both in and outside of the lab have made her passionate about research, as she believes the most effective way to protect children is through research and education. Jessica values research- and theory-based interventions to social dilemmas, and believes an interdisciplinary approach is vital to finding solutions.
Matthew Dean Doctoral Student
Matthew Dean is a Clinical Psychology PhD student at Mississippi State University. His research interests include radicalization, threat assessment, extremist group behavior, crisis intervention, suicide, and the intersection of psychology and national security. Matt received his Bachelor's in Psychology and Bachelor's in Criminal Justice - Law Enforcement from the University of Mississippi in 2019.
During his time as an undergraduate, Matt worked within Mississippi's Cold Case Task Force. In this role, he assisted in investigative analysis of unsolved homicide and missing person cases throughout the state. Prior to joining the Social Relations Collaborative, he volunteered as a crisis hotline operator with the Memphis Crisis Center, where he worked the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (NSPL) and other crisis lines under the Center's operation.
Matt's work within the domains of criminal investigation and community service has shaped an interest in research bridging the gap between psychology and public safety. As he researcher, he believes in both the value of theory and the necessity for practical solutions to real-world problems.