Jessica Weiss Utley is a Research Associate at Mississippi State University’s Social Science Research Center. Jessica’s research interests include aggression, social rejection, intimate partner violence, stalking, child maltreatment and foster care, and suicide. She received a B.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, accidental child deaths, and serious injuries, 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 currently helps to manage the Social Relations Collaborative, and her 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.