Dr. Denise Martz focuses her research on women’s health, particularly eating disorders, obesity, fat talk, body image and teen intimate partner violence. She has also taught honors and selected-topics classes addressing these interests.
Martz’s research lab often consists of one or two graduate students, an honors student, and five to 10 undergraduate research assistants.
“One of the cool things about the women’s health research that I do is that it attracts a lot of students,” Martz said. “I try to show them all aspects of research but I want to help them realize that research can be creative and fun.”
One of her most recent research projects was inspired by a stand-up comedian who joked about the cliché story of a woman asking her significant other “Does this make me look fat?”
“I took that stand-up and said the problem is not the response, the problem is that she asked the question,” Martz said.
This led to a pilot study with a student that looked at men’s responses to women who fat talk – that is, talking down about their bodies.
The study found that when college men overheard a woman fat talking with her friends they thought she had poor mental and physical health.
Martz, along with a group of students, also conducted research on the outcomes of teen intimate partner violence in rural areas.
It is important, Martz said, to study the affects of teen intimate partner violence because surviving violence as a teen negatively affects a woman’s life trajectory.
She has also devoted research to the study of anorexia nervosa, the deadliest psychological disorder, in order to contribute to the resources available to help treat it.
Martz said her motivation to conduct research on topics of women’s health comes from many factors, including an increase of women working in clinical psychology and the medical profession.