Traci Mann, Ph.D.
Professor of Social and Health Psychology
Traci grew up in Highland Park, Illinois, and went to college at the University of Virginia, which she loved so much that she decided to stay in college forever. She thought she would become a mathematician or engineer, but she abandoned those plans after taking her first psychology course (Intro to Cognition), and went on to attain her Ph.D. in psychology from Stanford University in 1995. A week later she married Steve Engel, and they moved to Los Angeles. Traci did a two-year postdoc in UCLA’s NIMH HIV Prevention Training Program, then was a professor at UCLA for nine years, during which time she had a son, got tenure, and had another son. The whole family moved to Minneapolis in 2007 so that Traci and Steve could join the Psychology Department at the University of Minnesota and the aforementioned sons could grow up to wear sweatshirts on days that are ten-below zero. And, of course, ultimately return to California to go to college.
Traci does not run a diet clinic or test diets, and she has never taken a penny from any commercial diet companies or food companies, sat on their boards of directors, or endorsed one of their products. Because of this, her livelihood, research funding, and reputation are not dependent on her reporting that diets work (or don’t) or that obesity is (or isn’t) unhealthy. This sets her apart from most diet and obesity researchers and allows her to speak the truth about these topics, which she does with abandon.
Favorite snack food: Marshmallow peeps, or really anything with marshmallows.
Hobbies: Watching any kind of comedy – whether it’s a sitcom or movie, or live improv, sketch, or stand-up; Playing with fountain pens and especially ink.
Work highlight: When the whole lab came to the University of Cambridge during my sabbatical there for a conference I invented for that very purpose, the Social-Health International Training Exchange (SHITE).
You will never catch me: Singing out loud.
(entered fall 2017)
Favorite snack food: I love berries, or jalapeno kettle chips if I need something salty.
Hobby: I am a professional jump roper (check it out)! During the COVID-19 lockdown, I started an instagram account to teach people how to jump rope at home as a way to exercise. This has evolved into a full-fledged tutorial resource, so I spend a lot of my free time filming and editing videos.
Work highlight: Recently--seeing the results of my first dissertation study. They are B-E-A-U-TIFUL!
You will never catch me: Watching scary movies.
(entered fall 2017)
Favorite snack food: Crispy snap peas
Hobbies: Cooking, taking spin classes, & re-watching/reading anything Mindy Kaling has ever worked on!
Work highlight: Securing a collaboration with wonderful UofM computer science researchers, who helped me build a calorie-tracking app to use in my research!
You will never catch me: Turning down free food!
(entered fall 2018)
Favorite snack food: Anything with dark chocolate
Hobbies: Puzzles, gardening, cooking, hiking, planning trips to places I want to visit
Work highlight: Working with undergraduates to help them develop an appreciation for research
You will never catch me: Eating avocado toast
(entered fall 2020)
Favorite snack food: Fruit snacks - specifically the Kirkland brand but they were discontinued :(
Hobbies: Reading cookbooks, watching theater, and coaching/choreographing synchronized swimming routines!
Work highlight: Watching over 200 movies to see how characters interacted with different foods, basically a long game of "I spy"
You will never catch me: Drinking coffee (for now)!
(entered fall 2021)
Favorite snack food: Limon Lays with Tapatio
Hobbies: Going to the movies, antiquing, learning how to do my nails
Work highlight: When I gave my first guest lecture last fall
You will never catch me: At the Popeyes on Lake Street
(entered fall 2022)
Favorite snack food: I am a sucker for a good tortilla chip! I love anything crunchy, from Wheat Thins to Cashews to Peanut M&M's.
Hobbies: I am a super crafty person. I've been making a lot of earrings out of mini perler beads, and am working on my fifth hand-pieced quilt!
Work highlight: I am new to the lab, but a highlight for me in undergrad was having a professor from my freshman year Spanish class come to my senior comps presentation and tell me how proud she is of me. Hopefully I will have more interactions like that here too!
You will never catch me: Drinking a freshly-made hot beverage. They are too hot!