Meet UNMC New Investigator Awardee Julia Houfek, Ph.D.

Image with caption: Julia Houfek, Ph.D.
Julia Houfek, Ph.D.
NOTE: This profile is part of a series to highlight the 16 researchers who will be honored April 30 at a ceremony for UNMC's 2012 Scientist Laureate, Distinguished Scientist and New Investigator Award recipients.

  • Name: Julia Houfek, Ph.D.
  • Title: Professor, College of Nursing
  • Joined UNMC: 1990
  • Hometown: Keasbey, N.J.

Describe your research briefly in layman's terms.
My research focuses on how people think and feel about their health and how this affects what they do to keep healthy or get well if they are sick. One of my research areas focuses on describing how people think about and use information about genetics and their personal genetic make-up or heredity. We currently study how smokers think about and use information about genes that may influence nicotine dependence and smoking, especially how it may help them in quitting smoking or using tobacco.

How does your research contribute to science and/or health care?
More and more, people are expected to play an active role in their health care and to make complex health care decisions. They use "common sense models" (people's thoughts, feelings and behaviors about their health) to help them do this. Genetic information is quickly becoming part of clinical care and we need to know the best ways to help patients understand what their genetic information means and how they can best use it to promote their health and their family's health. Conducting studies to understand the "common sense models" that guide how people think and feel about genetic information and use this information is a beginning step in this process.

What is the best piece of advice anyone ever gave you, professional or personal?
My father has a saying that I have found useful: preparation, opportunity, success. It's also important to persevere if opportunities are not apparent or success is not forthcoming.

List three things few people know about you.

  • My favorite music is classic country.
  • I was born and grew up in an ethnic Hungarian community in New Jersey.
  • I enjoy baking.


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Terri Mathews
April 12, 2013 at 5:13 PM

Julie - Congratulations on this prestigious award. You deserve it!!! - Terri Mathews