Amherst Wire

Professor of the month: Danielle Samuels

Her long journey to UMass hasn’t been without bumps in the road.

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Professor of the month: Danielle Samuels

(Courtesy of UMass Amherst )

(Courtesy of UMass Amherst )

(Courtesy of UMass Amherst )

(Courtesy of UMass Amherst )

Olivia Amato-Hansen, Writer

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Danielle Samuels is one of the newest professors at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. This is her second semester here, where she teaches psychology with a specialization in developmental psychology. She finds the students to be lively and interested in their work, and the professors to be diverse in both their backgrounds and their research interests.

Samuels traveled a long way to get here. She moved here from Laguna Beach, Calif., but grew up in Houston, Texas, attending the University of Texas in Austin as an undergraduate student, earning her bachelor’s degree in psychology.

After that, Samuels went to Harvard for a master’s degree in human development, and the University of California in Riverside for her Ph.D. in developmental psychology.

Her interest in psychology started at a young age. 

“In my office, I have a textbook that was my dad’s when he was a college student, an introduction to psychology textbook,” Samuels said. “When I was in middle school I pulled it off the shelf and started reading it at night. I didn’t understand everything I was reading, but I was really fascinated by some of the experiments. I found it really interesting, so then it was on my radar.”

What she finds most interesting about psychology is the way of understanding the world of judgments—what people do, why they do what they do, and why humans are the way they are.

She has always been interested in the way the brain works and recently completed research in California. Although she is still in the transition process at UMass, her research is ongoing—she is currently working on a few different projects that look at adolescents and acne, specifically the risk of depression and anxiety.

Her long journey hasn’t been without bumps in the road.

“In the third year of my Ph.D. program, I was in an accident and I had a very severe concussion,” Samuels said. “It was really hard—I had to take half a year off, but it was a year until I was back to my normal cognitive functioning. That was hard because that was a transition point, wondering if it was worth it or if I should switch paths.”

But she stuck with it, and she now loves what she does and brings a very unique voice to the UMass faculty.

“I love that in my research I get to investigate questions I’m interested in and my research is purely driven by what I find interesting and what I want to find the answers to,” Samuels said. “I love that in teaching, I expose my students to ideas and ways of looking at things that they might not have thought of.”

She is excited about what this school year will bring—from new research opportunities to getting to know her new students.

Outside of work, Samuels likes hiking with her dog, writing and drawing, cooking, horseback riding and ballet.

Email Olivia Amato-Hansen at [email protected]

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The digital-first, student-run magazine of the University of Massachusetts Amherst Journalism Department
Professor of the month: Danielle Samuels