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Project manager in the division of social psychiatry, department of epidemiology at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health.


Adams studies post-traumatic stress disorder with Columbia's Bruce Dohrenwend, PhD. Adams's first major study — which appeared in Science in 2006 — made news because it found that 18.7 percent of Vietnam vets had developed war-related PTSD during their lifetimes and 9.1 percent still suffered the condition 11 to 12 years after the war. His latest study also promises to draw media attention: Now in press in Clinical Psychological Science, the study finds that people who perpetrate atrocities also suffer from PTSD.

Drawn to psychology

Adams grew up in small town St. George, Utah, where his father was the town's first psychologist. "He just did everything," says Adams. "Ran the inpatient unit, worked at the rehab, did outpatient." Adams never set out to follow his father's career path — he was more interested in English, poetry and the arts. But in college at Brigham Young University, the eloquence of science drew him in. He decided to pursue psychology since it was the "science that had the most overlap with the arts." So, he earned a clinical psychology degree at Columbia in 2009 and joined its department of epidemiology soon after.

Melding art and science

Despite his research success, Adams always felt enticed by the arts. "And I thought, what if I could create something as art that serves a purpose, art with a potential to heal society?" Last year, he decided to explore that concept by studying printmaking at the Art Students League of New York. He's now creating an art book that explores the idea of approaching dieting as an art form or a creative process. Two of his art prints were showcased at Columbia Medical Center in May.

What few colleagues know about him

"I love video games quite deeply," he says, naming The Legend of Zelda and Super Mario as his favorites. "I really feel that video games helped me get my dissertation done. They gave me the experience of working toward a goal and experiencing success."

What's next

Adams will continue his PTSD research, but is also contemplating his next art project, which will have a spiritual bent. "I'm very interested in rituals and I have this idea of creating a ritual or spiritual sanctuary that is influenced by minimalist art. Often when I visit churches, the part I like the least is the sermon or the preaching. I think another way to reach people is through a wordless service, with music and moments of silence."

—Sara Martin