MD Anderson researcher David Wetter named chair of Rice Department of Psychology

Acclaimed MD Anderson researcher David Wetter became chair of Rice University’s Department of Psychology this month.


Wetter most recently served as the Cullen Trust for Health Care Chair in the Department of Health Disparities Research, Division of Cancer Prevention and Population Sciences, at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

Wetter’s research centers primarily on tobacco use, although in recent years his funded projects have also focused on alcohol, diet and physical activity. His work ranges from basic biobehavioral conceptual models of cancer and health-risk behaviors to the development and testing of new interventions, to dissemination and implementation science — the science of figuring out how to get real-world organizations to use these evidence-based interventions.

“The (dissemination and implementation science) part of my work fits very well with the industrial organizational research focus here at Rice, because it’s all about system change,” Wetter said.

At MD Anderson, Wetter used a “team science” approach to studying cancer risk behaviors. Team science is a collaborative effort to address a scientific challenge that leverages the strengths and expertise of professionals trained in different fields.

“Over the years, I have collaborated with an incredibly diverse array of scientific disciplines, including behavioral genetics, cognitive science, neuroscience, sociology, public health, computer and computational science and engineering,” Wetter said. “This team science approach has dramatically improved both the quality of our science and real-world impact.”

Wetter said his research and team-science approach fits in well with the Rice Department of Psychology’s “very applied focus.” He hopes the department can leverage “the advantages of outstanding scientific programs not only in the Department of Psychology, but across the entire Rice community and the Texas Medical Center (TMC).” Collaboration with the TMC is one of Rice’s Priorities for the New Century.

“Rice has phenomenal psychology faculty, from really talented junior faculty to very senior, well-known figures in the field,” he said. “I’m hoping to tap into their collective wisdom and combine it with some of our experience as the department moves forward in coming years.”

Wetter received a B.A. in economics from Whitman College, an M.S. in sport psychology from the University of Oregon-Eugene and a Ph.D. in psychology and and M.S. in epidemiology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Wetter has an extensive, continuously funded National Institutes of Health-funded grant portfolio of almost 20 years. He has written over 160 peer-reviewed publications and has received major awards from the Society of Behavioral Medicine, American Society for Preventive Oncology and the Health Psychology Section of the American Psychological Association. He will continue to hold a position at MD Anderson.

“David is a truly spectacular addition to the Rice Psychology Department,” said Lyn Ragsdale, dean of social sciences. “He has considerable administrative experience and an outstanding record of external funding and highly visible research.”

For more information on Wetter, visit

About Amy McCaig

Amy is a senior media relations specialist in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.