Faculty Spotlight: April Smith

photo of April Smith

  • assistant professor of Psychology
  • teaches a seminar on eating disorders and Abnormal Psychology
  • research interests include eating disorders and suicidal behavior
  • enjoys cooking, running, traveling, and soccer


"I received my degree in Clinical Psychology from Florida State University. I completed my internship at the University of California San Diego."


"I taught an eating disorders seminar at the graduate level and teach it regularly at the undergraduate level as a capstone. I also teach a course on abnormal psychology, and I supervise clinical graduate students as they see patients in the psychology clinic.

"There are many things I love about teaching. I feel that the students offer so much by bringing in their new and unique perspectives, so in a way I am constantly learning more about the subject through them. They're super energetic and passionate!

"I try to encourage my students to think like scientists. If they have a question, I want them to have the tools to generate a hypothesis, collect data, and evaluate their hypothesis against the data they collected. I also believe it’s important to help students refine their critical thinking skills so that they can become active and informed consumers of information."


"The ultimate goal of my research program is to reduce suicide-related deaths, particularly among individuals with eating disorders. Sadly, both suicide and eating disorders are not uncommon. For instance, there are over 100 deaths by suicide every day. Additionally individuals with anorexia nervosa are 31 times more likely to die by suicide than people in the general population. Suicidal ideation, suicide attempts, and non-suicidal self-injury are highly elevated among people with bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder.

"Therefore, in the REDS (Research on Eating Disorders and Suicidality) Lab, much of our work focuses on trying to understand what it is about eating disorders that puts people at risk for dying by suicide. [Read more about the REDS Lab in the July 2015 CAS press release Psychology students in the REDS Lab focus on suicide among college athletes.] My colleagues and I have proposed and found some support for the idea that engaging in eating disorder behaviors puts people at risk for suicide, because these eating disorder behaviors can lead to people feeling like a burden, feeling like they don’t belong, and being unafraid of taking their own life.

"Recently, I've been looking at the correlation between women's Facebook usage and disordered eating. Among college-aged women we found that writing negative things about oneself and/or comparing oneself to others based on what others posted to Facebook was associated with an increase in body dissatisfaction and binge eating episodes a month later. We also found that individuals who received extremely negative comments in response to personally revealing status updates were more likely to report disordered eating concerns four weeks later.

"Based on this research, I think it's important for people to be more conscientious with their Facebook usage, particularly how they feel after posting information about themselves or checking their friends' posts. People should also realize that what their friends post on Facebook may not be a completely accurate representation of what is really going on. Facebook posts can lead us to inaccurately assume that the people in our lives are doing better, and looking better, than potentially they really are."

Outside the Classroom

"I chose my profession because I love learning. When I'm not learning new things about psychology, I try to learn new things about things I love, such as cooking, exercise, music, and travel."

[July 2015]