Molly Dingel portrait

Molly Dingel, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, CLI
+1 507 258 8206
(507) 258-8066


Postdoctoral Fellowship: Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN, 2005 – 2007.
Ph.D., Sociology, University of Kansas, 2005
M.A., Sociology (with honors), University of Kansas, 2000
B.A., Mathematics and Sociology, Grinnell College, IA, 1998

“In every course I have taught, I have learned from my students. I have a strong belief that teachers must spend some time learning from students, and students should spend some time teaching both each other and teachers.”


Though I started my undergraduate program thinking I would major in physics, sociology, with its focus on questions without easy answers, has always been an interest of mine. Sociology provides the tools to help us think through difficult questions, like why there were so few women and minorities in my physics courses. Over the course of my undergraduate education, I came to realize that the questions that I could ask in sociology created a compelling career path, and I chose to pursue a graduate degree in sociology. These questions included not only who was (or was not) doing science, but how scientific communities create bodies of knowledge, what bodies of knowledge were being created, and how that knowledge is understood and used in our social institutions, individuals’ lives, and in our global community.

I believe students learn best when they are engaged in the material and understand how that material relates to their lives and interests. I’m therefore excited to be part of creating a curriculum where the sciences, the social sciences, and the humanities are integrated together so that students have a concrete understanding of the importance of social aspects of science and medicine. In every course I have taught, I have learned from my students. I have a strong belief that teachers must spend some time learning from students, and students should spend some time teaching both each other and teachers.


Prior to arriving at UMR, I taught a wide variety of sociology and women’s studies courses, including courses on social problems, families, women’s studies, women and science, sociological methods, medical sociology, social theory, and qualitative methods. At UMR, I draw upon these experiences to craft courses that relate to topics of interest for students pursuing a degree in the health sciences. These topics often draw heavily from the sociology of science and medicine.


My disciplinary research stems from an interest in the social aspects of science and medicine. I am interested in how new technology and research, like new imaging technology, genetic studies, or knowledge of disease transmission, are changing the field of medicine. As a sociologist, behavioral genetics interests me because genetics is sometimes presented as a modern-day holy grail; the implication is that science will be able to see into our soul, see who we are, and why we make the choices we do. Genetic research often focuses our attention within the body and away from the important of social, structural, and contextual factors that also affect our bodies, choices, and behaviors. To explore these issues, I examine how behavioral genetic studies are portrayed in the media and how that portrayal differs from the publications and debates in the scientific community. I also investigate the ethical and social ramifications of characterizing addiction as a disease of the brain, or a trait embedded in our genes, instead of as a complex behavior influenced by an intricate web of social and biological causes. With collaborators, I have interviewed stakeholders in tobacco research and control, as well as patients seeking treatment for addiction, to explore how these individuals understand and act upon a genetic conception of addiction.

My interest in research on education is multifaceted. First, I am interested in group work and collaborative learning. Much research has demonstrated the value of collaborative learning, and most careers involve working in teams or closely with others. But how do we best teach students the skills they will eventually need in the workplace and beyond? Second, I am interested in student diversity, and, with fellow faculty member Starr Sage, am exploring what barriers students face here at UMR, and how students here define diversity.  Third, in the process of collecting data in my courses over several years, and in discussions with the faculty, student coaches, and other staff at UMR, it is clear that we are all dedicated to providing students with the best evidence-based education and educational environment that we can provide.  In the course of trying to create the best environment for students, it has become clear that in order to effect change that can improve complicated issues regarding students, like meeting student learning outcomes or improving retention, singular actions taken by individuals within the institution are unlikely to create widespread change.  Instead, a concerted and collaborative effort is needed.  However, this also requires robust formal communication pathways and tools to enact these changes.  With primary collaborators Robert Dunbar and Xavier Prat-Resina, I am exploring the variety of ways to improve communication and developing the tools and processes that would both facilitate communication across the institution, and the integration of empirical evidence into course and curriculum design.

Select Publications and Abstracts

Ostergren, J.E., Hammer, R., Dingel, M.J., Koenig, B.A., McCormick, J.B. 2014. “Translational Research in Genetics and Social and Behavioral Sciences: A Model of Best Fit?” PLoS ONE. 9(4): e93482. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0093482

Jenny E. Ostergren, Molly J. Dingel, Jennifer B. McCormick, Barbara A. Koenig. Forthcoming. “Unwarranted optimism in media portrayals of genetic research on addiction overshadows critical ethical and social concerns.” Journal of Health Communication. Accepted for publication 1/28/2014.

Dingel, Molly J., and Wei Wei. 2014. “Influences on peer evaluation: An exploration of leadership, demographics, and course performance.” Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education. 39(6): 729-742. DOI: 10.1080/02602938.2013.867477

Hammer, Rachel, Molly Dingel, Jenny Ostergren, Brad Partridge, Jennifer McCormick, and Barbara A. Koenig. 2013. “Addiction: Current Criticism of the Brain Disease Paradigm.” American Journal of Bioethics Neuroscience. 4(3):27-32.

Dingel, Molly J., Wei Wei, and Aminul Huq. 2013. “Cooperative learning and peer evaluation: the effect of free riders on team performance and the relationship between course performance and peer evaluation.” Journal of Scholarship on Teaching and Learning. 13(1):45-56.

Hammer, Rachel R, Molly J. Dingel, Jenny E Ostergren, Katherine E Nowakowski, Barbara A Koenig. 2012. “The Experience of Addiction as Told by the Addicted: Incorporating Biological Understandings into Self-Story.” Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry. 36(4):712-734.

Dingel, Molly J., Rachel Hammer, Jenny Ostergren, and Jennifer B. McCormick. 2012. “Chronic Addiction, Compulsion, and the Empirical Evidence.” American Journal of Bioethics Neuroscience. 3(2):58-59.

Dingel, Molly J., Ashley Hicks, Marguerite Robinson and Barbara A. Koenig. 2012. “Integrating Genetic Studies of Nicotine Addiction into Public Health Practice: Stakeholder Perspectives on Challenges, Barriers, Opportunities.” Public Health Genomics. 15(1):46-55.

Dingel, Molly J., Ashley Hicks, Marguerite Robinson and Barbara A. Koenig. 2011. “Integrating Genetic Studies of Nicotine Addiction into Public Health Practice: Stakeholder Perspectives on Challenges, Barriers, Opportunities.” Public Health Genomics. DOI: 10.1159/000328861.

Sammie Nguyen, Donald R. Miller, and Molly J. Dingel. 2010. “Traditional Medicine Use in a Vietnamese-American Community.”The Annals of Pharmacotherapy. 44(4):769-777.

Gundle, Kenneth, Molly J. Dingel, and Barbara A. Koenig. 2010. “’To Prove This is the Industry’s Best Hope’: Big Tobacco’s Support of Research on the Genetics of Nicotine Addiction.” Addiction. 105(6):974-983.

Dingel, Molly J. and Joey Sprague. 2010. “Research and reporting on the development of sex in fetuses: Gendered from the start.” Public Understanding of Science. 19(2):181-196.

Dingel, Molly J., and Barbara A. Koenig. 2008. “Tracking Race in Addiction Research.” In Revisiting Race in a Genomic Age. Barbara A. Koenig, Sandra Soo Jin Lee, S. Richardson, eds. Rutgers University Press.