Rebecca Schmidt, Ph.D.

Rebecca Schmidt, Ph.D.Assistant Professor, Department of Public Health Sciences and UC Davis MIND Institute; Scholar, Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women’s Health (BIRCWH), School of Medicine




Phone:  530-752-3226

Rebecca J. Schmidt, M.S., Ph.D., is Assistant Professor in the Department of Public Health Sciences, University of California – Davis, School of Medicine. Her research goal is to advance understanding of how environmental exposures, primarily those occurring during gestation, interact with genetic susceptibility to influence neurodevelopmental outcomes for children, and more broadly, reproductive health and child development. As a molecular epidemiologist, she tends to approach epidemiologic research from a mechanistic and pathways perspective. Dr. Schmidt has over 10 years of experience in epidemiological research that began at the University of Iowa College of Public Health with her dissertation that examined gene by environment interactions as risk factors for congenital malformations, including neural tube defects. She expanded this research to other neurodevelopmental outcomes as a postdoctoral fellow in the 2-year Autism Research Training Program (ARTP) at the MIND (Medical Investigation of Neurodevelopmental Disorders) Institute as part of the Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences Department of the UC Davis School of Medicine in Sacramento. In 2010, she became a faculty member of the UC Davis Department of Public Health Sciences, the UC Davis Graduate Group for Epidemiology, and the MIND Institute. She teaches a course on Molecular Epidemiology and co-teaches Reproductive Epidemiology. Her research has focused largely on interaction effects between maternal nutrition and the genome in relation to autism spectrum disorders, potentially through epigenetic mechanisms. In work recognized as among the most important in 2011 by Autism Speaks and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, Dr. Schmidt and her colleagues were the first to identify a significant association between an easily modifiable factor, periconceptional prenatal vitamin intake, and reduced risk for autism spectrum disorders. In addition, they were among the first to report significant gene-by-environment interaction effects for autism, providing a potential explanation for the variation in findings across autism genetics studies. Future research will explore mechanisms behind observed interactions, including epigenetic effects, and will expand studies of interactions in the context of autism etiology, with the goal of identifying pathways for prevention and intervention.


B.S., Biology, University of Iowa, IA, 1998
M.S., Epidemiology, University of Iowa College of Public Health, 2000
Ph.D., Epidemiology, University of Iowa College of Public Health, 2007