Graduate Alumni Spotlight

Annenberg School graduates are doing innovative, meaningful work around the world – in academic and professional fields.

Jeff Niederdeppe

Jeff Niederdeppe
Ph.D. – Annenberg School for Communication (2006)
Assistant Professor, Department of Communication
Cornell University

Jeff Niederdeppe knows that most Americans are pretty confused about cancer. “(Our research) found pretty widespread confusion,” he said. “About half of the people we surveyed believe that almost everything causes cancer. About one-quarter say there is nothing that can be done to prevent cancer, and three out of four were completely confused when confronted with recommendations about cancer causes and prevention.”

Dr. Niederdeppe’s research has focused on the role of the news media in communicating information about the causes and prevention of cancer. His work, conducted first as a Ph.D. student at the Center for Excellence in Cancer Communication Research (CECCR) at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, and later as a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, was captured in the article “Fatalistic Beliefs about Cancer Prevention and Three Prevention Behaviors.”

How messages are packaged and conveyed has long been a topic of interest to the Arizona native. He was studying to become an attorney at the University of Arizona when he enrolled in a class that focused on persuasion in the news media. “We looked at the aggressive anti-drug campaign that the government was running at the time, and that got me thinking seriously about the impact of messages and how they were conveyed,” he says.

He received his M.A. from Annenberg in 2001, working with Amy Jordan on a study of how families in Philadelphia use the V-chip to block certain television programming. He left Penn to work in North Carolina, studying tobacco prevention media campaigns for RTI International, a not-for-profit research firm in the Research Triangle Park area of North Carolina. “I wanted to make sure I had worked in research before devoting the time and effort to finish getting my Ph.D.,” he said. “I had some fantastic opportunities at RTI International to lead research projects related to anti-tobacco media campaigns, and those experiences convinced me that I wanted to go into research, and having the Ph.D. makes opportunities in research more attainable.”

His academic interests aren’t the only thing he found while at Penn. During his brief hiatus between his Master’s and doctoral studies he was introduced to Lee Humphreys, then an Annenberg student studying for her doctoral degree. The two were married in New Hartford, NY on August 13, 2005. Humphreys, incidentally, successfully defended her dissertation in June of this year.

Dr. Niederdeppe is an admitted “Harry Potter” fan, having finished all books in the series. He is proficient on multiple musical instruments, including the piano and saxophone, which he played while performing as a member the Penn Wind Ensemble.

You can contact Dr. Niederdeppe at

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