Brian Southwell, PhD

Adjunct Associate Professor Department of Health Behavior
Research Professor School of Media and Journalism

PO Box 12194

3040 E. Cornwallis Rd.

Research Triangle Park, NC 27709


Brian Southwell is an expert in communication and human behavior. He serves as director of the Science in the Public Sphere Program in the Center for Communication Science at RTI International. In addition to his faculty positions at UNC, Dr. Southwell is an adjunct professor with Duke University.

Before moving to North Carolina, he served for almost a decade at the University of Minnesota, most recently as associate professor and director of graduate studies in Journalism and Mass Communication with an adjunct appointment in Public Health. He also has worked for nonprofit and government organizations.

Dr. Southwell’s award-winning contributions appear in more than 100 publications. In 2013, Johns Hopkins University Press released his book, Social Networks and Popular Understanding of Science and Health. He has served as senior editor for Health Communication and on nine other editorial boards. He hosts a weekly public radio show for WNCU called 'The Measure of Everyday Life.'

Representative Courses

JOMC 671, Social Marketing

JOMC 445, Process and Effects of Mass Communication

Research Activities

Adolescent health
Health behavior change
Health communication
Infectious diseases, especially Ebola and Zika
Peer and social support for cancer management

Service Activities

Dr. Southwell's extensive background in communication and human behavior has allowed him to take on a leading role in RTI International's Zika virus initiatives. In an effort to examine public attitudes and perceptions concerning the virus, he is leading a study in Guatemala to understand how the public views the Zika virus and explore how to prevent transmission.

Practice Activities

Health behavior change
Health communication
Implementation science

Staff/Administrative Duties

For the Department of Health Behavior:
     Collaborates on research with faculty and students
     Guest lectures
     Serves as dissertation committee member

Key Publications

Future Challenges and Opportunities in Online Prescription Drug Promotion Research; Comment on "Trouble Spots in Online Direct-to-Consumer Prescription Drug Promotion: A Content Analysis of FDA Warning Letters". Southwell, B. G., & Rupert, D. J. (2016). International Journal of Health Policy and Management, 5(3), 211-213.

Innovations in home energy use: A sourcebook for behavior change. Southwell, B. G., Doran, E. M., & Richman, L. S. (Eds.) (2016). RTI Press Publication No. BK-0015-1512. Research Triangle Park, NC: RTI Press.

Interpersonal communication; In G. Mazzoleni (Ed.), International encyclopedia of political communication. Gilkerson, N. D., & Southwell, B. G.  (2015). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell.

Social Networks and Popular Understanding of Science and Health: Sharing Disparities. Southwell, B. G. (2013). RTI Press Publication No. BK-0011-1307. Baltimore, MD and Research Triangle Park, NC: Johns Hopkins University Press and RTI Press.


PhD, Communication, University of Pennsylvania, 2001

MA, Communication, University of Pennsylvania, 1997