Dr. Franz received her Ph.D.in personality psychology from Boston University in 1988.
She completed a post-doctoral fellowship at Harvard University with Dr. David McClelland in 1992. In 1993 and 1994 she was a visiting professor at University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts, after which she joined the faculty as a Research Psychologist at UC Berkeley from 1994-1996. From 1996, until joining the Psychiatry Department at UC San Diego in 2004, she was a senior research analyst at the Center for Health Services Research in Primary Care at UC Davis. She has been Assistant Adjunct Professor at UCSD since 2009, and is also a faculty member in the Stein Institute for Research on Aging, the Center for Behavioral Genomics, and at the Clinical and Translational Research Institute.
Dr. Franz’s primary research is on the longitudinal study of stress and aging, with a focus on risk and preventive factors for cognitive aging. She is co-investigator on three NIH/NIA grants that follow middle-aged twin men from late adolescence into later life. The primary VETSA project focuses on cognition (emphasizing executive functions, memory, and processing speed), personality, psychosocial factors, psychopathology, and biomedical factors in over 1200 twins. Nearly 800 of these twins provided multiple at-home and in-lab saliva samples in order to assess diurnal patterns of cortisol, testosterone, and DHEAS and emotional lability in the VETSA cortisol study. The focus of the VETSA Cortisol study was to understand the role of biological stress-response systems in aging. Approximately VETSA twins underwent 3D structural MRI and diffusion tensor imaging in the VETSA MRI project. The VETSA projects constitute a unique, integrative program of research aimed at understanding the genetic and environmental influences on and the heterogeneity of cognitive aging. Dr. Franz’s other scientific interests include interpersonal relationships in older adults, and using qualitative techniques to study adult lives. She has over 70 publications and is co-editor with Dr. Abigail Stewart at University of Michigan of a book : “Women Creating Lives: Identities, Resilience and Resistance (1994).