Jennifer O’Brien

Meet Jen O’Brien! Originally from Englewood, FL, Jen moved to St. Pete in 2004. She now lives in Tampa with her husband and 5 year old son and works as an Assistant Professor in the Psychology department at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. She is active in DTSP community by bringing education about brain health in later life and showcasing resources for our older adult community to stay “brain-healthy”. She loves St. Pete’s passion for the arts and that it is home to so many incredibly talented artists.

Q: What inspired you or led you to your current career?

A: I have researched cognition in the human brain since I was a student, but personal experiences with loved ones suffering from dementia motivated me to focus on ways to prevent or slow down cognitive decline.

Q: What is your favorite restaurant in DTSP, and what do you love there?

A: Right now, my favorite restaurant is Hawkers Asian Street Fare. Everything I’ve eaten there has been fabulous, but my favorite is the Dim Sum Crunchy Ball dish.

Q: How long have you lived or worked in DTSP?

A: I have worked at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg since August 2013.

Q: Who is the most interesting person you’ve met here in DTSP?  Who would you like to see nominated as a Face of DTSP?

A: I would like to see Jenny Yucus. Jenny is the chair of the Graphic Arts program at USFSP and has worked with her students to do amazing product design projects with DTSP businesses like 3 Daughters Brewing. She also travels the globe assisting nonprofit organizations with design work, in countries like Uganda, Jordan and Ethiopia.

Q: If you could travel anywhere in the world right now, where would it be?  And why?

A: Well, this question takes on a whole new meaning 7 weeks into self-isolation! Before the world was turned upside down this Spring, my plan was to go back to North Wales this summer with family and friends – I did my postgraduate studies in Bangor and I have not been back there since 2009. Wales is an amazingly beautiful and majestic country.

Q: What is your favorite movie OR what is the first movie you remember seeing in a theatre?

A: The first movie I remember seeing in a theater was Follow that Bird, which was the first theatrically-released Sesame Street movie. I believe that this is what sparked a life-long aversion to Jim Henson puppets. No one needs to see Big Bird that big!

Q: What advice would you give a crowd of people?

A: Right now, my advice would be to disperse! But seriously, my advice would be to get cognitive screening (what is colloquially known as “memory screening”) early and yearly. It is important to have a baseline in your 40s to compare to as you age. If you are lucky enough to reach later life, the biggest risk factor for dementia is, sadly, age. Dementia is not part of natural aging, and there are many preventable environmental and life-style sources of cognitive decline. If you are routinely screened for changes in your cognition, you will be at an advantage to take action if you start to show decline.

Q: What is something on your bucket list?

A: Top on my bucket list right now is a trip to the Alps to do “Inn to Inn” hiking. You hike all day and end in a new village each evening to stay at a local inn, where your bags have already been transported separately.

Q: What is your favorite music/ 3 bands you would like to see (dead or alive)?

A: Air – This is a French “space pop” band from the late 90s

Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds – The lead singer and lead guitarist from the Dave Matthews Band play a three-night show in Riviera Cancún, Mexico that I would love to see

Radiohead – I would like to go back in time and see their 2003 concert at Red Rocks

Q: What current / former local business makes you the most nostalgic about DTSP?

A: I miss the Garden Restaurant on Central. I used to go there in high school (driving up from Englewood) to eat and hear jazz and it became a DTSP symbol for me.

Q: Choosing anyone alive and a non-relative: with whom would you love to have lunch?  Why?  Where in DTSP would you have lunch?

A: I would love to have lunch with Terry Gross, the NPR host of The Takeaway, and ask her about her most interesting and favorite interviews. We would go to Hawkers, because I take any excuse to have lunch there these days.

Q: What is your favorite thing or something unique about DTSP?

A: There are too many favorite things to choose from … but one thing that many people do not know is that James Bond visits DTSP in Ian Fleming’s second book Live and Let Die.

Q: Where do you see yourself in 5 or 10 years?

A: In 5-10 years, I hope to be a full professor at USF St. Petersburg continuing to research ways to prevent dementia in later life. By then, my husband should be retired and I hope that means many more camping trips around Florida in our down time.

Q: (Even for friends or family), what is something interesting that most people don’t know about you?

A: I read books in French. I have a degree in French, but never really had a chance to continually converse with anyone in French, so my speaking abilities are pretty poor. But, I am decent at understanding the written language and love to reread favorite books in French.

Q: What 3 words or phrases come to mind when you think of the word HOME?




Q: Who would you like to see nominated for this project, The Faces of DTSP?

A: I would like to see Jenny Yucus nominated for this project. Jenny is the chair of the Graphic Arts program at USFSP and has worked with her students to do amazing product design projects with DTSP businesses like 3 Daughters Brewing. She also travels the globe assisting nonprofit organizations with design work, in countries like Uganda, Jordan, and Ethiopia.

Q: If you were cast into a major motion picture and had your choice of anyone to be your co-star, who would you choose?

A: I would be in a movie about the orangutan jungle school in Borneo, where they teach orphaned orangutans the skills they’ll need to survive in the wild and my co-star would be an adorable orangutan.

Q: If you had a full time staff member that was fully paid for, who would you choose? Chef, Housekeeper, Driver, Coach, Physical Fitness Trainer, or Nanny?

A: I would choose a Physical Fitness trainer, no question. I participate in USF’s FIT program in the Exercise Science department each Fall where I am paired up with a Senior in the program who acts as my “Physical Fitness trainer” for 8 weeks. The program helps the students experience what it is like having a real client and they develop and assist you in an intensive 3-day-a-week workout plan. I really enjoy strength training, but only seem to be successful at it when someone else is counting on me to be there and can push me to advance.


The Faces of Downtown St. Pete was created to showcase the diverse community we live in & the wonderful people that make it so special. If you would like to nominate someone interesting for this project, please email me at

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