Office: Wilkens Science Center, Room 309-F
Office hours: Monday, 1:00 p.m.-2:00 p.m.; Wednesday, 7:00 a.m.-9:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m.-2:00 p.m; by appointment also
Ph.D., Dartmouth College; M.S., Purdue University; B.A., University of Michigan
My teaching style was influenced by strategies that my parents (an ex-marine and a parochial school teacher) used with me and my siblings while we were growing up. First, there was an emphasis on discipline. You kept doing something until you got it right. If you failed, you kept trying. There was no other option. This included everything from doing schoolwork to roasting marshmallows. Second, you learned to work together to do something better. For instance, when we harvested beans from the garden, one of us washed the beans, another snipped the bean ends, and a third cut the beans. Knives were used. We had to get along. Third, if you knew how to do something, teach it to someone else. Older siblings simplified complicated information to younger sibs (such as making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches). The younger sibs had to be disciplined to learn it (see the first point above). Early attempts at making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were ugly, but edible. One of the sibs became creative and added bologna and cheese to create a "turbo" sandwich. This person remains in the minority but is now funded by the NSF for creative cutting-edge research.
The courses I teach have a strong science component and they are core requirements in the Psychology department and the new Neuroscience major. In my courses, perhaps not surprisingly, I emphasize discipline, teamwork, and simplifying complex information. My lesson plans include learning models used to teach science courses at Dartmouth College. In my classes, concepts are covered from the macro to the micro levels. I believe that my students enjoy learning more about how their brain and body work, and how basic physiology and hormones influence behavior. There is an emphasis on effective problem-solving, creative development of experimental ideas, and powerful oral and written communication.
Students in my classes report that they are challenged, but learn a lot. To achieve this, I use a variety of active learning strategies for students to apply information that I introduce. In every class I teach, there is an emphasis on learning research process skills to better investigate a problem, read graphs, present difficult information orally, effectively use technology, and simplify complicated concepts through drawings. I would like to say that I am able to do all of this alone, but I am fortunate to have the help of excellent undergraduate and faculty colleagues.
The brain is comprised of billions of cells, many of which we can categorize into populations. Despite the decades of breakthroughs in the brain sciences, we still have very little understanding of how these different populations of cells work together and change during different physiological states. My research focuses on neuron, astrocyte, and oligodendrocyte populations and evaluates them at the same time. This type of research is conducted by only a handful of labs in the U.S. and is critically important to our understanding of everything from fluctuations in hormone systems, mood, and learning, to the causes and progression of neurological diseases and brain plasticity.
I was recently funded by the NSF to better understand these mechanisms. I use scientifically-engineered mouse models of human neurodegeneration to investigate questions related to astrocyte, oligodendrocyte, and neuron biology. We conduct studies that are multidisciplinary in nature so we often take behavioral, cellular, and molecular measurements from the same animal and use a variety of techniques that we conduct in-house, at core facilities at Harvard, or off-campus with collaborators. Ultimately, my goal is to understand how these important cellular players interact.
My research program has benefitted tremendously from the efforts of very talented and motivated undergraduates! Undergraduates play key roles in my research agenda. I was honored to be invited to be a module leader for a workshop to advance the NSF BRAIN Initiative (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies) and also to help prepare a scientifically literate workforce. I believe one way to do this is by providing high-quality research experiences that are extremely important for the growth and success of undergraduate students. Members of my lab are chosen based on their academic performance, level of motivation, and adherence to impeccable ethical standards. In return for their hard work and dedication, they receive substantial scientific training, become seasoned peer mentors in my lab and classes, and present findings in professional venues prior to publication.