I've always found human behavior interesting and have always sought to understand why people do the things they do. As an undergraduate, I wasn't confident about what I wanted to pursue as a career, but I found my job working in a nursing home fascinating. I wondered what the Parkison's patient was thinking and feeling as he sat there unable to move. I wondered why the Alzheimer's patient couldn't remember her spouse of 50 years, but could play that Beethoven piece flawlessly from memory. I wondered how some medications could cause memory impairment, yet other medications seemed to slow the progression of cognitive decline. I found that I could make a career out of asking questions like these by majoring in psychology. As soon as I discovered that psychology would be the route through which I could pursue these and other interests, I headed into it full force and never looked back. I immediately went into teaching after graduate school, with Monmouth College being my first teaching job. I grew up less than 2 hours away from MC, and have always loved the Midwest. MC had a great reputation in my hometown, so I eagerly applied when a position opened up in the department. I immediately loved the familial atmosphere on the campus when I visited; and it is this familial atmosphere that allows me to interact with and learn from other colleagues, staff, and students every day.
One area that has been neglected in most herbicide/pesticide research is the potential cognitive damage and behavioral effects that might result from acute or chronic exposure to these compounds. One of my personal research goals is to delve into this area of research by focusing on the more commonly-used herbicides and pesticides. Currently, more than 90% of corn and soybean fields in the Midwest are treated with herbicides such as 2, 4-D and atrazine. Previous research suggests that 2, 4-D influences two major neurotransmitter systems in the brain: serotonin (which is associated with mood and eating behaviors) and dopamine (which is associated with addictive behaviors, learning, and disorders such as ADHD, Parkinson’s Disease, and schizophrenia). Thus far, our behavioral research with 2, 4-D has indicated that chronic exposure caused hyperactivity and decreased anxiety in rats, effects that were augmented when the animals were challenged with amphetamine (a drug that works through the dopamine system and is currently the first-line pharmaceutical treatment for ADHD). This research has been published as an abstract and presented at the 2010 Society for Neuroscience Conference. It will also soon be submitted to a scientific, peer-reviewed journal for publication. While I intend to continue investigating 2, 4-D over the next few years; I also hope to begin looking into the potential cognitive and behavioral effects of exposure to atrazine and other herbicides/pesticides.
Courses Taught: Education:
PSYC-101 Introduction to Psychology
PSYC-243 Mind, Brain, and Behavior
PSYC-420 Senior Research Seminar
PSYC-304 Cognitive Neuroscience
PSYC-327 Sensation and Perception
INTG-309 Personal Identity
B.S. Western Illinois University 2000
M.S. Western Illinois University 2003
Ph.D. University of Missouri-Columbia 2007
Office: Rm 217 Haldeman-Thiessen