Newsletter Edition

Summer 2011

Published: 06/08/2011

On the move....

Photo of Sheri Mizumori
Photo: Sheri Mizumori, Department Chair

It is my pleasure to welcome you to the Summer 2011 edition of our e-newsletter. The past 2010-2011 year has been another very busy and productive one for the Department.  We continue to shine in terms of the outstanding accomplishments and recognition received by our record number of graduating undergraduate and graduate students. Congratulations to the Class of 2011!! I look forward to hearing about your new lives and achievements.

Our Department was ranked number one for the second year in a row in terms of research funds secured from the National Institutes of Health by a Psychology Department (over $11M), and our groundbreaking research continues to receive significant media attention, both locally and nationally. In this newsletter, we feature one of our research programs, that of our newest faculty, Chantel Prat.  Dr. Prat studies the basis of individual differences in language function. To find out about more of our research initiatives, please visit our departmental website.  You will see that our Department’s interdisciplinary research effort continues to grow.

During this past year, we continued to make our research findings come alive for our local and national communities. As examples, Dr. Randy Kyes (Animal Behavior Psychologist) traveled to the first National Science Fair in Washington DC to demonstrate to local school age children how one studies natural animal behaviors. Dr. Sapna Cheryan (Social Psychologist) discussed with Garfield High School issues related to gender stereotyping in the classroom. Dr. Lori Zoellner (Clinical Psychologist) worked with the U.S. military on issues related to posttraumatic stress disorder.  The laboratories of Drs. Lori Zoellner and Lili Lengua were featured at the recent Paws on Science event at the Pacific Science Center. Their laboratories demonstrated to children, parents, and educators how one’s emotional state can impact attention, and how self control develops in children.  Our sixth annual Allen L. Edwards Public Lecture Series provided examples of how our research on Diversity and Culture can impact our everyday lives, business operations, career choices, and one’s view on mental health. These can be viewed on UWTV.  Also, significant progress was made on establishing the Department’s new Center for Child and Family Well Being. We look forward to the official opening of the center this fall.

The ability of our Department to move forward on its instructional, research and community missions is possible only because of the outstanding support from our superb staff, faculty vision and hard work, and the impressive accomplishments of our students. For this reason it is difficult when we lose one of our family. Dr. Alan Marlatt, a faculty member in our Department for almost 40 years, recently and unexpectedly passed away. He left a legacy that will be long lasting in his research area of addictive behaviors and his work has already impacted numerous individual lives. A memorial tribute was held May 15, 2011. Dr. Marlatt was a true pioneer; the challenges that he faced in his career were not only about developing an effective cognitive and behavioral treatment for addiction, but also going up against dogmatic views about how addicts should be treated. His particular blend of courage and compassion is something this Department will miss. In addition to losing Dr. Marlatt, we will be saying best wishes to two impactful faculty who will be retiring in June 2011. Drs. Ilene Bernstein and Beth Kerr have been for decades highly valued colleagues and leaders, each forming essential pieces of the core fabric of our Department.  They leave a legacy that will continue to strengthen the Department for years to come. We look forward to continuing to work with both as Emeritus faculty.

Before wishing you well in the warm months ahead, I want to send a heartfelt thank you to our Friends of Psychology  whose contributions have made a real difference in our ability to continue to move forward in these tough economic times. Your support has made many of the initiatives and accomplishments described in this newsletter possible. I look forward to another year of working with you and new Friends to create the next generation of leaders, and to bring our research closer to your lives. Enjoy the summer and see you next fall!

Best Wishes,

Sheri Mizumori, Chair

Psychology Alumni: Making an Impact in UW Advising

Photo of
Photo: [standing, left to right] Tory Brundage, Kathy Wong, Elise Dorough, Crystal Eney, Clay Schwenn; [seated] Christian Johnson

"One of my favorite parts of the work is that almost every day you're helping to make someone's life better - even if it's just in a small way - and that feels good.  I like to call advisors professional troubleshooters."
     Crystal Eney (BS 1999), Computer Science and Engineering

This sentiment is no doubt shared by Crystal's UW colleagues - including six other psychology undergraduate alumni currently working with students across campus.  Along with Crystal, Tory Brundage, Kattie Dang, Elise Dorough, Christian Johnson, Clay Schwenn and Kathy Wong all graduated from the Psychology Department and went on to put into practice the valuable skills and insights into human behavior that they gained as psychology majors.  Across the board, these seven advising and student services professionals cite knowledge and experiences gained as undergraduates as having been critical in identifying and preparing them for their professional careers.  And, all point to communication, collaboration and creativity as centerpieces of their work.

"It wasn't until I was a few years graduated that I discovered the world of student affairs and how perfect it was for me."
     Elise deGoede Dorough (BA 2006), Computer Science and Engineering

For most of the seven, undergraduate volunteer and work experiences served as the building blocks for their current careers.  As Resident Advisors in the dorms, Summer Orientation and Freshman Interest Group leaders, campus tour guides, peer TAs, and peer advisors, the group honed communication, presentation, interpersonal and administrative skills that would help them transition into the workplace.  Both Clay Schwenn and Kathy Wong served as peer advisors in Psychology.  Kathy recalls the "genuine compassionate philosophy of helping students achieve their educational and career objectives that drove the mission of the advising office," and notes that this still resonates with her in her daily work.  Among the alumni are graduate and undergraduate advisors and an admissions counselor.  In addition to their current departments, members of the group have also worked in Economics, Biology, and Student Athlete Academic Services.

"While my professional work is about human behavior, I still have a passion for eusocial insects, as evidenced by my dramatic reading of a story about rafting behavior in fire ants from last Saturday's paper to my long-suffering wife and two small children."
     Clay Schwenn (BS 1993), Undergraduate Academic Affairs Advising

You never know what will spark that intellectual passion!  In addition to being drawn to the study of human and animal behavior, members of the group point to a variety of reasons that led them to choose a major in psychology.  Both Tory and Crystal cite an interest in the complexity of human communication, while Tory also had a more personal motivation.  "I have a younger cousin who is autistic and very dear to me," says Tory, "and the interactions I'd had with him - coupled with my general curiosity for and fascination with the way people think, behave, communicate and develop - helped me to peg psychology as my primary academic interest since high school."  Christian, Elise and Kattie identify, among other things, a strong desire to help others, while Kathy points to an analytical nature as a driving force in her choice of major.

"The rat lab class - although perhaps more hands-on than I might have liked - really forced me to understand how to apply the principles learned in class, while at the same time challenging me to adhere to high standards of writing and record keeping which are of great use today in my work."
     Christian Johnson (BA 2007), College of Engineering

Photo of Christian Johnson
Photo: Christian Johnson (BA 2007), College of Engineering

All members of the group point to memorable experiences as undergraduate psychology majors that challenged them, stretched the boundaries of what they believed they were capable of, truly inspired them, and sometimes made them laugh out loud.  This last category includes Jaime Olavarria's chicken impression, used to demonstrate the bird's lack of binocular vision.  Also of note is Michael Passer's insight and spot-on advice, highlighting the importance of meeting one-on-one with faculty, Laura Little's efforts to help motivate a struggling student, and the lightbulb moment of finding one's academic passion in Mike Beecher's Animal Behavior class.  The alumni also singled out non-classroom experiences, such as volunteering, study abroad, and research as having had tremendous impacts.  "The UW is an amazing place with so many research opportunities," notes Elise, "and there will never be another time when you will be able to so easily explore the field."

"The discipline of psychology fed my desire to analyze and observe people and situations.  I applied the theories I learned in classes in my daily life and interactions with individuals, which enabled me to learn meaningfully."
     Kathy Wong (BA 1997), The Information School

Photo of Kathy Wong
Photo: Kathy Wong (BA 1997), The Information School

Statistics and methods classes - yes, statistics and methods - received high praise from the alumni as having been foundational to their studies and to informing their professional work.  Making solid, data-driven decisions, developing and working with assessment tools, being able to back up statements, and understanding what research is and how it is created are all important components of the work of these professionals.  Clay credits the Department with teaching him to think critically about behavior and the world around him, to write well, and to be precise in his explanations.  Strong analytical skills and a foundation for understanding human behavior come to bear in the troubleshooting aspect of advising that Crystal identified.

"The best part of my job is that I get to continually be around the intelligence and excitement of students as they navigate the college choice process."
     Tory Brundage (BS 2008), Admissions

For many of the alumni, having made the transition from UW student to staff allows for a unique perspective on the institution and enhances the service they provide to current students.  Christian sees himself as a natural advocate and cheerleader for the University.  Although an infrequent visitor to advising while she was a student, Elise now urges undergraduates to view advisors as a critical part of the learning process.  "Just stopping by to talk with an advisor can open up doors you wouldn't have otherwise seen," she says.  Having experienced UW in a way that most staff have not allows Tory to help prospective students to value the fact that the University is so large and diverse.  In addition to the dual student/staff perspective, the simple fact of years spent at the same institution can make one philosophical.  "Having been at UW for 23 years now, I can see that the institution does change over time," says Clay, "and it usually keeps the good stuff and lets the crummy stuff go by the wayside."

"Find something you are passionate about and get involved!"
     Kattie Dang (BS 2009), Near Eastern Languages and Civilization

Wise words from the most recent graduate among the group.  Other words of wisdom from the alumni include urging students to find a mentor, to attend office hours and talk with faculty, to take on an internship, to get involved in research, to be honest, and - always - to ask questions.  Lots of questions.  Kathy counsels students to "do what you love, do what you're good at, and do explore!"  This group of advisors and student services professionals all lived out their student experiences as curious, interested, and active participants in their education.  They are now uniquely positioned to help current students to follow suit.  A final and revealing observation from Clay, the most veteran member of the group...

"Students who float through UW don't do much for me; I like the ones who make waves."

 


In Memoriam: G. Alan Marlatt

[This is based on and includes excerpts from an In Memoriam article appearing in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs in May 2011 written by his close colleagues. The complete version can be found here: http://tinyurl.com/marlatt2 ]

Photo:  Dr. G. Alan Marlatt
Photo:  G. Alan Marlatt

The Psychology Department, the University of Washington, and the entire field of addictive behavior research mourn the loss of G. Alan Marlatt, Ph.D., who passed away on March 14, 2011 from kidney failure due to melanoma. A truly creative, courageous, and groundbreaking scientist, he leaves behind an enormous legacy of contributions to the field of addiction research. Alan was born on November 26, 1941, in Vancouver, British Columbia. He received his bachelor’s degree in psychology with honors from the University of British Columbia in 1964 and his doctorate in clinical psychology from Indiana University, Bloomington, in 1968. He taught at the University of British Columbia and the University of Wisconsin before joining the Department of Psychology at the University of Washington in Seattle in 1972. Alan founded the Addictive Behaviors Research Center within the Department of Psychology at the University of Washington in 1981, creating an atmosphere of excellence and a supportive environment within which numerous innovations in the prevention and treatment of addiction were born.

During his 42 years as a clinical and academic psychologist, Alan authored, co-authored, or edited 23 books, and more than 300 articles and book chapters on theoretical and methodological topics as well as empirical research results regarding the assessment, etiology, prevention, and treatment of addictive behaviors. Alan’s research had a major impact on understanding the interaction between thoughts, emotions, and situations as predictors of addictive behaviors. His brilliant, productive, and influential career changed how scholars, clinicians, policy makers, and members of the larger society think about alcohol consumption, the problems it causes, and what we can do about these problems at both the clinical and public health levels.

Alan’s research approaches were pioneering and established a precedent for much of the behavioral alcohol research that followed. For example, early in his career he created the Behavioral Alcohol Research Laboratory (BARLAB)—a simulated bar in the University of Washington Department of Psychology, complete with all the accoutrements of a local tavern in addition to two-way mirrors, hidden cameras, and microphones. He used the BARLAB to study the effects of “set” (expectations, thoughts, attitudes) and “setting” (environment, cues) on alcohol use.

Alan also brought a tremendous amount of compassion to his research and advocated for a pragmatic and humane approach to reducing the harms associated with addictive behaviors. For example, he recognized early on that requiring complete abstinence as the only treatment goal often deterred substance users from seeking treatment. Instead, he promoted alternative approaches designed to encourage behaviors that reduced harm and provide flexible options rather than insisting on immediate cessation of use. He has been recognized for profoundly changing attitudes about addiction and how to approach its treatment.

The Department will deeply miss Alan.

Understanding what makes the individual unique

Photo:  Dr. Chantel Prat
Photo:  Dr. Chantel Prat

Our newest faculty member, Chantel Prat, joined us in September 2010 as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology and a member of the Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences. In many psychological studies, investigators try to “average out” individual differences by measuring the behavior of many individuals. But, we all appreciate our unique cognitive abilities – whether it’s an individual’s particular abilities in math or a particular facility with second language acquisition. What forms the bases of these individual differences? Chantel’s research emphasizes an understanding of the neural basis of individual differences with a particular focus on language comprehension abilities.  Her current research employs the combination of multiple neuroimaging techniques –  including fMRI to assess neural activity, transcranial magnetic stimulation to selectively and temporally disrupt activity, and diffusion tensor imaging to assess brain connectivity patterns – along with traditional behavioral paradigms to investigate the neural basis of individual differences in language and cognition. 

Chantel earned her Ph.D. at the University of California, Davis, working with Debra Long on investigations of individual differences in representation of discourse in the two cerebral hemispheres, and trained subsequently with Marcel Just at Carnegie Mellon University’s Center for Cognitive Brain Imaging.  At Carnegie Mellon, she was awarded the prestigious NIH Pathway to Independence Award. This award provides two-years of postdoctoral funding and three years of principal investigator funding for new faculty. In addition, Chantel was recently awarded the Society for Text and Discourse’s Tom Trabasso Young Investigator Award for 2011. We are fortunate to have her join our Department.