New Researchers Bolster BBS’ Strength in Neuroscience, Psychology

The School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences (BBS) at The University of Texas of Dallas has added four tenure-track faculty since January, including new dean Dr. Steven Small who arrived in April.

The school also hired neurobiology professor Dr. Ana Solodkin and two assistant professors — Dr. Kendra Seaman and Dr. Meghan Swanson.

Dr. Steven Small

“BBS continues to evolve as we bring neurobiology, psychology, and speech, language, and hearing sciences together to understand brain and behavior across the lifespan,” Small said. “Our new hires each address this from a different angle.”

Solodkin joined the BBS faculty July 1. She previously served as co-director, alongside Small, of the Brain Circuits Laboratory at the University of California, Irvine (UCI), and first-year course director of neurosciences at the UCI School of Medicine.

Her work focuses on using magnetic resonance imaging and advanced computational simulation techniques to characterize brain function and develop personalized therapies for patients with stroke and neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s.

“The goals of her work include developing precision medicine in neurology, using multiscale neuroinformatic modeling of individual human brain function,” Small said.

Seaman, who also arrived at UT Dallas this summer, will have her research laboratory at the Center for Vital Longevity (CVL). Her Aging Well Lab will examine the ways in which decision-making skills can evolve in older adults, specifically in contexts such as trusting other individuals and in spending and budgetary concerns.

“We at the CVL are delighted to welcome Dr. Seaman as our newest principal investigator in the center,” said Dr. Michael Rugg, director of the CVL and Distinguished Chair in Behavioral and Brain Sciences. “We are excited the research in the center will be expanding to include the effects of age on decision-making, including the important topic of financial decisions.”

While Seaman’s last stop was at Duke University, Swanson arrived from the nearby University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Focused on the neurobiology of early communication, Swanson joined the psychological sciences team in January and launched the Infant Neurodevelopment & Language Research Lab, known as the Baby Brain Lab. She recently published a study of the language skills of young children that concluded that the same techniques that help most children develop language skills — particularly exposure to more speech from caregivers — also benefit those eventually diagnosed with autism.

“Dr. Swanson’s research synergizes with many faculty in BBS who study child language by illuminating how babies’ brains support language development,” said Dr. Shayla Holub, associate professor and head of psychological sciences. “Her work with children who are developing typically and those who are not will help broaden our perspective on the young mind and provide new insights into clinical intervention.”


New Tenure-Track Faculty

Dr. Kendra Seaman

Dr. Kendra Seaman, assistant professor of psychology and cognitive neuroscience

Previously: postdoctoral scholar, Duke University

Research Interests: promoting health and well-being across adulthood by studying the intersections of learning, motivation and decision-making across the adult lifespan using a variety of behavioral, modeling and neuroimaging techniques

Quote: “As demographics shift and our population grows older, the decision-making abilities of older adults have increasingly profound economic and social consequences. I look forward to working with my new colleagues and students here at UT Dallas to understand better how aging does, or does not, influence decision-making. Armed with this knowledge, we can improve the health and well-being of older adults and those who care for them.” 


Dr. Ana Solodkin

Dr. Ana Solodkin, professor of neurobiology

Previously: professor of anatomy, neurobiology and neurology, University of California, Irvine

Research Interests: to develop multiscale precision biomarkers with strong biophysical grounding that can serve as the basis for personalized prognosis and/or therapeutic selection related to neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and stroke

Quote: “UT Dallas is a unique place for both research and education because of the possibility of integration of different fields, like neuroscience and engineering.”


Dr. Meghan Swanson

Dr. Meghan Swanson, assistant professor of psychology

Previously: postdoctoral fellow, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Research Interests: neurobiology of infant communication, infant-caregiver communication, infant brain and behavior development, especially in those with developmental disorders, including autism spectrum disorder

Quote: “Together with members of the Baby Brain Lab, I conduct developmental and cognitive neuroscience research with a focus on the early development of typically developing infants and children with autism spectrum disorder. I look forward to contributing to the research landscape of UT Dallas by bringing infant neuroimaging research to the area. This is such an exciting time to be at UT Dallas, and my hope is to contribute to the remarkable growth the University is currently experiencing.”


New Faculty Series

News Center is publishing profiles of tenured and tenure-track professors who have recently joined the University. The following school profiles have been published:

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].