BBS Restructures Academic Areas, Bolsters Faculty Roster To Boost Visibility
With his first full academic year at The University of Texas at Dallas in the books, the dean of the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences (BBS) has implemented a reorganized departmental structure this fall designed to align the school with peer institutions across the country and increase national and international visibility.
Dr. Steven Small, BBS dean and Aage and Margareta Møller Distinguished Professor in Behavioral and Brain Sciences, said the school’s new nomenclature will enhance its reputation and improve recruiting.
Founded as the School of Human Development in 1975 and renamed in 2003, BBS expanded to include programs in many behavioral and brain sciences. Now with more than 70 faculty members — including Dr. Angela Shoup, the new executive director of the Callier Center for Communication Disorders and five other new tenured or tenure-track professors and — all with distinct needs and interests, the infrastructure of the school has been redesigned to keep pace.
The former Communication Sciences and Disorders group and some of its programs received a change in name to Speech, Language, and Hearing, capturing the full range of research topics and education.
“We’re changing from indicating a pure emphasis in disorders to a broader emphasis in every intellectual issue related to speech, language and hearing,” Small said, “from fundamental research principles through clinical treatment of disorders.”
BBS Academic Areas
Department of Speech, Language, and Hearing: formerly Communication Sciences and Disorders
Department of Psychology: formerly Psychological Sciences and includes some cognition and neuroscience faculty
Department of Neuroscience: formerly one part of Cognition and Neuroscience
Home to the University’s nationally ranked top-10 graduate programs in audiology and speech-language pathology, the Department of Speech, Language, and Hearing is based at the Callier centers in Dallas and Richardson. Small hopes that the change in name will raise the profile of the other aspects of the department.
“The biggest aspect of the Callier Center for our community is the clinical care, but they also have very strong doctoral research and education that have not been as prominent in our outreach,” he said. “We have a reformulated conceptual structure — the people are the same, but we’re hoping we’ll recruit more students interested in a broader set of subjects at the undergraduate and graduate levels.”
The other two disciplinary areas received name simplifications as well as conceptual restructuring. The Psychological Sciences area is now part of the Department of Psychology, and the Cognition and Neuroscience faculty now play roles in both the Department of Psychology and a new Department of Neuroscience. This boundary between the two represents the most significant reorganization, uniting cognitive neuroscientists — researchers who use brain imaging to study brain-behavior relations — with other researchers focused primarily on behavior.
“We used some of the best programs from around the nation as models, and the cognitive neuroscientists at those universities fall under psychology,” Small said. “Bringing the cognitive group under the same umbrella as the social and developmental researchers — and making psychology our largest department — aligns us with other programs that the best students are considering.”
That change sets apart the fundamental neuroscientists, primarily located in the Bioengineering and Sciences Building, in their own department. These researchers are primarily focused on the functions of the central and peripheral nervous systems at cellular, molecular and systems levels.
“Many universities are satisfied where they are; UT Dallas wants very much to continue to ascend,” Small said. “I see that in my colleagues; I see that in leadership.
“I have a number of programs I’m working on; I have a number of dreams for BBS. No one in the administration, even during this pandemic, has told me that I should cut back on my dreams. The aspiration is there. Everyone wants to get better.”
New Tenured and Tenure-Track Faculty
Dr. Crystal Engineer, assistant professor of neuroscience
Education: PhD in cognition and neuroscience, UT Dallas, 2008; MS in applied cognition and neuroscience, UT Dallas, 2005; BS in neuroscience, UT Dallas, 2003
Previous position: research assistant professor, Texas Biomedical Device Center, UT Dallas
Research interests: auditory processing, autism spectrum disorder, plasticity, speech perception and neuromodulation
“I’m excited to continue working with the highly motivated and talented students at UTD in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences. My laboratory is focused on understanding and improving the auditory processing impairments observed in neurodevelopmental disorders, such as autism. Our goal is to develop novel adjunctive interventions that can increase the neural and behavioral benefits of auditory rehabilitation therapies.”
Dr. Benedict Kolber, associate professor of neuroscience
Education: PhD in neuroscience, Washington University in St. Louis, 2008; BS in biology and psychology, University of Dayton, 2003
Previous position: associate professor, research and education coordinator, chronic pain research consortium, biological sciences, Duquesne University
Research interests: the role of the amygdala in pain information integration and emotional well-being; novel therapies to treat pain and depression comorbidity using naturally occurring compounds; novel integrative non-pharmacological therapy for musculoskeletal pain
“I am thrilled to be part of the continued upward trajectory of scholarly and teaching excellence at UT Dallas. The collaborative nature of research at the University, coupled with strong support of research endeavors at all levels, means that me and my trainees are well positioned to push the envelope on our basic science and microtranslational research in chronic pain and psychiatric disease.”
Dr. Yune Lee, assistant professor of speech, language, and hearing
Education: PhD in cognitive neuroscience, Dartmouth College, 2010; BS in biology, Yonsei University, South Korea, 2001
Previous position: assistant professor of speech and hearing sciences, The Ohio State University
Research interests: neural and behavioral connections between speech, language and music; neural plasticity associated with improved language/cognitive functions after music-based intervention; impact of lifelong music training on protecting cognitive and sensory declines
“I’m excited about the fast-growing and innovative research/academic environment at UTD. In particular, I look forward to forging collaborations with many prominent colleagues in BBS. My goal, down the line, is to make valuable contributions to the UTD and DFW community with my teaching and research.”
Dr. BoKyung Park, assistant professor of psychology
Education: PhD in psychology, Stanford University, 2017; MA in psychology, Seoul National University, 2012; BA in psychology, Seoul National University, 2009
Previous position: postdoctoral scholar in psychology, Boston College
Research interests: social, cultural and emotional factors that shape perception of in-group membership and subsequent social decisions; underlying neural mechanisms
“In this rapidly globalizing society, understanding cultural differences in social judgments and decision-making can be critical to promoting social harmony. I aim to investigate how culture shapes individuals’ social interactions, helping facilitate real-world intercultural communication. Through this line of research, I look forward to contributing to the outstanding growth of UT Dallas already underway.”
Dr. Adrianna Shembel, assistant professor of speech, language, and hearing
Education: PhD in communication science and disorders, University of Pittsburgh, 2017; MA in communication science and disorders, University of Pittsburgh, 2008; BS in communication sciences and disorders, Pennsylvania State University, 2005
Previous position: postdoctoral research fellow, Voice Research Laboratory, New York University Grossman School of Medicine
Research interests: the effects of increased vocal demands on laryngeal-respiratory muscle biology and physiology; mechanisms underlying vocal pathophysiology in occupational voice users
“Understanding how vocal muscles adapt and become dysfunctional with high vocal demands is critical for effective prevention and rehabilitation in occupational voice users. I am excited to collaborate with investigators at UTD and UT Southwestern to identify novel approaches to study how vocal muscles adapt to increased vocal demands using animal models and to validate approaches to assessing biomechanical function in the laryngeal muscle in humans with demand-induced vocal dysfunction.”
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