Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Post Type Selectors

Category: News

A Fond Farewell to Paula McIntyre

After a decade of service, our fantastic Post Award Operations Manager, Paula McIntyre, bids farewell to the Owens Institute for Behavioral Research (OIBR) to begin an exciting new chapter in her career with Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

Paula’s research administration journey with the University of Georgia (UGA) started fifteen years ago when she worked on an extramurally funded sponsored project as an Administrative Specialist in the Institute on Human Development and Disability within the College of Family and Consumer Sciences.

Throughout the past ten years with OIBR, Paula contributed significantly to all aspects of financial management at the Institute. Paula had a knack for all things numbers and quickly took on more responsibility and greater challenges. Paula was energized at the prospect of new systems and better methods for data tracking. During the PeopleSoft OneSource transition, she jumped on board with the Change Champions to be a part of the system development and to pilot and test functionality. In addition to her never-ending quest for better reporting methods, cleaner data, and clearer policies, she was one of the most intelligent, organized, helpful, and pleasant people with whom we worked.

Paula demonstrated a knack for teaching and mentoring others. Helping others to learn and excel and grow in their careers came easily to her and brought her joy and personal satisfaction. She has mentored countless business persons in grants accounting across campus and, we have no doubt, that the university community benefitted greatly from her time here.

For several years, Paula served as the OIBR human resources manager. In this role, she was the primary HR contact for dozens of sponsored research projects. Her responsibilities included navigating the complexities of employment administration and offering guidance on UGA HR policies and procedures.

In the realm of financial and post-award management, Paula’s expertise was a great benefit to the Institute. Paula managed our state accounts, sales, and service accounts, as well as her project caseload while leading the post-award team. She listened closely in BSAG and RADG and OneSource meetings for upcoming changes in policies and procedures and worked hard to ensure compliance in all areas, providing valuable insight to both colleagues and faculty. Her collaborative approach, kind and helpful demeanor, and eye for detail enhanced the efficiency and success of OIBR’s fiscal affairs. Paula’s mentorship and hard work contributed to a culture of excellence within the organization, and she leaves in place a terrific post-award team.

As Paula embarks on a new chapter in her career, we are filled with gratitude for the time we shared with her. We greatly appreciate her invaluable contributions, hard work, dedication, and service to the Owens Institute and UGA. We wish Paula all the best in her new position!

UGA New Meigs Professors

 

UGA announces six exceptional faculty members have been honored with their highest award for teaching, the 2023-2024 Josiah Meigs Distinguished Teaching Professorship, for their commitment to teaching. Four of the six honorees are affiliates of the Owens Institute for Behavioral Research.

The Meigs Professorship reflects the university’s commitment to excellence in teaching, the value placed on student learning experiences and the central role instruction plays in the university’s mission.

2023-2024 Meigs Professors (pictured left to right):

  • Melisa Cahnmann-Taylor, OIBR Affiliate and Professor in the department of language and literacy education, Mary Frances Early College of Education;
  • Erin Dolan, OIBR Distinguished Scholar and Professor in the department of biochemistry and molecular biology, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences;
  • Leslie Gordon Simons, OIBR Distinguished Scholar and mentoring program graduate and Professor in the department of sociology, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences; and
  • Julie Stanton, OIBR Distinguished Scholar and Associate Professor in the department of cellular biology, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences.

More here about this distinguished honor and the honorees.

Unraveling Adolescent Vulnerabilities: Three Innovative Youth Development Grants

Assif OshriIn a groundbreaking initiative led by Principal Investigator (PI) Assaf Oshri, a Distinguished Scholar at the Owens Institute for Behavioral Research (OIBR) and an associate professor in Human Development and Family Science at the University of Georgia (UGA), three innovative grants have been awarded to investigate the intricate interplay between early life adversity and adolescent drug use vulnerabilities. Let’s delve into these projects and their significance, as well as OIBR’s role in their development and execution.

Understanding Adolescent Vulnerabilities
Dr. Oshri has been awarded three grants over the last few years that support his innovative research in youth development.

The first grant, “The Influence of Community and Family Protective Processes on Neurocognitive Systems Associated with Early-Onset Drug Use: An Investigation of Rural Southern Youth (DORRY),” was funded by the National Institute of Health (NIH) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and was awarded $800k. The grant will run from 2018 through 2024.

The NIH and NIDA also awarded $3 million to a grant entitled, “Early Adversity and Drug Use Vulnerability Among Low-Income Rural Children: Testing a Neuro-ecological Model of Resilience (BRANCH),” with an award period of April 2023 through April 2028. From UGA, Co-Investigators are Steve Kogan, OIBR Distinguished Scholar and Athletic Association Professor of Human Development and Family Science, Larry Sweet, OIBR Distinguished Scholar and the Gary R. Sperduto Professor in Clinical Psychology in the department of Psychology, Margaret Caughy, OIBR Distinguished Scholar and Georgia Athletic Association Professor of Human Development and Family Science, and Charles Geir, OIBR Affiliate and professor in the department of Human and Family Sciences.

Lastly, “A Neuroecological Approach to Examining the Effects of Early Life Adversity on Adolescent Drug Use Vulnerabilities Using the ABCD Dataset,” was also funded by NIH and NIDA in the amount of $3 million and will run from August 2023 thru August 2028. Co-Investigators are Larry Sweet, Charles Geier, and Kalsea Koss, OIBR Affiliate and assistant professor of Human Development and Family Science at UGA.

Significance of the Projects
These projects adopt an interdisciplinary approach, integrating data on brain development, family dynamics, and broader environmental factors to explore how resilience evolves in children and youth. Understanding these factors is critical for developing effective preventive interventions to mitigate drug use vulnerabilities. These grants represent a significant investment in research aimed at uncovering the mechanisms underlying adolescent vulnerabilities, and paving the way for targeted interventions and support systems.

OIBR’s Contribution
OIBR has played a significant role throughout the lifecycle of these projects. From pre-award grant support services, including budget formulation and regulatory guidance, to post-award assistance with personnel recruitment and financial management, “OIBR’s involvement has been invaluable,” said Dr. Oshri. “The OIBR Grant Development Program that I participated in helped facilitate connections with senior principal investigators, fostering collaboration and enhancing my projects’ impact.”

Reflections on the Research Journey
Interdisciplinary collaboration has emerged as both surprising and challenging, highlighting the complexities of integrating diverse perspectives into cohesive scientific outcomes. “I was most surprised by the complexity of conducting interdisciplinary research. Each expert brings their unique knowledge, jargon, norms, and niches to the table, making it a challenge to integrate these diverse perspectives into my area to produce meaningful scientific outcomes,” Oshri shared.

“In addition, establishing connections with remote and rural communities proved particularly challenging, underscoring the importance of building trust and rapport with families,” Dr. Oshri continued. “Despite the challenges, the potential to make a tangible difference in children’s development remains profoundly rewarding.”

Oshri acknowledges the contributions of mentors like Dr. Steven Kogan, “who is a master grant writer, and has been instrumental in honing my grant writing skills,” said Oshi.

He also mentioned Dr. Larry Sweet. “Dr. Sweet is an exceptional neuroscientist, who generously welcomed me into his lab and classes for years, significantly before and during my initial NIH training grant. His mentorship was crucial in integrating cognitive neuroscience into my research.”

Collaborative Innovation
In a testament to collaborative innovation, Oshri highlights his partnership with neuroscientist Dr. Chuck Geier. “He has been amazing to collaborate with, and we have been having a lot of fun co-directing the lab (Youth Development Institute) together,” said Oshri. He continued, “My work is just a small part of the work that is done by a team of great people, including undergraduate and graduate student staff.”

Future Directions
Dr. Assaf Oshri’s research embodies a groundbreaking endeavor aimed at unraveling the intricate complexities of adolescent vulnerabilities, with significant implications for the creation of precise interventions and supportive frameworks. As these projects unfold, they promise to shed light on the relationship between early life adversity and adolescent well-being, offering hope for a brighter, healthier future for our youth. Looking ahead, Oshri aspires to establish a center for developmental science—to serve as a hub for cutting-edge interdisciplinary training and research that is dedicated to advancing the understanding of human development.

 

Written by Andrea Horsman

Building Better Biologists: A New Program Trains the Next Generation of Science Educators

Building Better BiologistsThe University of Georgia (UGA) is home to a large and robust group of biology education researchers (BER). Collectively, this group has a long and strong record of training postdoctoral fellows who go on to pursue a variety of careers, including research and teaching intensive positions in higher education, positions in faculty professional development, and others. One of the reasons for the success is the diverse and collaborative environment in the social and behavioral sciences. Many faculty at UGA with research programs in biology education have ongoing collaborations with faculty in educational psychology, psychology, science education, higher education, and other disciplines.

A team co-led by Dr. Erin Dolan, an OIBR distinguished scholar, Georgia Athletic Association Professor of Innovative Science Education, and professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, and Dr. Logan Fiorella, also an OIBR distinguished scholar and associate professor of educational psychology, is fostering a new generation of BER through an exciting initiative funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

This project, titled “Preparing the Next Generation of Biology Education Researchers through Interdisciplinary Co-mentorship and Evidence-based Professional Development,” tackles a crucial challenge in the field of BER. Traditionally, BER research has been criticized for being isolated from other disciplines, limiting its impact, and hindering the development of robust theories on teaching and learning biology.

“Given the rich scholarly and training environment at UGA, and our collective networks and collaborations, we thought we could put together and facilitate a rigorous and supportive postdoctoral training program that was focused on cross-disciplinary research in biology education,” said Dr. Dolan.
She explains, “Imagine studying how students make decisions about careers in the life sciences or how students learn to solve life science problems without considering the science of motivation or problem-solving. That’s the kind of isolation we’re aiming to bridge.”

This new program directly addresses this issue. Biology education research investigates teaching and learning in life science fields by combining the priorities, worldviews, knowledge, and practices of biology with the research methods, tools, approaches, and theory from the social sciences. By leveraging UGA’s wealth of BER faculty and experts in social and behavioral sciences, the project will train postdoctoral fellows in a truly interdisciplinary environment.

Why is this important?
BER plays a vital role in improving how biology is taught and learned. It investigates how students develop as life scientists and come to understand life science concepts and their applications and implications. But without a strong foundation in other disciplines like psychology and education, BER research can struggle to build a comprehensive picture.

This research project aims to change that. Postdocs in the program will be co-mentored by BER faculty and researchers from other relevant fields. This unique approach will equip them with the tools and perspectives to conduct more impactful and theoretically grounded BER research.

Collaboration is Key
Dr. Dolan highlights a particularly rewarding aspect of the project: the collaborative spirit among faculty. “It has been such a pleasure to work with the faculty involved in the project,” she says. “Everyone is coming to the project with an open mind, generative spirit, and collegial ethos.”
This collaboration extends beyond the faculty. The project prioritizes equity and inclusion in its recruitment process. Potential applicants can participate in virtual office hours and submit “curiosity statements” instead of traditional research statements. This approach focuses on aligning applicants’ interests with the program’s goals, fostering a diverse and dynamic learning environment for the incoming postdocs. Dr. Dolan stated, “Applicants are responding very favorably to these elements,” pointing out “that it is one of the reasons they were attracted to apply to the program.”

The Road Ahead
The project is funded for three years, with postdocs receiving two-year appointments. While future funding from the NSF is uncertain, the potential for expansion is exciting. Dr. Dolan envisions recruiting additional cohorts in the coming years, allowing the program to continue its mission of building a new generation of well-rounded BER researchers.
This initiative promises to revolutionize BER by fostering a collaborative and interdisciplinary approach. By training the next generation of researchers to think outside the box, the program paves the way for a brighter future in biology education, ultimately benefiting students and the field.

 

Written by: Andrea Horsman

COSSA’s Social Science Rankings place UGA at #9

COSSA recently released its annual College and University Rankings for Federal Social and Behavioral Science R&D, which highlight the top university recipients of research dollars in the social and behavioral sciences. In their rankings, the University of Georgia came in ninth place, up from sixteenth place in FY2021, with over $35 million in social and behavioral science research and development.

Based on federally collected data, the COSSA rankings use an inclusive selection of fields representing the breadth of the social and behavioral sciences to calculate the total federal R&D funding received by universities in the social and behavioral sciences. The 2024 rankings reflect spending from fiscal year 2022, the most current available data. More information on how they produce their rankings is available on their website. COSSA’s website also features a rankings dashboard with an interactive map of recipients of social and behavioral science R&D funding so you can see how UGA stacks up among 533 U.S. institutions.

Is Stress Really Bad for You?

A recent Time magazine article featured Assaf Oshri, OIBR Grant Development Program Graduate and Distinguished Scholar, and his recent research on resilience. The article highlights the work conducted at Dr. Oshri’s lab, Youth Development Institute (YDI) and discusses how much stress is too much and how it affects your body. Read the article here.

Paula Lemons has been named 2023-2024 University Professor

Paula Lemons has been named a 2023-2024 University Professor. (Submitted photo)

Paula Lemons, OIBR Distinguished Scholar and Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology has been named 2023-2024 University Professor, in recognition of her significant impact, influential vision, and leadership at the University of Georgia.

 

Igniting Change: FIRE-PLAN Grant to Re-Think Wildland Fire Science and Education

Fire

In a groundbreaking initiative, OIBR Affiliate Dr. Laura German recently received funding for the FIRE-PLAN project, titled “ITEST-FIRE: Convergent Pyroscapes.” She has been awarded a grant of $196,799 from the National Science Foundation’s Division of Research on Learning (NSF-DRL). This project is set to catalyze innovative and inclusive wildland fire science and education in Western North Carolina in partnership with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI), addressing critical issues in forest management and STEM representation. 

Project Origins and Timeline 

The planning for the Convergent Pyroscapes project commenced in October 2022 in response to the NSF call for “Planning Proposals to Catalyze Innovative and Inclusive Wildland Fire Science through Diverse Collaborations.” However, its roots trace back to 2019, marked by collaborations with the Natural Resources Department of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI NRD) within the context of the Integrative Conservation Practicum, a graduate course in the Integrative Conservation (ICON) program, taught by Dr. German. This partnership, focusing on the role of fire in meeting Tribal forestry goals, helped to lay the conceptual and partnership groundwork for a comprehensive project that would address complex challenges in the eastern forests. 

The planning grant, spanning from January 1, 2024, to December 31, 2025, will provide the necessary funding for trust-building and collaborative planning to identify key priorities for Phase 2 proposals focused on blending Indigenous and Western knowledge and technology for prescribed fire modeling and management, and Native STEM education. 

Addressing the Urgency: Why FIRE-PLAN Maters 

One of the key motivations behind the convergent pyroscapes project is the significant underrepresentation of Native people in STEM fields. This imbalance not only raises equity concerns but also diminishes the invaluable contribution of Native worldviews and technologies to prescribed fire and land management. The consequences are stark, with increasingly severe wildland fires and the loss of fire-adapted forest communities and related ecosystem services. 

With vast forest landscapes approaching a tipping point beyond which fire-adapted forest ecosystems will rapidly shift to less desirable states unless fire is reintroduced as a key management tool at scale, the need to increase the application of managed fire has never been greater. Indigenous-led fire stewardship is recognized as a potential solution, but it faces challenges. Conceptual blinders within fire science, management, and education, coupled with shifts in forest conditions under federal management and barriers to STEM education among Native youth, hinder progress. The project aims to identify and break down these barriers by fostering a partnership between the EBCI, Native STEM educators, the University of Georgia, the U.S.D.A. Forest Service, and TERC, a STEM education research organization. 

Innovative Approach: Converging Native and Western Knowledge 

Convergent Pyroscapes adopts an innovative approach to knowledge convergence, integrating Native fire knowledge, technologies, and aspirations into STEM education and prescribed fire science and management. Indigenous-led workshops and collaborative co-designed methodologies will be employed to broaden partnerships, share foundational knowledge, and co-develop robust plans for one or more Phase 2 proposals. 

The project’s ultimate goals are ambitious: to reveal and dismantle conceptual blinders in Western fire science, generate innovative and inclusive fire science advances, and enhance the participation of Native youth in forestry and natural resource careers through convergent STEM curricula. 

Surprises and Challenges: Insights from the Researcher 

The deep influence of conceptual blinders linked to the history of settler colonialism has been a surprising revelation in this evolving partnership. From redefining “natural” forests as cultural landscapes to recognizing fire as a keystone ecological process, the project challenges long-rooted assumptions and the false guardrails they engender that constrain the application of fire. The hoops that Tribes still must go through to use fire on landscapes adapted to regular burning over millennia highlight the complexity of the issue. 

According to Dr. German, the most challenging yet rewarding aspect of the research is navigating partnerships with Tribal Nations, given the historical mistrust with research. Approaching the partnership with humility, a recognition of Tribal sovereignty, and a willingness to learn from those who have stewarded the lands for millennia hold the key to repairing relations with Tribal nations. In partnership with federal land management agencies, such orientations hold the potential to heal landscapes, communities, and relations and usher in greater resilience in the face of a warming climate. 

Inspirations and Collaborations: People Behind the Project 

Dr. German says she has benefited greatly from the contribution of natural scientists willing to interrogate their craft, learn together, and challenge both her and conventional scientific approaches. Additionally, the words and work of Indigenous scholars, poets, and activists have significantly influenced her, “shifting the ground” she walks on by reshaping her understanding of the Indigenous experience and allowing her to question fundamental assumptions about reality. 

Future Aspirations: Charting a Course for the Next Five Years 

The Convergent Pyroscapes project is an exciting effort to test novel paradigms for knowledge production and convergence, yet its ideas and approaches need to be tested in practice. As such, Dr. German envisions using this as a pilot experience, learning from successes and failures and drawing on those to set more ambitious goals in terms of effectiveness and reach. Ultimately, the goal is to make an impact on forests and Native self-determination in land management through novel approaches to “wildland” fire science and management. 

In conclusion, the Convergent Pyroscapes project is well-positioned to produce innovations in fire science, blending Indigenous and Western science and technology to tackle pressing issues in wildland fire science and education. With a robust partnership and an innovative approach, the project holds the promise of reshaping the narrative around fire management and fostering inclusivity in STEM fields. 

For more information about this research project, contact Principal Investigator, Dr. Laura German, UGA Professor of Anthropology and the Director of the Center for Integrative Conservation Research, or Co-PI Dr. Elizabeth King, UGA Associate Professor with the Odom School of Ecology. 

Author: Andrea Horsman 

New Certified Research Administrator

We are proud to announce that Kim Cherewick has recently passed the Certified Research Administrator (CRA) exam. It’s quite a feat to pass this mammoth exam on the first try, but she aced it!

Kim is the Assistant Director of the Owens Institute for Behavioral Research and a Decentralized Limited Signatory Authority for the University of Georgia Research Foundation. She is responsible for assisting the Director in overseeing all operations of the Institute: Research, Personnel, Financial, Strategic Planning, and Faculty Development Programs.  Kim supervises both pre- and post-award activities, working closely with the OIBR Grants Coordinator and Business Managers, and she remains proactively involved throughout the life of the research projects.

Rising Star: Drew Abney’s Cutting-Edge Research Garners Prestigious Recognition

Drew Abney, a developmental psychologist in the Department of Psychology at the University of Georgia, is reshaping the way we understand child development. Using cutting-edge tools and techniques from complexity science, Drew explores how behaviors and social interactions impact the growth journey from infancy to toddlerhood.

Conducting studies in various settings, from playful environments to structured labs, Drew has crafted innovative methods to capture intricate behavioral data. His research program aims to decode developmental dynamics using applied computational social science and dynamical system theory. This forward-thinking approach has earned him recognition as the Principal Investigator (PI) on two major grants awarded in the past year and a half.

The James S. McDonnell Foundation Grant ($250,000) focuses on “Sensorimotor cascades,” delving into real-time movement dynamics in infants. The Army Research Institute grant ($597,365) tackles “Dynamic models of interaction for trust building in diverse contexts.”

At OIBR’s annual meeting in early December, Drew Abney was awarded the 2023 OIBR Rising Star Award. To achieve such acclaim early in one’s career is a testament to Abney’s dedication and the transformative potential of his research program. Abney is poised to further elevate the scope and impact of his research, solidifying his status as a rising star in the field of developmental psychology.