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Ebony Glover seeks answers in brain and behavior science research

Pursuing research in her field of behavioral neuroscience started more as a practical matter for Ebony Glover, fueled by a healthy dose of curiosity. As a largely self-funded undergraduate psychology major at Atlanta’s Spelman College, she jumped at the chance to earn a stipend to participate in a series of research talks by high-profile neuroscientists.

After hearing one of them discuss a model of animals’ fear response to post-traumatic stress — “fear-potentiated startle” in the scientific jargon — Glover said she was “hooked.” “It was something about how he described fear as a biological construct and not just a feeling or emotion.”

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Sociology professor Darina Lepadatu earns international book award

Have you ever thought about what it takes to keep a multi-billion-dollar industry running? Darina Lepadatu, professor of sociology and international conflict management at Kennesaw State University, and her research partner Tom Janoski, from the University of Kentucky, have spent more than 20 years studying the auto manufacturing industry and its use of “lean production.”

The President of the Georgia Sociological Association, Dr. Lepadatu describes lean production as “trying to create the best product or the highest quality at the lowest cost.” Essentially, lean companies are trying to employ the fewest people who can produce the highest quality product with as little waste as possible, but continuous improvement and teamwork are key features of lean organizations.

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OTHER GRANTS AND PUBLICATIONS
Garrard Conley, Assistant Professor of Creative Writing in the Department of English, had the article "The Mirror House" published in Oxford American.

Lindsey Hand, Lecturer of Communication in the School of Communication and Media, had the article "The Role of Telemedicine in Rural Mental Health Care Around the Globe" published in Telemedicine and eHealth.

Silke Zoller, Assistant Professor of History in the Department of History and Philosophy, had the article "The Swift Response to the Belarus Plane Hijacking Signals a Historic Shift" published in The Washington Post.

Robin Mathis, Assistant Professor of Communication in the School of Communication and Media, received a RCHSS Scholarship Support Grant for her research on “Women in the world of law communicating to navigate the crossroads of masculinity and taint."

Sara Evans, Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice in the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice, had the article "Collective efficacy and disorder in city parks" published in The Pursuit.

Jennifer Purcell, Associate Professor of Political Science in the School of Government and International Affairs, had the article "Next generation practitioner-scholars navigating community engagement professional development: A collaborative autoethnography" published in the Journal of Community Engagement and Higher Education. Dr. Purcell also had the article "Boundary spanning leadership among community-engaged faculty: An exploratory study of faculty participating in higher education community engagement" in the Engaged Scholar Journal

Sueyoung Park-Primiano, Assistant Professor of English and Film Studies in the Department of English, had the chapter "The Awkward Truth: Fractured Romance and the Art of Decoupling in the Films of Hong Sang-soo" published in "After Happily Ever After": Romantic Comedy in the Post-Romantic Age.

Chris Palmer, Professor of English, and Michelle Devereaux, Associate Professor of English Education in the Department of English, had the article "Pandialectal Learning: Teaching Global Englishes in a 10th-Grade English Class" published American Speech, A Quarterly of Linguistic Usage.

Elizabeth Miles, Professor of Asian Studies and Gender and Women's Studies in the Interdisciplinary Studies Department, received a grant from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) Postdoctoral Fellowship for Research in Japan to conduct ethnographic research in Tokyo, Japan. The project is entitled "Love and Texts: Social Media and Modern Courtship in Japan and the United States." Dr. Miles also received an RCHSS Scholarship Support Grant to complete her manuscript entitled Men Who Can’t Do: Contemporary Japanese Manhood and the Economies of Intimacy.

Amy Dunagin, Assistant Professor of History in the Department of History and Philosophy, had the articles "Opera, War, and the Politics of Effeminacy under Queen Anne" and "Introduction: Consuming Foreign Music and Theater in Eighteenth-Century Britain" published in Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture.

Dr. Ebony Glover seeks answers in brain and behavior science research

Pursuing research in her field of behavioral neuroscience started more as a practical matter for Ebony Glover, fueled by a healthy dose of curiosity. As a largely self-funded undergraduate psychology major at Atlanta’s Spelman College, she jumped at the chance to earn a stipend to participate in a series of research talks by high-profile neuroscientists.

After hearing one of them discuss a model of animals’ fear response to post-traumatic stress — “fear-potentiated startle” in the scientific jargon — Glover said she was “hooked.” “It was something about how he described fear as a biological construct and not just a feeling or emotion.”

As associate professor of neuroscience in Kennesaw State’s Department of Psychological Science, Glover has followed the path from her undergraduate courses in the brain and behavior through a nearly 20-year research career. She conducted doctoral studies and research in neuroscience and animal behavior at Emory University, post-doctoral research on human subjects at Grady Hospital, and, most recently, research into sex-linked biological factors for women’s heightened risk for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

Along the way, she has attracted more than $620,000 in funding for her research interests, including teaching research to undergraduates and helping increase diversity among researchers. She also has published more than 20 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters. Last fall, she received her most prestigious grant, a three-year, $406,000 R15 Academic Research Enhancement Award from the National Institute of Health, to determine why women have such a disproportionate rate of PTSD and other anxiety disorders — nearly two times the rate for men — and worse outcomes in treatment. 

“I’ve been concerned about the mental health disparities related to sex and race in general for some time,” Glover said. “I started this research to determine if there was some biological mechanism at play in this disparity. When I started looking at the literature, I discovered there was very little research examining the female brain. Even the pre-clinical research on animals was almost exclusively done on male subjects.”

As she pursued understanding the roles of various neurochemicals in modulating fear learning and memory in rats, a break came when she worked on post-doctoral research at Grady Hospital with a team of neuroscientists from Emory University. They were working to develop a way to translate the startle model for measuring response to fear from animals to humans, using stimuli like a blast of air to the back of the throat rather than electric shock. With this translational model, she and her colleagues were able to study risk factors for developing PTSD in a “highly traumatized” clinical sample of patients at Grady Hospital, where she began looking at sex as an important biological determinant in PTSD, examining the impact of hormones like estrogen.

When she joined Kennesaw State’s faculty in 2014, Glover said she hoped to continue her translational research in order to study the impact of additional hormones such as progesterone and synthetic hormones found in contraceptives on the fear responses in women with PTSD. However, a lack of space and access to a dedicated wet lab to analyze hormone levels and other biological markers put her work on hold.

While the accommodations did not immediately meet her longer-term research goals, Glover said the pause allowed her to focus on another passion: working with and training undergraduate students in research. Using funds from the University’s Office of Research and the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, she trained students in collecting and compiling physiological data for studies examining sex influences in regulating emotions. Students worked with Glover collecting study participants’ arousal levels, changes in in sweat gland activity, motor responses, startle reflex and other data.

Additional funding from the Department of Psychological Science and the Norman J. Radow College of Humanities and Social Sciences provided the research equipment and supplies Glover needed to set up a fear-potentiated startle research model program at Kennesaw State in 2017, including the creation of a behavioral isolation booth to do experimental training and conduct fear conditioning. Through a collaboration with Sharon Pearcey, professor of psychology, Doreen Wagner, professor of nursing, and the Wellstar School of Nursing, Glover eventually realized a dedicated office and research space to collect physiological data for a pilot program. She also gained access to a wet lab in Wellstar College, where she, Wagner, and Pearcey were able to analyze and measure biological markers in the brain.

Glover and her research team of collaborating faculty and dozens of student researchers collected pilot data from nearly 200 participants over three academic semesters from fall 2017 to fall 2019. The pilot data was used to support her current NIH grant. 

Glover is already looking ahead to the potential of fear-motivated startle research in understanding the fear and anxiety response across racial lines and among populations that have been traditionally understudied.

The implications of this research could be enormously helpful in understanding the reactions of white police officers in confrontations with black male suspects and issues related to policing and race, Glover noted. “We’re just not seeing very much study of it in the neuroscientific literature," she said. “I’ve been developing the tools for empirical, objective measurement of these unconscious and innate responses.” 

Researching areas where there are sex and racial differences and disparities in mental health outcomes and where there are huge gaps in the research literature has been very helpful in attracting students and diversity among researchers, Glover noted. 

For her, inspiring underrepresented groups to pursue careers in science and to focus on issues that disproportionately affect underrepresented groups and those that have mental health disparities is the holy grail of research. 

“It’s not so much the research itself,” she said. “It’s impacting aspiring researchers, giving them agency to believe they can add something to the scientific literature that will help the conditions that disproportionately affect women and racial minorities."

– written by Sabbaye McGriff

Sociology professor Darina Lepadatu earns international book award

Have you ever thought about what it takes to keep a multi-billion-dollar industry running? Darina Lepadatu, professor of sociology and international conflict management at Kennesaw State University, and her research partner Tom Janoski, from the University of Kentucky, have spent more than 20 years studying the auto manufacturing industry and its use of “lean production.”

The President of the Georgia Sociological Association, Dr. Lepadatu describes lean production as “trying to create the best product or the highest quality at the lowest cost.” Essentially, lean companies are trying to employ the fewest people who can produce the highest quality product with as little waste as possible, but continuous improvement and teamwork are key features of lean organizations.

Lepadatu and her team were awarded a $200,000 National Science Foundation (NSF) grant that was able to fund their research on lean production in the auto industry across the United States. 

"At the time, one of President Obama's priorities was manufacturing research, so it was part of the stimulus package," said Lepadatu. "We were really excited about the grant and conducted the research at manufacturing factories in both the northern and southern United States." 

From this research, the pair has been able to publish three books. The latest one, The Cambridge International Handbook for Lean Production, was released in April 2021. What set Lepadatu’s book apart from the rest was that it looked at lean production in a multi-national and interdisciplinary context.

“We have worked with some of the leading lean experts in the world. We collaborated with about 40 authors, and we have covered countries like the United States, United Kingdom, Russia, Australia, India, Japan, South Korea, France, Italy," Lepadatu said.

Lepadatu and Janoski’s book was awarded the 2021 Best Book Award by the International Lean Six Sigma Institute in Cambridge, UK.

“Cambridge University Press, one of the top presses in the world, really loved our project because of its interdisciplinary nature and because we're trying to create a dialogue between disciplines that do not always talk to each other: management, engineering and the social sciences,” she said. “I am thrilled of this recognition. You don't get an international award every day.”

Lepadatu and her research partner have been invited to receive the award in this year’s International Lean Six Sigma conference in October 2021.

Darina Lepadatu is starting a new role as President of the Faculty Senate at Kennesaw State. She hopes to use her background in organizational sociology to further improve communication and collaboration between faculty and the university administration, students and staff.

--written by Jhordan John

 

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