I love asking questions! I’ve had many research interests, many amazing colleagues, and have learned that for every answer I find, dozens more questions accompany it. The pursuit of knowledge is truly rewarding, as is teaching that love of research to new students.
For nearly two decades I’ve studied fear, stress, and anxiety. I’ve primarily worked with rodents: video recording behavioral responses to a family cat, embedding electrodes to examine electrophysiological responses to fox urine, and slicing brains to examine the neurohistology of stress. Currently, my research centers on stress and anxiety in human populations. All of these projects involve collecting saliva from human participants, analyzing salivary samples for stress-related hormones (cortisol, DHEA, alpha-amylase) with ELISAs, and combining the hormonal data with survey data to answer questions in several related topics.
Current research projects as of Fall 2015:
- Wilderness Therapy for Anxiety Disorders- For this project we have partnered with Blackwater Outdoor Experiences, a wilderness therapy program that has been in operation since 1980. We are collecting samples before, during, and after a 22-day trip to the wilderness to examine the impacts of this extreme version of therapy on the anxiety levels of participants. *Looking for student researcher interested in Outdoor Experiences and Neuroscience (Biology &/or Psychology). MUST be an experienced hiker with gear.
- Exercise & Alternative Therapy for Anxiety Disorders: Test Anxiety- Do students “self-medicate” their stress with healthy habits? This ongoing study examines the health habits (sleep, nutrition, exercise, etc), scholastic performance, test performance, and test anxiety of Longwood students. Currently expanding to include additional courses in different majors. *Looking for student researcher interested in Neuroscience (Biology &/or Psychology).
- Music Performance Anxiety– this project was begun in 2013-2014 when I was teaching at JMU. The collaboration continues and we will be collecting data from Music majors at JMU, Longwood, and other schools to determine if their levels of MPA differ between a hearing (attended by 3 faculty) and a recital (attended by large audience of family and friends). *Looking for student researcher interested in Music and Neuroscience (Biology &/or Psychology).
- Athletic Performance Anxiety– Comparable to the music performance anxiety project, we’ll be testing Longwood athletes in 2015-2016 during practice, routine games, and high-stakes games to see if performance anxiety affects our players and impacts their abilities. *Looking for student researcher interested in Exercise/Athletics and Neuroscience (Biology &/or Psychology).
I am collaborating on some work in the parenting field with my husband, Adam Franssen. We study rodents in his lab, and our two girls at home!