Appointments and reappointments of FHSS chairs and director

Dean Ben Ogles of the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences announced the appointment of Gary Burlingame as the Department of Psychology chair, the appointment of Alan Hawkins as the director of the School of Family Life, the reappointment of Rick Miller as the chair of the Department of Sociology, and the reappointment of Ryan Jensen as the chair of the Department of Geography.  

Gary Burlingame

Burlingame will replace Dawson Hedges who served as the college’s psychology chair for six years, and Hawkins will replace Dean Busby who served as the director of the School of Family Life for six years. Miller and Jensen will continue serving in their positions for another term.  

“We are grateful that these faculty members are willing to serve in administrative positions and we look forward to their leadership in the coming years,” said Dean Ogles. “We are also appreciative of the tireless efforts and dedicated service of Dawson Hedges and Dean Busby.” 

The new department chairs will begin their positions on July 1.   

Alan Hawkins

Burlingame has taught at BYU since 1983. He is an award-winning scholar and teacher with a research focus on factors that lead to effective small group mental health treatment and mental illness and measurement. He is a fellow of both the American Group Psychotherapy Association and the American Psychological Association.  

Hawkins is the Camilla E. Kimball Endowed Professor of Family Life. His outreach and scholarship focus on educational and policy interventions to help couples form and sustain healthy relationships and marriages. Hawkins is currently the co-chair of the Utah Marriage Commission. 

Miller has served as the chair of the Department of Sociology for the last two years. He has taught at BYU since 1999, and he focuses his research efforts on families in China, marriage and health, and MFT processes.

Jensen has served as the chair of the Department of Geography for the last six years. He has taught at BYU for 11 years, teaching classes such as Cartographic Design, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Remote Sensing. 

 

BYU psychology professor looks to acupuncture for treating addiction

BYU psychology professor Scott Steffensen is showing that acupuncture can have a very real impact at the neurological level, better helping those recovering from addiction.

Steffensen, in collaboration with a lab in South Korea, has published studies addressing the neural underpinnings of acupuncture, with three over the past year in the journals Addiction Biology and Scientific Reports.

“The objective of our research, and that of our South Korean collaborators and other labs, is to characterize the neurobiology of acupuncture with evidence-based research,” Steffensen said. “In other words, does acupuncture work through established neural pathways in the periphery and central nervous system? However, of particular interest to us is that acupuncture has been shown to be effective in animal models to ameliorate drug cravings and self-administration.”

Acupuncture has ancient Greek, Egyptian, Arabic and Chinese origins. It’s been used for centuries to treat various medical conditions and diseases. However, the longevity of its use does not necessarily prove its effectiveness. The success of acupuncture in alleviating some medical conditions is not clear and there is no consensus regarding which mechanisms to use. Some claim there are unknown energies underlying acupuncture’s success in alleviating pain. Others claim sensory stimulation blocks pain transmission. Others claim it has a strong placebo effect.

Steffensen is going beyond the previous claims and is studying the neuroscience behind acupuncture. He has shown it to be an effective method of activating pathways from the peripheral nervous system to the central nervous system. Here’s how:

  • Those suffering from withdrawal have dysregulated dopamine levels in the midbrain reward/pleasure system
  • This causes dysregulation of GABA neurons in this system, and they become hyperactive, inhibiting dopamine neurons and lowering dopamine levels during withdrawl
  • Lowered dopamine levels is the driving force for relapse
  • Accupuncture stimulation inhibits GABA neurons
  • This restores dopamine levels and effectively lowers the driving force for relapse

In the US, more than 20 million people suffer from drug and alcohol abuse issues, with only 19 percent of them receiving treatment and only 50 percent of those ever recovering.

“We really, really hope that this research can provide an avenue to help people get their lives back,” said Kyle Bills, a neuroscience Ph.D. candidate and coauthor on the Steffensen lab’s most recent paper.

The Steffensen lab has published different papers looking specifically at acupuncture protocols for alcohol addiction, cocaine addiction and methamphetamine addiction and hopes to advance the acupuncture technology with state of the art neuroscience tools.

“We hope to develop a treatment system for ameliorating drug cravings,” Steffensen said, “as an effective supplement to addiction therapy.”

Jon McBride, University Communications

Opening Doors: Mikaela Dufer on receiving and sharing opportunities

During the Student Mentored Research Conference, students, faculty, and university staff listened to BYU sociology professor Mikaela Dufur speak on Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, embracing opportunities with gratitude, and opening doors and opportunities for others along the way. As we share an excerpt from Dufur’s speech, we invite you to think about the next semester, job, or phase of your life and how you can appreciate opportunities  and open a door for someone else in the process.


It is so exciting to see the products of your imagination and your science [at the Student Mentored Research Conference]. Mentored research at BYU has opened new doors for you by giving you skills, practice demonstrating them, and evidence of your abilities. You are ready to meet every new challenge and to try, fail, try, fail, and try again until you conquer them, just as you have every time a model refused to converge or an experiment fell apart.

As we celebrate your present accomplishments, I invite you to think about your future. Now that you and your mentors have created science, what’s the next step?

To outline your future, let’s return to the past. An enduring memory from September 11, 2001, is sitting on the ratty couch I’d dragged from graduate school, glued to the news. I remember one family of adult children showing a flyer to the camera while looking for their father. The flyer read, “Please come home—we have peanut butter cups for you.” I always wondered what happened to the peanut butter cup dad and hoped he made it home to his family. Part of my annual observance of September 11 is to have and to share peanut butter cups, but Googling “9/11 Peanut Butter Cup Man” never brought up useful results.

On September 11, 2017, I watched the news while brushing my teeth. By some small miracle, my morning routine aligned with a recitation of names of those lost. I turned to the TV just as family members finished reading names and paused to share memories of their own father. They closed by sharing that a recently born grandchild was named Reese after their father’s favorite candy. Peanut butter cup dad had not made it home after all.

IMG_9396This was painful—I’d convinced myself a happy, chocolate reunion had taken place—but now I was armed with a name. Peanut butter cup dad was Ronald Fazio, and Google could find him. Mr. Fazio had nearly made it to safety, but stopped to hold the door for his coworkers. In those awful moments, he chose to hold the door for others to make sure they would reach safety. Mr. Fazio’s family started the Hold the Door Foundation in his memory, devoted to helping people move through tragedy.

What does this have to do with your future? Someone held the door for you, through mentoring, guiding, and teaching you. Now that you’ve moved through the door and are sprinting into your exciting lives, don’t forget to hold the door for someone else. I especially urge you to look around for people who tend to be left behind, such as women in STEM fields, people of color, and disabled people, and not only hold the door for them, but shout to let them know you’re there. Marry the technical skills you learned through mentored research to a determination to hold the door by reaching out, teaching, and mourning with those who mourn.

For more information on the 2018 Student Mentored Research Conference, read our recent blog post.

 

Dietary Decision Training

Do you struggle to lose weight? BYU Psychology professor Michael Larson is looking for overweight and obese individuals to participate in a study about dietary decisions. Compensation is $100.

Qualifications:

• Must be between the ages of 18 and 45
• Must be willing to complete a 10-minute practice four times per week for one month
• Must have no psychiatric or neurologic history

Participants will complete an intervention that may aid in managing dominant responses to eat high-calorie foods, have their brain activity measured and complete some diet recalls. If you’re interested in participating, email byuneuro@gmail.com.

FHSS Faculty Recognized by the BYU Faculty Women’s Association

The BYU Faculty Women’s Association, which seeks to improve the quality of professional life for faculty women at BYU, honored five women last week for their contributions to BYU. Two of these outstanding women are from our college!

Mentoring Award
Angela B. Bradford
Family Life

Dr. Bradford has chaired over 10 doctoral and master’s students, and has served on around 25 dissertation and thesis committees. Dr. Bradford supervises students on two projects she is co-leading related to family therapy clinical process research and physiology.

bradford

Citizenship Award
Mikaela J. Dufur
Sociology

Dr. Dufur’s work in the College of Family, Home, and Social Science has had a significant impact on changes made within the department. She shapes the experience of women on campus through various leadership assignments, including serving on the University Athletic Advisory Council. Most recently, she spoke about the importance of mentoring and holding open doors for people.

dufur

Other BYU Faculty Women’s Association award winners were Gaye L. Ray, Nursing; Bonnie Anderson, Information Systems; and Jill Larsen, English.

Congratulations, Dr. Bradford and Dr. Dufur!