Meet the Faculty:
Welcoming six new faces in education
Dr. Alex Beaujean
Measure how long it takes you to compute 1+2. Now test your reaction time calculating 2-1. This is psychometrics, one field of expertise for Dr. Alex Beaujean, assistant professor in the Department of Educational Psychology.
"Psychometrics is basically the study of how you measure human psychological traits," he said. Psychometrics measures traits such as personality and intelligence.
Last summer, Beaujean applied psychometrics to math education by undertaking an experiment (in conjunction with the University of Missouri) to measure reaction times in precocious sixth graders.
"We wanted to see if they are faster than college students with math disabilities, but we also have this comparison group of regular college students, and they [the sixth graders] are either the same or faster than the regular college students in these math tasks," Beaujean said.
He said the sixth graders were able to give the answers automatically, so complex problems can be solved faster. "I think that's part of what giftedness, what intelligence is, the speed of information processing."
In between earning his two PhDs, Beaujean worked in a psychology lab that studied reaction times of pilots. He also did research at a youth-based CommunityMentalCenter.
This semester Beaujean is teaching mostly graduate level classes including statistics and psychometrics.
Editor's note: Dr. Beaujean joined the faculty in fall 2006, but we wanted to take this opportunity to introduce him with other new faculty in the School of Education.
Dr. Crista Force
Curriculum and Instruction
While working on her dissertation, Dr. Crista Force visited with a recognized paleontologist, a female aerospace engineer, a genetics professor and a doctor who started a world-renowned neo-natal unit. Force wanted to disprove a myth that someone with a learning disability couldn't become a top scientist.
"When I was a teacher I would have students walk into my classroom and say, "I can't do science. I'm stupid. I have a learning disability." They're not stupid, they just learn a different way," Force said. "In my research, I interviewed successful people with learning disabilities to see exactly how they overcame them. I want to apply this to students in school and other areas. I want to help people with learning disabilities to get through their education and to overcome the challenges that may be put in front of them."
Force, an assistant professor in curriculum and instruction, completed her PhD at Texas A&M with an emphasis in science education. She was a chemist for three years and taught high school science prior to pursuing her PhD.
Force is implementing her research in the classroom by showing her students different methods of teaching science to better accommodate students with learning disabilities.
Dr. Paul La Bounty
Health, Human Performance and Recreation
"For my entire adult life, I have been interested in the body and how it works," said Dr. Paul La Bounty, assistant professor of anatomy, physiology and nutrition.
He is excited that his assistant professorship allows him to explore how nutrition relates to sports performance and overall health. La Bounty is involved in research labs in the Heath, Human Performance and Recreation department that assess resting metabolism and treadmill stress testing in student athletes. He also is involved with examining molecular aspects of skeletal muscle physiology and nutrition in the exercise biochemistry lab.
La Bounty holds a master's degree in physical therapy, a background that is not common among the HHPR faculty at Baylor. But it is the department's unique make-up that allows the program to explore new, and sometimes uncharted, territory.
"This doctoral program is one of the first ones that I know of in the country that blends nutrition with exercise and preventive health," La Bounty said.
A recent graduate of Baylor's exercise, nutrition and preventive health PhD program, La Bounty will teach human anatomy and human physiology. He fills the position of retired, long-time faculty member Dr. Richard 'Dick' Couey.
Dr. Tamara Hodges
"I've got one foot in the Baylor door and one foot in the community," Dr. Tamara Hodges said. Hodges, a full-time lecturer, travels around the state with the Center for Learning and Development, a non-profit organization that helps struggling students in public schools. "I'm one of the main presenters who trains teachers and administrators," Hodges said. ÒI am also a consultant to some of the schools to make sure they are implementing programs correctly."
In both roles, Hodges is trying to give teachers the skills and resources they need to help their students succeed.
"More demands are put on our schools with fewer means to meet those needs, so I feel like teachers are really struggling. Good people are trying to do right, but they just don't have good resources."
In her private practice, Hodges works with people suffering from depression and anxiety and diagnoses learning disabilities. Previously, Hodges was a consultant for seven school districts. She also taught in the school system and worked as a counselor. Hodges's dissertation researched social skills in children. ÒI learned probably as much as they did," Hodges said.
Hodges is teaching master's level classes in the School Psychology program.
Dr. Matthew Cooke
Health, Human Performance and Recreation
After completing his PhD in muscle physiology and nutrition at the University of Victoria in Australia, Matthew Cooke came to Baylor to complete a postdoctoral fellowship.
"I basically handed in my thesis, jumped on a plane and came here," Cooke said. As an assistant professor of exercise physiology and nutrition, his courses include advanced exercise physiology for graduate students and clinical exercise physiology for undergraduates.
Being an Australian in the heart of Texas attracts interesting comments. "First thing that obviously comes to mind: Steve Irwin, kangaroos, koalas, all the usual stuff,' Cooke said. 'The accent is a giveaway. I do get, "Ah are you from England? Or "Are you from New Zealand?"
His research and interests are in the 'mechanisms that control muscle hypertrophy and also muscle atrophy, in other words, muscles getting bigger and smaller," he said. Cooke is also interested in the aging process.
"As people get older, muscles get smaller and decrease in size. I'm looking at ways to slow down that process and the mechanisms, either through training intervention or nutritional intervention," he said. "The population is getting older now, so we need to find ways to give people a better quality of life."
Dr. Sandra Cooper
Curriculum and Instruction
Dr. Sandra Cooper believes in a hands-on approach to teaching. Cooper's PhD dissertation in math education compared students who learn in a traditional education program with students who learn in a professional development setting, which are characterized by constant classroom interaction. It is exactly what her students are getting as teaching associates in Waco schools.
Cooper is teaching two sections of math in elementary grades. As part of the class her students are assigned to Waco elementary schools as teaching associates. After gaining hands-on experience in the mornings, her students come to campus for her class.
Before coming to Baylor, Cooper served as a faculty member at Texas Tech where she also taught math education. She describes her move to Baylor as "a God thing."
"I have been visiting with my students and asking them what motivated them to come to Baylor," she said. "Many of them say, 'I walked on campus. I just knew this is where I wanted to come.' I had a similar experience when I came here to interview and I walked on campus. It was this feeling: 'Oh this is a wonderful place. This is really where I want to be."