Susan Putnam, PhD Chair/Professor
I am a native of Western New York, and upon graduation from high school, I began to pursue a degree in music performance, with a voice major and piano minor. (The only time I was actually encouraged to dance on a table was when I had the part of Carmen during an opera workshop!) Personal circumstances, however, interrupted those plans, profoundly changing the course I would later follow. After devoting time to family, community service, and teaching piano lessons, I returned to college with a particular interest in the life sciences. I spent time at three different undergraduate institutions before graduating with Honors from Canisius College in 1995 with a degree in Psychology. My primary interest proved to be the intersection of biology and behavior, and I obtained my PhD in behavioral neuroscience at SUNY at Buffalo in 1999. I was asked to stay on at UB, first as a postdoctoral fellow, and then as a visiting professor, where I taught and did research until I was fortunate enough to return to Canisius as a faculty member of the Psychology Department.
I currently teach all sections of Experimental Psychology, Advanced Experimental Psychology, and two courses that have a strong biological bent – Neurobiology of Mental Disorders and Biopsychology of Stress. In addition, I offer a Research Seminar that provides advanced students with extended hands-on learning opportunities in my research program, and act as advisor for the sport psychology minor program and practica.
I truly love being in the classroom with my students, and getting to know them on a personal level. I believe that a less formal atmosphere encourages student participation and questions, and it is quite common for me to share anecdotes – and bloopers – from my own experiences to illustrate a point during class. It is a primary goal of mine to demonstrate the relevance of concepts, facts, and thought processes to the lives of those who take my classes, and I believe that by doing so, the material is not only more interesting, but is easier to learn and retain. I am oftentimes impressed by the degree of synthesis of diverse information apparent in questions asked by students. That is at the same time both gratifying and humbling. The realization that students attend so closely to the information one shares with them as an instructor is a powerful reminder of the responsibility that we, as educators, assume.
I am primarily interested in the expression of the stress response in humans, with a particular emphasis on salivary cortisol and testosterone and the relationship of such hormones with a variety of potentially modulating factors. Currently, the populations I am investigating include children diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, athletes, and medical personnel. I have also done some research with victims of domestic abuse.
Music remains an important part of my life and I enjoy being a choir director and member of a music duo called Surrender, playing the piano, organ, and guitar. I love animals, and currently have two boxers who have their Canine Good Citizen certification and three cats who think they are canines (but without the certificates)! I enjoy long walks in the woods with my dogs, and working with others who need help with animal training. In the past I have had quite a menagerie that included livestock, a rabbit, and tropical fish, in addition to many canine and feline friends. In the summer, I love to go camping, canoeing, and moose watching in the bogs and back ponds of the North Woods of Maine. I also enjoy sports, particularly hockey and soccer, and spent many years as a soccer coach. And of course, spending time with my family and friends is a priority.