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Dr. Nancy Cowdin

Neuroscientist
Science Teacher

Dr. Nancy Cowdin

What do you enjoy about teaching at Visitation?

The students are tops on my list! What a lovely group of individuals I have had the pleasure of teaching over these past few years! Even so, I am truly impressed with all our students, including students I have never had the chance to teach. There is a sense of caring and compassion within our community, a spirit of generosity and hospitality that consistently shines through in day-to-day interactions around campus. I am also very privileged to be a part of a very talented and dynamic science faculty!

What do you hope to students take from your classes?

Science is the pursuit of new knowledge, ultimately contributing to our understanding of ourselves and our world. The pursuit of knowledge is exciting, and information gained may improve the quality of life for all lifeforms on this planet. Science is dynamic and ever-changing as new information sheds light on pre-existing knowledge and may send us down a new path. Science is self-critical, always striving to remain true to evidence-based data, but remains open to the possibility that new information may alter the course of our understanding.

Why are STEAM fields so critical and how are you inspiring students to pursue them?

STEAM-related fields give students the opportunity to apply and integrate science, technology, engineering, the arts, and math in meaningful ways. Programs that incorporate STEAM principles into existing curriculum help students to connect the knowledge-base that they have gained in learning the fundamentals in their classes with real-world, creative applications. The opportunities for our girls in STEAM-related fields are limitless. As educators, we need to provide ways to connect to these opportunities. An essential element of this is to give our students permission to explore their interests and pursue their passions. I hope that I have inspired students through my own passion and excitement for learning and exploring science.

Tell us briefly about your dissertation and how you’re continuing your research now.

My dissertation, “A Comparison of Frequency-Specific Activity During REM Sleep in Trauma-Exposed Subjects with PTSD and Resilience,” examined how traumatic events can alter frequency-specific activity in the brain during the processing of information during sleep. REM sleep is thought to play a role in the processing of affective memories. Altered neural activity during REM sleep in PTSD may index pathologic processes that undermine REM sleep's adaptive function, contributing to the persistence of symptoms experienced by these individuals.

Some of my dissertation findings have been replicated and are under investigation in new lines of current research. I had the opportunity to present a part of these findings at a conference in summer 2016 and I have been named as one of the investigators on a grant proposal that, if accepted, would be a clinical trial examining the potential therapeutic benefit of a medication on the sleep of PTSD patients.

How does your scholarship off campus shape you as a teacher and what your students are learning?

My scholarship off-campus helps me stay up-to-date with activities and findings in the field of neuroscience and in the biological sciences in general. It also prompts me to try to teach and integrate research processes and protocols into my classes, providing opportunities for students to examine and use current technology in their research design.

In what ways does our Salesian charism inform and inspire your work with students?

Salesian Spirituality keeps us grounded in our faith and focused on the present moment. It guides our day-to-day interactions with each other, student-to-student, student-to-teacher, teacher-to-teacher, and our opportunities to interact with the very important members of our staff including our maintenance, office, and service and support staff members.

Nancy has taught at Visitation for five years. She holds a B.A. in French and a B.S. in Education with a minor in Psychology from the University of Colorado, Boulder, an M.S. in Environmental Science from Colorado State University, Fort Collins, and an M.S. and Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Georgetown University.


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