Research at Hendrix

Jessica Duke Alexander '03

Alexander, Jessica Duke 01

Psychology major, Classics minor

Starting third year as a psychology professor at Concord University, a public liberal arts college in West Virginia.

Current projects

In my graduate program in Cognition and Development at Emory University, I started doing speech and language research, including projects focused on the ways in which we can understand (with relative ease) people who speak with unfamiliar accents. My current project examines how our memory abilities may change when information is presented in accented speech. There's some brand-new, hot-off-the-presses evidence that memory for words may improve precisely because a speaker is difficult to understand.

Undergraduate Research

As an undergraduate, I worked with Dr. Jennifer Peszka and other students in her sleep and sleep deprivation lab. Our big goal for the project was to understand some of the predictors of individual differences in tolerance of sleep deprivation. We all know that some people more than others are grumpy or have a hard time staying focused when sleep deprived. In a practical sense, it's important to be able to choose employees who can tolerate sleep deprivation if that's a requirement for the job. We found that easily-measured personality traits were great predictors of tolerance of sleep deprivation. Our work was presented at a national conference and was published shortly thereafter. Additionally, I did some original translation of medieval Latin texts with Dr. John Farthing. We translated a portion of Jerome Zanchi's Observationes. I loved the idea that I was the first person to read the text in, most likely, hundreds of years.

How Hendrix prepared me for success

I have been so thankful for my time at Hendrix in all my endeavors. My coursework and research prepared me for graduate school, and now as a professor, I find myself thinking back to the great experiences I had in class at Hendrix and trying to create something similar for my students. Beyond my graduate education and my career, Hendrix taught me to explore all my interests and learn for the sake of learning. I try to embody the words of the Hendrix motto, "Unto the Whole Person," and work to develop myself and achieve balance in all areas of my life.

Future plans

I love teaching psychology and doing research on things I find fascinating. I know many students are headed to graduate school and perhaps careers in academia. I know it's not for everyone, but I can't imagine a career I could love more. This year, I'm planning to present my research at a national conference in Seattle, sponsor numerous student research projects, and catch up on my writing. In addition to all of that, I'm hanging out with my family (including a brand new daughter!) and just enjoying life.

My advice

Work hard, and take full advantage of the resources Hendrix offers. Having the option to work one-on-one on research projects with such talented faculty is an amazing opportunity. Don't let it pass you by. Get involved in research!