Six Scholars Join AHS Faculty
Susan Aguiñaga has been a postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Kinesiology and Community Health since 2016. Mentored by emeritus professor Dr. Edward McAuley, she has been investigating relationships among cognition, exercise, and quality of life in older adults. Dr. Aguiñaga completed her PhD in Kinesiology, Nutrition, and Rehabilitation Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She is particularly interested in physical activity research focused on reducing health disparities related to cognitive and dementia-related diseases. In 2017, she received an Alzheimer’s Association Research Fellowship to Promote Diversity grant for a study that is examining physical activity, sedentary behavior, and cognitive, physical, and psychosocial outcomes in racially and ethnically diverse older adults attending adult day care centers in central Illinois and Chicago.
Dr. Aguiñaga says the tenure-track position in KCH was appealing because of the level of research and teaching support given to faculty. “By joining AHS, I can take my research to the next level, collaborate with other faculty within the college and across campus, mentor students, and be mentored by world-renowned scientists,” she said.
Mary Flaherty joined the Department of Speech and Hearing Science from a postdoctoral fellowship in the Human Auditory Development Laboratory of Boys Town National Research Center. Her NIH-funded research focuses on how speech understanding in complex environments matures as children gain experience with speech and language. Specifically, she is studying how the ability to use voice characteristics to understand speech within a multi-talker environment develops in children with and without hearing loss. Not only will her research increase understanding of why children have difficulty perceiving speech in complex environments, it also will advance the development of evidence-based clinical interventions for children with hearing impairments. Dr. Flaherty’s PhD in Cognitive Psychology is from the State University of New York at Buffalo.
Dr. Flaherty says she was interested in the position in the Department of Speech and Hearing Science because of the department’s reputation for innovative and interdisciplinary research. “I was especially drawn to their focus on integrating research and clinical practice, as that aligns well with my own research program,” she said. “And unlike many other large universities, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign places a top priority on student learning, which is something I am also very passionate about.”
Dominika Pindus completed her PhD in Physical Activity, Public Health, and Cognition at Loughborough University in Leicestershire, United Kingdom. She joined The Department of Kinesiology and Community Health from a postdoctoral research position in the Department of Psychology at Northeastern University, where she was mentored by former KCH professor Dr. Charles Hillman. Her research there focused on the relationship between physical activity and cognitive control in preadolescents. She also investigated relationships among sedentary time, physical activity, and working memory in preadolescents. Prior to Northeastern University, Dr. Pindus completed a postdoctoral position in the Department of Public Health and Primary Care at the University of Cambridge in England. She will continue her research in the area of exercise psychology within the Department of Kinesiology and Community Health.
“What attracted me to the position was the opportunity to work at an excellent institution and to pursue research in areas I am passionate about—physical activity, sedentary behaviors, and neurocognitive function—in the leading kinesiology department in the country,” Dr. Pindus said. “I am excited about conducting interdisciplinary work in this area.”
Kevin Richards also has joined the Department of Kinesiology and Community Health. His research addresses physical education teacher socialization and has focused on teacher recruitment, training, and ongoing socialization. He has examined such issues as stress, burnout, perceived mattering, and teacher/coach role conflicts. He recently co-edited the first book on teacher socialization in physical education to be published in nearly 30 years. At Purdue University, he completed both a PhD in Health and Kinesiology and a postdoctoral research appointment in the Center for Instructional Excellence. He went on to a teaching position at Northern Illinois University, and has been an assistant professor at the University of Alabama since 2015. In 2017, he was awarded the Mabel Lee Young Professional Award by SHAPE America.
“I was attracted to this position because I wanted the opportunity to teach and conduct research alongside some of the most accomplished kinesiology and community health scholars in the world,” Dr. Richards said. “I am also very excited to work with and help to mentor our excellent undergraduate and graduate students as they pursue their own research.”
After completing her PhD in Epidemiology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Chelsea Singleton joined the Institute for Health Research and Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago as a USDA AFRI Postdoctoral Research Fellow. Her research focuses on nutrition and health, with a particular focus on how the retail food environment and food purchasing behavior influence dietary intake and chronic disease risk among low-income minority populations. The overarching goal of her research is to reduce health disparities through a program of research that combines epidemiological research methods and community-based participatory research methods to examine access to and the purchase and consumption of healthy foods. Among her current projects is an examination of farmers’ market usage among low-income African Americans in Chicago.
Dr. Singleton said it was the people she met at Illinois that led her to join the AHS faculty. “Everyone I met during my interview made me feel at home, as though I’ve been here for years already,” she said. “My grandmother told me that I need to go where I feel wanted. I did just that.”
Jules Woolf joined AHS from a position as an assistant professor of Sport Management in the Department of Exercise Science, Health Studies, Physical Education and Sport Management at Adelphi University. His research examines the relationship between sport and health as well as ways to optimize positive outcomes of sport participation while minimizing negative outcomes. In addition to studying doping in sport, his research addresses the development of sport and the use of sport for development, particularly related to managerial and policy issues that impact health outcomes. His ultimate goal is to develop models that describe and explain the ways in which sport influences and promotes health. Dr. Woolf’s PhD in Kinesiology, with a focus on Sport Management, is from the University of Texas at Austin.
AHS’ emphasis on interdisciplinary research attracted him to the position in the Department of Recreation, Sport and Tourism. “My research draws on theories from organizational studies, health communication, education, and sociology,” he said. “I believe we need to integrate and connect knowledge across disciplines in order to deal with complex problems facing us today.”