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Flagler Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Matthew Jamnik

Sep 30, 2022

Dr. Jamnik is a first-generation college student who, after starting at a community college, eventually, completed his Ph.D. in Psychology- Brain & Cognitive Sciences- from Southern Illinois University Carbondale. Before joining Flagler, he worked as a Postdoctoral Scholar in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine. His research, broadly, studies factors related to physical and mental health in children, adolescents, and adults. He loves to teach, mentor, and conduct research with undergraduate students.

Matthew Jamnik spotlight graphic

 

What is your favorite course to teach and why?

Behavior Genetics, BG, a class exploring the nature and origins of individual differences in human behavior. As a discipline, BG focuses on examining the relative contribution of genetic factors- nature, and environmental influences- nurture, that underlie variability in phenotypic development  or traits. I love to teach this class because it emphasizes science, research methods, and scientific literacy while highlighting how complex traits are in humans and animals alike. It also provides an “and/both,” as opposed to an “either/or,” worldview and perspective. Both nature and nurture make us who we are!

Or what is your area of expertise?

My area of expertise, generally, is Psychological Science and Biomedical/Behavioral research, focused on topics related to health and well-being. More specifically, I am trained as a behavioral geneticist with a background in brain & cognitive sciences and child development.

What made you interested in that area/topic?

The people of the world are hurting. Looking around, I see family, friends, and others challenged by various physical, mental, and emotional difficulties. As am I and, likely, you are too. My belief is that it does not need to be this way. By studying underlying genetic and environmental factors, we can obtain greater insight into the salient influences which contribute to poorer health outcomes- physical, mental, and/or emotional. Information which, in turn, can be used to promote healthy lifestyle changes to help individuals live healthier, happier, and more fulfilled lives.

If someone was interested in learning more about the topic, what reading suggestions would you make?

Check out “Blueprint: How DNA makes us who we are” by Dr. Robert Plomin.

What book is on your nightstand right now? And why did you choose it?

“Keep going: The art of perseverance” by Joseph M. Marshall III. This book remains a frequent go-to for the Spiritual Wisdom it offers from the Lakota Native American tradition.

What has been your favorite piece of research you have conducted? And why?

Over the past decade, I have been involved with ongoing longitudinal research as part of the Southern Illinois Twins/Triplets and Siblings (SITSS) Study, which investigates behavioral, cognitive, and socioemotional development in children, ages zero to five years. Connecting with these families and working with parents year-by-year while seeing children develop from newborn to infant to preschooler and beyond has been so incredibly rewarding.

What are five words you would use to describe your style in the classroom?

Enthusiastic, personable, engaging, facilitative, and curiosity-inducing

Why is it important for the College to have a major in your area?

Psychology, and the study of behavior and the human condition, have important implications for everyone. Regardless of whether a student decides to remain “in the field” or go into another area of study, a greater understanding of “why people do what they do,” e.g. Psychology, helps to promote compassion, empathy, and understanding for others and their life experiences.

What is one thing that no one would guess about you?

I am an introvert and enjoy quiet, down time in nature.

How do you embody Flagler’s Core Values in your classroom and on campus?

My embodiment of our Core Values can be seen in the way that I carry and conduct myself, the energy that I bring, and the ideals that I espouse, both in my classroom and around campus. As stated in our Mission: “Learning in pursuit of a life well-lived” – I sincerely wish to help lift those around me, just as others did for me.

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