Experimental Program Faculty

Dr. Kathleen Arnold

Area: Cognitive

Dr. Arnold earned her B.S. from Furman University and her M.A. and Ph.D. from Washington University in St. Louis. After her Ph.D. she worked as a postdoctoral research associate at Duke University, before joining the Radford psychology department as an assistant professor in 2017. Dr. Arnold is a cognitive psychologist and her research interests focus on learning and memory with a special interest in educational applications of cognitive psychology.

Dr. Jeff Aspelmeier 

Area: Social

Dr. Aspelmeier earned his B.S.Ed. at Southwest Missouri State University in secondary education and he earned his M.A. and Ph.D. in Psychology at Kent State University. A Full Professor, Dr. Aspelmeier has been with Radford University since 1999 and chairperson of the Department of Psychology since the summer of 2015. He specializes in Social Psychology with a focus on personal relationships, social cognition, resilience processes, and academic performance.

Dr. Neils Christensen

Area: Social // Director of the Honors Academy

Dr. Christensen earned his B.A from the University of Notre Dame and earned his M.A. and Ph.D. from Texas A&M University. A Full Professor, he has been with the university since 2004 following a five year appointment at San Diego State University. Trained as a social psychologist, his interests also include clinical psychology and running marathons. Although he has published articles on a variety of topics, a recurring theme in his research is the reciprocal relationship between one’s self-concept and social interactions. In 2012, Dr. Christensen was named Radford University’s Donald N. Dedmon Distinguished Teaching Professor. He is currently director of Radford’s undergraduate honors program.

Dr. Matthew Eckard

Area: Behavioral Neuroscience

Dr. Eckard earned his B.A. from the University of North Carolina Wilmington and his M.S. and Ph.D. from West Virginia University. He then conducted postdoctoral research at the University of Rochester before joining Radford University in 2022. His research uses animal models to understand how cannabinoid abuse affects cognitive and emotional processes with a focus on finding treatments for cannabis dependence. Dr. Eckard teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in learning principles, psychopharmacology, and research methods.

Dr. Dayna Hayes

Area: Behavioral Neuroscience

Dr. Hayes earned dual B.S. degrees in Biology and Psychology from the Pennsylvania State University and her M.A. and Ph.D. in Behavioral Neuroscience from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She conducted post-doctoral research in the College of Pharmacy at the University of Kentucky prior to joining the faculty at Radford University in 2013. Her research interests focus on what happens to the brain as a result of drug abuse and/or stress with specific emphasis on understanding alcohol consumption, addiction, and recovery. She teaches courses in introductory psychology, statistics, research methods, brain and behavior, psychopharmacology, and principles of learning. Her free time is spent hanging out with her two rescue dogs, Jordan and Pippa.  

Dr. Pamela Jackson (Retired, Emeritus - Research Faculty)

Area: Behavioral Neuroscience

Dr. Jackson earned her B.A. at Berea College and her M.A. and Ph.D. at the University of Kentucky.  She completed a three-year postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Utah. A full Professor, she has been with the university since 1993. She specializes in the neurobiology of learning and memory, and comparative cognition. Dr. Jackson publishes in her area and presents her research at regional and national conferences. Her most recent endeavors center around the effects of cannabinoids and environmental conditions on learning, memory, and emotional behavior in rats. Dr. Jackson teaches courses in statistics, research methods, learning, and psychopharmacology, as well as laboratory courses in physiological psychology, learning, and psychopharmacology.

Dr. Thomas Pierce

Area: Cognitive Neuroscience

Dr. Pierce earned his B.A. at McGill University and his Ph.D. at the University of Maine. Before coming to Radford in 1992 he received two years of postdoctoral training at the Center for the Study of Aging at Duke University Medical Center. He currently serves as the Editor of The International Journal of Reminiscence and Life Review. His areas of interest include autobiographical memory, EEG correlates of cognitive function, cardiovascular response to cognitive challenge, and the cognitive psychology of college-level instruction. He teaches undergraduate courses in statistics and graduate courses in statistics and the history of psychology. Dr. Pierce received Radford University’s Distinguished Creative Scholar Award in 2006, Radford University’s Distinguished Teaching Professor Award in 2013, and the 2013 James and Betty Birren Award for Outstanding Practice in Reminiscence and Life Review from the International Institute for Reminiscence and Life Review.

Dr. Jenessa Steele

Area: Developmental Psychology // Program Coordinator

Dr. Steele earned her B.A. at Winona State University and her M.A. and Ph.D. at West Virginia University. A professor, she has been with the university since 2005. She specializes in psychological and physical well-being in late adulthood. Dr. Steele is currently working on research investigating moderators and mediators of aging stereotypes among college students. She is also collaborating with psychology/gerontology professors at WVU and UW-Oshkosh on stereotypes specifically toward persons with dementia-related illnesses. 

Dr. Jeffrey Willner (Retired, Emeritus - Research Faculty)

Area: Behavioral Neuroscience

Dr. Willner earned his B.A. at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and his M.A. and Ph.D. at Dalhousie University. He then did postdoctoral training in neuroscience at the University of Virginia, and taught and conducted research at University of California-Irvine, University of Arizona, and UNC-Chapel Hill before coming to Radford in 1994. He collaborates with graduate and undergraduate students to research the biological basis of learning, memory, and sex differences, with a focus on spatial learning and navigation. Dr. Willner teaches undergraduate courses in research methods and brain and behavior. Dr. Willner was awarded the Distinguished Faculty Advising Award in 2008 for excellence in student advising.