Dr. Jen Robinson
A member of the Auburn faculty since 2012, Dr. Jen Robinson is a professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences and recently became chair of the Human Research Protection Program’s Institutional Review Board, or IRB. She took time recently to discuss this new role and her own interests as a researcher.
What is the Human Research Protection Program? What are some goals you’ve set for moving the program forward?
Working in tandem with the VP for Research & Economic Development, as well as the Office of Research Compliance, the HRPP is responsible for the ethical and regulatory requirements related to the protection of human participants engaging in research at Auburn University. I think the IRB has improved tremendously over the last decade under Dr. Kathy Jo Ellison’s leadership as well as the IRB administrative staff, who are some of the most hard-working and dedicated professionals. Given our R1 status and the growth that AU has experienced within the research enterprise, as well as all of the exciting developments on the horizon, I am looking forward to continuing our upward trajectory. In terms of the IRB, our short-term goals are to improve the efficiency and consistency of the review process and increase communication. With regard to the latter, we’ve created a new listserv that I would love for folks to join (http://listserv3.auburn.edu/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/irbnews). We’ll disseminate a monthly newsletter through the listserv that will include information about important upcoming dates, drop-in Zoom “office hours,” relevant topics that impact human research and resources that may be helpful for researchers. Our two big long-term goals are to implement an electronic submission system and to become AAHRPP accredited. Both of these goals will necessitate a strong collaboration between all entities of the HRPP and our researchers across campus.
Tell us a little about your own research experience at Auburn and what you’ve been working on recently.
Auburn has truly been a dream when it comes to developing a research program. My students and I have benefited from having unheard of access to a premier neuroimaging facility which has enabled us to carry out a wide range of projects – whether it’s been looking at how supplements affect the brain or understanding how different parts of the brain are connected to each other. We have collaborated with numerous departments across campus, which I feel has made our research stronger. Our lab currently has projects examining pain processing in the brain, how the autonomic and central nervous systems communicate and a few funded studies that look at the effects of nutraceuticals.
Do you have a favorite Auburn tradition?
There are so many to love – but I still cannot get over the eagle flight before home football games. It gives me chills every time. Also, if you have not visited the Southeastern Raptor Center, I cannot recommend it enough. While the eagle flight is an obvious draw, their rehabilitation work and knowledge are unparalleled.
What are your future research plans?
Our lab is overflowing with projects at the moment, so in the immediate future, we are working very hard to wrap those up and develop grant submissions. Broadly speaking, we’ll be working on projects related to brain dynamics both within structures and between structures. We’re also looking forward to integrating physiological measurements, such as heart rate variability and skin conductance, into our brain imaging work, which will allow us to gain a better understanding of how the autonomic and central nervous systems interact.