Associate psychology professor Leanne Boucher is a self-proclaimed nerd and brain fanatic. She studies and teaches about this complex organ both at NSU and in her spare time, keeping her passion for learning alive every day.
She first became fascinated with psychology and experimental behavioral neuroscience during her undergraduate studies at Brandeis University in Boston, where she took a course on sensation and perception.
She said, “My professor showed us a motion after-effect illusion, and then said ‘All right, now look at my head.’ I looked, and it expanded right before my eyes. That was my ‘aha’moment! I thought that it was so cool and I wanted to figure out how it worked.”
Boucher decided at that moment that she wanted to be a university professor, and her parents were supportive, but very surprised, when she told them she wanted to attend graduate school.
“I didn’t come from a very academic family, so even though both my parents went to college, they were working people and didn’t know anything about the subject I was interested in,” she said.
Boucher became the first in her family to receive a Ph.D., which she earned from Vanderbilt University in Tennessee. After completing her post-doctoral internship there, she taught at Vanderbilt before coming to NSU. She now teaches several psychology courses and, much to her delight, the same sensation and perception class that sparked her interest in the field so many years ago.
“I learn something new every term in this class, because students ask questions that stump even me sometimes,” Boucher said. “It’s important for students to know that even though professors are experts in our fields, we don’t know everything and we’re still learning all the time.”
Students in her classes also participate in NSU’s acknowledgement of the annual International Brain Awareness month, during which they conduct brain demonstrations in the Parker Building and assist Boucher in her “I Lobe the Brain” sessions at the Alvin Sherman Library for kids ages 3 and up. Boucher has children herself, so she enjoys the brain-related arts and crafts and also incorporates ideas from her kids’ favorite toys and activities.
“I wrote a few Dr. Seuss-style books teaching kids about the brain, and I read from those during the event before or after the fun activities,” Boucher said.
Boucher said if she could find the time and energy, she might pursue publishing her books, but for now, she keeps busy with events at NSU. She is the TEDxNSU coordinator, which means each year, she is responsible for getting about eight students and faculty members from a variety of departments to give creative lectures on anything from their research to internship experiences.
Video recordings of these lectures are all posted on the TEDxNSU website, and a lecture by parasitology professor Chris Blanar was even featured on TED’s main website last year. Boucher herself collaborated with dance choreographer Elana Lanczi create a modern dance interpretation of sound as it travels through the ear. Published in 2012, the video features a script written and narrated by Boucher.
“I like to do all of these dorky things, at work and in my down time,” Boucher said.
For example, she recently earned a scuba diving certification through NSU. She dives in her spare time in addition to hiking and doing advocacy work for the local homeless population. She gathers groups of NSU students to volunteer at an annual “Christmas in July” event for the homeless. Boucher is glad that she is able to include students in so many aspects of her work.
She said, “My favorite aspect of teaching has always been interacting with students. They bring such a fresh perspective and make me consider things I never thought about before.”
Boucher looks forward to this year’s lineup of TEDxNSU talks, Brain Awareness events on March 12, and, most importantly, continuing to learn alongside her students every day.
Photo Credit: FCAS.NOVA.EDU