New Dean

Jim Porter

New Dean Jim Porter

In June 2015, Dr. James P. Porter was appointed as the new Dean of the College of Life Sciences. Prior to his appointment, Dr. Porter served as the department chair for Physiology and Developmental Biology. In 2008, he became an associate dean to Rodney J. Brown. During the seven years that he was in this position, he played a key role in the construction of the new Life Sciences Building, acting as the liaison between faculty members and architects.

Dr. Porter’s main hobby is spending time with his family. He particularly enjoys going on cruises with his family. He has seven children. His six oldest are married, and his youngest son recently returned from a mission.

One of his major life goals is to be present at all of his grandchildren’s baptisms, which is quite a feat, considering he has grandchildren in Japan, Maine, and South Carolina.

While Dr. Porter loves teaching, he has had to cut down his teaching schedule to make time for his duties as the dean. Advanced physiology is the only course he teaches now.

“I’ll miss teaching,” he says. “I’m going to have to decide if I can handle [not teaching].”

Despite his busy schedule, he finds time to meet with students and TAs regularly, always giving precedence to his students.

New Associate Deans

Rick Jellen

Rick Jellen

Dr. Eric N. (Rick) Jellen is a man who loves seeds. Dr. Jellen is the new associate dean for research. A professor in the Plant and Wildlife Sciences department, his research is focused on oats and quinoa. Dr. Jellen studies and traces the genetic history of these two crops so that he can cross them with wild relatives and create new strains.

In his work with quinoa, Dr. Jellen has successfully traced its genetic history to both Eurasia and the Americas and is working on adapting it to warm growing environments (and thus meet the demands for its production in North America). In his research with quinoa, Dr. Jellen has worked directly with universities in Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and Argentina.

Dr. Jellen also helped create oat strains with higher protein and pioneered work to map its chromosomes.

Dr. Jellen’s love for crops does not end here. Even in his spare time, he loves collecting seeds. And, in the midst of his travels, he also loves fly-fishing, and he particularly enjoys fishing in the oceans off Mexico and Texas.

Mike Barnes

Mike Barnes

Dr. Michael D. Barnes is a professor of Health Science learning with his colleagues how to master the use of social media in research. His research efforts for the past several years have focused on the types of communication that are most effective at influencing people.

In 2008, Dr. Barnes and his colleagues co-founded the Computational Health Science Research Group at BYU. This group collaborates between public health and computer science to research social media in health surveillance. The group recently led a study using Twitter to monitor conversations reflecting “at-risk” behaviors. Using this method, they accurately matched the risk of suicide for each state on the basis of twitter conversations. Such research can aid health professionals to study the attitudes and behaviors of people in their natural interactions with others. It also seeks to inform future public health officials on how to change health behavior through improved communication, networking, and social capital.

His commitment and passion for teaching is evident when he speaks of students. His teaching assignments involve helping undergraduate public health students learn about intervention methods for health promotion. He also teaches graduate students regarding health policy and conducting health impact assessments.

In his spare time, Dr. Barnes loves to garden and be part of nature. He especially loves growing fruit and spending time with his family. He loves music and played the trombone for many years. For fun, he and his family enjoy hiking or riding four-wheelers to explore Utah’s beautiful surroundings.

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New Department Chairs

Brock McMillan

Brock McMillan

Plant and Wildlife Sciences

In August 2015, Dr. Brock R. McMillan was selected as the new chair of the Plant and Wildlife Sciences department. Dr. McMillan’s research focuses on the conservation and ecology of mammals. Current projects are investigating factors that influence populations of elk, deer, river otters, foxes, and even rodents. While most of his work takes place in the western United States, one of his research projects regularly takes him to Central America.

When asked what he loves most (research or teaching), Dr. McMillan responded, “I love both!” To him, both have different rewards, and “you [can’t] do one without the other.” He loves having students involved in his research and he loves seeing students learn. Dr. McMillan teaches classes in principles of wildlife management, wildlife natural history, and even a graduate-level course on ungulate (hoofed mammal) conservation.

Dr. McMillan loves to hunt, fish, and spend time with his family. He often goes with his kids and friends to Wyoming, Colorado, or Idaho to go hunting. He particularly enjoys pursuing mule deer, which are native to Utah.

Carl Hanson

Carl Hanson

Health Science

In July 2015, Dr. Carl L. Hanson was named Chair of the Health Science department. In his research, he collaborates with Dr. Michael Barnes (Associate Dean). He co-founded the Computational Health Science Research Group (see “Mike Barnes” p. 7) and focuses his research on understanding substance abuse and mental health issues through the lens of social media.

Dr. Hanson is also a runner. He runs a marathon every year, and he will be running the Boston Marathon in April 2016. To him, running is a learning experience. “That’s my therapy,” he says. In fact, it was originally his involvement in athletics here at BYU that got him interested in public health in the first place. Dr. Hanson was on the cross-country team, and that spurred an interest in community health that “hasn’t quit.” Now, however, athletics have become more therapeutic than competitive.

Before coming to work at BYU, Dr. Hanson spent 11 years as a professor at Montana State University. It was there that he grew to love the outdoors. He particularly loves fly-fishing, and he still goes back to Montana to fish every once in a while.

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Life Science Student Services

Shauna C. Anderson Young

Shauna C. Anderson Young Retires

Dr. Shauna C. Anderson Young was the first female faculty member in the College of Life Sciences (then the College of Biology and Agriculture). Dr. Anderson Young started the integrated medical laboratory science program and was the program director until she retired. The program was accredited in 1974 and has received the maximum number of years of accreditation since that time by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences.

In 2005, Dr. Anderson Young was selected to be the director of the biology major for the college. She worked tirelessly to give these students individualized help and find internships and research experiences for them.

In 2007, Dr. Anderson Young was named Assistant Dean and Director of Life Sciences Student Services (LSSS). She met with as many college majors as possible to individualize their graduation plans. The LSSS continues to reach out to new, incoming Life Sciences majors. Shauna C. Anderson Young left a legacy of hard work and service that will prevail for many years to come.

Donald Breakwell

New Director Donald Breakwell

As an accomplished teacher, Don Breakwell encourages students to pursue their scholarly questions, consider new ideas, search deeper, and go to the next step.

Dr. Breakwell has been highly involved in microbiology education at the national level through the American Society for Microbiology Conference for Undergraduate Educators. He has published articles about teaching techniques and has served on the editorial board for the Journal of Biology and Microbiology Education.

In 2009, Dr. Breakwell was part of a team that established the Phage Hunters Freshman Research Initiative course at BYU. Dr. Breakwell has been instrumental in converting students’ work into visible outcomes such as student research presentations at conferences, publication of newly sequenced genomes, and preparation of manuscripts for publication in research journals.

Dr. Breakwell will be transferring his teaching skills to an administrator position, as he has recently been made the new Director of Student Services for Life Sciences.

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New Assignments

Brad Neiger

Brad Neiger: Associate Academic Vice President

Dr. Brad L. Neiger is the new associate academic Vice President of Undergraduate Studies at BYU. Previous to this assignment, he was the Associate Dean of Life Sciences, and before that he was the chair of the Department of Health Science.

His new responsibilities include managing undergraduate studies and all curriculum development, including approving new courses or majors. He also has some responsibility for general education, honors, prestigious scholarships, first-year experience, forums, academic clubs, and academic internships. In addition to this, he has some responsibility for Student Academic and Advisement Services (SAAS), which manages registration, admissions, OneStop, and financial aid. These responsibilities represent a massive shift from teaching and research to administration for Dr. Neiger, but he says that administrative jobs like these offer an opportunity for him to serve the university.

While he misses his daily interaction with students and colleagues, he loves BYU and its mission. “In everything I do at BYU, I try to focus my energy on students and what they need,” he says. He tries his best to be an effective teacher and mentor and to link living the gospel with preparing for life after graduation.

Outside of his university responsibilities, Dr. Neiger loves spending time with his wife, Sherry. He particularly enjoys temple and family history work, the beaches in Southern California, and major league baseball and the New York Yankees.

John Bell

John Bell: Academic Vice President of BYU–Hawaii

Dr. John Bell was recently appointed as the new academic vice president of BYU–Hawaii. At BYU, Dr. Bell served as the Dean of undergraduate education. As such, he was in charge of general education and first-year experience, and he worked with the honors program. Prior to this appointment, Dr. Bell served as Associate Dean in the College of Life Sciences. He taught classes in Physiology and Developmental Biology, Biology 100, and several general education and honors courses.

Despite his busy schedule, Dr. Bell always made time for his students. They were his first priority. Now, as Academic Vice President at BYU–Hawaii, he is responsible for all academic programs and faculty. Because these are time-consuming responsibilities, he has little time for teaching, although he still plans on teaching about one course per year.

One of Dr. Bell’s favorite pastimes is scuba diving. “I’m doing a lot more of that now than I’ve done before,” he says. He and his wife, Rhonda, have had the opportunity to go scuba diving in many different places. He also loves collecting shells. In fact, Dr. Bell is the curator of the shell collection at BYU’s Monte L. Bean Life Science Museum. While he misses Provo and everybody at the college and at the university, he loves his new job.

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New Faculty

Matthew Madsen

Matthew Madsen

Plant and Wildlife Sciences

Dr. Matthew Madsen is a new faculty member in the Plant and Wildlife Sciences department. He previously worked in Burns, Oregon, for the USDA’s Agricultural Research Services. His primary work in this research now focuses on rangeland restoration, where he identifies what limits plant establishment and then develops new technologies to overcome this. His primary work has been developing seed coating technologies to enable better plant growth. Dr. Madsen originally became interested in wildland work as a child. Growing up on a ranch, he always loved the outdoors and has a strong desire to maintain our God-given natural resources. When he is not working, Dr. Madsen loves to spend time with his family. He particularly enjoys (responsibly) riding dirt bikes with his two sons.

Dustin Bruening

Dustin Bruening

Exercise Sciences

A new assistant professor for the Exercise Sciences department, Dr. Dustin Bruening teaches Biomechanics and Kinesiology. Previously, Dr. Bruening worked in Dayton, Ohio, for the Air Force research labs. There, he did research on determining human characteristics for surveillance applications. While the jump from surveillance research to teaching may seem big, Dr. Bruening says, “the applications are different but the tools are the same.” Dr. Bruening is excited to be here. “I wanted to get back into academics,” he says. He also wanted to do something similar to his research work for Shriners Hospitals for Children, where he did gait analysis for cerebral palsy and surgical planning.

Jonathon T. Hill

Jonathon T. Hill

Physiology and Developmental Biology

Dr. Jonathon T. Hill, a new professor in the Physiology and Developmental Biology department, teaches Cell Biology. While originally from Provo, Utah, Dr. Hill was raised in California. After completing his Ph.D. at Columbia University, he did a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Utah. His research largely focuses on developmental biology. Dr. Hill specifically researches how the heart forms in an human embryo. His interest in developmental biology was sparked early on when he was a student learning about how genes are regulated. “I wanted to study that process and how it happened,” he says. In his spare time, Dr. Hill loves cycling and fishing.

AliceAnn Crandall

AliceAnn Crandall

Health Sciences

The Health Science department’s newest faculty member is Dr. AliceAnn Crandall. Before coming to BYU, Dr. Crandall completed a post-doctoral fellowship at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. She became interested in health science while studying community health education at BYU. Her international field experiences in Taiwan teaching English and in Romania working with orphans spurred on her interest in health science. Her research focuses on the parent executive functions in children—the “air traffic control tower[s] of the brain.” They control emotions and self-control. Her research emphasizes how an individual’s self-control affects the family. Dr. Crandall loves to go to the mountains, watch sports, and spend time with her family.

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