Dr. Marilyn Petro

Title: 
Associate Professor of Psychology and Chair
Phone: 
(402) 465-2429
Email: 
mpetro [at] NebrWesleyan.edu
Office: 
Smith-Curtis 340B
Office hours: 

Tuesday & Thursdays 9:00 am - 12:00 noon

Background: 

August 2012 - Present Associate Professor of Psychology Nebraska Wesleyan University
Department of Psychology
5000 St. Paul Avenue
Lincoln, NE 68504-2794

August 2006 – 2012 Assistant Professor of Psychology
Nebraska Wesleyan University
Department of Psychology
5000 St. Paul Avenue
Lincoln, NE 68504-2794

August 2005 – May 2006 Adjunct Professor of Psychology
Nebraska Wesleyan University
Department of Psychology
Developed and taught:
Basic Learning Principles
Perception

October 1998 – June 2006 Adjunct Instructor
Southeast Community College
Academic Transfer - Social Sciences
8800 O Street
Lincoln, NE 68520-1299
Taught: Introduction to Psychology
Taught: Academic and Career Orientation
August 2004 – June 2006 also taught Distance Learning sections of Introduction to Psychology

October 1997- May 1999 Mentor
Lincoln Public Schools
5901 O Street
Lincoln, NE 68510
Worked with highly gifted children (ages 8 -13) in areas of
mathematics, English and sciences

January 1992 - May 1992 Visiting Assistant Professor
January 1991 - May 1991 Department of Psychology
University of Nebraska - Lincoln
Lincoln, Nebraska 68588-0308
Taught: Biopsychology

February 1986 - May 1987 Research Coordinator
Cincinnati Medical Research Institute
Medi-Center North, Suite 25
10550 Montgomery Road
Cincinnati, Ohio 45242
Coordinated Phase 3 & 4 studies examining the
effects of psychoactive drugs.

May 1982 - November 1983 Research Technician in the laboratory of
Dr. Avanelle Kirksey, Dept. of Foods and Nutrition,
Purdue University. Coordinated USDA funded grant to determine
the effects of oral contraceptives on human milk nutrients, in
conjunction with Judy Roepke, Ball State University.

October 1980 - August 1983 Research technician in the laboratory of Dr. Jon Story,
Dept. of Foods and Nutrition, Purdue University.
Performed various analyses to determine the effects of dietary
fiber on serum cholesterol levels.

August 1979 - May 1980 Teaching Fellow, Dept. of Psychology, Miami University.
Taught laboratory sections of statistics and research design.
Also, developed and taught a course on animal social behavior.

June 1979 - July 1979 Instructor, Miami University - Middletown Campus.
Developed and taught a course on the theories of aggression.

May 1977 - May 1979 Animal laboratory supervisor, Dept. of Psychology,
Miami University. Supervised four part-time caretakers
in the care of the department's animal labs and kept inventory of
supplies.

August 1976 - May 1977 Graduate Assistant, Dept. of Psychology,
Miami University. Assisted in the teaching of
general psychology and animal behavior courses.
Also, assisted supervisor with cognitive research.

Education: 

1980 - Doctor of Philosophy, Experimental Psychology
Miami University, Oxford, Ohio
Dissertation Title: Effects of Undernutrition upon the Motivation
of DBA/2j Mice

1978 - Master of Arts, Psychology
Miami University, Oxford, Ohio
Thesis Title: Auditory Discrimination Learning in Chicks after Exposure to Auditory and Visual Stimuli

1975 - Bachelor of Science, Psychology
Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio

Teaching philosophy: 

The Psychology Department at Nebraska Wesleyan University provides a conduit for undergraduate students interested in pursuing graduate and professional degrees. Continuing in the Nebraska Wesleyan tradition, ten of our 26 spring 2013 graduating psychology majors have been accepted to graduate/professional schools.

Courses taught: 

Basic Psychological Science
Perception
Psychology of Sleep and Dreaming
Basic Learning Principles
Basic Learning Principles Laboratory
Research Methods in Psychology
Research Methods Laboratory
Introduction to Senior Research
Senior Research
Independent Study

Research and academic interests: 

The central hypothesis driving my research interest is that age-related inflammation in the brain is linked to observed cognitive deficits, specifically spatial learning and memory. My research is conducted with undergraduate students as part of extracurricular research experience in psychology. We have observed that resveratrol (an anti-inflammatory plant compound) protected the middle-aged mouse brain from ethanol-induced damage as measured by a spatial learning and memory task. We found that resveratrol-supplemented diets led to lowered expression of the proinflammatory cytokine IL-6 in the hippocampus, which is key to spatial learning. Additionally, we found that an enriched housing environment also had beneficial effects on the middle-aged mouse’s spatial abilities. The reduced expression of IL-6 was more pronounced in animals which had an early learning experience. This early experience also had a beneficial effect on expression of BDNF, SIRT-1 and TNF-alpha in the hippocampus. I am interested in continuing to examine ways to reduce age-related neuroinflammation and related cognitive declines.

Professional Presentations and Publications:

Petro, M. S., & Siemsen, B. (in preparation). Effect of resveratrol and early learning experiences on IL-6 and BDNF in middle-aged C57BL/6 mice.

Frank Ferraro III, & Petro, M. S. (2012, January). Mouse Tales: Establishing a mouse research laboratory for undergraduate students. Round-table presentation at meeting of National Institute on the Teaching of Psychology, St. Pete Beach, FL.

Petro, M. S. (2009, January). From the Rat Olympics to the Extreme Rat Challenge. Round-table discussion presented at meeting of National Institute on the Teaching of Psychology, St. Pete Beach, FL.

Koke, V., & Petro, M. S. (2009). Complex environmental enrichment and spatial reference memory in middle-aged mice. Psi Chi Journal of Undergraduate Research, 14(1), 14-19.

Ranney, A., & Petro, M. S. (2009). Resveratrol protects spatial learning in middle aged C57BL/6 mice from effects of ethanol. Behavioural Pharmacology, 20, 330-336.

Petro, M. S., & Ahlum, M. B. (2009, January). Write me a paragraph: Structured writing and retention. Poster presentation at meeting of National Institute on the Teaching of Psychology, St. Pete Beach, FL.

Petro, M. S. (2009, January). From the Rat Olympics to the Extreme Rat Challenge. Round-table discussion presented at meeting of National Institute on the Teaching of Psychology, St. Pete Beach, FL.

Petro, M. S. (2009, October). The Xtreme Rat Challenge: 35 years of engaged learning. Paper presented at the meeting of Great Plains Conference on Teaching in the Social and Behavioral Sciences, Vermillion, SD.

Petro, M. S., & Ferraro III, F. M. (2007, October 30). Engaging Students in the Use of Animal Models in Behavioral Research. Presentation at Faculty Scholarship Dinner, Nebraska Wesleyan University, Lincoln, NE.

Spiller, G. A., Story, J. A., Wong, L. G., Nunes, J. D., Alton, M., Petro, M. S., Furomoto, E.J., Whittam, J. H., & Scala, J. (1986). Effect of increasing levels of hard wheat fiber on fecal weight, minerals and steroids and gastrointestinal transit time in healthy young women. Journal of Nutrition, 116, 778-785.

Anderson, A. W., Story, L., Sieling, R., Chin, W. L., Petro, M. S., & Story, J. A. (1984). Hypocholesterolemic effects of oat bran or bean intake for four hypercholesterolemic men. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 40, 1146-1155.

Story, J. A., Le Page, S. L., Petro, M. S., West, L. G., Cassidy, M. M., Lightfoot, F. G., & Vahouny, G.V. (1984). Interactions of alfalfa plant and sprout saponins with cholesterol in vitro and in cholesterol-fed rats. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 39, 917-929.

Spiller, G. A., Wong, L. G., Nunes, J. D., Story, J. A., Petro, M. S., Furomoto, E. J.,
Alton-Spiller, M., Whittam, J. H., & Scala, J. (1984). Effect of four levels of hard wheat bran on fecal composition in transit time in healthy young women. Federation Proceedings, 43, 392.

Story, J. A., Petro, M. S., Spiller, G. A., Wong, L. G., Whittam, J. H., & Scala, J. (1983).
Modification of human fecal steroid excretion by a dietary fiber supplement. Poster presented at Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, Chicago, IL.

Thomas, J. N., Kelly, J. J., Petro, M. S., & Story, J. A. (1982). Modification of cholesterol
regression in rats by pectin and lignin. Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, New Orleans, LA.

Petro, M. S., & Capretta, P. J. (1980). Effects of undernutrition upon the motivation of inbred mice. Poster presented at the national meeting of the Animal Behavior Society, Ft. Collins, CO.

Petro, M. S., Capretta, P. J., & Cooper, A. J. (1978). Auditory discrimination learning in chicks after exposure to auditory and visual stimuli. Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society, 12 (5), 385-386.

Cooper, A. J., & Petro, M. S. (1978). The effects of intranasal zinc sulfate treatment on the growth and behavior of young mice. Paper presented at meeting of the Midwestern Animal Behavior Society, West Lafayette, IN.

Service interests: 

I served as chair of the Student Faculty Collaborative Research Fund Committee 2010-2011 which evaluated student-faculty research proposals for competitive funding. I currently serve as divisional representative on the Faculty Affairs Committee overseeing policies involving the professional status of faculty members. I serve on university committees which organize and present workshops on teaching writing skills, seek to increase experiential learning, and develop new general education requirements.

Professional and community affiliations, certifications and awards: 

Professional Memberships:

Association for Psychological Science
American Psychological Association
Midwest Psychological Association
Psi Chi
Phi Kappa Phi

Awards:

May 2013
Technology Fund Grant for Operant Console to update the Learning Lab

February 2013
Student Faculty Collaborative Research Grant, sponsor and mentor for Kimberly Homsey research project, Effects of Musical Complexity on Spatial Task Performance in C57BL/6j Mice

February 2011
Student Faculty Collaborative Research Grant, sponsor and mentor for Megan Kautz research project, The Influence of Attachment and Chronic Stress on the Development of Obesity in a Mouse Model

February 2011
Student Faculty Collaborative Research Grant, sponsor and mentor for Katlyn Paloucek poster presentation “Psychological and Physiological Responses to Touch” at Midwestern Psychological Associations Annual Conference May 5, 2011

Student Faculty Collaborative Research Grant, sponsor and mentor for Brandon Hollister poster presentation “Family Structure and Attachment’s Influence on Coping Flexibility and the College Transition” at Midwestern Psychological Associations Annual Conference May 5, 2011

September 2010
Student Faculty Collaborative Research Grant, sponsor and mentor Katlyn Paloucek’s research “Psychological and Physiological Responses to Touch”

Student Faculty Collaborative Research Grant, sponsor and mentor Teresa Ulrich’s research An Investigationof the Effects of Anxiety Odors on Empathy”

February 2010
Student Faculty Collaborative Research Grant, sponsor and mentor Kayla Houck’s research “A Comparison of Enrichment Effects on Spatial Memory in C57BL/6J Mice”

December 2009
Technology Fund Grant for Nihin Kohden 4418 EEG Machine

May 2008
Ameritas Fellowship to acquire knowledge about sleep technology and purchase materials for sleep and dreaming course.

January 2008
Student Faculty Collaborative Research Grant, sponsor and mentor Vicki Koke’s research “Complex Environmental Enrichment on Spatial Reference Memory of Aged Mice.”

January 2008
Student Faculty Collaborative Research Grant, sponsor and mentor Kiley Cordes’ research “The Attraction, Selection, and Attrition Model as it Appears in the Sorting of Psychology and Business Students at Nebraska Wesleyan University.”

May 2007
Student Faculty Collaborative Research Grant, sponsor and mentor Alyssa Ranney’s research “Resveratrol and cognitive declines in healthy C57BL/6 mice.”

May 2007
Faculty Development Grant to create an aging mouse laboratory
which provided aged animals for student and personal research projects in the cognitive effects of aging.

December 2006
Kenneth R. Holder Fellowship for Instructional Improvement
Perception laboratory equipment was updated to enhance the teaching of sensation and perception.