Navigating Neuroscience: Dr. Stacy Miner Advances Autism Research Through Involvement with the Kent State University Brain Health Research Institute
Even before Dr. Stacy Miner, PhD, RN, CCRP, was hired as an Assistant Professor for the College of Nursing, she was already interested in joining the Kent State University Brain Health Research Institute (BHRI) as an external member. A 2020 graduate of the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing at Case Western Reserve University, Dr. Miner also serves as a clinical research nurse for University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center. With research focused on pediatric neurodevelopment, she was attracted to the Institute’s focus on neuroscience to help bolster her continuing research in neural connectivity and symptoms associated with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and sensory processing disorder. Dr. Miner worked with University Hospitals Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital to conduct a clinical trial to evaluate how disturbed sleep impacts behavior in children with ASD, as well as Case Western Reserve University Department of Social Sciences to evaluate transitional services for young adults with ASD. Her most recent projects include ASD symptomology research and self-management in psychiatric diseases with University Hospitals Psychiatry Research Collaborative.
Grounded in a multi-institutional and interdisciplinary approach, the Brain Health Research Institute investigates brain and nervous system health to improve understanding of brain functions in health, disease, and repair. With over 500 external and internal members, including colleges, departments, and campuses across the university, the Institute provides numerous resources to promote collaborative research, including seminars and workshops, conferences and symposia, pilot grant funding opportunities, training and mentoring programs, and collaboratories offering shared research facilities with flexible lab space and state-of-the-art equipment. Dr. Miner began her involvement with the BHRI early in her career at Kent State when she was nominated to serve on the Neurocognitive Collaboratory Planning Committee, an opportunity she readily accepted. Soon after, Dr. Miner applied for pilot grant funding through the BHRI. Although she did not receive an award, her application piqued the interest of BHRI Chair Michael Lehman and Co-chair Angela Ridgel who offered to serve as mentors and collaborators for her future research endeavors. They also invited her to serve on the General Committee which oversees operations, plans symposiums, invites guest speakers, and works to develop partnerships and clinical collaborations with other institutions such as Northeast Ohio Medical University (NEOMED), Summa Health, Akron Children’s Hospital, Cleveland Clinic, and University Hospitals.
Dr. Miner also serves as a member of the BHRI Neurodiversity Initiative which helps to promote interdisciplinary research in neurodiversity to support students at Kent State. Dr. Miner is excited to contribute to this area of research by building on her previous training from the Educational Service Center of Northeast Ohio to support families of children with diverse learning needs. As Dr. Miner continues to research symptoms and treatments for children and young adults with autism and ADHD, she feels that she has already benefited greatly from resources and connections offered through the Institute such as those offered through regular research symposiums. For example, she reports, “I was studying autism symptomology but needed expertise with big data. While attending an in-house research symposium, I met a graduate student in IT who wants to study the same thing.” The pair is now working collaboratively on a proposal to study a data set of patients with autism from University Hospitals.
A central focus for Dr. Miner is increasing opportunities for nurse researcher involvement with BHRI clinical neuroscience research—participation that may range from helping with blood draws to study development, implementation, and result dissemination. “Nurse researchers have so much to contribute to the clinical research area,” she said. “Nurses have a broad range of clinical expertise and contribute holistic health perspectives that are often missing in clinical trial research.” Dr. Miner looks forward to her future involvement with the Institute and is eager to promote opportunities offered through the BHRI to encourage participation by CON faculty and students. “I’m looking forward to talking with CON faculty,” she notes. “I’d like to get conversations started and groups established in the College to make research more successful and involve more students in research.”
Dr. Miner is enthusiastic about sharing her positive experiences with the BHRI and fostering awareness of the many resources and opportunities offered through the Institute. In addition to the BHRI Undergraduate Fellows Program, an immersive program in neuroscience for highly qualified students, pilot grant funding opportunities are currently offered to faculty and are in development for students interested in neurodiversity research. “I would like to help students get involved with clinical research; it’s beneficial to students at all levels of the nursing program,” she said. “When we think of nursing, we likely think of nurses at the bedside. Many students aren’t aware of the role they can take in clinical research to advance nursing science and practice.”