Prof. Brenda Rapp ft. in Arts & Sciences Weekly

Prof. Brenda Rapp ft. in Arts & Sciences Weekly

Did you catch the feature on Prof. Brenda Rapp in this week’s Arts & Sciences Weekly e-newsletter? Read up on it here…

Describe your primary research or scholarship, and tell us what is most exciting about your current project.
My research focuses on understanding our ability to read and spell words. I’ve worked to further our understanding of the specific cognitive processes that allow us to readily call to mind the spellings of words and automatically understand the meaning of patterns of written squiggles (as you are doing in reading this!) as well as the neural mechanisms that support these processes.

My research has primarily focused on studying individuals who have suffered strokes that affect their abilities to read and/or spell. Their patterns of impaired and spared performance in language and other tasks have revealed the various “parts” of the complex machinery of written language processing. In addition, using brain imaging methods (functional MRI) we have been able to observe the brain while people are actually reading and spelling, helping to answer questions such as: to what extent do written and spoken language use shared or independent brain machinery? How does a brain that has suffered damage to the machinery of written language reorganize and recover?

Recently, I have been excited that, along with my colleagues, we are starting to be able to bring these understandings to work with children and young adults who are experiencing difficulties specifically in learning to read and spell. Because I was a special education teacher before I earned my PhD, it gives me satisfaction to be able to bring my research “full circle” back to the issues that first inspired me to pursue my research career.

Share a best practice or tip for successful teaching or mentoring.
I try to communicate that although I may seem to be the “expert,” there is vastly more that we don’t know than what we know. This humbling understanding puts us on more equal footing as we set out together on the difficult but exciting journey of discovery, sharing our insights, understandings, and struggles to make sense of the complex world around us.

What do you like to do outside of work?
There is nothing I enjoy doing more than spending time and playing with my grandson, my dogs, and my “grand-dogs” (my children’s dogs). I am also an avid gardener, finding great satisfaction feeling and smelling the soil as I plant, experiencing the magic of life and color springing forth from the seemingly lifeless earth and branches in spring, and the satisfaction of gathering, cooking, and eating vegetables and herbs from my own garden

JHU Arts & Sciences Weekly e-newsletter, April 26, 2022