Siobhan Howard, a visiting scholar from Mary Immaculate College in Limerick, Ireland, has spent part of a six-month sabbatical at Indiana University of Pennsylvania working on a study about how the human body reacts to stress.

Siobhan Howard visiting scholar from Mary Immaculate College IrelandIt's a biological psychology project Howard has been working on for the better part of 13 years, since she earned her doctoral degree and started teaching. She presented part of her work on April 15 at a Psychology Department colloquium in Uhler Hall.

“It's about how our personalities affect our body's response to stress,” she said. “How hard your heart starts beating, how fast blood rushes through a person's veins, those kind of things, when they face stress.”

Howard came to IUP this spring at the request of IUP psychology faculty member and Distinguished University Professor Krys Kaniasty, whom Howard first met at a conference several years ago. Howard got the opportunity to extend her research at IUP through a New Horizons research grant from the Irish Research Council, as well as the Royal Irish Academy Charlemont Grant to help fund her research in the United States.

The research she has been doing at IUP revolves around having veterans—preferably ones that have been deployed to war—undergo a series of tests to see how they are affected by some common stressors.

“Their response to the stress might be lower,” she said. “They might be more resilient.”

The question posed by the whole process is if certain types of personalities handle stress better than others, and if we can adapt ourselves to handle that kind of daily stress in better ways.

Howard said the research could have a big impact.

“If you had a heart attack and if you have that type of personality, you might have another (because of stress). We want to know why that is,” she said.

Howard will be at IUP until April 26. To participate in her study, persons may contact her by e-mail at