New faculty brings unique skill set to the Center

Dr. Mollie McGuire might be one of the newest faculty members at the Center for Homeland Defense and Security (CHDS), but she has been on campus at Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) since 2014. She brings a unique set of skills, experience, and knowledge to the Center and will be a tremendous asset for CHDS students.

Dr. Mollie McGuire

During her doctorate in Cognitive Psychology, she was brought onboard as a graduate intern through the Naval Research Enterprise Internship Program at NPS. During this internship, she gained invaluable insight and exposure to the research being conducted at NPS. This insight led to her dissertation topic, and continued relationship with NPS.

Dr. McGuire was able to stay at NPS and conduct her dissertation research as a Visiting Researcher through a collaborative relationship with NPS, sponsored by the Consortium for Robotics and Unmanned Systems Education and Research (CRUSER). The dissertation topic focused on effects of stress and divided attention on prospective memory (i.e., remembering to complete an intention at the appropriate time) performance in a Human/Robot teaming setting. Her motivation for conducting this study came from a desire to understand prospective memory in high-stress environments, such as military operations. Upon the completion of her dissertation, she received her PhD from Claremont Graduate University.

Dr. McGuire has also conducted research examining how recalling an intention may be more cognitively demanding than recalling a past action, making it hard to differentiate between true and false intent based on cognitive overload interview techniques. This is an example of the type of research that could be very helpful in her role at CHDS where she assists graduate students from law enforcement, fire service, and emergency management fields with various aspects of their research—including conceptualization, methodology, thesis development, dissertations, capstone proposal development, analyses, and writing support. Managing Director of Academic Programs and Thesis Coordinator, Lauren Wollman summarized, “Mollie is an important addition to the faculty. Not only is she a skilled advisor and mentor, but also a seasoned researcher with real-world, cutting-edge, experimental research going on in her Information Sciences lab. She was an immediate, positive fit with the research team.”

Dr. Mollie McGuire with Department of Defense Analysis Lecturer Kristen Tsolis. US Navy photo courtesy of Javier Chagoya.

With a background in cognitive and forensic psychology, she brings a diverse skillset to CHDS. The cross-section between psychology and the law is a growing field that will benefit homeland security leaders. Another item of interest that will be an asset for CHDS is her knowledge on body-worn cameras and how it affects memory. This wide range of expertise is especially beneficial when it comes to advising on CHDS theses now, and her effect on CHDS academic programs is already coming to fruition. According to master’s graduate Paul Junger (cohort MA 1701/1702), Major of Police with Dallas PD, “Dr. McGuire motivated me to accomplish the impossible, inspired me to take risks, and encouraged me when I felt overwhelmed. Her leadership, passion, and expertise is a testament to the prestige of the CHDS program. I am forever grateful for her dedication to the CHDS students.” Junger’s thesis focused on ‘The effects of hypervigilance on decision-making during critical incidents.’ She is also advising on other theses of interest including “The Effects of Body-worn Cameras on Officers’ Attitudes and Policing Behaviors” for a master’s participant from the Miami Police Department and a thesis about building resiliency in children for a Fire Captain with LAFD. “It’s a constant learning process, even when helping with research outside of my specialty, like the LAFD thesis,” McGuire added. Even though she didn’t originally think she’d be working in academia (Mollie assumed she would be working in the private sector), she’s very happy to be here. Otherwise, she would’ve probably considered trial consulting as a profession. “The CHDS students are great to work with and they bring amazing experience with them,” McGuire beamed.

Like most CHDS faculty, Mollie maintains a busy yet balanced workload. She is also an Assistant Professor for the NPS Department of Information Sciences (IS). She’s been working with IS since April 2017: initially as Research Associate before promotion to Assistant Professor. This quarter she is teaching Research and Writing for Homeland Security and Research Methods for Information Science within the Department of IS. McGuire’s post-doctorate advisor and colleague in the Department of IS, Dr. Ray Buettner, provided this glimpse into her potential impact at NPS, “As the services attempt to design and implement command and control systems that employ increasing levels of autonomy, the ability to incorporate a deep understanding of the human side of the human-machine team will be critical. Dr. McGuire brings the tools of a cognitive psychologist to our team, enabling NPS to provide better insight and guidance to those responsible for creating the next generation of C2 systems.”

Some of the tools used in ARCIS lab to test and monitor the affects of stress.

Dr. McGuire also maintains an experimental lab at NPS, the Applied Research on Cognitive and Information Sciences lab (or ARCIS for short). It’s one of the few labs on campus that is setup to conduct experiments on human subjects. “CRUSER awarded seed funds to Dr. McGuire in FY18 to establish her Human Cognition and Automation Lab, and has again awarded her seed funds for FY19 to launch her first study,” explained Lyla Englehorn, CRUSER Associate Director. All seeded research quad charts are posted on the CRUSER site by fiscal year if you’d like to see more details about her work in context with other CRUSER research. The ARCIS lab could potentially be used for CHDS projects in the future, and that’s an exciting prospect. So far, she’s already utilized the lab space to investigate a variety of issues relevant to homeland security, including how reliance on automation is affected by stress.

So, while Dr. McGuire may not fit the prototypical mold of someone in homeland security, her skills and experience will have a profoundly positive effect on the Center’s academic programs, students, and staff.