A passion for the mind

Psychology professor Gabriel is beloved by students

The Spectrum

In Dr. Shira Gabriel's world of psychology, she's seen people - in a sense - turn into vampires and wizards.

The associate professor of psychology has done a variety of research and experiments - including one that consisted of participants reading passages from fantasy novels. Her research showed that readers felt like they psychologically turned into the science fiction characters they were reading about as a way "to fulfill belongingness needs through group affiliation," according to the article Gabriel co-authored called "Becoming a Vampire Without Being Bitten."

The sense of belonging that results from reading about wizards and vampires provokes the same feelings of satisfaction and happiness as if the reader were actually part of the world described, according to Gabriel.

But turning people into vampires or wizards isn't the only way Gabriel explores her interest in the human mind. At UB, she instructs Psychology 101, a 400-level course and a graduate-level course. She is beloved by many of her students, which means a lot to the professor, who earned her Ph.D. at Northwestern University.

Gabriel said her best experiences are hearing that students enjoy her classes.

"When I first started teaching, a female student wrote me a card saying that she felt it was important to have a strong woman teacher," Gabriel said. "She felt that I was a good role model and it blew me away. I love thinking that I could make someone feel like that."

Gabriel said she always enjoyed psychology and the college atmosphere; she never wanted to leave it. She found human behavior to be fascinating and decided to study how our relationships shape our thoughts, feelings and behavior.

Outside the classroom, Gabriel has posted numerous blogs on the Social Science Research Center, an online forum, about prayer and how it affects people.

"Faith is about keeping things whole, about not knowing all the answers and about appreciating the grace and peace of something that is too big to be divided, counted, and understood," Gabriel wrote.

She thinks UB's psychology department is "great" and added many faculty members do "a lot of research" and are "dedicated to their students."

She strives to be a good professor, and many of her students have noticed.

Tori Paxon, a freshman, changed her major from nursing to psychology and social sciences because of Gabriel's lectures.

"I really like the way that she teaches the class and all of the enthusiasm she has about psychology," Paxon said.

Gabriel also boasts high ratings on Ratemyprofessor.com - one student on the site even described her as "literally perfection."

"I like high scores on anything," Gabriel said. "I like my students, so I'm glad they like me, too."

Ka Yee Lee, a freshman intended nursing major, said she enjoys Gabriel's lectures because she makes each class fun and enjoyable. Gabriel is Lee's Psychology 101 professor.

With such large classes, Gabriel said it is important to be enthusiastic and get the students involved.

Lee said Gabriel's lecture notes are clear and understandable, which makes it easy for students to follow and properly study the material needed for exams.

Gabriel doesn't want the first-semester freshmen to feel discouraged or overwhelmed in her 101 class, so she gives five exams and drops the lowest grade. She believes students do better when they are tested more often on less information, so she wants all of them to have a chance.

Her idea of a good professor is someone who takes his or her role seriously. She feels there's nothing worse than a professor who stresses the importance of attendance and is always absent or tardy. She wants each member of the class to be treated equally.

Gabriel will forever be fascinated by the mind, which is why she teaches classes like Psychology 407: Consciousness and the Self. It is a three-credit class that examines how the unconscious mind works and how some information cannot be accessed.

"As long as you attend her lectures and study a decent amount of hours, her tests will be manageable," Lee said. "Overall, she is a really good professor and I am glad that I have her for this semester."

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