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New Faculty Spotlight: Paul Bolls

Paul Bolls and Porismita Borah pose for a picture in an office.
Porismita Borah, an associate professor in the Murrow College of Communication, poses for a picture with Paul Bolls.

This is part of a series of articles highlighting new faculty members from each college at Washington State University.

Paul Bolls calls this “chapter 3” of his life in Pullman, and the story is getting better with each passing page. After earning his master’s degree at WSU in the 1990s’ and serving as a faculty member from 2000 to 2004, Bolls returned to the WSU faculty in August as Associate Dean of Research and Graduate Studies for the Murrow College of Communication.

He’s now working alongside three of his longtime faculty mentors – Bruce Pinkleton, Alex Tan and Erica Austin – and he’s thrilled to be back at WSU.

“I can’t express enough how much gratitude I have, being able to come back home,” Bolls said. “My wife and I grew up in Montana, but Pullman is home too. I’m a Cougar to the depths of my heart. My time at WSU laid the foundation for everything great in my career.”

Bolls is a renowned scholar in psychophysiology and embodied cognition – how the human brain interacts with, processes, takes in, and is influenced by, media. He’s focused his recent research on how media can be used to improve lives. In October, Bolls collaborated with industry partners to conduct a small-scale test during the final presidential debate, using skin conductance to measure the intensity of viewers’ reactions.

“We found some interesting things, all pointing to the political atmosphere that we’re in,” Bolls said.

In addition to continuing his own research and teaching a seminar on psychophysiology for Murrow grad students, Bolls’ associate dean duties keep him busy.

“The first priority is to support our fellow faculty researchers,” Bolls said. “We also want to explore partnerships across colleges and with industry. One goal I have is to smash the walls between academia and industry. We want to get the Murrow College research message out. We have brilliant, creative researchers here in our college that make amazing partners.”

Bolls said he’s also excited to facilitate more undergraduate research opportunities and explore ways to enrich the communities WSU serves.

“I have a passion for rural communities and native communities,” Bolls said. “The core of the university’s mission is to improve the lives of people in the state and beyond and we’re specifically focused on the powerful ways that media content and technology impact the lives of people in Washington, especially in terms of health and wellness.”

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