She earned her Ph.D. in Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience with Dr. Lynn Nadel, Regents Professor at the University of Arizona, trailblazer in the neurobiology of learning and memory, and member of the National Academy of Sciences. Dr. Payne then completed a post-doctoral fellowship with Dr. Robert Stickgold, Professor at Harvard Medical School and leader in the field of sleep research, and Dr. Daniel Schacter, Professor at Harvard University, expert in human memory, and member of the National Academy of Sciences. Dr. Payne went on to accept a faculty position at the University of Notre Dame.
Dr. Payne's research focuses on how sleep and stress independently and interactively influence human memory, emotion, creativity, performance, and brain function. She teaches courses in Psychology and Neurobiology, including a popular course entitled “The Sleeping Brain,” for which she won Harvard University’s Bok Center Award for teaching excellence and which regularly sports a long waitlist of students at Notre Dame. Dr. Payne's teaching has also been recognized by Notre Dame’s Frank O’Malley Award for undergraduate teaching and service and Rev. Edmund P. Joyce Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching.
Dr. Payne was awarded the Laird Cermak Award for her contribution to memory research, the Early Career Award from the Psychonomic Society (“the home for scientists who study how the mind works”), and was elected a Kavli Fellow with the National Academy of Sciences in 2017. Kavli fellows are “young researchers who have already made recognized contributions to science, and 150 Kavli fellows have been elected into the National Academy of Sciences and 10 have been awarded Nobel Prizes.” She was recently selected as the National Academy of Sciences 2021 Seymour Benzer/Sydney Brenner Lecturer, a public lecture on her research in Irvine, California given in February, 2022. Dr. Payne currently serves as Chief Editor for Cambridge University Press journal, Experimental Results.
In addition to her academic pursuits, Dr. Payne is dedicated to applying her research findings to business organizations, striving to help leaders understand how to work with, rather than against, the natural abilities of the human brain. She thrives on working with organizations to increase understanding of how sleep, stress, and emotion impact performance, cognition, innovation, and psychological and physical wellbeing. Dr. Payne was the H. Smith Richardson Jr. Fellow at the Center for Creative Leadership in Greensboro, North Carolina and served on the Medical Advisory Board for Humana and the Advisory Board of the NeuroLeadership Institute. She continues to help numerous organizations and Fortune 500 companies incorporate neuroscience and sleep research into their leadership and training programs via keynote addresses, workshops, and coaching and consulting sessions.