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The APA Science Student Council doubled its research prizes this year, awarding six $1,000 Early Graduate Student Research Awards to psychology doctoral students for their outstanding research.

"By recognizing the work of these students, we get to encourage them to pursue careers in research and continue producing knowledge that benefits society," says Gabriel Lázaro-Muñoz, the Science Student Council chair.

The council received a record 159 applicants from students conducting innovative psychology research. This year's winners worked on a variety of research projects, but all had one thing in common: scientific rigor that even a senior researcher could be proud of, says Lázaro-Muñoz. The award recipients are:

  • Pooja K. Agarwal, a cognitive psychology student at Washington University in St. Louis, who investigates how tests and quizzes enhance student learning in both laboratory and applied settings. Her research focuses on open-book vs. closed-book tests, optimal schedules of classroom quizzes, effective feedback methods, effects of testing on students' metacognition and students' transfer of knowledge following quizzes.

  • Jacqueline Chen, a social psychology student at the University of California, Santa Barbara, who investigates the ways monoracial people perceive multiracial people. In one study, she asked monoracial participants to categorize people as black, white or multiracial as quickly as possible. She found that they correctly identified multiracial people at rates significantly above chance.

  • Joseph Franklin, a clinical psychology student at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, who examines self-injury. He investigates how nonsuicidal self-injury affects cognitive processing and emotion. In one experiment, Franklin had participants immerse their arms in painfully cold water and found that people who tended to self-harm had increased cognitive functioning during the painful ordeal. These results shed light on how self-harming habits develop and become reinforcing over time.

  • Jon Freeman, an experimental psychology student at Tufts University, studies facial cues. By running studies that use fMRI and other technologies, Freeman has found support for the theory that people constantly gather and interpret information from other people's facial cues, body language and voices.

  • Matthew Lerner, a clinical psychology student at the University of Virginia, investigates factors that contribute to social skills problems among children with autism and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. He has found that parents raising adolescents with autism who have stronger beliefs in their parenting abilities tend to have children who report low rates of depression, as well as — surprisingly — lower levels of social skills. He's also found that strong alliances between parents and therapists providing a parents-only intervention predict improved friendship-making abilities in children with ADHD, despite their never directly meeting the therapist.

  • Eric Pedersen, a clinical psychology student at the University of Washington, researches substance abuse, particularly alcohol abuse in young adults. In one study, Pedersen found that study-abroad students increased their drinking and experienced multiple negative consequences from heavy drinking during trips. He's also developed an intervention to help reduce study-abroad students' alcohol abuse and promote students' engagement with new cultures.

Learn more about the Early Graduate Student Research Award. Nominations for the 2010 awards are due Sept. 15.

—J. Clark