Public Interest


Michael Gazzaniga Award for Distinguished Scientific Contributions

In 1961, Michael Gazzaniga, PhD, performed pioneering research on split-brain patients - people with damage to the corpus callosum. Through his work, the University of California, Santa Barbara, psychology professor discovered that the brain's two hemispheres have specialized functions: The left handles mostly verbal and speech processing, for example, whereas spatial processing occurs mostly in the right hemisphere. That's Psych 101 these days, but it was big news 40 years ago when cognitive scientists were still trying to prove brain specialization. It remains a big development today as neuroscience and cognitive science converge to better explain human behavior.

"I think all of neuroscience is beginning to put meat on the notion that our understanding of human nature should be grounded in the brain," Gazzaniga says.

His award recognizes his early innovations and continuing dedication to the cognitive neuroscience field.

Janellen Huttenlocher Award for Distinguished Scientific Contributions

Janellen Huttenlocher, PhD, has made significant contributions to developmental and cognitive psychology, including her most famous finding that a child's vocabulary is determined by the amount of the mother's speech.

Huttenlocher, the William S. Gray Professor of Psychology at the University of Chicago, has focused on the effects of early input on children's language development throughout her career. She has shown that variations in the input children receive affects their levels of comprehension - a finding that offers insight on how to increase children's language competence.

Huttenlocher also has pioneered effective ways to teach language. Her research has found, for example, that imagery, working memory and categorization all affect language development.

Hazel Rose Markus Award for Distinguished Scientific Contributions

In 1991, Hazel Rose Markus, PhD, wrote a Psychological Review paper on culture and the self-concept that relaunched the cultural psychology field by integrating new research on the ways people perceive themselves and bringing attention to how self-representation affects social behavior. Markus directs the Research Institute of Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity and the Stanford Mind, Culture, and Society Lab at Stanford University.

Throughout her career, Markus has examined how self-concept and culture interact and make us who we are. Ultimately, she says, people and their social worlds are inseparable.

Her award honors her contributions to the study of self, identity and culture and her recent work on social class.

John L. Holland Award for Distinguished Scientific Application of Psychology

John L. Holland, PhD, a pioneer in vocational and personality psychology, is best known for his theory of vocational personalities and work environments. His research found that people are most likely to enter and continue to work in occupations that are compatible with their personality types.

He has developed several devices to assist in occupational development - including the Holland Self-Directed Search and the Holland Vocational Preference Inventory - which match personality profiles with occupation profiles. His work expresses the significance that vocational choice is the implantation of a self-concept - a notion that has revolutionized vocational assistance worldwide. His award recognizes these outstanding contributions.

Samuel D. Gosling Award for Distinuished Scientific Early Career Contributions to Psychology (Animal Learning and Behavior, Comparative)

Samuel D. Gosling, PhD, is honored for his original work developing a cross-species comparative approach to personality, which has created a new field that unifies the study of personality in human and nonhuman animals.

By linking human personality to basic processes in social perception and animal behavior, the University of Texas at Austin, associate psychology professor has displayed extraordinary integrative capacity and methodological sophistication. His comparative paradigm offers a theoretical framework for studying personality in multiple species in parallel. This award honors his groundbreaking empirical work, which is remarkable for its practical implications and for the foundation it has laid for exploring the psychological and biological sciences.

Josh Tenenbaum Award for Distinguished Scientific Early Career Contributions to Psychology (Cognition and Human Learning)

In the span of just a few years, children acquire language, come to understand fundamental laws of physics and develop complex logic systems, all with very little explicit instruction. Josh Tenenbaum, PhD, is on a mission to find out how they do all that.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology cognitive and computer science professor is creating computational models of human learning, attempting to "reverse-engineer the best example of an intelligent system we have," he says.

Most past studies have treated two variables, statistical learning (where learning gets boiled down to mathematical algorithms) and extensive background knowledge, as mutually exclusive.

This award recognizes Tenenbaum's efforts to integrate the two processes, allowing him to inject fresh ideas into the centuries-old debate about how people learn.

Jodi Quas Award for Distinguished Scientific Early Career Contributions to Psychology (Developmental)

A child lies about who spilled paint on the carpet, but how long can he or she maintain the fib?

The answer is likely to depend less on the child and more on what else happened at the time and how she was questioned about the mess, says Jodi Quas, PhD, who researches children's memory and suggestibility, including their propensity to conceal the truth about prior experiences, such as possible sexual abuse. She seeks to broaden the courts' understanding of subtle parental cues, stress and other influences on children's memory accuracy and truthfulness.

"The courts need to understand the complex dynamics of why children report events in different ways," says Quas, associate professor of psychology and social behavior at the University of California, Irvine. "Without this understanding, they run the potential for oversimplifying children's eyewitness abilities."

Her award recognizes her work's potential to protect children as well as her "generous spirit and boundless energy."

Elissa Epel Distinguished Scientific Early Career Contributions to Psychology (Health)

Elissa Epel, PhD, is making her mark on the fast-paced field of health psychology. Her research on the neuroscience of stress at the University of California, San Francisco, has shown that stress is linked to accelerated aging in key cells in the immune system.

She's found that many of the stressors that promote disease also diminish the functions of the telomere maintenance system, which ensures the longevity of the body's cells.

Epel says she is working toward a day when biological age is easily interpretable, giving scientists clear ways to measure the actual toll stress can have on a person's health.

She is recognized for her many contributions that have helped psychologists understand how social environments and psychological coping can transform the biological processes that affect cellular and physical aging.

Linda C. Gallo Distinguished Scientific Early Career Contributions to Psychology (Health)

Linda C. Gallo, PhD, a professor at the San Diego State University department of psychology, has conducted groundbreaking research that has enriched our understanding of health disparities, especially among women and Hispanics.

She conceptualized the notion of "reserve capacity," a bank of intrapersonal, interpersonal and tangible resources that can be called on in times of stress.

She has expanded her initial research on the relationship between socioeconomic status and negative emotions to examine how ethnicity and status intersect to determine risk for cardiovascular disease.

John J. Curtin Award for Distinguished Scientific Early Career Contributions to Psychology (Psychopathology)

John J. Curtin, PhD, wants to get the word out that addiction goes far beyond a lack of willpower - drugs dramatically alter the brains of addicts.

"When people repeatedly expose themselves to drugs, the brain adapts to it," explains the University of Wisconsin-Madison psychology professor.

He is shedding light onto how that happens through his research, which follows how long-term drug use plays out over an addict's lifetime, even after quitting. Some of his latest results indicate that addiction's effects on the brain persist far longer than the drugs themselves, making it easier for relapse. Understanding these effects may not only improve treatment for addicts, but also break down the social stigma surrounding them.

"I'm trying to help get rid of not the responsibility but the blame," he says.

This award recognizes these contributions to our understanding of addiction's underlying psychobiology.


Philip G. Zimbardo Distinguished Contributions to Psychology in the Public Interest (Senior Career)

Feeling "drowned in evil" after studying the topic for decades, Philip G. Zimbardo, PhD, is now studying everyday heroes, those inspired to act when most do nothing. They include New York City construction worker Wesley Autry, who in 2007 jumped onto a subway track to save a student who'd fallen in front of an incoming train.

"Although the heroic act is extraordinary, most people who engage in it are ordinary, and there is no research on the characteristics of these people," says Zimbardo.

Zimbardo, APA's 2002 president, is best known for masterminding the Stanford Prison Experiment and hosting the PBS "Discovering Psychology" series. His award recognizes those contributions, his teaching and research career and his role as "one of psychology's most effective spokespersons in modern times."

Rebecca Campbell Award for Distinguished Contributions to Psychology in the Public Interest (Early Career)

People who work at rape counseling centers sometimes experience what Rebecca Campbell, PhD, calls "vicarious trauma." Her research has found they may have difficulty sleeping, disturbing thoughts and other symptoms that mirror the symptoms of rape victims themselves, though to a lesser degree, she notes.

"It is really hard to listen and bear witness to rape, day in and day out," Campbell says. She has brought attention to their distress and helped rape crisis centers develop ways to lessen its impact by encouraging volunteers to rotate time on and time off from working with rape survivors. Her award lauds her research, which "is significantly improving the quality and effectiveness of the nation's community services for women."

Janet E. Helms Award for Distinguished Contributions to Research in Public Policy

It's not easy to address racial issues head on, but Janet E. Helms, PhD, makes it her mission.

Helms is the founding director of the Institute for the Study and Promotion of Race and Culture at Boston College, which conducts research and training, focusing on racial and cultural diversity in scholarship, practice and social policy. Her recent work addresses how racial and cultural psychological constructs may account for black-white achievement gaps.

Helms says she is driven to develop tactics that "speak to people," influencing policy and racial misrepresentations in areas such as immigration and cultural factors that affect the mental health arena. Her contributions have revolutionized the way people look at diversity.


Rex Lloyd Forehand Distinguished Career Contributions to Education and Training in Psychology

As a researcher, clinician and educator on the effects of stress on families, Rex Lloyd Forehand, PhD, has mentored more than 50 graduate students during his posts at the University of Georgia and the University of Vermont. Many of these former students now influence the field of clinical child and adolescent psychology through their impressive academic accomplishments and clinical expertise.

Notable protégés include Duke University's Family Studies Clinic Director Karen C. Wells, PhD, University of Kansas Pediatric Health Promotion and Maintenance Lab Director Ric G. Steele, PhD, and University of Washington psychology professor Robert J. McMahon, PhD.

Forehand's infectious enthusiasm, commitment to student development and high expectations - for himself and others - have led to continued professional collaborations as well as lifelong friendships with many of his former students. "It's been great to have so many people still care about me, long after they've gone off on their own."

Richard E. Mayer Award for Distinguished Contributions of Applications of Psychology to Education and Training

Richard E. Mayer, PhD, says his research hasn't veered too far from one of the first topics he studied as an experimental psychology doctoral student: how people learn and the best ways to teach them. The overarching themes of Mayer's research are examining instructional methods that promote problem-solving transfer, and more recently, how to design multimedia learning environments that help people understand mathematical and scientific material.

He received the award for his pioneering research including the use of multimedia learning in real-world settings.

Mayer is acknowledged as the most published educational psychologist in the field's five leading journals. For that accomplishment, he was ranked as the discipline's most productive educational psychologist from 1991 to 2001 by Contemporary Educational Psychology.


Richard Rogers Award for Distinguished Professional Contributions to Applied Research

In the mid-1970s, forensic psychologist Richard Rogers, PhD, was struck by the haphazard approach to forensic evaluations of people in maximum security psychiatric hospitals.

"There was no sense to how they were conducted - why shouldn't we standardize these evaluations?" Rogers asked.

That sparked his interest in developing standardized assessment tools, such as SIRS (Structured Interview of Reported Symptoms) to determine if a person is feigning or grossly exaggerating psychological symptoms. He also developed the ECST-R (Evaluation of Competency to Stand Trial-Revised), which can help determine whether a defendant can meaningfully participate in his or her defense.

Rogers received the APA award for using research to develop validated measures such as SIRS and the ECST-R that can be used by psychologists in their clinical and forensic practices.

"I really do think this work has helped to change the practice of forensic psychology," he says.

Maryam M. Jernigan APA/APAGS Award for Distinguished Graduate Student in Professional Psychology

Black girls and Latinas in predominantly white schools can face both subtle and blatant racism from their classmates, teachers and administrators, says Boston College counseling psychology student Maryam M. Jernigan, but they're often hesitant to talk about it.

"A lot of them think that in 2008, because we are post-civil rights, talking about race is taboo," Jernigan says. "They aren't willing to call their experiences racist or sexist."

Jernigan hopes to change that through the Jernigan Sankofa program, in which she and co-facilitators meet weekly with small groups of black and Latina high school students to discuss their experiences of racism and sexism.

Jernigan's award recognizes her work developing the project, as well as her broader mission of "improving the mental health and educational attainment of underserved adolescents."

Grady Dale Jr. Distinguished Professional Contributions to Independent or Institutional Practice in the Private Sector

If the community won't reach out to you, you have to reach out to the community, says Baltimore clinical and counseling psychologist Grady Dale Jr., EdD. For 25 years, Dale has worked with urban minority children and families to spotlight the need for community dialogue around violence, grief, AIDS and aging in an effort to reduce the stigma around seeking psychological services. As co-founder of the nonprofit American Institute for Urban Psychological Services, Dale provides conferences and community forums that help citizens connect to health and social service agencies. In 2007, for example, Dale partnered with the Maryland Department of Aging to offer a seminar to help caregivers manage their stress and advocate for loved ones.

"Psychologists aren't just here to be shrinks, they're here to become an integral part of the community," Dale says. "Only then will people begin to trust mental health care."


Puncky Paul Heppner Award for Distinguished Contributions to the International Advancement of Psychology

University of Missouri's Puncky Paul Heppner, PhD, believes the best learning happens out of the classroom. So, in collaboration with the National Taiwan Normal University, Heppner brings his students to Taiwan to immerse them in the nation's culture, practice models and research strategies.

The trips help students "pause and reflect on how cultural context reflects the people's behavior in ways that don't seem understandable or logical to them," he says.

And that's when they start to understand collectivism.

Heppner, a three-time Fulbright scholar and longtime leader in international psychology, is also conducting research on how collectivist societies cope with trauma - work that can aid counselors and enrich what Western psychologists know about how Americans cope.

Heppner's award recognizes his role in internationalizing counseling psychology and his "dedication in promoting cultural competencies in the next generation of psychologists, counselors and teachers around the globe."

Joseph O. Prewitt Diaz International Humanitarian Award

In his work as a community psychologist, Joseph O. Prewitt Diaz, PhD, uses indigenous strategies to help disaster victims recover and rebuild.

With experience in more than 30 countries, he is credited with systemizing the process for community-based psychological support through the Red Cross. He also developed a service model in which community members identify their needs and develop their own programs.

"These programs employ participatory community development and mobilization techniques to improve psychological and social functioning, while at the same time, enhancing psychosocial resilience to mitigate the impact of future disasters," says Prewitt Diaz.

He is honored for his unswerving dedication, diligence and compassion in helping humanity.

Gundelina Almario Velazco International Humanitarian Award

Throughout her career as an international researcher, trainer and counselor for at-risk and traumatized children, Gundelina Almario Velazco, PhD, has worked with homeless and abandoned children, child refugees and young victims of armed conflict and natural disasters. Yet her most distressed clients have nearly always been young victims of sexual abuse and human trafficking, a population that often lacks psychological care, she says.

As CEO and director a U.S.-based charity dedicated to abolishing child trafficking and exploitation, Velazco hopes to change that. She has trained mental health providers worldwide to care for sexually abused and exploited children, developed counseling tools to help traumatized children express their emotions and find healing, and established a safe house in the Philippines to provide food, shelter, education and physical and mental health care for victims in a holistic way.

"After only a few days, we see a remarkable transformation in even the most broken children," Velazco says. "If we could turn them over to the world restored from their brokenness, then the world would potentially be a better place."