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Get to Know the 2004 Dissertation Award Winners

Please join us in congratulating the outstanding students and APA Dissertation Research Award recipients for 2004.

Every fall since 1988, the Science Directorate has awarded $50,000 to fifty promising graduate students for completion of their dissertation research. In 2004, we changed the program at the suggestion of the APA Science Student Council, providing for several larger awards along with twenty-five $1,000 grants. Since the program's inception the total funding to the 831 new scientists now tops $850,000! Please join us in congratulating these outstanding students and APA Dissertation Research Award recipients for 2004:

Nicole Speer, Washington University in St. Louis
Nicole's interest in cognitive psychology began at Scripps College in Claremont, California, where she worked with Alan Hartley on a number of projects aimed at understanding age-related changes in working memory. This interest led her to Washington University, where she has used behavioral and neuroimaging techniques to study memory processes, language comprehension, and event perception under the direction of Todd Braver and Jeffrey Zacks.

Nicole's dissertation research is focused on understanding the neural basis of higher-level text comprehension: how the brain is able to tie together characters, activities, and goals across individual sentences to gain a coherent understanding of a story as a whole. In an initial study, she is measuring brain activity while readers comprehend stories about the everyday activities of a 7-year old boy, using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). In a second fMRI study, she is testing the hypothesis that specific aspects of story comprehension, such as comprehending that the main character has moved from one room to another, can be linked to specific brain regions. Nicole's research will inform our overall understanding of how readers comprehend and remember text, and will have bearing on recent theories related to how the brain constructs coherent representations during text comprehension.

When asked for comment, Nicole had this to say about her award: "This award allows me to purchase computer equipment and software that will enhance and expedite the analysis of my fMRI data. I am very grateful to the APA Science Directorate for this extraordinary opportunity to facilitate my dissertation research." Nicole was awarded her full budgeted amount of $4,881.

Gregory Walton, Yale University
A philosophy major with honors in psychology at Stanford, Greg proceeded directly to Yale University, where he hit the ground running, continuing a line of research on stereotypes that he began as an undergraduate. He has been working unremittingly in social psychology ever since.

In his dissertation research, Greg examines the role of social or group identity in academic achievement. His research rests on the idea that a sense of social connectedness is a pre-condition of motivation. Although simple, this idea has non-obvious consequences. Greg's work demonstrates that intellectual attainment can be dramatically affected by subtle cues that signal one's social fit. His analysis is relevant to the lower academic achievement of members of underrepresented groups - such as women in the physical sciences and African Americans in school more generally - who may be particularly uncertain of their belonging in contexts where their group has been historically excluded. Besides offering results relevant to one of the most pressing social problems of our time, it simultaneously explicates basic theories of human motivation.

"I am honored to receive the dissertation award from the APA Science Directorate," Greg said. "This award provides me the financial resources to conduct a series of research studies I may not have been able to pursue otherwise." Greg was awarded his full budgeted amount of $4,237.

Marc Egeth, University of Pennsylvania
Marc came to the University of Pennsylvania with considerable basic research experience already, with research since published on sexual selection in Satin Bowerbirds, and having worked at the Dolphin Cognition Research Project at the Living Seas in Orlando, Florida. For his dissertation he will study Theory of Mind, identifying domain-specific and domain-general cognitive components that are involved in thinking about other people's minds. This research should weigh in on the debate over the domain-specificity of the cognitive deficit in autism. Marc is currently seeking a postdoctoral fellowship that would allow him to extend his research in new directions. Marc was awarded $3,000.

Robert G. M. Hausmann, University of Pittsburgh
Based at the University of Pittsburgh's Learning Research and Development Center, Robert's research focuses on applying the principles of cognitive psychology to the social domain of collaborative learning. His research seeks to explicate the concept of co-construction ("the joint construction of new knowledge"), and may eventually inform practicioners on how best to implement collaboration in the classroom. Robert was awarded his full budgeted amount of $1,949.

Nicole M. McNeil, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Nicole began working with her mentor, Martha Wagner Alibali, as an undergraduate at Carnegie Mellon University and continued to work with her at the University of Wisconsin as she began work on her doctorate. Now ready to undertake the dissertation, Nicole's research examines knowledge change, addressing issues central to both cognitive and developmental psychology. Her work will contribute to our understanding of why children sometimes have difficulty learning mathematical concepts, and may even suggest alternative instructional methods. Nicole was awarded $3,000.

Michael J. Proulx, Johns Hopkins University
Michael studies cognitive psychology at Johns Hopkins University. His research concerns visual search, and the strategies we employ when trying to select a target from a visual environment. Using an innovative experimental design, Michael will empirically address the relative contribution of two distinct processes in visual search ("top-down," or goal-directed; and "bottom-up," or environmentally-driven), a subject that has received considerable attention and debate. This topic - attentional capture - is at the heart of current research on human attention. Michael was awarded $3,000.

Jeremy R. Reynolds, Washington University in St. Louis
Jeremy is interested in using cognitive neuroscience methods to provide greater insights into critical psychological questions, such as how individuals develop and maintain plans that can be used to control and structure ongoing tasks. Specifically, he will use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to further understand the role of the anterior portion of the prefrontal cortex (PFC) in maintaining goal-related information over extended periods of time, an ability which enables higher cognitive functions such as planning, problem-solving, and reasoning. Jeremy was awarded $3,000.

$1,000 award winners, listed with their university affiliation and dissertation working titles, are listed below:

Nicole Avena
Princeton University
Sugar Dependence in Rats: Behavioral and Neurochemical Correlates with Drug Abuse

M. Rose Barlow
University of Oregon
Multiple Measures of Multiple Memory

Kyle M. Baumbauer
Kent State University
The Role of Neurokinin 1 and Neurokinin 2 Receptors in Spinally Mediated Instrumental Learning

Erik Chihhung Chang
Rice University
The Cortical Mechanisms of Visual Stability

Christie Chung
Claremont Graduate University
The Effects of Repetition and First Impressions on Recognition Memory in Young and Older Adults

Laura Mielcarek DeRose
Columbia University
Maternal Mental Health, Cortisol, and Adjustment in African American, Latina, and White Girls during Their Transition to Puberty

Daniel G. Dillon
Duke University
Neuroscience of Emotion Regulation

Patrick Garrigan
University of California, Los Angeles
Representation of Contour Shape

Crystal Harold
George Mason University
The Instrumental-Symbolic Model of Fit: A Longitudinal Examination

Irene P. Kan
University of Pennsylvania
Organization and Retrieval of Conceptual Knowledge: Neuroimaging and Behavioral Evidence

Heather Lench
University of California, Irvine
The Mental and Physical Health Benefits of Optimism

Shanhong Luo
The University of Iowa
Does Love Make Us Blind: Effects of Attraction on Self- and Partner-perceptions

Monica A. Marsee, M. S.
University of New Orleans
Exploring the Functional Subtypes of Relational and Overt Aggression in a Sample of Detained Girls

David M. Mayer
University of Maryland
Are You In or Out? A Group-Level Examination of the Effects of Leader-Member Exchange (LMX) on Justice and Customer Satisfaction

Amy Mezulis
University of Wisconsin - Madison
An Integrated Risk-stress Model of the Developmental Origins of Cognitive Vulnerability to Depression

Timothy Kazuto Miura
University of Illinois at Chicago
Differential Costs of Switching Between Simple Operations: The Effects of Task Cueing, Task Set Similarity, and Multidimensional Stimulus Control

Chandra Y. Osborn, M. A.
University of Connecticut
Using the IMB Model of Health Behavior Change to Improve Glycemic Control in Puerto Rican Americans

Cheri L. Philip
University of Michigan
Validation of the Asian American Identity Index: An Examination of Panethnic and Ethnic-Specific Identity in Asian Americans

Brandon J. Schmeichel
Florida State University
Regulatory Strength and Working Memory in the Executive Function of the Self

Lars Strother
University of Virginia
The Perceptual Organization of Dot-sampled Structured Grids

Monica Tsethlikai
University of Kansas
Children's Memory for Conflicting Perspectives of an Event: Linking Cognitive Ability and Social Competence

Kurt Weaver
Oregon Health & Science University
Functional Neuoranatomy of Visual Cortical Regions in the Blind

Christy D. Wolfe
Virginia Tech
Sources of Variability in Working Memory Function: Contributions from Language, Temperament, Physiology, and Age

Yuejin Xu
The University of Alabama
Levels of Wholetheme Education on Student Success: A Mixed-method Study

Erin E. Young
Kent State University
Characterization of the Neonatal Injury-Induced Learning Deficit: A Pathway Approach