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APA Science Student Council Early Researcher Award Winners Announced

While the APASSC ordinarily grants two $1000 awards --one for basic science and one for applied science--the pool of applicants was so impressive this year that four awards were given--two for basic science, and two for applied science.

By Jane Barrow

The APA Science Student Council (APASSC) established the Early Researcher Award in 2004, and has since given them annually to student researchers who have demonstrated outstanding research ability early in their graduate careers. While the APASSC ordinarily grants two $1000 awards --one for basic science and one for applied science--the pool of applicants was so impressive this year that four awards were given--two for basic science, and two for applied science. Information on the four recipients follows.

Evan Apfelbaum, a third-year doctoral student at Tufts University, received one of the Early Researcher Awards for Applied Science for his paper entitled Strategic Colorblindness: Normative Influence and Self-Regulation in Interracial Interaction. His research is focused on how white people modulate their social interaction when discussing race to appear unbiased, often by avoiding the topic of race altogether, and how such methods can actually backfire to make them appear even more biased. As Apfelbaum points out, this phenomenon has the unfortunate effect of making those who are most concerned about appearing unbiased seem to be extremely biased. When asked about how it felt to receive this award, Apfelbaum responded that "there is a lot of excellent research going on the field right now, so it's truly an honor to be recognized for my work." Since diversity is a key aspect of his research, he plans to utilize the funds to facilitate recruitment of a diverse participant pool for future research.

Eyitayo Onifade, a third-year doctoral student at Michigan State University, received the second Early Research Award for Applied Science for his paper entitled Risk Assessment: Identifying Patterns of Risk in Young Offenders with the YLS/CMI. His research focuses on community responses to juvenile crime and community efforts to improve current policies within the justice system regarding juvenile crime. Onifade notes that the etiology of delinquency is extremely complicated in nature, and that the justice system does not take these complicating factors into account when producing policies to regulate delinquency. While his short term goals include entering academia, Onifade states that his dream is to "expand the capacity of Historically Black Colleges and Universities to conduct policy-oriented community [and] psychological research that is empowering to the marginalized groups they often serve." In the mean time, he plans to use the funds to off-set the costs of several conferences he will be attending this spring.

Alexis Stranahan, a fourth-year doctoral student at Princeton University, received one of the Early Researcher Awards for Basic Science for her paper entitled Social Isolation Delays the Positive Effects of Running on Adult Neurogenesis. Her research focuses on neurogenesis in the hippocampus - the part of the brain that produces new neurons throughout life. Life experiences, such as stress and exercise, can affect the rate at which neurons are produced; Stranahan tested for an interaction between these two types of experience, finding that the stress of living alone limited the positive effects that exercise has on neurogenesis. Stranahan explains that she developed an early interest in "classical behavioral learning theories [and] after taking some additional courses in neuroscience, decided to go to graduate school to learn more about the interface between the brain and behavior." She is very excited to have received recognition of her work at the pre-dissertation level.

Nicholas Turk-Browne, a third-year doctoral student at Yale University, received the second Early Researcher Award for Basic Science for his paper entitled The Automaticity of Visual Statistical Learning. His research explores the implicit processes of cognition to gain a better understanding of their operation and purpose. One powerful example of these processes is visual statistical learning, where humans compute the relationship between objects in space and time then store this detailed information in memory without consciously thinking about it, a phenomenon that his winning paper described in-depth. "One of the most exciting aspects of my field of study is that it is relatively new," says Turk-Browne. "There are many questions to be asked and answers to be discovered. My research will continue to explore the cognitive and neural mechanisms involved in implicit learning and memory, and how, having acquired implicit knowledge, future behavior is affected. This line of research will hopefully contribute to a better understanding of the human mind."