Also in this Issue

APA Science Student Council Early Researcher Award Winners Announced

In 2007, the APASSC had the pleasure of awarding three $1,000 awards--two for interdisciplinary science and one for basic science.

By Amy Test

The APA Science Student Council (APASSC) established the Early Researcher Award in 2004 to recognize students who have demonstrated outstanding research ability early in their graduate careers. In 2007, the APASSC had the pleasure of awarding three $1,000 awards--two for interdisciplinary science and one for basic science--to the following recipients:

Joshua Buckholtz, a second-year doctoral student at Vanderbilt University, received an Early Researcher Award for Interdisciplinary Science for his paper entitled “The neural basis of legal decision-making.” His research focuses on how fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) contributes to our understanding of the neural circuitry involved in juror decisions about criminal punishment. As Buckholtz explains, this type of punishment is interesting because it is “third-party” punishment, where “the individual making the punishment decision does not know the defendant and is not directly affected by the crime.” Buckholtz was excited to receive this award, adding that it “validates our hope that by applying rigorous experimental design to neuroimaging studies of social behavior, we can make progress in understanding how complex social interactions are coded in the brain.” He plans to use the funds to off-set the costs of several conferences he will be attending this year.

Karienn Montgomery, a second-year doctoral student at Texas A&M University, also received an Early Researcher Award for Interdisciplinary Science. Her paper, “Prenatal low-dose MeHg exposure induces CNS functional deficits,” focuses on how even very low levels of prenatal methyl-mercury (MeHg) exposure can have lasting effects on cognitive and motor abilities in adult offspring. Montgomery wanted to conduct the study because she felt that not enough was known about the long-term effects of low dose MeHg exposure, and that information of this type was important for the public to know. While she plans to expand her research to studying the causes and prevention of Alzheimer’s disease, Montgomery states that she is “looking forward to becoming a professor and being able to expand student’s awareness and encourage them to do research in behavioral neuroscience.”

Edward Vul, a third-year doctoral student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was the Early Researcher Award recipient in Basic Science for his paper “Selection is graded, conscious access is discrete.” His research focuses on our internal representations of the world around us and how they compare with our subjective, conscious responses. According to Vul, our internal representations reflect uncertainty and exist as probability distributions, whereas our responses are discrete samples. As Vul explains, “We found not only that people do represent such probability distributions, but also that they make responses by blindly sampling guesses from the distribution, and that they have no direct conscious access to these probability distributions. Thus, it appears that although we represent probability distributions, we do not know about them.” Vul hopes to continue his research on human cognition, and plans to use his award funds to give a series of talks on his research findings.