From the APA Science Student Council

Where are they now? A look at APASSC's past Early Researcher Award Winners

Past winners of early researcher awards indicated that the award was a boost to the start of their graduate careers.

By Suzanne L. Dean

The Science Student Council is a group of nine graduate students who spend a couple of weekends a year with the Science staff, advising on programs and activities that would benefit graduate students in psychological science. In this column, the students will present useful information that other graduate students need to know. Visit the Science Student Council to learn more about the activities of the SSC.

The APA Science Student Council annually grants up to three basic, applied, or interdisciplinary Early Researcher Awards (ERAs) to outstanding early student researchers. Although this award is fairly new, we were interested in finding out what past recipients have been up to. Not surprisingly, the Early Research Award was just the beginning of many of their research accomplishments. In fact, some of the awardees indicated that it was a boost to the start of their graduate careers and extended their gratitude for the award's existence. Here are highlights for several past recipients:


Julie Milligan Hughes, Ph.D. won the ERA for her research on the consequences of knowledge of historical racism on children's racial attitudes. This research has since been published in Child Development. Hughes was recently awarded the 2008 American Psychological Foundation's Anette Urso Rickel Dissertation Award for Research in Public Policy. Her dissertation investigated the role of racism awareness in determining adolescents' attitudes toward affirmative action and school desegregation policies. Hughes is currently Assistant Professor in Developmental Psychology at The College of New Jersey in Ewing, N.J. On a personal note, Julie Milligan married Andrew Hughes just over a year ago.


Adam M. Grant, Ph.D., is currently Assistant Professor of Organizational Behavior and Strategy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He was recently named Willard J. Graham Fellow for his research accomplishments, won the Weatherspoon Award for Excellence in Teaching, and became the proud father of a daughter, Joanna. His current research investigates the impact of job design, leadership and corporate social responsibility on the motivation to make a difference and take initiative among Air Force officers, fundraising employees, lifeguards, firefighters and booksellers. Since the ERA, Grant has published articles in numerous journals including the Journal of Applied Psychology and Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes. In fact, two of his recent publications are finalists for the Academy of Management best paper awards.

Jenessa Shapiro, Ph.D. is presently an Assistant Professor at UCLA. The research that gave her an ERA honorable mention was recently published in Journal of Applied Psychology. Shapiro's recent project on the interpretation of social norms in intergroup interactions received funding from SPSSI (Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues) and is in press at the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Shapiro has also received a 3-year NIMH NRSA grant for research exploring the possibility of multiple, qualitatively distinct, stereotype threats. The funded theoretical framework was recently published in Personality and Social Psychology Review. She completed part of this research as her dissertation, which was awarded with an American Psychological Association (APA) Dissertation Research Award.

Kyle Smith is currently a postdoc at MIT's McGovern Institute for Brain Research studying neural mechanisms of actions and habits with Dr. Ann Graybiel. Smith's work incorporates new neuroscience tools to record neuronal activity across multiple brain circuits to identify signals that allow us to learn, perform skills and develop habits with practice. He is also attempting to manipulate these signals to facilitate skill learning or suppress compulsive behavior patterns. Since the ERA, Smith has written several experimental articles, theoretical articles, and a book chapter on brain mechanisms of reward and motivation. He has also won several funding and conference awards, a dissertation award from the Biopsychology department at University of Michigan, and is a finalist for the Society for Neuroscience behavioral neuroscience dissertation award. Presently, he lives in Massachusetts with his wife, Deidre, and their two-year-old son, Sean.


Evan Apfelbaum is newly married and currently in his fifth and final year of graduate school at Tufts. Since being awarded the ERA, Apfelbaum has received the Outstanding Contributions to Undergraduate Education Award from Tufts University and a travel award from the Society of Personality and Social Psychology. Apfelbaum also has publications currently in press at both the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology and Developmental Psychology.

Alexis Stranahan, Ph.D. is currently working on her postdoc at University of Texas at Austin with Dr. Kristen Harris, who studies the relationship between synaptic activity and dendritic structure. She recently defended her dissertation and published part of that research in Nature Neuroscience. Stranahan's research project explored the contribution of stress hormones to cognitive impairment in diabetes models. She found that elevated levels of corticosterone - the primary stress hormone in rats and mice - mediate learning deficits in diabetes. These findings may help explain the high comorbidity between diabetes and clinical depression.