Three selected for 2010 APA Early Graduate Student Researcher Award

Awards support students’ research in the initial years of their graduate training.

The American Psychological Association’s Science Student Council (APASSC) has selected three students to receive the 2010 APA Early Graduate Student Research Award.

Each student receives a $1,000 award to be used towards research-related expenses.

Over fifty early graduate students were nominated for the award, representing all areas of research within psychological science.  The recipients were selected based on the quality of their research during their initial years of graduate study.

The recipients are:

Jenay BeerJenay Beer
Georgia Institute of Technology

Jenay Beer is a fourth year graduate student in the Human Factors and Aging Laboratory, School of Psychology, at the Georgia Institute of Technology.  She is currently fulfilling the requirements for a Ph.D. in engineering psychology.  Her faculty advisors are Arthur D. Fisk and Wendy A. Rogers.

Her research examines emotionally expressive agents, both robotic and virtual, and the interactions of these agents with humans, particularly older adults.  The ability to recognize facial expressions changes with age, with older adults commonly misidentifying the human facial expressions anger, fear, and sadness.  Beer’s research suggests that age-related differences in emotion recognition apply to robotic and virtual agents as well as to human faces.  She points out that designers might incorporate displays of negative emotions into agents in order to convey error or misunderstanding.  However, older adults may interpret an agent’s intended message differently than younger adults and such differences would need to be taken into account in designing the agent.

“This award will allow me to attend conferences where I can receive critical reviews of my research from other professionals that are outside my peer group.  This experience will expand my knowledge of new and exciting theories and applications in human-robot interaction.  The new knowledge gained will be disseminated with my psychology cohorts in the Georgia Tech School of Psychology, bridging the gap between the fields of psychology and robotics,” Beer said.


Abigail JenkinsAbigail Jenkins
Temple University

Abigail Jenkins is in the third year of the clinical psychology doctoral program at Temple University where she works with advisor Lauren Alloy on longitudinal studies of bipolar disorder and depression.

Broadly, Jenkins’ research is designed to investigate various factors that may predict the presence, severity, and trajectories of self-injurious and suicidal behaviors. She is currently developing a measure to assess the functional antecedents and consequences of non-suicidal self-injury.  She is also working on projects that examine the roles of the behavioral activation and inhibition systems and sensation-seeking personality traits in the course of self-injury. Finally, she is examining time-varying risk factors for suicidal ideation and behaviors among a sample of individuals diagnosed with bipolar-spectrum disorders.

Jenkins said, “I am very surprised and honored to have received this award. I am particularly honored that the APA Science Student Council has found the research I have conducted thus far in my graduate career interesting and worthwhile. This award will be extremely helpful in facilitating my continued research on the risk factors for self-injury and suicide. I cannot thank the Science Student Council enough for its support this early in my research career.” She plans to use the funds to support her travel to scholarly conferences to disseminate and receive feedback on her research, and to obtain training and software in order to perform sophisticated statistical analyses.


Spike W.S. LeeSpike W. S. Lee
University of Michigan

Spike W. S. Lee is a fourth year graduate student in social psychology at the University of Michigan, where he works with Norbert Schwarz and Phoebe Ellsworth.

Lee is interested in how the human mind processes intangible yet vital components of social life such as morality, trust, and love. Are they abstract symbols stored exclusively “in the head,” or are they metaphoric concepts grounded in bodily states? His experimental work explores how deeply and specifically the body’s physical experience influences metaphorically relevant social judgment and behavior. For example, he found that people have stronger desires to wash their “dirty hands” after sinning with their hands, but to rinse their “dirty mouth” after sinning with their mouth. By cleansing themselves, people can “wipe the slate clean,” remove worries about past decisions, and eliminate dissonance in making choices. His current research extends to multiple sensory modalities, tests for bidirectional causality and cultural generality, and unpacks general mechanisms underlying metaphoric effects.

“Every meeting with Norbert and Phoebe is fun and exciting. We bounce off ideas, try out different designs, think of real-life examples, recall relevant songs and sing them, and eventually find ways to turn our aha moments into psychological-science knowledge. Receiving this prestigious award and APA’s generous funding will give us more fun in furthering our work on the mechanisms and cultural variability of embodied metaphors,” said Lee. 

More About the Awards

The APASSC established the Early Graduate Student Researcher Award (formerly Early Researcher Award) in 2004 to recognize students who have demonstrated outstanding research ability early in their graduate careers.  Recipients receive an award of $1,000. For more information, including application instructions and eligibility requirements, visit the Early Graduate Student Researcher Award webpage.