Personalities

  • The National Academy of Sciences has honored psychology professors Michael J. Kahana, PhD, and Frank Tong, PhD, with $50,000 Troland Research Awards. Kahana, who directs the computational memory lab at the University of Pennsylvania, won for his work using mathematical modeling and computing to study human memory, particularly episodic and spatial memory. Tong, a psychology professor at Vanderbilt University, won for pioneering the use of neural decoding techniques, such as fMRI, to investigate the human neural bases of perception, attention and object recognition.

  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded Cornell University’s David Levitsky, PhD, with its 2009 Excellence in College and University Teaching Award. The department honored Levitsky for creatively engaging his students, using such offbeat methods as cooking healthy foods in class, jogging around the lecture hall in gym shorts to teach about exercise, dispelling popular diet and health myths, and critically evaluating popular diet books.

  • Once again, Sean McCann, PhD, has served as a senior sport psychologist for the U.S. Olympic Committee. McCann counseled the U.S. 2010 Olympic athletes on how to cope with media attention and pressure around the competition. McCann has worked with U.S. athletes in 10 Olympic Games, spending more than 100 days a year abroad with the athletes as they compete worldwide.

  • Illinois State University has named psychology professor Margaret Nauta, PhD, as one of its two 2009–10 Outstanding University Teachers. Students say Nauta is an exceptionally approachable professor who sets challenging yet attainable standards for her students and is skilled at showing how course material relates to their lives.

  • Sigma Xi, the National Research Society, has awarded University of California, Merced, cognitive science professor Michael Spivey, PhD, with its William Procter Prize for Scientific Achievement. Spivey’s research uses eye- and reach-tracking equipment to monitor how people respond to linguistic and visual clues. His work indicates that language and visual perception interact more fluidly than traditional theories assumed.

  • Warren Spielberg, PhD, who teaches psychology at the New School in New York City, has received a Fulbright scholarship to teach at Al Quds University, a leading Palestinian University on the West Bank, this spring and summer. Spielberg will also assist Al Quds in the development of a child psychotherapy and trauma treatment clinic at its expanded child institute.

    Since 1998, he has served as a consultant to the Peace Now/Palestinian Authority Dialogue Project. In addition to teaching at the university, Spielberg will develop an ongoing dialogue between Israeli and Palestinian students and will serve as a consultant to the U.S. Consulate.

    Spielberg was living in Israel during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. The experience led him to pursue psychology and conflict resolution studies and help found Americans for Peace Now, an organization that seeks to end the Israeli/Palestinian conflict through peaceful measures.

  • Psychology Beyond Borders has given Mike Wessells, PhD, a psychology professor at Columbia University and Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Va., a $10,000 grant to conduct research in Sri Lanka. Wessells will use the grant to investigate whether psychosocial assistance after armed conflict or natural disasters can sometimes inadvertently harm disaster victims.



    Michael S. Garfinkle, PhD, a clinical researcher at the Seaman’s Church Institute, is developing a resiliency training and intervention program for civilian victims of high-seas piracy. In 2009, pirates attacked 406 ships, leading to 1,052 people being held hostage, 68 injured and eight killed. Victims suffer from such conditions as post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety following attacks, yet there are no mental health interventions that have been designed for use with merchant mariners.

    “There’s always been a lot of work to protect vessels and cargo, but not the crew,” says Garfinkle. “I hope this work can help change that.”

    Garfinkle is gathering qualitative research from hundreds of mariner interviews to determine the mental health of seafarers before and after pirate attacks. To help victims immediately, Garfinkle has implemented some techniques for treating trauma victims from military interventions, such as integrating entire families in treatment and assembling mental health assessment teams.

    “This is an ongoing problem with no real solution,” says Garfinkle. “We can’t solve the piracy problem, but hopefully we can improve treatment and recovery for its victims.”
    —J. Clark