2009 Early Graduate Student Researcher Award Winners Announced

The APA Science Student Council (APASSC) is pleased to announce six students as recipients of the 2009 APA Early Graduate Student Research Award. 

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

Nearly 160 early graduate students were nominated for the award, representing all areas of science within psychology.  The recipients were selected based on the quality of their research.

Following are the 2009 recipients:

Pooja Agarwal

Pooja Agarwal
Washington University in St. Louis

Pooja K. Agarwal is a third year graduate student in Cognitive Psychology at Washington University in St. Louis, where she works with Henry L. Roediger, III, Mark A. McDaniel, and Kathleen B. McDermott.

Agarwal’s research focuses on basic memory processes in order to inform how we can facilitate learning in applied settings. For instance, a growing body of research has shown that taking a test can do more than simply assess learning: testing can also enhance students’ learning and improve their long-term retention of material, a phenomenon known as the testing effect. She conducts investigations of the testing effect in both laboratory and applied settings. Her laboratory research focuses on the effectiveness of open-book vs. closed-book tests, the length of time between studying and testing that is optimal for long-term learning, and the interaction between individual differences and the effects of testing. Agarwal’s applied research at a local middle school addresses a variety of topics related to testing: optimal schedules of classroom quizzes, effective feedback methods, effects of testing on students’ metacognition, and students’ transfer of knowledge following quizzing. She serves as Research Coordinator of a grant from the Institute of Education Sciences, extending laboratory research on the testing effect and evaluating the benefit of testing and quizzing in classroom settings, grades 6-8.

“I deeply appreciate this prestigious honor from the American Psychological Association and the APA Science Student Council. Recognition and support from a world-renowned organization is invaluable as I continue to pursue my interest in both laboratory and applied research,” said Agarwal.

Jacqueline Chen

Jacqueline Chen
University of California, Santa Barbara

Jacqueline Chen is a third year graduate student in Social Psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara.  Her research program is motivated by the desire to facilitate positive intergroup relations in today’s demographically dynamic society.  In collaboration with her adviser, David L. Hamilton, her research examines the perception of multiracial individuals by monoracial perceivers.  Specifically, she is investigating how, and on what basis, monoracial people categorize multiracials. 

To study this topic, she developed a novel categorization task that included a multiracial response option in order to examine automatic categorization of monoracial and multiracial faces.  She has hypothesized that, due to the legacy of the Black-White dichotomy in the US and the automaticity of monoracial categorization, perceivers’ categorizations of people as “multiracial” would suffer in accuracy and speed when compared to “black” and “white” racial categorizations.  Using this novel categorization task, she has found strong support for these hypotheses in several studies.  

Importantly, perceivers were able to categorize multiracials at a rate significantly above chance, demonstrating that people are able to categorize multiracials in a way that validates their diverse racial backgrounds.  As multiracial people become increasingly prevalent and visible in society, racial categorization should rely less on mutually-exclusive dichotomies as long as perceivers can revise their theories about the fluidity of race.  The goal of her research is to further understand this categorization process. 

“I am honored to receive recognition from the American Psychological Association, and I am extremely grateful for this opportunity to communicate my research.  I believe that it is important for professional organizations like APA to have an active role in cultivating the next generation of researchers,” said Chen.

Joseph Franklin

Joseph Franklin
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Joseph Franklin is a third year graduate student in Clinical Psychology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, where he works with Terry Blumenthal (Wake Forest University) and Mitch Prinstein.

Franklin’s research focuses on an integration of three basic areas: (1) severe psychopathology, especially suicidal and nonsuicidal self-injury (NSSI); (2) social and affective neuroscience, with a focus on startle modulation techniques and novel experimental paradigms; and (3) philosophy of science.  In graduate school his major focus thus far has been on developing a research program that employs startle modulation techniques to elucidate how NSSI is acquired and behaviorally maintained.  A project that he completed last year provided substantial insight into these questions, indicating that NSSI is initially positively reinforcing but that through repeated experience with NSSI, later becomes negatively reinforcing.  He is currently conducting a similar project that tests the effects of social influence on the acquisition of NSSI.  In this project, it is posited that socially-induced placebo analgesia and opponent processes mediate, and affect dysregulation moderates, the acquisition of NSSI.  Complementing this work, he has also been active in developing a more scientifically valid theory of the nature of prepulse inhibition (PPI) of acoustic startle.  Further building on this work, he has recently begun to research how psychophysiological measures may assist in developing an empirically-derived nosology of psychopathology.

On receiving the award, Franklin said “First, I’m honored to receive this award, though I believe that many, many other students are equally deserving of such recognition.  Second, I am happy that such an award exists to acknowledge important pre-dissertation work, and I hope that more students compete for this award in the future.”  
Jon Freeman

Jon Freeman
Tufts University

Jon Freeman is a third year graduate student in Experimental Psychology at Tufts University, where he works with Nalini Ambady.

Freeman’s research looks at how sensory information gets turned into basic perceptions of other people—and the tentative perceptions that might get partially considered along the way. He examines how the person perception process evolves over time and how, during this process, multiple perceptual cues (most importantly facial cues, but also cues of the voice and body) are rapidly integrated into coherent construals of others. To do this, he uses the continuous hand movements that lead up to perceivers’ responses (using a computer mouse-tracking technique), in addition to event-related brain potentials, and traditional behavioral paradigms. Freeman also uses neuroimaging techniques to explore the neural mechanisms underlying snap judgments of other people, and the neural encoding and representation of face information. His research converges on the idea that person perception is a dynamic process. It’s temporally dynamic, in that perceptions evolve in real-time and gradually build up over hundreds of milliseconds. It’s also functionally dynamic, in that top-down factors (e.g., context, prior knowledge, stereotypes, one’s cultural environment, one’s motivations) fluidly interact with bottom-up sensory information to shape the basic ways we see and understand other people.

“I think that a lot of my peers are doing really top-notch work right now, so I'm very honored to be recognized for my research.  I plan to use the funds to purchase new research equipment that will let me take my work in exciting new directions,” said Freeman.

Matthew Lerner

Matthew Lerner
University of Virginia

Matthew Lerner is a third year graduate student in Clinical Psychology at the University of Virginia, where he works with Amori Yee Mikami and Angeline Lillard.

Lerner’s research focuses on adapting contemporary analytic and methodological approaches from the field of psychotherapy research into the domain of social competency interventions, particularly for youth with autism spectrum and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorders. For instance, he has examined the role of the client-therapist relationship in predicting outcomes for children in a randomized clinical trial of a novel friendship coaching intervention. He has also conducted several community-based clinical trials comparing intervention techniques unique to differing types of social skills treatments. Currently, he is working on a funded longitudinal study of the contribution of social competency variables to postsecondary transition outcomes in adolescents from rural Virginia with autism spectrum disorders.  His upcoming work focuses on social-cognitive (e.g. Theory of Mind, social attribution biases, emotion recognition) and neural (e.g. event-related potentials during face processing) correlates of social competency and intervention response. To disseminate his findings, he has presented his work at international research conferences, in academic publications, at more than three dozen practitioners’ conferences, and in policy reports to State legislatures. Lerner’s goal is to use these findings to accelerate the development of evidence-based treatments for youth at high risk for social problems.

“I am extremely honored to receive this award, as it is deeply gratifying to receive recognition for my research efforts at this early stage of my career. I hope to use the APA-provided funds to purchase assessment instruments for use in my community-based social skills intervention studies, thereby improving the quality and precision of my nascent research program,” said Lerner.

Eric Pedersen

Eric Pedersen
University of Washington

Eric Pedersen is a third year graduate student in Clinical Psychology at the University of Washington. His primary advisor is Mary Larimer and his co-advisor is Alan Marlatt. He previously worked with Joseph LaBrie at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.  His main area of interest is substance use; particularly risky drinking behaviors among young adults. Most of his research has focused around this topic. His independent studies have focused on helping behavior of college students (e.g., do students recognize the signs of alcohol poisoning and what do they do to help out peers at risk), cultural issues pertinent to substance use and identity among diverse young adult populations, differential expectancy effects of varying types of alcoholic beverages, class-year specific normative drinking perceptions among college students, and measurement development (i.e., a group-based Timeline Followback).

Pedersen is also interested in examining drinking behavior within particular high-risk contexts (e.g., drinking games, prepartying) and most recently designed a study to examine college students' risky drinking behavior while completing study abroad programs overseas. This research has helped inform the development of a pre-departure intervention designed to help prevent risky drinking behavior abroad for college students; research that he is hoping will translate to future work with other diverse populations of individuals living temporarily in foreign environments (most notably military personnel). He received a National Research Service Award from NIAAA to complete this study.
“I would like to thank the APA Science Student Council for selecting me as a recipient of this award. The generous funding will be used for participant fees in my dissertation intervention research. It is encouraging to have the council recognize my research accomplishments,” said Pedersen.

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 page.