SPR Members in the News - Archive

2012 Winners of the Janet Taylor Spence Early Career Award

Iris-Tatjana Kolassa (University of Ulm), SPR member since 2005, and Greg Hajcak, SPR member since 2001, were among this year's winners of the Janet Taylor Spence Early Career Award. The award, which has been conferred annually by the Association for Psychological Science since 2010, recognizes "young researchers who cross traditional sub-disciplinary lines in psychological science and honors contributions that reveal the organization underlying complex behavior by drawing upon multiple fields of psychological science."

Kolassa, who studied at the Universities of Konstanz and Minnesota, received her Ph.D. from the University of Jena in 2004. Now a full professor at the University of Ulm, Kolassa studies the influence of traumatic stress on multiple physiological systems, as well as the impact of therapy on biological markers of disordered stress responding.

Hajcak, a 2002 Tursky Award winner, is an associate professor at Stony Brook University, and received his degree at the University of Delaware, under the guidance of Dr. Robert Simons. Much of his current work focuses on identifying neural risk markers for anxiety and depression, in children and in adults, but he has also developed a line of basic research intending to clarify the measurement and key mechanisms of emotion-cognition interactions.

Past Spence awardees include SPR members David Amodio, James Coan, Wendy Mendes Berry, and Elizabeth Kensinger.

Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE): David Amodio

President Obama recently announced that David Amodio (assistant professor, Department of Psychology and Center for Neural Science, NYU, SPR member since 1999), is among the 85 scientists in receipt of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE).

Conferred annually on the nation’s outstanding scientists and engineers, PECASE awards are among the most prestigious given to researchers at the beginning of their careers. Amodio, who was recommended for the award by the National Science Foundation (NSF) which is funding his research, is currently examining questions of how prejudice and stereotyping—particularly implicit racial associations—operate at a neural level.

“Science and technology have long been at the core of America’s economic strength and global leadership,” President Obama said at the awards ceremony.  “I am confident that these individuals, who have shown such tremendous promise so early in their careers, will go on to make breakthroughs and discoveries that will continue to move our nation forward in the years ahead.”

SPR Member Recipient of Early Career Investigator Award from the Anxiety Disorders Association of America

SPR member Greg Hajcak (Stony Brook University, SPR member since 2001) was the recipient of the first annual Donald F. Klein Early Career Investigator Award from the Anxiety Disorders Association of America (ADAA). Named for Dr. Donald Klein, MD, a scientist who revolutionized thinking about anxiety disorders, the award honors promising young investigators in the field of anxiety research. Hajcak (a 2002 Tursky Award Winner) was presented with the award by Dr. Klein at the 30th Annual ADAA Conference in March 2010.

Three SPR Members Recipients of New APS Early Career Award

The Association for Psychological Science (APS) recently announced that three SPR members, David Amodio (NYU, SPR member since 1999), Jim Coan (University of Virginia, SPR member since 1996), and Elizabeth Kensinger (Boston College, SPR member since 2007) were among the five inaugural recipients of the Janet Taylor Spence Early Career Award. The new award, which recognizes "transformative contributions to psychological science by rising stars in the field," were conferred by Dr. Spence—the first elected president of APS—at the May 2010 conference.

Selection criteria for the award included "novel and creative research" with the potential to transform the ways people think about psychological science, as well as research with the potential to impact multiple fields of psychological science. In the case of each of the three scientists, this latter criterion seems particularly apt.

Amodio (a 2003 Tursky Award winner) works broadly in social neuroscience, and does so in a thoroughly interdisciplinary fashion, drawing on classical theories and methodologies from social psychology as well as cutting-edge techniques from cognitive-affective neuroscience in order to engage and inform both fields. Recent work has focused on the application of these to questions of prejudice and stereotyping (a forthcoming paper in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience applies asymmetries and ERPs to questions of intergroup processing).

Likewise, Coan, widely recognized for his work investigating the ways in which social relationships-particularly close relationships-impact the regulation of emotion, utilizes frontal asymmetries, fMRI, and behavioral methodologies. Most recently, Coan's work has focused on elucidating how the presence (or absence) of other people can assist individuals to regulate their response to threat and stress.

Finally, Kensinger's work draws on behavioral, fMRI, ERP, and eyetracking methodologies to investigate how emotion and memory interact throughout the lifespan. Recent work particularly focuses on age-related differences in the impact of emotion on memory, bringing everyone from octogenarians and Boston College hockey players into the lab to examine at what stages emotion may influence the formation of memories, as well as how it impacts what elements are ultimately encoded and retrieved.

In a press release, APS Past President and SPR Past President (1992-1993) Dr. John T. Cacioppo (University of Chicago, SPR member since 1974) noted that the award was established with an eye towards encouraging and recognizing researchers who travel freely across sub-disciplinary boundaries. These scientists, he notes, "embody the future of psychological science."