2019 Early Career Award Winners

FABBS is pleased to announce the 2019 Early Career Impact Award winners. This award is presented to early career scientists of FABBS member societies during the first 10 years post-PhD and recognizes scientists who have made major contributions to the sciences of mind, brain, and behavior. The goal is to enhance public visibility of these sciences and the particular research through the dissemination efforts of the FABBS in collaboration with the member societies and award winners.

2019 Society for Computers in Psychology Award Winner

(photo by Megan Bean / © Mississippi State University)

Laura Allen, PhD
Mississippi State University

Laura Allen is an Assistant Professor in the Psychology Department at Mississippi State University, where she directs the Language of Learning Lab. She is an author on over 80 peer-reviewed publications, including 29 as first author. One prominent aim of Dr. Allen’s research has been to theoretically and empirically investigate the higher-level cognitive skills that are required for successful text comprehension and production, as well as the ways in which performance in these domains can be enhanced through strategy instruction and training. She has conducted a number of laboratory studies to understand how individual differences in cognitive skills and knowledge relate to performance on reading comprehension and writing assessments. This research has revealed a number of characteristics of successful readers and writers, such as their ability to generate inferences, their knowledge of vocabulary, and their ability to flexibly adapt their language across multiple tasks. Further research has endeavored to develop a more specific understanding of these individual differences through fine-grained, multi-dimensional analyses of the texts that students produce. Finally, she has drawn upon the findings from these studies to examine the impact of manipulating task instructions on task performance. For example, she has found that students’ learning behaviors and outcomes can be improved through instructions that prompt them to leverage their prior knowledge and generate inferences.

Dr. Allen’s research on learning skills and strategies has been accompanied by a second, closely related line of work that explores how educational technologies can be leveraged to facilitate learning. For example, she has worked toward the development and evaluation of the Writing Pal, which is an intelligent tutoring system designed to support adolescents’ writing development through explicit strategy instruction and writing practice with automated feedback. Across multiple studies, W-Pal training has been shown to have positive effects on students’ writing performance and motivation. In particular, W-Pal training has been shown to relate to increases in the coherence and quality of students’ essays, as well as in their engagement and motivation towards writing practice. More recently, Dr. Allen has worked on the development of the Writing Assessment Tool (WAT), which aims to provide researchers, students, and teachers with automated analyses of writing. The overall goal of this research is to develop a tool that will have a broad impact on current practices in writing research and instruction across multiple dimensions.

Learning through and from Language

2019 Society for Behavioral Neuroendocrinology Award Winner

Rebecca Calisi, PhD

University of California, Berkeley

Rebecca Calisi established new lines of research examining how the molecular mechanisms that underlie the inhibitory effects of stress on reproductive physiology. She has also developed a method of using her main study organism, the pigeon, as a bioindicator of lead contamination hot spots in cities, a line of research that has translational implications for both human and animal health.

Professor Calisi’s work has been supported by funding from NSF and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. The impact of Dr. Calisi’s independent thinking is evident in her 2014 review assessing the role of gonadotropin inhibitory hormone (GnIH), where she argued that integrating evolutionary and mechanistic levels of analyses will be essential for understanding the function of GnIH. Additionally, in 2015, she published a review in Current Opinions of Behavioral Sciences describing how high throughput sequencing could be used by behavioral endocrinologists to enhance our understanding of animal behavior. A 2018 news article in Nature profiled Dr. Calisi as one of six “thought leaders” in extending genome sequence analysis. This group included Dr. George Church (Harvard) and Dr. Elaine Mardis (Children’s Hospital, Ohio State Univ.). She was also invited as a “Rising Star” to participate in the Wisconsin Symposium on Feminist Biology.

Dr. Calisi was recently appointed as Science Communications Creative Strategist for the NIH Director’s Office Data Commons Project. She produced and created, hosted, filmed, and produced a popular video entitled, “Studying Bird Brains: Not Such a Bird-Brained Idea!), in which she interviewed many members of SBN and SfN on the importance of studying bird brains.

Studying the Bird Brains of Parents

2019 Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues Award Winner

Rebecca Covarrubias, PhD

University of California, Santa Cruz

Dr. Rebecca Covarrubias graduated with a Bachelor of Science from The University of Arizona, where she was also a Ronald E. McNair Achievement Scholar. She continued at The University of Arizona to earn a Master’s and Ph.D. in Social Psychology. After graduating, she was hired by the Department of Psychology to teach courses in Orvieto, Italy through the Arizona in Italy Study Abroad Program. Dr. Covarrubias then became a University Diversity Initiative Postdoctoral Fellow for the Center of the Study of Diversity and the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at the University of Delaware. She joined the Department of Psychology at UCSC in fall 2015. Dr. Covarrubias investigates how delegitimizing learning contexts undermine outcomes for marginalized students, and how to reverse these effects through culturally informed approaches. Just as her research aims to solve social issues, her service goals include applying evidence base to directly improve the experiences of diverse students. In one line of work, she documents how positive academic role models combat limiting representations for youth of color. As a first-generation Latina faculty, she is committed to providing this representation to her community. In another line of her work, she examines how affirming the role of family improves well-being, belonging, and performance for diverse students. Finally, a central line of her work addresses the cultural transition to college for first-generation students, including how to bridge cultural divides between students’ backgrounds and university contexts. As a social justice scholar-practitioner, her aim is to use research as a tool for social change through platforms that serve students directly.

In her work, Dr. Covarrubias connects with low-income Latinx youth at elementary schools to provide a neighborhood-to-college roadmap. She has given talks to incoming college students from foster backgrounds about tips for navigating college and with Latinx community college and middle school students about using research to spark social change. She attends multiple dinners with low-income college students for the Educational Opportunity Program, where she can connect personally about their goals. As a faculty consultant on the Hispanic Serving Institution Sense of Belonging Team, she offers research-based suggestions on how to affirm family on several grant activities (e.g., Regional Family Conference) that impact Latinx students’ belonging. She also facilitates multiple research-based workshops on campus on how to frame student communication to be inclusive of family, including a training for 60+ academic advisors. She delivered this research to a larger audience by developing an online module for all academic advisors and by presenting to the entire Division of Student Success staff(e.g., Residence Life, Disability Resource Center). She uses this research to inform messaging for several university materials, including math placement letters, probation letters, and family advising guides. Dr. Covarrubias has formed and led the UCSC First-Generation Initiative, which creates a sense of community for first-generation faculty, staff, and graduate and undergraduate students and am developing a one day staff and faculty training on best practices for supporting first-generation students. As an AAHHE Faculty Fellow, she mentors several first-generation, Latinx PhD students on navigating academia. She also mentors countless first-generation students in her courses and in her research lab on professional and research development and on navigating the cultural transition.

Helping Students and Schools Grow Together through Research and Mentorship

2019 Vision Sciences Society Award Winner

Julie D. Golomb, PhD

The Ohio State University

Dr. Julie Golomb is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology, Center for Cognitive and Brain Sciences, and Neuroscience Graduate Program at the Ohio State University. Her research explores the interdependence of attention, perception, memory, and eye movements using a mix of behavioral, psychophysical, and computational cognitive neuroscience techniques. The overarching question addressed by her lab is: How does the brain create the conscious percept of a continuously stable world from an ever-changing stream of sensory input? Our brains construct rich perceptual experiences from the most basic of visual inputs: patterns of light on our retinas. In a fraction of a second, we integrate this information to recognize objects, deduce their locations and trajectories, and plan complex actions and behaviors. Moreover, all of these computations must be done under conditions that are rarely static: both the bottom-up input to our visual systems and our top-down attention and cognitive demands are constantly fluctuating. Dr. Golomb’s research investigates how spatial information is perceived and represented in the brain, how attention and memory are updated across eye movements, and how these dynamic spatial processes interact with object recognition. She discovered the surprising principle that the visual system encodes location information primarily in retinotopic coordinates, even during high-level perceptual processing. Her lab is supported by funding from the NIH, Sloan Research Foundation, and Ohio Supercomputer Center. She has won early career awards including Sloan Research Fellow in Neuroscience, APA Distinguished Scientific Award for Early Career Contribution to Psychology, and American Psychological Foundation Fantz Award.

Dr. Golomb is a dedicated mentor, and a major focus of her outreach efforts have been undergraduate participation in research, increasing opportunities for students from underrepresented backgrounds, and promoting visibility of women in STEM. She has participated in a number of career development workshops for graduate students and postdocs both locally and through international conferences, including Vision Sciences Society outreach events, on topics such as how to prepare for faculty jobs and work-life balance in academia.

2019 Society for the Scientific Study of Reading Award Winner

Sara Hart, PhD

Florida State University

Sara Hart’s work is highlighted by bringing together theories and methods from developmental psychology, cognitive psychology, education, and behavioral genetics, to answer the fundamental question of how and why students differ in their reading and math development. Her work intersects these domains, allowing her to apply new ways of thinking to a given field, using advanced methods. For example, a well replicated finding is that children’s reading performance is approximately 50-60% heritable at any given point, but proper longitudinal modeling had never been done before to examine change in reading performance. When she used methods from developmental psychology and applied them to behavioral genetics, she found that indeed where children start is 50-60% heritable, but how children grow across elementary school is actually much less heritable and instead influenced by environments that make siblings more alike (the “shared environment”), such as the home and school.

Another interdisciplinary research thread she has done considerable work on is applying developmental psychology theory related to how contexts influence children’s development, to behavioral genetics modeling, to better understand what the specific environments are that influence children’s reading and math development. For example, she extended the conceptualization of socioeconomic status (SES), past family-level SES, which had been the only focus of the behavioral genetics field, to school-level SES. She found that school-level SES moderated the heritability of children’s reading skills, above and beyond family-level SES.

A newer area of work is considering ways we can use what we know from twin studies to actually inform every day educational practice, and to help with the early identification of children who will struggle in school, which she calls the “Precision Education Initiative”. It is her belief that personalized education, the idea that education will be tailored to the individual student, is the future of education.

Outside of her content area expertise, Sara Hart is committed to using more rigorous open science practices herself, and encouraging her fields to invest in open science. She currently has a federal grant to build an open data repository to store behavioral data related to research on learning disabilities and cognitive development. The data repository will be seeded with data from over 20,000 children, measured extensively over time, representing over $150 million dollars of federal investment. These data were not previously openly available, and will be a huge boost to the field, especially for junior scientists who often don’t have access to such rich data.

Sara Hart has published across many different fields, and has been funded by the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation. She has won prestigious early career awards, including The Rebecca L. Sandak Young Investigator Award from the Society for the Scientific Studies of Reading, the L. Fuller & J.P. Scott Memorial Award for Outstanding Scientific Accomplishments from the Behavioral Genetics Association, and the Rising Star Award from the Association for Psychological Science. Despite the research successes, she believes her most important work is in research dissemination and in training and mentorship.

Is it All in Your Genes?

2019 Society of Experimental Social Psychology Award Winner


(Photo by John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.)

Kristina R. Olson, PhD
University of Washington

At the University of Washington, Kristina Olson established the Social Cognitive Development Lab to primarily explore three areas of research: the development of bias, children’s responses to inequality, and how children reason about social groups. Most recently, Olson developed the TransYouth Project to examine gender development and well-being among participants (between the ages of 3 and 12 when they joined the study and are being followed for 20 years). Heretofore, more than 300 transgender children have participated (living in 45 U.S. states). Initial findings from the TransYouth Project have shown that children who have socially transitioned to the gender they identify with (e.g., by adopting a new name, new clothing, etc) firmly embrace their gender, as much as children who identify as the gender they were born with. Among Olson’s recognitions are the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, the National Science Foundation Alan T. Waterman Award, and the Janet Taylor Spence Award for Transformational Early Career Contributions (from the Association for Psychological Science), and an early career award from the International Social Cognition Network. Her research has been supported by the NSF, NICHD, and the Arcus Foundation. Finally, Olson serves on the Big Brothers Big Sisters of America LGBTQ National Advisory Council, and has served as an advisor for The Exploratorium (San Francisco).

Kristina Olson has become the leading voice for the social and developmental psychological processes involving gender nonconforming children. In addition to more than 50 papers published in top academic outlets and nearly 70 invited talks, she has authored public writing pieces in outlets such as Scientific American, Slate, and an op-ed piece in the LA Times. Her scholarship has received mention in top outlets such as Science, The New York Times, NPR Morning Edition, PBS Newshour, NBC News, Huffington Post, and 60 Minutes.

Without a Need for the Closet, Kids are Just Kids

2019 Association for Behavior Analysis International Award Winner


Copyright: University of Kansas

Derek Reed, PhD
University of Kansas

Dr. Reed’s research entails the application of behavioral economics to areas of societal importance. His work specifically targets substance use, behavioral health risk factors, sustainability, and behavioral addictions through a behavioral economic lens of operant demand (extent to which organisms defend consumption of rewards amidst increasing costs) and discounting (extent to which rewards lose subjective value due to increased constraints such as delay or probability). He is an impressively productive early career investigator, with over 100 peer-reviewed papers in a wide range of publication outlets (over 50 of which have been published since 2015), over 50 paper presentations at regional and national conferences, including over 20 invited/plenary addresses. Dr. Reed’s translational interests have led to publications in many prestigious outlets outside of his behavior analytic discipline, underscoring the broad reach of his work and the broader scientific community’s interest in his research questions. For example, his work in cancer prevention and behavioral medicine has been published in prestigious health outlets such as Annals of Behavioral Medicine, Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, and Preventive Medicine. His work in substance use has been published in prestigious addiction outlets such as Addiction, Psychopharmacology, and JAMA Psychiatry. Dr. Reed’s most notable research contributions are in operant behavioral economic demand. Specifically, his research in hypothetical purchase tasks has set the standard for the design and format of these procedures. Additionally, he works closely with Dr. Steven Hursh in advancing demand models and quantifying demand metrics. Dr. Reed’s behavioral economic expertise has resulted in numerous international collaborations and externally funded research. Specifically, Dr. Reed has served as an investigator for projects funded by the Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy, the FDA, and NIH. His expertise has also resulted in consultation and collaboration with various government agencies, including the Army Research Institute, NASA, and the National Research Energy Laboratory. His scholarly output was recently recognized via the 2016 B. F. Skinner New Researcher Award for Applied Research from Division 25 of the American Psychological Association.

He is a member of the American Psychological Association Teaching of Psychology in Secondary Schools Speakers Bureau and has given talks on behavior analysis to area high school classes. He has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal on the topic of crowdsourcing in behavioral research, his indoor tanning demand and taxation research was featured in a Forbes column, his research on decision making was featured in a Psychology Today column, and he has contributed to Skeptic Magazine. Dr. Reed has also appeared on the Behavioral Observations Podcast. In his previous position as Executive Director for the Society for the Quantitative Analyses of Behavior, he helped revitalize the society’s web presence and transferred the society’s tutorials to YouTube in an effort to broaden its public reach.

Tornadoes, Safe Sex, and Happy Hours: Why Data-Guided Policies Can Save the World

2019 Society for Research in Psychopathology Award Winner

Michael T. Treadway, PhD

Emory University

The focus of Dr. Treadway’s program is to advance the understanding of the neural circuitry underlying motivation and effort-based decision-making, and how alterations in these circuits may give rise to the maladaptive choices commonly found among individuals experiencing symptoms of avolition, apathy, and anhedonia. His primary research activities emanating from this overarching goal have included three core areas: i) characterizing motivational and decision-making deficits in clinical populations, ii) elucidating the neurobiology of motivation, reinforcement learning and decision-making, and iii) testing the validity of a possible transdiagnostic ‘inflammatory sub-type’ for motivational impairments that may arise from abnormal brain-immune interactions.

Primary accomplishments to date include:

1) Development of Novel Laboratory Based Measures of Motivation and Effort-Based Decision-Making
Central to this research program has been the design and development of the Effort Expenditure for Rewards Task (EEfRT or “effort”), a laboratory-based, objective, translational measure of motivation for rewards as a novel approach to exploring the role of dopamine-linked motivational processes in psychiatric populations. This measure was explicitly patterned on animal measures of willingness to exert effort used in preclinical research, has been used in 100+ laboratories in over a half-dozen countries throughout the world, and has been translated into five languages. He has already conducted examinations of its sensitivity, validity and reliability in studies of healthy controls, as well as patients with depression and schizophrenia, and have collaborated on projects using this measure to explore motivational deficits in a wide-range of psychiatric and neurological disorders.

2) Identifying Dopaminergic Mechanisms of Human Effort-Based Decision-Making and Approach Behavior
Over several studies using a combination of pharmacological challenge paradigms and PET imaging techniques, he has demonstrated the role of dopamine-releasing agents in modulating human effort-based decision-making, as well as the association between endogenous variation in dopamine systems and individual differences in effort-expenditure preferences and impulsivity.

3) Discovery of Transdiagnostic Behavioral Markers of Altered Motivation in Psychopathology.
Using the Effort Expenditure for Rewards Task, he has identified common and distinct alterations in motivational and cost/benefit decision-making across several different disorders, including depression, schizophrenia, and autism. These studies have helped objectively characterize transdiagnostic dimensions of motivational deficits across various clinical populations.

Locating the Ignition for Motivation