Newsletter Section


Recent research awards and fellowships

The Psychology Department continues its tradition of strong government funding support and world renowned scholarship. Recent research awards and fellowships include:

Sapna Cheryan received a one year Visiting Scholar Fellowship from the Russell Sage Foundation to study how anti-American stereotypes constrain the success and well-being of U.S. immigrant groups.

Cheryl Kaiser received a one year James McKeen Cattell Sabbatical Award to further her research and training in civil rights law.

Kevin King received the Jacobs Foundation Young Scholars Award which includes a one year, $50,000 grant to further his research on adolescent behavior and psychopathology.

Brains LogoIn recent months, our faculty have received two additional awards from the National Institutes of Health. They include a $1.1 million grant to Professor Eliot Brenowitz to study “Hormones and Brain Protection” and a $1 million grant to Professor Sheri Mizumori entitled “BRAINS: Broadening the Representation of Academic Investigators in NeuroSciences.”

Eliot Brenowitz's research seeks to understand the seasonal regression of brain regions involved in the control of birdsong by investigating the mechanisms regulating neuronal degeneration and protection associated with naturally occurring variation in steroid hormones, and the functional consequences of neuroprotection for a learned sensorimotor behavior. The birdsong system excels as a model for studies of hormonal mechanisms of neuroprotection. It is a well-defined and tractable neural circuit that shows extreme seasonal patterns of hormone-regulated neuronal regression and protection. These processes of neural degeneration and protection occur with breeding-related hormonal cycles and thus can be studied in vivo without invasive manipulations.

Sheri Mizumori's grant has as co-investigators Ana Mari Cauce (UW Provost), and Joyce Yen (Research/Program Manager). This grant will develop a mentoring program to foster diversity and innovation in scientific research. Neuroscience assistant professors and postdoctoral scholars from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds, including racial and ethnic minorities, people with disabilities, and people from disadvantaged backgrounds, face three major challenges in their career development. First, comprehensive professional development during this career stage is often overlooked. Thus, early career neuroscientists are underserved and often lack skills that are critical for advancement to tenure. Second, people from underrepresented backgrounds are often most at risk of leaving science because they tend to have less access to peer support networks, mentors, and advice on how to succeed in faculty careers. Third, they may also lack role models for exposure to potential career paths. To fill these gaps, we propose to create BRAINS: Broadening the Representation of Academic Investigators in NeuroSciences, a national program to accelerate and improve the career advancement of neuroscience postdoctoral researchers and assistant professors from underrepresented groups. The BRAINS program creates unique, life-transforming experiences for 50 participants, who may be at higher-risk of leaving the profession. BRAINS participants will become more dedicated to their scientific career, better able to direct their careers, and more likely to achieve success in academic neuroscience. The goal of the BRAINS program is to increase engagement and retention of academic early-career neuroscientists from underrepresented groups by reducing isolation; providing tips, tools, and skills development to prepare for the tenure track; and increasing career self-efficacy. This goal will be met via three complementary BRAINS activities: A) National Symposia; B) facilitated Peer Mentoring Circles; and C) Invent your Career teams. Together, these activities will:

1. Increase the diversity of neuroscience faculty by providing mentoring, training and skills to under-represented postdoctoral scholars and assistant professors in the neurosciences so they have increased access to resources, feelings of preparedness, and sense of community and connectivity.

2. Reduce isolation of neuroscience postdoctoral scholars and assistant professors from underrepresented groups through the establishment of long-standing peer networks and informal mentoring relationships.

3. Increase career self-efficacy so postdoctoral scholars and assistant professors from underrepresented groups in the neurosciences will have more productive and satisfying careers.

Faculty Accomplishments and In the News

Micahel Beecher and Eliot Brenowitz
Michael Beecher
Eliot Brenowitz

  • The Seattle Times featured Micahel Beecher and Eliot Brenowitz for their work on birdsong in the Northwest on May 14. 

    Beecher understands better than most the messages that pass between song sparrows. He and his students have been studying the birds' communication patterns in Seattle's Discovery Park for more than 25 years. The duel he orchestrated on a recent morning provided an opportunity to record the sotto voce song that males use only when confronting interlopers — a kind of in-your-face undertone that hisses: I mean business. But nothing in the human brain comes close to the transformation male birds undergo as they ride a roller coaster of hormones that peaks this time of year, said Eliot Brenowitz, UW professor of biology and psychology.

    Brenowitz is working to understand how a spring spike in testosterone causes the parts of the brain that control song to double or triple in size. "It's the brain's version of an athlete bulking up on steroids," he said.
Jamie Diaz
Jamie Diaz 
  • Jaime Diaz was interviewed by The Daily for an article on students using amphetamines as a “study aid.”

    He observed that “There is an artificial dichotomy between drugs as being bad and mean, and medicine as being good and safe,” Diaz said. “[Adderall] can be dangerous [and] physical prescription doesn’t release the substance from concern.” In his cautioning about the side effects of amphetamine on the cardiovascular and nervous systems, he referenced a 2005 case in which 20 sudden deaths were linked to proper consumption of recommended dosages of a Canadian-produced Adderall.
Tony Greenwald
Tony Greenwald 
  • Tony Greenwald’s Implicit Association Test now has a mental health component.In 1995 he invented the Implicit Association Test (IAT), which rapidly became a worldwide standard for assessing implicit attitudes, stereotypes, and self-concepts. A new website, Project Implicit Mental Health, allows visitors to examine and gain insight into their associations about mental health topics that may exist outside their conscious awareness or conscious control.

  • Anderson Cooper’s “Race in America” show on April17 featured Anthony Greenwald.
    The show asked “could you have a racial bias and not even know it? Take the test that measures your subconscious feelings about race -- that you may not even be aware of. You’ll be shocked to see what happens when everyday people, who claim that they have absolutely no prejudice, are put to the test. What does this say about racism in America? And what can we all do to come together? See what else Anderson and CNN reporter Soledad O'Brien discovered about kids: and about Anderson's" audience members…”  The show provided a direct link to Project Implicit.
John Gottman
John Gottman 
Peter Kahn
Peter Kahn 
  • UW Today featured Peter Kahn and his research team in the exploration of how children interact socially with a humanoid robot. "We need to talk about how to best design social robots for children, because corporations will go with the design that makes the most money, not necessarily what’s best for children" said Peter Kahn, associate professor of psychology at the University of Washington. "In developing robot nannies, we should be concerned with how we might be dumbing down relationships and stunting the emotional and intellectual growth of children."  Children perceive humanoid robot as emotional, moral being   Co-authors at UW are Nathan Freier, Rachel Severson, Jolina Ruckert and Solace Shen.
  • Peter Kahn’s study of “whether a robotic entity is conceptualized as just a tool, or as some form of a technological being that can be held responsible for its actions" was published in the proceedings of the International Conference on Human-Robot Interaction. The results suggest that as robots gain capabilities in language and social interactions, "it is likely that many people will hold a humanoid robot as partially accountable for harm that it causes." The researchers argue that as militaries transform from human to robotic warfare, the chain of command that controls robots and the moral accountability of robotic warriors should be factored into jurisprudence and the Laws of Armed Conflict for cases when the robots hurt humans. Kahn is also concerned about the morality of robotic warfare. "Using robotic warfare, such as drones, distances us from war, can numb us to human suffering, and make warfare more likely," he said. Co-authors include Jolina H. Ruckert, Solace Shen, Heather E. Gary, and Aimee L. Reichert. “Robots fighting wars could be blamed for mistakes on the battlefield,”  
Cheryl Kaiser
Cheryl Kaiser 
  • Cheryl Kaiseris a recipient of the 2012-2013 James McKeen Cattell Sabbatical Award.

    The award, given by the Cattell Fund in partnership with the Association for Psychological Science, supplements the regular sabbatical allowance provided by the recipients’ home institutions. Cheryl will use the award to further her research examining the intersection of the psychology of discrimination and civil rights law.
Marsha Linehan
Marsha Linehan 
  • Marsha Linehan is a 2011 Elizabeth Hurlock Beckman Award Trust Recipient.
    Gail McKnight Beckman created the Beckman Award to benefit teachers who have inspired their students to make a difference in their communities.  This award recognizes educators in the fields of psychology, medicine and law who have inspired their students to create an organization which has demonstrably conferred a benefit on the community at large or who has established a lasting basis, concept, procedure, or movement of comparable benefit. Dr. Linehan will be presented with this award at the Elizabeth Hurlock Beckman Award Ceremony in Atlanta in January.
 Jaime Olavarria
Jamie Olavarria 
  • Jaime Olavarria was awarded a 2012-2013 International Provost Grant from The Office of Global Affairs. This grant will support his Early Fall Exploration Seminar entitled "A Changing Public and Mental Health Care System Program” in Chile to be offered Early Fall 2012. The award will cover airfare expenses to visit remote regions in the Southern Patagonia in Chile.  The funding support comes from the Herbert H. Gowen Endowment for International Studies II. 
Chantel Prat
Chantel Prat 
  • Chantel Prat’s Psychology 101 class - and her dog - were featured on the front page of the UW web site. She brings her dog Cocco to class as a way to demonstrate learning.  In addition to teaching Pavlovian conditioning using a dog, Prat talks about other practical illustrations of learning, such as study tips and how to “train” significant others, parents, children and roommates. “I try to bring in as much real-world material as I can to keep students engaged.”
Wendy Stone
Wendy Stone 
  • Wendy Stone, Professor of Psychology and Autism Center Director, was interviewed January 27 on KUOW.She discussed the possible ramifications of narrowing the definition of autism--which would reduce services available to many people previously diagnosed as autistic.  Podcast:
  •  UW Autism Center’s Stepping Stones program was featured in the April 14 UW Today. A new workshop at the UW Autism Center teaches parents and other caregivers techniques to encourage social and communication skills in their children recently diagnosed with autism.  The program was created by Robin Talley and Ashley Berger Penney, consultants with the Center. It's such an upheaval for parents to get an autism diagnosis for their child," said Wendy Stone, director of the Autism Center. "We hope our workshops not only help parents guide their child's social and communication development, but also show them how to have more fun with their child."
  • Wendy Stone was interviewed by KUOW’s Weekday Program on April 17 in recognition of the National Autism Awareness Month. KUOW’s on-line overview of the show titled “What Do You Really Know About Autism?:  “Childhood autism diagnoses are rising in the United States, according to a study of 8 year olds showing that about one in 88 has some form of Autism Spectrum Disorder. That is up from one in 110 in 2006. Why the increase? What happens if your child is diagnosed with autism?”  Listen at
UW graduate program in clinical psychology