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Temple University - Department of Psychology Newsletter. Spring 2017.
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IN THIS ISSUE…

Q&A WITH THE CHAIR
FEATURED LAB
OUTREACH AND TRANSLATION
ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT
GRADUATE STUDENT AWARDS
MASTER'S 4+1 FEATURE
UNDERGRADUATE SPOTLIGHT
HIGHLIGHTS

Q&A with the Chair

Peter Marshall is in his first year as the new Chair of the Department of Psychology. Lauren McDuffie from the front office of the Department posed some questions to Dr. Marshall to get some insights on how things are going so far…. 

How has your experience as Department Chair been so far? What is your vision for the Department of Psychology? What do you see happening in the Department over the next few years?

So far so good! I am fortunate to be working with a terrific group of faculty and staff, and that has really helped with the transition. In terms of a vision for the Department, one of my primary goals is to ensure that we are providing students with the knowledge and skills that will enable them to thrive as the move on to the wider world outside Temple. I also want to continue to support and grow the research capabilities of the department. The fact that we have so much high-level research going on in our department sets up a synergistic connection between research and teaching, and I think this connection is a key strength of our department. In terms of the next few years, there is a lot to look forward to. One particular highlight is the rollout later this year of TUBRIC, the new brain imaging research center in the basement of Weiss Hall.

In addition to being Chair, you also direct the Developmental Science Laboratory. What are your current research interests?

Broadly speaking, the work in my lab centers on developmental aspects of the connections between self and other. I am particularly interested in how infants develop a sense of themselves in relation to other people, and how this process might unfold differently in children with developmental disorders such as autism. 

What advice can you give to a young aspiring psychological scientist?

This question deserves a longer answer, but I’ll keep it short. Understand theories and what they predict. Evaluate the evidence. Ask questions. Be rigorous. Embrace complexity. Seek mentorship. Don’t go it alone – science is a collaborative enterprise.

Now for some more informal questions. Favorite on-campus eatery?

I have a weakness for the summer rolls at Tai’s Vietnamese. That peanut sauce is pretty special.

Cats or dogs? 
    
Although I enjoy cat videos and the cat-detecting properties of machine learning algorithms as much as the next person, I’m more of a dog person. I grew up with dogs, and we have a dog at home who has become an important part of family life.

Ebooks or print?

A bit of both, although I prefer the feel of print. I am fortunate to have a wonderful public library just down the street from my house, so I usually have a stack of books lying around from there.

Any hidden talents? 

Not really! I play the guitar (badly) and have been known to run the occasional 5K. 

Featured Lab

Temple Infant and Child Lab & 
Research in Spatial Cognition Lab

by Zoe Ngo
 
Remembering what we did last Saturday morning may seem like a trivial task to many of us; yet it presents a challenge for young children. In fact, children do not appear to form rich memories for events – episodic memory - in the first few years of life. Episodic memory is fragile in early childhood, and undergoes a remarkable improvement from the ages of four to six years. Asking how and why these important changes occur is one focus of the research group of Dr. Nora Newcombe.  Ongoing studies in the Research in Spatial Cognition (RISC) and Temple Infant and Child Lab (TILC) are examining the developmental changes that contribute to the significant boost in memory during these critical years.  Our ongoing experiments aim to unpack the underlying mechanisms underlying age-related gains in episodic memory in the early years. To do this, we make short animations for children to watch, and later test their memories for the specific aspects of the events that occur in the animations. The type of errors that children make can tell us whether certain aspects of episodic memory are dissociable, the rate at which each process develops, and the cognitive architecture of episodic memory. 

In addition to our behavioral methods, we are working with Dr. Ingrid Olson and her group to study episodic memory using a neuroimaging technique called diffusion tensor imaging or DTI. This technique uses information about water diffusion in the brain to reconstruct white matter tracts that provide the pathways through which different brain areas communicate with one another. The ability to form and retrieve detailed memories relies on an elaborate collaboration among many brain regions, rendering diffusion tensor imaging a powerful tool to study episodic memory. The combination of behavioral methods and DTI allows us to tackle two questions. First, does variation in white matter connectivity across individuals predict their memory performance? Second, does the development of white matter connectivity accompany improvements in episodic memory in young children? The results of these ongoing studies will help us better understand how brain development accounts for the marked memory improvements seen in young children.
Newcombe Lab student research team: Zoe Ngo (graduate student), Fatema Razzak (undergraduate), Ying Lin (lab manager), Melanie Dippolito (undergraduate), and Jacqueline Piszker (undergraduate) 
These projects are led by one of Dr. Newcombe’s graduate students, Zoe Ngo, with the assistance of two lab managers and three undergraduate research assistants. The involvement of the undergraduates spans many phases of the project. Some of the exciting ways students have been involved in our projects include developing experimental stimuli such as creating animations and experimental materials, testing young children, data entry, and statistical analyses. The progress of our research relies heavily on the help of undergraduate assistants, as our team conducts experiments at multiple sites such as main campus, the Temple Infant and Child lab on Ambler campus, and various schools in the Philadelphia urban and suburban areas. Each semester, our lab welcomes new undergraduate RAs to expand our research team and to involve students who are interested in psychology research.  If you are interested in joining the lab, please contact our lab coordinator Mia Velazquez at mvelazquez@temple.edu

Joining our research team presents an exciting opportunity for undergraduate students who are interested in psychology research, for several reasons: First, undergraduate assistants get a chance to be involved in the day-to-day work that goes into setting up and running an experiment. Being involved in the "behind-the-scenes" aspect of a research project gives undergraduate students opportunities to gain knowledge of the specific research area, and general skills pertaining to experimental design, conduct, and data management.  Second, undergraduate assistants learn about the implications of the studies as well as the larger literature of the research area. In our lab, undergraduate students attend our biweekly lab meetings where graduate students and postdoctoral fellows present their work or discuss relevant research articles. These meetings give everyone on our research team opportunities to ask questions and share ideas with one another.  In addition, lab managers and graduate students offer opportunities for professional development including reviewing graduate school applications, creating a CV/personal statement, and encouraging research interests.
 

Outreach and Translation Update

Urban Thinkscape Named Winner in KaBOOM! Play Everywhere Challenge
by Dr. Brenna Hassinger-Das

With little contact with community resources and few opportunities to read with a caregiver or to play spatial and mathematical games, children from low-income families often enter school far behind their more affluent peers. At the same time, existing urban public spaces are often underutilized and more needs to be done to put these spaces to work. In response to these challenges, Urban Thinkscape—a project developed by the Debra and Stanley Lefkowitz Distinguished Faculty Fellow, Dr. Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, and led by Postdoctoral Fellow, Dr. Brenna Hassinger-Das—seeks to transform the cityscape into opportunities for playful learning. Forging a new collaboration between architecture and psychological science, Urban Thinkscape meets low-income individuals and families where they live by embedding playful learning into the activities of civic life. 

In September, Urban Thinkscape was selected as a winner in the Play Everywhere Challenge, a $1 million national competition that will award innovative ideas to make play easy, available, and fun for kids and families in cities across the U.S. The Challenge is hosted by KaBOOM!, a national non-profit dedicated to bringing balanced and active play into the daily lives of all kids, particularly those growing up in poverty in America. Urban Thinkscape was selected as one of 50 winners out of a pool of more than 1,000 applications nationwide. The funds from KaBOOM! will support the building and installation of one of the pilot designs.

Urban Thinkscape provides a natural meeting point between psychology and architecture; researchers in both fields have been working to understand how people are influenced by interactions in and with everyday spaces. Project architect Itai Palti has been collaborating with neuroscientists to study how the built environment influences curiosity, and Urban Thinkscape builds on lessons from his previous work. 

Shaped by community input and feedback at every stage, the first Urban Thinkscape installation—funded primarily by the William Penn Foundation—will be located in the Belmont neighborhood of West Philadelphia in Spring 2017. Puzzles at a bus stop stimulate spatial skills; simple games offer opportunities to support executive functioning while on-site signage and a website will connect caregivers to additional resources. However, Urban Thinkscape is not designed as a single-site project; it is meant to be a model for use around the world. Along with similar projects including interventions to support language development in supermarkets, health clinics, and laundromats, Urban Thinkscape is a part of the Brookings Institution’s Learning Landscape Initiative, which aims to use everyday spaces as agents of change in the lives of children and families. 
For more information about Urban Thinkscape, visit http://urbanthinkscape.com or email info@urbanthinkscape.com To learn more about the Play Everywhere Challenge, and view a gallery of winning ideas—including two others also from Philadelphia—visit http://kaboom.org/playeverywhere.
 

Alumni Spotlight

Wayne Mackey received his B.A. in Psychology from Temple in 2012 before embarking on a doctorate in Psychology from New York University. He completed his Ph.D. in 2016 and is currently a postdoctoral fellow in David Heeger’s Computational Neuroimaging Lab at NYU.

Mackey’s research interests lie in how individuals select and remember goal-relevant information. “At any given moment", writes Mackey, "we face a never-ending stream of sensory information that must be integrated with our internal thoughts and goals. In order to purposefully guide our behavior, we flexibly select goal-relevant sensory information (via attention) while we keep in mind and manipulate critical information no longer available in our environment (via memory). I employ a wide variety of experimental methods (computational neuroimaging, brain lesions, eye-tracking, transcranial magnetic stimulation, and virtual reality) and theoretical approaches to investigate how the brain represents and processes information necessary for executive control”.

Since graduating from Temple in 2012, Wayne has won multiple awards, including the Henry M. MacCracken Fellowship (2012), the Engberg Fellowship (2012), the Katzell Fellowship in Psychology (2016), and a prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship (2013-2016) to study how both transient and chronic lesions of association cortex impair working memory. He is developing novel computational techniques to quantify nonlinear response dynamics in association cortex, and has successfully applied these techniques to make important fundamental discoveries about brain organization.

 “My current work is largely focused on leveraging computational techniques typically used to characterize visual regions of the brain to better understand information processing in higher- order brain areas thought to be critical for executive control. My goal is to develop a biologically- plausible theoretical model that approximates how complex networks of brain regions interact to support cognition. Once we are armed with such an understanding we can devise better strategies to treat and prevent the wide range of psychiatric and neurologic disorders (such as autism, ADHD, and schizophrenia) thought to be the direct result of impaired executive control”.

As a student in Dr. Jason Chein’s Neurocognition Lab, Wayne assisted on two research projects: A study that utilized fMRI to examine the effects of peers on risky-decision making in adolescents, and a comparative investigation of different working memory paradigms that tested whether training benefits untrained tasks and whether different types of training would yield different benefits. He also worked as a research assistant for Dr. Pamela Shapiro at Fox Chase Cancer Center, where he learned about the impact of cancer and cancer treatments on everyday cognitive function, as well as how the stress of dealing with a cancer diagnosis causes physiological changes that impair cognitive abilities.  

We asked Mackey how his experiences at Temple has influenced his career. Here’s what he had to say: “My experiences at Temple were nothing less than transformative. For some perspective, I graduated high school with a 1.8 GPA and had no interest in college, as no one in my family had ever gone. I joined the workforce after graduating high school and didn’t begin my college education until I was 26, after being frustrated with poor job prospects. Two years later, I arrived at Temple as a first-generation college student transferring from a small community college and leaving with multiple acceptance letters to top Ph.D. programs across the country”.

Wayne notes that the faculty at Temple, both inside and outside the Psychology department, were incredibly influential in his decision to pursue a career in cognitive neuroscience. “They were accessible, inspiring, supportive, candid, and most importantly, provided me with the opportunities to discover what I was most passionate about. As an ambassador for science and education, I hope to encourage other students from disadvantaged or non-traditional backgrounds, not only by outreach but by example, to realize their potential for math and science, just as mentors at Temple did for me”.

We also asked Wayne for advice to pass on to our current undergraduates. His response was “Take advantage of the opportunities that are available to you at Temple, because they can truly be life-changing. If you are interested in scientific research, or are considering applying to graduate school, get into a lab as soon as you can. This will provide you with valuable experience and knowledge beyond what can possibly be learned in the classroom. The beauty of the scientific process is that it actually encourages you to get your hands dirty and make mistakes. Be curious. Try. Fail. Try again.”

Graduate Student Awards

The Department of Psychology currently offers three graduate research awards.  The Weinstein Award, the Shipley Prize, and the Bersh Award are given to outstanding students in the doctoral program to enable completion of innovative research projects. 
Peter Marshall, Stephen and Rosalyn Weinstein, and Jason Chein congratulate Gail Rosenbaum for receiving the 2016 Weinstein Award.
The Weinstein Award

The annual Weinstein Award is funded by Stephen and Rosalyn Weinstein of the Civic Foundation, which focuses its research and advocacy on drug and alcohol addiction.  Stephen Weinstein is a Temple alum, having received his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology in 1973.  In 2016, the Weinstein Award was presented to Gail Rosenbaum, a student in the Brain and Cognitive Sciences doctoral program.  Gail received a $3500 award for her project entitled “The influences of information acquisition and heightened arousal on adolescent risk taking”.  Gail is currently working with Drs. Jason Chein and Laurence Steinberg on understanding the situational and neurobiological factors that increase adolescents’ likelihood to engage in risky behaviors.  The hope is that this research will ultimately inform intervention efforts to decrease risk taking during this period of life.  After earning her doctorate in Spring 2017, Gail will begin a postdoctoral fellowship at NYU.

The Shipley Prize

The Thomas E. Shipley, Jr. Research Prize provides up to $1000 to a graduate student who demonstrates excellence in research.  Dr. Thomas E. Shipley, Jr., for whom the award was named, was a faculty member in the Clinical Psychology area for almost four decades. He was dedicated to his students and to the notion that scientific study of psychological problems could address important social issues.  After Tom’s death in 2007, the Shipley family very graciously began this award in his honor.  The most recent winner of this award was Rob Cole (pictured), for his project entitled “Frontostriatal BDNF overflow and cognitive control deficits following spontaneous nicotine withdrawal”.  Rob works in the Neurochemistry and Cognition lab under the supervision of Dr. Vinay Parikh . Upon graduation, Rob plans to stay in academia and pursue research focused on cognitive deficits associated with substance use and schizophrenia. 

The Bersh Award

Dr. Phil Bersh taught at Temple, his Alma matter, for 35 years. Phil and his students assessed negative reinforcement and stimulus control in learned helplessness as a model in the Pavlovian tradition. His research on human heart rate conditioning is considered as classic work and appears in many psychology textbooks. He was a full-time faculty member until he passed away at age 82. After his death in 2004, Phil’s family began this award in his honor. The Bersh Award honors Phil’s memory and his mentorship by providing up to $1,000 in financial support to students working on their dissertations.  The most recent winners of the Bersh Award were Kylie Alm (student of Ingrid Olson) and Jon Stange  (student of Lauren Alloy) who jointly received the award for their outstanding papers on white matter connectivity and reversal learning (Kylie) and response styles theory in adolescence (Jon).

Master's 4+1 Program

One exciting new program in the Department of Psychology is the Master’s 4+1 in Psychological Research.  This program is designed to prepare Temple undergraduate students for doctoral training in psychology and to provide valuable experience for obtaining research-based positions. Maya Crockem (pictured) is currently enrolled in this innovative program, working under the guidance of Dr. Kathy Hirsh-Pasek.  Maya works in Temple’s Infant and Child Lab, researching spatial learning in preschool aged children.  She hopes that her research will aid educators and parents in understanding the essential elements that children need for future success. Maya is looking forward to applying the skills and knowledge from the 4+1 program to her goal of gaining admission to a doctoral program in Developmental Psychology.  

Maya decided to enroll in the Master’s 4+1 Program after her experience in the Psychology Honors program showed her that she could enhance her passion to improve learning for underprivileged youth through carrying out research in psychological science. She encourages others to become a part of the 4+1 program because it offers first-hand advice and support from world-renowned faculty mentors.  Outside of the classroom, Maya is co-chair of Temple’s DREAM program.  She states, “this organization has fueled much of my desire to do community-based research to improve the lives of youth in such communities, especially in the area of education within the classroom and at home.”  Her last two summer breaks were spent interning at Mind Body Solutions, an organization in Las Vegas that provides mental health services to the community there.
 

Undergraduate Student Spotlight

Dean DelloBuono (pictured) is a senior psychology major whose aim is to pursue a career in school counseling.  We caught up with Dean to get some insights on how his experiences at Temple are preparing him for the next step in his career path. He explained, “Most psychology professors challenge us to connect our class discussions to the real world, which expands my thinking of our work and bridges the relevance of what we're learning.”  Dean has taken up this challenge in various ways, including volunteering with Temple’s chapter of the DREAM program, where he utilizes his academic skills by mentoring K-12 students from the North Philadelphia area.  Dean is also currently employed by Thom Stecher & Associates in a position that is centered on educating youth in social and emotional learning, wellness, and resiliency. As part of this, he also facilitates workshops designed to prevent bullying and build community. 

Dean also works as a director for Camp Rainbow during the summer, and is involved in delivering counseling programs for children with social, emotional, or financial needs.  For the past year, Dean has been working as a Counseling Intern for the Wissahickon School District -- working alongside the School Counselor at Shady Grove Elementary and Wissahickon Middle Schools.  His work there allows him to directly apply course content to real world situations by running a counseling group focused on Social Skills and coordinating a new Homework Help Program that is a part of the school district’s “Close the Achievement Gap” initiative.  

Outside of his busy schedule, Dean enjoys spending time with his dog Buca, and exploring the outdoor opportunities in Southeastern PA. Ricketts Glen State Park is a particular favorite of his. 

Students who are interested in receiving academic credit for an internship, please contact the Psychology academic advisor, Nicole Pileggi, M.Ed. at nicole.pileggi@temple.edu

Highlights

Faculty, staff, students, and post-doctoral fellows gathered during the Annual Mid-Winter Celebration (ugly sweaters included).

Dr. Alloy was recognized at the 2016 Homecoming Football Game for her research and service with the Graduate Fellowship program.

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