Thursday, June 30, 2011

Graduate students Valerie Beck and Georgina Moreno have been awarded 2011-12 National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Fellowships to pursue graduate studies at the University of Iowa.

Beck, a doctoral candidate in psychology, and Moreno, a doctoral candidate in neuroscience, each will receive three years of support from the NSF, including a $30,000 annual stipend, a $10,500 cost-of-education allowance, and international research and professional development opportunities.

Beck studies how attention and working memory processes compete and interact to guide eye movements in both healthy young people and patients with schizophrenia.

"Valerie, who just finished her first year as a Ph.D. student, came to the lab with well-established ideas for research projects, and these were adapted into the NSF proposal," said Andrew Hollingworth, associate professor of psychology in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and Beck's mentor. "She has implemented much of that work in the first year, and she is currently writing up multiple papers for publication. So, her success in applying for the fellowship is already being translated into research success."

Moreno's research focuses on the effects of stress on decision-making in healthy older adults. She is in the beginning stages of a study that will attempt to provide a better understanding of the mechanisms involved in the process of making life decisions, such as choosing the best driving route or making life-altering medical choices.

"She's embarking on something that is entirely new to our lab with the study of stress and aging," said Natalie Denburg, assistant professor of neurology in the Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine and Moreno's mentor in the neuroscience interdisciplinary graduate program. "Gina has become the lab expert on this topic, and the study of how acute and chronic stress affects older adults' cognition has a number of applications and avenues for further study. She could spend her career on this topic if she so chooses."

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Graduate College Office of External Relations, 205 Gilmore Hall, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACT: John Riehl, 319-384-1309,