Chair's Message

The State of the Department

December 2016

We are off to a great start in the 2016-17 academic year. This year, we were joined by a new faculty member, Dan Yurovsky, who studies the role of input on language development, utilizing behavioral approaches and computational modeling. Dan came to us after receiving his Ph.D. in Psychology at Indiana University and completing a postdoc at Stanford University. Dan has hit the ground running at the University of Chicago and it already seems like he has been here far longer than a few months. He has presented on his research in the fall Developmental Seminar and in our Proseminar. Additionally, he is currently teaching Psychological Statistics to our undergraduates. You can read more about his exciting research program later in the newsletter.

This year we welcomed the largest graduate student class in memory- at least the largest I can remember! The class numbers seventeen, with students spread across the Developmental, Cognitive, Social, and Integrative Neuroscience areas. We were greatly helped in expanding our numbers by the availability of our Institute of Educational Sciences Graduate Fellowship Training Grant and appreciate this support and opportunity for the interdisciplinary training of our students. Our new cohort of graduate students brings an array of experiences to the Department, including Teach for America, Masters degrees in various fields, and experience working in labs across the country. Only five of the seventeen new students came directly from their undergraduate institutions reflecting a trend in our graduate program.

This fall, I had the pleasure of teaching the first year graduate students in our Proseminar and can personally attest to the fact that this is an incredibly talented and motivated group. In the Proseminar, students heard about the research the faculty in the Department are engaged in, as many of the alums probably remember from their proseminar days. In addition, students in the Proseminar now spend the first four weeks of the quarter intensively working on NSF and other graduate fellowship proposals. This year, the students benefitted in the preparation of their fellowship proposals from the wisdom of Fred Stafford, a consultant in the office of the Vice President for Research as well as from Karen Rosenthall, a Fellowships Coordinator in the Provost’s Office. We are happy to report that five students in the Department are currently supported by NSF fellowships.

As you all remember, the life of the Department is enormously enhanced by colloquia, brownbag series, and workshops. This fall, we were fortunate to have Marie Banich deliver the Starkey Duncan Alumni Lecture (see article on this for more detail). Additionally, we will be hearing our Booth School of Business colleague, Nicholas Epley (the John T. Keller Professor of Behavioral Science and Neubauer Faculty Fellow) deliver a talk on the perils of under sociality.

There is also some very sad news to share about the passing of Janellen Huttenlocher, the William S. Gray Professor emeritus in the Department, who was a professor in the Department from 1974 until 2009, at which time she became an emeritus faculty member. Janellen was instrumental in shaping our developmental program, recruiting Susan Goldin-Meadow and me to the Department when we were completing our Ph.D. programs. On a personal note, many current faculty members remember Janellen and her husband Peter, a renowned pediatric neurologist at the University, welcoming us into their home for a delicious meal. We also remember Janellen’s love of ideas and intellectual problems. She was a big ideas person and pushed us all to do our very best work. Janellen made seminal contributions in cognitive and developmental psychology, spanning many areas – from language processing to spatial coding to mathematical development. Her many research contributions have been recognized by prestigious awards and honors. Notably, Janellen was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and received awards from professional organizations in the field, including the APA Award for Distinguished Scientific Contributions, the G. Stanley Hall Award for Distinguished Contribution to Developmental Psychology, and the Association for Psychological Science William James Fellow in Recognition of Distinguished Achievements in Psychological Science. Janellen also mentored many students and postdocs who now hold academic and nonacademic positions throughout the United States and abroad. She will be greatly missed by us all. A memorial service will be held on January 28th at Montgomery Place at 2:00 pm. In lieu of flowers the family has asked that gifts in Janellen’s memory be made to the Department to train the future generation of scientists. More details about Janellen's life and contributions to the field can be found here.


Susan C. Levine 
Rebecca Anne Boylan Professor in Education and Society