UO professor awarded psych honors

Rena Lev-Bass

On Oct. 7, Professor Michael Posner will take his place in history as one of the nine researchers to win the National Medal of Science and be presented with the award by the President of the United States in a White House ceremony.

Created by statute in 1959, the Medal annually recognizes individuals who have made outstanding contributions to science and engineering, and to University psychology professor Louis Moses, Posner is a well-deserved recipient.

“This is a hugely significant and richly deserved award to a truly outstanding scientist,” Moses said. “Mike Posner has been a faculty member at the University for over four decades and his contributions to the psychology department and to the University more generally are difficult to overstate.”

While he had heard of the upcoming nomination, Posner said he was still “surprised and delighted” to hear of his award.

Posner is the University’s first-ever recipient of a National Medal of Science and is one of 10 psychologists to have received the award since it was established in 1959.

Posner said he “began neuroimaging and cognitive neuroscience with the brain,” contributing hugely to his field of research.

Posner’s most enduring focus has involved the nature of mental
attention, Moses said.

“His outstanding research contributions to this and related areas have been widely recognized,” he said. “His work is among the most cited in the field, and many of his publications have become citation classics.”

He is a recipient of psychology’s highest award, the American Psychological Association’s Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award, as well as many other awards and prizes including a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Dana Foundation Award, the Grawemeyer Award and the Fyssen Foundation International Prize ­­— but this will top them all.

“This award will do much to further the University’s reputation as a leading institution in the sciences,” Moses said.

For Posner, the award was simply icing on the cake.

“I am pretty advanced in age now,” Posner said. “I just hope the University will continue to grant me the space for my research.”

“Mike’s influence has also been felt through his mentoring of countless students and scientific researchers here and elsewhere,” Moses said.

“He has always been extraordinarily generous in supporting the careers of up- and-coming researchers of all levels.”

Professor Yi-Yuan Tang has worked with Posner since 2007, and said he is “a brilliant scientist and an excellent representative of the human beings, who has broad vision, open-mind, wisdom, loving kindness and great soul.”

“Mike is truly deserving of the award,” Tang said. “Based on his research, his innovation, his training of students, his help and support for others and his impacts on diverse fields of cognitive/social neuroscience, developmental psychology, brain imaging and education and health. He is my role model in my career and life.”

During the announcement, President Barack Obama called the nine scientists “national icons, embodying the very best of American ingenuity and inspiring a new generation of thinkers and innovators.”

“Their extraordinary achievements strengthen our nation every day — not just intellectually and technologically but also economically — by helping create new industries and opportunities that others before them could never have imagined,” he said.

Currently, Posner is studying the developmental behavior and self-regulation of four-year-old children with fellow professor Mary K. Rothbart.

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