mentor of the millennium

Recently I told my advisor that I was feeling anxious about generals.

Here’s what he had to say about that:

You can count on me, Lauren, and Adele to be supportive and consistent and productive, both at your generals and in general. You’re doing a fantastic job in grad school, evidenced by efficiency in getting data collected, working on many drafts of a challenging empirical paper, getting the GRFP, and etc etc. These are the kinds of factors that add up to a committee being in your corner. Feeling anxious is natural and motivating and horrible, so let it flow in a healthy way, and you know you can work through it. Might we request more work or different work or further reading? Of course. But it’s nothing you can’t handle. Might we steer you toward or away from certain ideas? Of course. Who cares. It’s my job (and Lauren’s job, and Adele’s job) to be helpful and support your career, and you’ll see that at every turn during your generals. And who knows, we might just say “Uhh. Great job. Keep it up.”

It’s times like this that I’m extra thankful to be here.

NSF success!

I’m very pleased to announce that I’ve received an NSF graduate fellowship.

If you’d like, you can read my research statement here.

So many people helped me with this – my advisors, my labmates, and the other students in my writing workshop – and I owe them a huge debt of gratitude. Their support and critical feedback really made the difference between “very good” and “excellent” for reviews.


Old South pride

Here is a message from John Edgerton, the associate minister at Old South Church.

This is where I was baptized. This is where Dominick and I said our wedding vows. This will always be my spiritual home, and I couldn’t be more proud of the people, like John, who create this community of faith.

Hello beloved Old South,

I’m writing to let you know that earlier today I was arrested in Washington D.C. as a part of an act of civil disobedience resisting a repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Clergy from many faiths, health care professionals, and people who have their insurance through the Affordable Care Act came together for a peaceful, disciplined, non-violent act of resistance.

I want to give an account of why I did this, because I am indeed accountable to you as one of your ministers. I do a great deal of work to reform the law without resorting to civil disobedience. So why engage in civil disobedience now?

First, because members of Old South stand to be hurt. Members of our church may lose their health insurance, or have pre-existing conditions once again serve as a basis for denying them health coverage. To simply roll back the Affordable Care Act, without a careful plan for how to replace its life-saving protections, is staggeringly irresponsible. Members of our church will be hurt. Our families will be hurt. Our children will be hurt. When I joined Old South church I promised to resist oppression and evil, today’s action is in keeping with that promise.

Second, I took this action because I was invited to do so. We are living in extraordinary and dangerous and uncertain and frightening days. People who I care about asked me to stand with them in fighting to protect their health care, so I said yes. I do not believe this is the time to worry over whether I can take on all the possible fights facing us. There will be many times in the coming months when people of faith are called to stand with the vulnerable. And when the vulnerable call us to stand with them, theirs is the voice of Jesus Christ bidding us to follow Him.

Finally, I took this action because I have hope that it will make a difference. As a Christian, I believe that people who have made a mistake can change. I believe that the past does not dictate the future. I believe disciplined and loving non-violent action can change people’s hearts. I believe that Congress may still choose to do the right thing and find political compromise that will allow the critical life-saving protections of the ACA to remain in place. This was an act of hope, grounded in love.

I would like to ask a few things of you.

First, I ask for your prayers. I am not sure at what time I will be released from jail, and I covet your prayers.

Second, if you would like to be supportive of what I’ve done, please come to the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization meeting on Thursday at Bethel AME at 6:30pm. RSVP to me if you can make it. We are organizing on a state level to protect health care and your presence will help ensure our state officials do everything in their power to protect our health care. We have a strategy to help protect health care. Today’s civil disobedience is part of it. Thursday’s GBIO action is a part of it. Scripture calls us to be wise as serpents and as innocent as doves. Thursday’s action will help us shine up our scales on issues of health care, criminal justice reform, and affordable housing.

Lastly, if you disagree with what I have done, please write to me and tell me why. I promise I will read it carefully, and write you a thoughtful and considered and personal reply. Our congregational polity does not demand that we agree on everything, but it does call for us to remain in relationship across all our differences. Our political environment is so toxic right now that political disagreement can seem certain to break relationship. I commit to doing what I can to behave differently, to try to live up to the scriptural admonition that “if it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with all people.”

I honestly do believe that we are living in remarkable times, times when the moral voice of the church is needed more than ever. If in this action I have erred, I hope that I have erred on the side of foolhardy love.

It is my honor and privilege to be yours,

John Edgerton
Associate Minister
The Old South Church in Boston

NSF 2015 Reviews

Well, I didn’t get an NSF graduate fellowship this year, but I did get useful feedback from reviewers. I’ll do better next time!

Reviewer 1:

Overall Assessment of Intellectual Merit: Excellent

Ms. Reuter has a 3.7 GPA from Univ. Wisconsin Madison. She has a dual degree in Spanish and Cognitive Psychology. She was a research technician for three years (Harvard) prior to enrolling at Princeton’s Developmental Psychology program. She has given 5-6 talks and poster presentations but as yet does not have publications. Her letters are laudatory and all speak to the enormous amount of work she can accomplish (so a little surprising there are no publications). As for the proposal however, the hypothesis to be tested is that the quantity and quality of infants’ language input affects both verbal and nonverbal prediction skills, which in turn affect language outcomes. She hypothesizes that an inability to predict has adverse consequences to language development, leading to smaller vocabularies. Why this might be so is not fully explained however, nor is why receiving more verbal input from parents would affect a child’s performance on these tasks. She will test 60 infants from different socioeconomic groups using verbal and nonverbal prediction tasks to assess predictive skills in these children. However, although she plans to analyze caregiver language input, this alone seems insufficient to link predicative skill to caregiver language exposure. It would seem the critical kind of input would be caregiver language which gives the child practice at prediction.

Overall Assessment of Broader Impacts: Excellent

Ms Reuter served as chair of the community service committee Psychology Club and as a psychology tutor. She was a member of a Teaching Academy summer institute where she collaborated with faculty to design ‘small learning communities’ to support first generation college students. She writes that she “enjoyed creating engaging instruction methods, like teaching neuropsychology via dodgeball. Not only did my students learn about synapses, receptors, and re-uptake, I dare say they actually liked it.” For this, she was the first undergraduate to receive an honored instructor award from the University. In another initiative she also volunteered with Aspira (Aspire), an intervention to address an achievement gap in K-12 students. She worked with school staff to create college exploration workshops, including fieldtrips to local campuses, ACT/SAT preparation, and funding information. Given this exemplary track record of outreach thus far, there is little doubt that in the future, in addition to her research work, Ms. Reuter will continue teaching and mentoring in a variety of contexts.

Summary Comments: This candidate has excellent credentials, letters and a fabulous history of outreach. Enthusiasm is slightly mitigated by a proposal that does not clearly explain the logic of the hypothesis.

Reviewer 2:

Overall Assessment of Intellectual Merit: Very Good

The applicant has strong prior academic preparation and performance and several first author presentations. The applicant shows the ability to plan and conduct research and has strong and varied research and professional experience in the area of language and language processing. Letters are strong and the proposed activities (examining an underlying mechanisms accounting for link between language input and experiences) appear to be well-reasoned based on sound rationale.

Overall Assessment of Broader Impacts: Very Good

Broader impacts strengths include the applicant’s discussion of engagement of teaching; take on administrative roles, volunteering in an achievement gap intervention. The applicant also mentions first generation outreach, designing learning communities, co-authoring instructional guidebooks, all of which are commendable.

Summary Comments: The applicant proposes to examine the mediating role of predictive processing in link between language input and language outcomes. The applicant could be clearer about how the socioeconomic disparities referred to in the application are relevant with regard to the broader impacts of the work. The applicant could also provide a little more detail regarding the broader impacts of the proposed research in the research plan.

Reviewer 3:

Overall Assessment of Intellectual Merit: Very Good

The applicant has an outstanding research background including pre-doc role as Lab Manager at Harvard. The research statement could be further strengthened as to present a more developed research plan. The applicant’s future goals could be further elucidated.

Overall Assessment of Broader Impacts: Excellent

The goals of the research plan are highly relevant and the applicant has an excellent range of BI activities: teaching, administrative, outreach, STEM and under-represented.

Summary Comments:  In summary, there is good support for IM being in the Very Good range and BI in the Excellent range.