Professor awarded for public engagement in neuroscience
USC Assistant Professor Mary Helen Immordino-Yang received the 2013 American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Early Career Award for Public Engagement With Science and Technology.
Immordino-Yang’s research focuses on the neuroscience of social emotion, self-awareness and culture, and its implications for development and schools. Since she entered the field in 2006 as a postdoctoral fellow, she has dedicated a significant portion of her early career to engaging the education community and the general public in thinking about neuroscience.
She has authored numerous essays explaining her findings for teachers, which have been disseminated to K-12 schools worldwide. She also gives several talks per month to teachers, parents, administrators and superintendents, and since 2006, has taught an annual four-day residential course for teachers on neuroscience in the classroom.
The course, which will be hosted in Miami this year informs teachers about social-affective neuroscientific research and also serves as an opportunity for teachers to shape the most promising directions for future research. She also collaboratively developed an online master’s-level course for educators based on her workshops, which was used by more than 17,000 individuals around the world in 2012, its first year.
Immordino-Yang has made multiple efforts to engage the lay public as well. With every academic lecture she gives about her research, she makes it a priority to reach out to the general public. In October, for example, she delivered the Ellbogen Symposium keynote at the University of Wyoming, delivered lectures and taught classes for pre-service teachers and met with state lawmakers.
Despite her full schedule, she also gave a coffee hour talk at a public Montessori preschool, taught a sixth grade science class and gave a public television interview on how neuroscience and education can inform one another.
She is passionate about getting K-12 students interested in the neuroscience of social emotion. She has taught classes on the topic at several grade levels and has invited classes from urban schools to her lab to observe neuroimaging. Each summer, Immordino-Yang also hosts three local high school students from among the least advantaged schools in the city for internships, among many other outreach efforts.
Immordino-Yang serves as an assistant professor of education at the USC Rossier School of Education and an assistant professor of psychology at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences’ Brain and Creativity Institute. She is also a member of the USC Neuroscience Graduate Program Faculty. Currently, she is leading a $600,000 National Science Foundation Career-funded study on how community violence and culture can influence the way social emotions, self-identity and inspiration about one’s future develop neurobiologically and psychosocially among adolescents in three Los Angeles area high schools.
She will accept the AAAS Early Career Award at the association’s annual meeting in Chicago on Feb. 14.
The AAAS seeks to “advance science, engineering and innovation throughout the world for the benefit of all people.” Its goals include enhancing communication among scientists, engineers and the public, promoting and defending the integrity of science and its use, and fostering education in science and technology.