Carnegie Mellon neuroscientist wins prestigious award

November 26, 2003

PITTSBURGH -- Jay McClelland, the Walter Van Dyke Bingham Professor of Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience at Carnegie Mellon University, has received the esteemed William James Fellow Award from the American Psychological Society (APS).

The William James Fellow Award honors APS Members for their lifetime of significant intellectual contributions to the basic science of psychology. McClelland is one of two scientists to receive the William James award this year; the other is Lee D. Ross of Stanford University.

McClelland is founding co-director of the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition, which is operated jointly by Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh. Through the center, McClelland has helped propel the Pittsburgh scientific community to an international leadership position in cognitive neuroscience, which examines the physiological processes that occur during human thought. He is a pioneer in creating computational models that simulate thought processes based on principles of neural computation. These models can be used to develop and test theories of how the brain learns, how it recognizes spoken language and how visual perception takes place. In 2001 he won the coveted Grawemeyer Award for Psychology, which he shared with Stanford's David Rumelhart.

"Recipients of the William James award have changed the nature of the field in fundamental ways. Jay has done this at both the theoretical and the empirical level with contributions spanning decades," said Michael Scheier, head of the Department of Psychology at Carnegie Mellon University.

William James, who lived from 1842 until 1910, is considered to be the father of modern psychology. He was also a noted philosopher and author whose seminal works include "The Principles of Psychology" and "The Will to Believe."

"William James himself had several qualities as a scientist that I have always admired. He knew what the interesting questions were, he was interested in underlying mechanisms, and he knew how to synthesize the work of others into an overall picture of how the mind works," McClelland said.

"Though I have aspired to these same virtues, it is humbling to think of my own work in the context of the high standard that James himself set, and a very distinct honor to be associated with him through this award."

Recipients of the award are recognized annually at the APS convention, which will take place May 27-30, 2004, in Chicago. The APS is dedicated to advancing psychology as a science-based discipline. APS members include the field's most respected researchers and educators representing the full range of topics within psychological science. The society is widely recognized as a leading voice for the science of psychology in Washington, and is focused on increasing public understanding and use of the knowledge generated by psychological research.

The Department of Psychology is one of eight departments in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, the second-largest academic unit at Carnegie Mellon. The college emphasizes interdisciplinary study in a technologically rich environment, with an open and forward-thinking stance toward the arts and sciences.

Carnegie Mellon University

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