The U.S. Department of Energy’s Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need program (GAANN) provides funding for fellowships to assist graduate students in fields designated as areas of national need important to the advancement of society. In 2021, for the first time since 2015, the competition was open to psychology research. This gave the Department of Psychology the opportunity to seek funding for fellows from all four of the department’s nationally ranked Ph.D. programs: Clinical Psychology, Cognitive Science, Integrative Neuroscience, and Social & Health Psychology.
In that grant cycle, the department was one of four from Stony Brook University to receive GAANN awards.
“The cross-cutting research themes we featured in our application, and for which our faculty are nationally known, include anxiety and depression, healthy aging, collaborative cognition, and the human use of technology,” said Susan Brennan, professor of cognitive science in the Department of Psychology. “We collaborate on these topics not only across psychology’s four programs, but across other SBU units as well, including psychiatry, neurobiology, computer science, linguistics, and health sciences.”
Brennan said that while psychology research is always broadly relevant, it is especially so now, in this time of high uncertainty, as well as of widespread human conflict, stress, and vulnerability — due not only to the pandemic, but also to climate change, violence, inequity, economic pressures, and an aging population.
“There is an urgent need right now for research and training in mental health and human wellness, including many topics that are built on a foundation of brain, cognitive, social, and behavioral sciences,” she said. “Due to their quality and their interdisciplinary focus, Stony Brook’s psychology graduate training programs are in an excellent position to help address these urgent national needs.”
One department project was born when assistant professors got together early in the pandemic to collect longitudinal data about the pandemic’s effects on psychosocial, emotional, academic, and career functioning. Another is a collaboration between the Department of Psychology and eight other College of Arts and Sciences and College of Engineering and Applied Sciences departments to train graduate students to detect and address bias in data, humans, and institutions.
Each GAANN award covers five fellowships per year. Fellows get tuition scholarships, broad-based fee scholarships and stipends.
“Psychology is really a hub for both basic science and real-world impacts,” said Brennan. “Any time the average person accesses mental health or motivational therapies, or benefits from a well-designed environment or from a technology centered on assisting human beings, or uses electronic media to communicate and collaborate, there is a psychological scientist behind that somewhere.”
— Robert Emproto