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Newsletter Winter 2023

A Message from the Chair

Greetings From the Chair,

I hope this message finds you well during this snowy winter season. After two years of severe COVID disruptions, life in the psychology department has returned to a new “normal”. Classes are full, labs are active, speakers are coming to town, and a new Taco Tuesday tradition is bringing faculty, staff, post-docs, and students together to share a meal once per month. 

This will be my last term as Interim Chair and I am thrilled to announce that Priti Shah, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Psychology, will be our next Department Chair! She will serve a five-year term beginning July 1, 2023. An indispensable member of the Department and of the Cognition & Cognitive Neuroscience area since 1999, Priti has already served our community in many important ways, including as founder of the STAR Scholars Program and director of the Accelerated Master's Degree Program (AMDP). Thank you, Priti, for all that you have done and will do for our department!


Go Blue!



Nestor Lopez-DuranProfessor of Psychology; Department of Psychology Interim Chair

Celebrating the Career of Henry M. Wellman

Henry M. Wellman, Harold W. Stevenson Collegiate Professor Emeritus of Psychology

Do You Know What I Know?: Celebrating the Career of Henry M. Wellman

For 45 years, Henry M. Wellman has been one of the world’s leading researchers of children’s theory of mind (ToM)—the processes by which children come to understand and communicate with other minds. Wellman has spent nearly his entire career in the U-M Department of Psychology, where he has remained at the forefront of ToM research since its inception in the late 1970s and early 1980s. During that time, his mentorship has also helped to launch the careers of dozens of other influential scientists. Read more about Wellman's career

Donor Spotlight: Gary Sydow

Gary Sydow, (BA: Psychology, 1972; MA: Urban Planning, 1985) Retired Chief Analyst with the Department of Defense MIA-POW Office

Seeking Truth and Connection: U-M's Impact on a Lifelong Learner

Beginning with Gary Sydow's arrival in Ann Arbor in 1959, his life has been profoundly affected by the Department of Psychology and other departments at U-M. From Sydow's early days as an undergraduate student, to his time in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War, to his 35 years seeking answers for families of missing Prisoners of War, U-M has continued to serve as a guiding star on his intellectual and spiritual journey. Out of gratitude and a desire to help students following similar paths, he has donated to the Department and other U-M units for decades. Read more about Sydow's story

Faculty Research Spotlight: Felix Warneken

Felix Warneken, Professor of Psychology

Born Helpers: Disrupting Long-Held Beliefs About Human Altruism

Scientists and the public have long operated under a fundamental assumption that humans are essentially born selfish but are taught by our cultures (including parents, teachers, and religions) to value helping others. But Felix Warneken’s work has increasingly suggested that the opposite may be true: We are born with an inbuilt drive to help others, and we learn over time to be more strategic and reserved with our good deeds. Read more about Warneken's groundbreaking research

Alumni Spotlight: Becca R. Levy

Rebecca "Becca" R. Levy (BA: Psychology, 1987)

Positively Breaking the Age Code

From the article: “Scientist Becca Levy, BA ’87, a leading expert on the psychology of successful aging, says taking an upbeat attitude toward aging can not only improve your physical and mental health as you grow older ― but also may add nearly eight years to your lifespan. She explains how our positive and negative age beliefs shape our behaviors, health, and, ultimately, our longevity in her new book Breaking the Age Code (William Morrow; April 12, 2022).” Read more in Michigan Today.

Alumni: Share Your Career Experience

We would love to hear from alumni who have pursued careers in psychology or in other fields! If you would like to share your post-graduate career experience, please contact us.

Postdoctoral Research Fellow Spotlight: Matt Gaidica

Matt Gaidica, NASA TRISH Postdoctoral Fellow working with Dr. Ben Dantzer

Where "Performance" Comes From: Understanding the Neurological Bases of Stress and Coping

Matt Gaidica has always enjoyed solving difficult technical challenges—especially when doing so can improve human wellbeing. For the past few years, he has been working with Ben Dantzer on a project funded through a NASA-TRISH (Translational Research Institute for Space Health) Fellowship. Their project examines the neurological bases for stress and stress-coping in wild squirrels—an endeavor that offers countless technical challenges and has important implications for human wellbeing. At the same time, Gaidica has recently become a Commissioned 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force Reserve. Read more about Gaidica’s work

Aidan Wright Joins Psychology Department as Inaugural Eisenberg Family Depression Center Faculty Recruit


Aidan Wright, Professor of Psychology (Clinical Science)


The Department of Psychology welcomes nationally renowned psychopathology researcher Aidan Wright, who will join the Clinical Science area as a professor of psychology and the first faculty recruit at the Eisenberg Family Depression Center (EFDC). EFDC's announcement explains that Wright's "research uses cutting-edge methods combined with advanced quantitative techniques to better understand the complex field [of psychopathology research] and deliver precise, comprehensive care to those struggling with psychiatric disorders." Read more at Eisenberg Family Depression Center

Pictures from the Psychology Homecoming Picnic!

Thank you to all alums who attended the 2022 Psychology Homecoming Picnic! We were blessed with lovely (albeit slightly chilly) weather, and it was great to connect with everyone. We hope to see you again next year! Click the photo to view a larger version!

Undergraduate Student Research Spotlight


Ashley Ke, Senior, Psychology Honors

My senior Honors Thesis explores gender differences in how Asian Americans cope with identity threats and discrimination, especially with the significant rise in anti-Asian hate crimes and harassment during the pandemic. Read more about Ke's Honors Thesis

Faculty Retirement


David E. Meyer, Clyde H. Coombs and J. E. Keith Smith Distinguished University Professor of Mathematical Psychology and Cognitive Science, retires 5/31/2023.

In Memoriam

Charles (Charlie) Butter
, Professor Emeritus of Psychology, passed away February 2, 2023, at the age of 89. He is known for his research on the neural mechanisms of attention, particularly on how the brain processes and attends to spatial relationships between objects, the self, and the environment. Read more in Butter's Psychology Memorial

Richard (Dick) Mann
, Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Religion, passed away January 24, 2023, at the age of 89. He is known as a beloved teacher, a devoted social activist, a generous spiritual mentor, and an influential researcher of interpersonal dynamics in college classrooms. Read more in Mann's Psychology Memorial

Elliot Valenstein
, Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Neuroscience, passed away January 12, 2023, at the age of 99. He is known for his highly influential research on the biological bases of emotion, motivation and reward, as well as his work on treatments for mental illness. Read more in Valenstein's Psychology Memorial

Exploring the Mind Talks

A monthly series of talks by U-M Psychology faculty. All Winter 2023 talks will be held in-person at the Ann Arbor District Library's downtown branch. Talks will be recorded and made available for later online viewing. Details about each talk will be sent separately, so stay tuned! Visit the Psychology Community Talks page for up-to-date info and to view past presentations.

Giving Blueday - March 15, 2023

This year, Giving Blueday will mark the launch of a major campaign to increase funding for graduate student support. Graduate students play a critical role in driving innovative research, imparting knowledge to undergraduates, and fostering a rich academic culture in our department. But declining funding and rising education costs have forced us to accept fewer students, resulting in a 30% drop in graduate student enrollment. Your support will help us provide more summer funding, expand the availability of dissertation grants, and increase the number of non-teaching fellowships. We are confident that your contributions will make a lasting impact on the lives of our graduate students and the future of our department.

For additional information on Giving Blueday, please visit our website.