University of Rochester

Professor Elected Psychology Chair of American Association for the Advancement of Science

March 12, 2004

Elissa Newport has been elected to be chair of the psychology section of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). As the new chair, Newport will work with the editors of the prestigious journal Science to highlight key psychology authors and research, and will help lead the committee that selects future AAAS psychology fellows. Newport also will chair the group that plans the annual psychology symposia at AAAS meetings. She will begin her position in Feb. 2005.

"I'm very honored to be elected, and I look forward to representing our field in the important activities of AAAS," says Newport, professor and chair of brain and cognitive sciences and George Eastman Professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences.

Newport's research involves understanding how humans learn both spoken and sign languages to understand the language-learning process. Her research settled a once-controversial hypothesis that there are crucial periods in a child's development when they are "primed" to learn. Newport found that there is a distinct curve showing that fluent language skills arise when a child is exposed to the language very early, but the ability to learn a language declines thereafter. Even at age four, a child learning a new language will have noticeable differences from a native speaker. Her most recent research focuses on how young children accomplish such remarkable learning.

Newport received her doctorate in psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and was a Sloan Fellow in Linguistics and Cognitive Science at Penn and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She has been on the faculty at the University of California at San Diego, the University of Illinois, and, since 1988, the University of Rochester. Her research has received the Claude Pepper Award of Excellence from the National Institutes of Health. She is currently a series editor for MIT Press and serves on the Board on Behavioral, Cognitive, and Sensory Sciences of the National Academy of Sciences, and she is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Cognitive Science Society, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Founded in 1848, AAAS works to advance science for human well-being through its more than 138,000 members. The tradition of honoring those members who have excelled in their chosen fields began in 1874. AAAS publishes the journal Science.