Carnegie Mellon University
March 31, 2015

Carnegie Mellon Announces Inaugural Ireland Undergraduate Research Award Winners

By Shilo Rea / 412-268-6094 

DickterVande VelteCarnegie Mellon University’s Department of Psychology has selected Anna Vande Velde (DC’15) and Adam Dickter (DC’17) as the recipients of the inaugural Ireland Undergraduate Research Awards.

The awards, funded by an endowment from the George and Elisabeth Ireland family, were established to support high-quality undergraduate research projects. Vande Velde and Dickter will each receive $1,500 to support their work.

“The Psychology Department has always had a strong commitment to including hands-on research in our undergraduate training. Many of our students build on these experiences, pursuing state-of-the-art research in one our faculty’s research labs. I am very pleased we now have the opportunity to recognize some of this superb research,” said Michael J. Tarr, head of the Psychology Department in the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

Vande Velde (above, left), a senior psychology major, is working with psychology professors Erik Thiessen and Anna Fisher and Craig Liden from the Being Well Center in Gibsonia, Pa., to develop and assess a new diagnostic tool for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). To help validate the tool, she first used it to assess 40 CMU undergraduates who have not been diagnosed with ADHD. She then analyzed the results and compared them with results from people who have an ADHD diagnosis. Vande Velde is currently continuing data collection to assess the test’s usefulness in ADHD diagnosis. Her project is also serving as her thesis for the Dietrich College’s Senior Honors Program.

“Anna is one of the most dedicated and energetic students I’ve ever worked with, and no matter how complicated the request or how difficult the task, she’s always 100 percent committed to it, and she always perseveres,” said Thiessen, associate professor of psychology and director of the department’s undergraduate program.

Under the direction of professor Marlene Behrmann, Dickter, (above, right) a sophomore neuroscience major, is testing brain areas involved in facial recognition to understand how the two halves of the brain interpret visual information. Dickter is using a novel technique called fast periodic visual stimulation — a method that evokes neural activity in response to viewing novel images. The project’s findings will be vital to understanding perceptual mechanisms that shape personal and social interactions.

“Adam is conducting a rigorous and challenging set of experiments to examine how the left and right hemispheres differ in terms of their computational skills in decoding visual input,” said Behrmann, the George A. and Helen Dunham Cowan Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience and CMU co-director of the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition (CNBC). “He is using cutting-edge techniques and has run several iterations of the experiments and we are hoping to submit the results of his studies for publication. This has been a tremendous learning experience for him and he has worked deep in the trenches of human cognitive neuroscience.”

A graduate of the University of Michigan, George Ireland is chief executive officer, chief investment officer and managing member of Geologic Resource Partners. He has more than 35 years of experience in the natural resource sectors in positions ranging from field geologist, banker and venture capitalist. Previously, he was a research partner with Knott Partners LP, senior vice president and CFO of MinVen Gold Corporation and assistant treasurer of ASARCO, Inc.

Elisabeth “Lisa” Ireland, a Wharton School graduate, is a partner with the investment management firm Hamilton Companies. Their son Gus Ireland (DC’13) graduated from Carnegie Mellon with a degree in cognitive science. He is currently a software developer at Rackspace in Austin, Texas.

When it comes to preparing its students for the future, few universities can match the opportunities that CMU offers its undergraduates for research and training. Dietrich College undergraduate students are actively engaged in groundbreaking research. Learn more at