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Fall 2009

Study, memory and recognition

In January, Dr. Katherine Rawson '99 will attend an awards ceremony. But not just any awards ceremony. She will receive the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers in a ceremony at the White House.

Only 100 young researchers receive the award each year; it's the highest honor bestowed by the government for researchers in the early stages of their careers. Awardees are selected on the basis of two criteria: pursuit of innovative research at the frontiers of science and technology and a commitment to community service as demonstrated through scientific leadership, public education, or community outreach.

Rawson knew she had been nominated but the moment she heard she had been selected was a bit of a shock.

“I couldn't believe it,” Rawson says.“My jaw dropped. I am very, very honored. It's almost hard to verbalize.”

A psychology professor at Kent State University since 2004, Rawson is researching ways to make student studying more effective.

Students are faced with learning a great amount of material in a limited amount of time — time that is also taken up with work and extra-curricular activities.

“In education we hope students will take away a long-lasting knowledge base. But students' current study strategies are generally not good for long-term retention.”

So what's the best bang for the buck?

First, promote memory, an important step on the way to application.

Rawson and colleague John Dunlosky are building a type of “study buddy,” an automated study scheduler. She describes it as an automated flash card system.

It's an interface in which a professor or student can feed in key terms or concepts and schedule practice. Then the student can self-test and evaluate what they understand and what they need to spend more time on.

“The use of self-testing is good for improving long-term memory,” Rawson says.

Right now, they are ready to begin testing the interface with college students. Eventually, they hope to extend their work to middle school students.










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