Cognitive Scientist Earns Sigma Xi's Young Investigator Award

Teenie Matlock, UC Merced founding faculty, has been recognized for excellence in research by an international research organization

University of California, Merced, cognitive science Professor Teenie Matlock has been given Sigma Xi's 2011 Young Investigator Award for excellence in research.

Sigma Xi is an international research organization founded in 1886 to honor excellence in scientific investigation and to encourage a sense of companionship and cooperation among researchers in all fields of science and engineering.

The Young Investigator Award is given to one recipient in all scientific fields per year. It acknowledges scientists for achievement in interdisciplinary research and the ability to communicate the significance of their research to the general public. Nominations can be made for individuals who completed their highest degree 10 or fewer years ago.

Matlock is the 14th recipient of the award. Past recipients include biochemist Brandt F. Eichman of Vanderbilt University and biologist Laura F. Landweber of Princeton University.

"I'm honored to have been chosen for this award and grateful for the acknowledgement," Matlock said. "It will be a pleasure to present my research at the annual Sigma Xi conference next year, and I'm happy for the visibility this brings to UC Merced."

Matlock will receive $5,000 and accept the award in November 2011 at Sigma Xi's annual meeting in North Carolina. While there, she will deliver a lecture to other members of Sigma Xi. The presentation will most likely focus on Matlock's research on the complexity of everyday language and how it influences reasoning.

Matlock has published more than 50 articles to date. Her research combines theory from cognitive linguistics and methods from experimental psychology. Many of her projects address the understanding of meaning, especially spatial language and, more recently, political language.

A recent paper, co-authored with Indiana University psycholinguist Caitlin Fausey, will appear in the journal Political Psychology. The paper discusses how even the subtle linguistic details in political messages can have an impact on how political candidates' past actions are perceived by voters. In addition to being well received in the academic community, the work has been reported in several national media outlets, including Science and The Washington Post, bringing it to a larger audience.

"Teenie's work is an excellent example of what University of California research offers to society," said Dean Mark Aldenderfer of the School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts. "Not only does her work give insight into how people perceive and interpret the world, it crosses disciplines to provide a broader insight into how the research relates to other fields."

Originally from Mariposa in the Sierra Nevada foothills, Matlock came to nearby UC Merced as a founding faculty member in 2004, after completing postdoctoral research at Stanford University. She completed her Ph.D. in cognitive psychology at UC Santa Cruz in 2001 after completing earlier graduate work at UC San Diego and undergraduate work at California State University, Fresno. Her work has been funded by grants from the National Science Foundation and the University of California. She currently serves as a standing member of the National Institute of Health's Language and Communication panel.

Matlock is the second UC Merced researcher to be internationally recognized by Sigma Xi. Last year, cognitive science Professor Michael Spivey was awarded the society's William Procter Prize for Scientific Achievement.

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