Lopatto receives national honor for advancing science

December 08, 2014
David Lopatto
Grinnell College Professor of Psychology and Samuel R. and Marie-Louise Rosenthal Professor of Natural Science and Mathematics David E. Lopatto has been named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Election as an AAAS Fellow is an honor bestowed upon AAAS members by their peers.

As part of the Education Section, Lopatto was elected as an AAAS Fellow for his comprehensive and practical assessment of undergraduate science research experiences, including student learning outcomes, career choices and attitudes across a range of institutional settings.

Lopatto is among 401 AAAS members who have been selected as Fellows by AAAS because of their scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications. The accomplishments of the new Fellows will be celebrated at the 2015 AAAS Annual Meeting in February in San Jose, California. This year’s AAAS Fellows also will be formally announced in the AAAS News & Notes section of the journal Science on Friday, Nov. 28.

"It is exciting to be honored by AAAS, an organization that values the synthesis of science and science education," Lopatto said.

In addition to teaching in the psychology department since 1981, Lopatto has served terms as chair of the faculty and interim dean of Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa. He currently directs the College's Center for Teaching, Learning, and Assessment.

His research on the psychology of learning and motivation has come to focus on the learning outcomes of undergraduate experiences in science, especially the effect of undergraduate research experience on student learning, career choice and attitude. He is the author of several surveys for the assessment of undergraduate science learning that are used by more than 150 institutions and more than 10,000 undergraduates annually. 

His extensive published work includes Science in Solution: The Impact of Undergraduate Research on Student Learning. This influential work uncovers the complex career and personal gains undergraduate students acquire from doing authentic research with faculty mentors.

In his book, Lopatto suggests that undergraduate research may be a generator of scientists from across diverse groups of students. Personal development is the deep outcome of a research experience from which career choices grow, Lopatto found. These undergraduate research experiences benefit students across the science disciplines, having characteristic features that enable success.

These features include good mentoring, student input, working in teams, optimal structuring and opportunities for communication. Research presented in the book documents the connection of these features to the benefits of undergraduate research. Such benefits include career clarification, improvement of technical and research skills, and experience with communication and the larger scientific community. They also include a variety of personal benefits, including greater independence of work and thought, tolerance for obstacles and growing self-confidence.  

A native of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, Lopatto received his bachelor's degree in psychology from Kenyon College. He also holds an M.S. and Ph.D. in experimental psychology from Ohio University.

The tradition of AAAS Fellows began in 1874. Currently, members can be considered for the rank of Fellow if nominated by the steering groups of the Association’s 24 sections, or by any three Fellows who are current AAAS members (so long as two of the three sponsors are not affiliated with the nominee’s institution), or by the AAAS chief executive officer. Fellows must have been continuous members of AAAS for four years by the end of the calendar year in which they are elected.

Each steering group reviews the nominations of individuals within its respective section and a final list is forwarded to the AAAS Council, which votes on the aggregate list.

The Council is the policymaking body of the Association, chaired by the AAAS president, and consisting of the members of the board of directors, the retiring section chairs, delegates from each electorate and each regional division, and two delegates from the National Association of Academies of Science.

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