Distinguished Lecture Series Features Novak
Melinda A. Novak (psychology, chair of the department), selected as one this year’s participants in the Distinguished Faculty Lecture Series, made her presentation, “Taking It Out on Yourself: Self-inflicted Injury in Monkeys and Humans,” in late April. Following her lecture, she received the Chancellor’s Medal, the highest honor given to indivduals for exemplary and extraordinary service to the campus. The offices of the chancellor and the provost sponsor the series.
More and more, Novak says, teenagers and young adults cut and burn themselves. To find out why this happens, she is studying the small number of captive rhesus macaque monkeys at the New England Regional Primate Center that spontaneously develop the habit of biting themselves.
Novak's research examines the effects of early experience on cognitive and social development in rhesus monkeys. Her focus now is to discover patterns and incidence of self-injurious behavior, the underlying causes and daily triggers. She wants to find out why a presumably painful activity resists various treatment efforts and what might be an effective treatment? Her findings of reinforcing consequences have important implications for the care of animals and the understanding and treatment of the phenomenon in humans.
Novak joined the university in 1973 as an assistant professor of psychology. She has been chair of the department of psychology since 1995 and previously served for two terms as head of psychology’s neuroscience and behavior division. Novak is a visiting professor in the department of psychiatry at the Harvard Medical School’s New England Regional Primate Research Center and a guest researcher at the National Institutes of Health Laboratory of Comparative Etholog. Novak has been acting co-editor of the American Journal of Primatology (2003-04), associate editor (1999-03), and member of the editorial board (1997-99). She also has been consulting editor of the Journal of Comparative Psychology (1994-97).
Professor Novak received her bachelor’s degree in psychology/zoology from the University of Connecticut in 1967 and a master’s and doctoratal degrees from the University of Wisconsin in 1972 and 1973.
April 24, 2007