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CRF Family Research Scholars Featured in UMass Report on Research

Rebecca Spencer

The work of two CRF Family Research Scholars was featured in the 2011 Report on Research produced by the Vice Chancellor for Research and Engagement. Rebecca Spencer (FRS ’10-’11) and Nilanjana Dasgupta (FRS ’06-’07), both of the Psychology department, were highlighted for their extraordinary research contribution.

The report highlights Rebecca Spencer’s research that finds a positive impact of sleep on memory.  In a study of 18-23 year olds, she found that sleep benefits decision making ability.   “We tested healthy yound adults by using the Iowa Gambling Test. We saw that when they learned a 'set' of something and then slept,” says Spencer, “they made better decisions regarding that material. This role of sleep in everyday life hasn’t been well characterized by science until now."

As a Family Research Scholar, Spencer worked on several grant proposals seeking funding to extend her sleep research in aging populations, addressing the question of whether the decline in sleep-dependent memory consolidation also extends to non-motor cognitive tasks, including emotional memory processing. 

Nilanjana Dasgupta’s research focuses on implicit stereotypes and prejudices, influenced by subtle bias.  In particular, she has applied this research to the study of female students in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields, based on their exposure to male and female instructors.  She found a strong association between female students’ implicit attitudes towards STEM, when introductory classes were taught by men.  However, the trend was reversed for women exposed to STEM classes taught by female professors and teaching assistants.  Much of this research was funded by a National Science Foundation grant developed during her year as a Family Research Scholar.

The Family Research Scholars Program provides selected faculty with the time, technical expertise, peer mentorship, and national expert consultation to prepare a large grant proposal to further their research.  Since its inception in 2003, the Family Research Scholars program has helped over 44 faculty members submit 120 proposals totaling $68.6 million.

The Vice Chancellor’s report which goes out to state legislators, donors, funders, faculty and administrators with the goal of highlighting the “research face” of UMass, can be downloaded here.


To learn more about the Family Research Scholars Program, please visit our website: