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National Science Organization Selects Psychology Professor as 'Future Leader in Scientific Policy Making'

Poornima Madhavan, assistant professor of psychology at Old Dominion University, is among 30 individuals nationwide who were identified recently as a "future leader in scientific policy making" by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

In November, Madhavan and the other future leaders - selected from academia, government and industry - will take part in a weeklong Leadership Seminar in Science & Technology Policy seminar on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., conducted by the AAAS and the White House.

The participants will learn directly from key players in federal science and technology (S&T) policy about interacting effectively with congressional offices and selecting points of intervention for maximum impact.

"Community outreach is vital to my role as a scientist," Madhavan said. "Through this experience, I hope to learn how to bridge the cultural gap between S&T and the policy process, and how to foster more effective interaction between laboratory science and global policy, with the ultimate goal of improving the quality of human life."

Madhavan, who came to ODU from a postdoctoral fellowship in the Dynamic Decision Making Laboratory at Carnegie Mellon University, established the Applied Decision Making Lab at ODU, which is dedicated to the study of human decision making in simulated environments such as defense and homeland security, aviation and health care.

Madhavan, who received her doctorate in engineering psychology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, also holds a joint appointment at ODU's Virginia Modeling, Analysis and Simulation Center in Suffolk.

Her diverse educational background, which includes the study of foreign languages and economics, was a factor in Madhavan's selection as a future leader, along with her understanding of global issues and the role of S&T in U.S. foreign policy.

There are two disparate policy issues that Madhavan hopes to study in depth. "First, I have been researching technology implementation to support the cognitive abilities of individuals with disabilities, particularly individuals with autism spectrum disorders," she said.

Madhavan said she strongly supports the autism bill passed by the Virginia Senate earlier this year.

"Although the current bill addresses the health-care costs of individuals with autism, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done on creating avenues for employment of such individuals, particularly those on the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum."

Madhavan also has an interest in climate change issues. She was selected, along with several other university researchers, for a community-wide climate change initiative launching later this year.

"The Hampton Roads area is one of the geographical regions in the world that is being significantly impacted by rising sea levels," she said. "The implications of sea-level rise are alarming, and can pose significant risk to the psychology and morale of the Hampton Roads community."

Madhavan hopes to learn more about climate change legislation, and help future bills more successfully navigate the sometimes rocky waters of Congress.

This article was posted on: September 27, 2010

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