Posted November 9, 2010

Education’s Jennifer Cromley honored with U.S. Presidential Award

Jennifer Cromley, assistant professor of educational psychology in Temple’s College of Education, was named a recipient of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers by President Barack Obama, the White House announced late last week.

Cromley, who came to Temple in 2005 after earning her doctorate in human development from the University of Maryland at College Park, is one of 85 researchers to receive the award, which is bestowed by the United States government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers.

“It’s just a thrill and an honor to have my work recognized,” said Cromley, who was nominated for the award by the U.S. Department of Education. “It’s the highest honor bestowed on early career faculty in STEM (science, engineering, technology and math). It’s very encouraging.

“STEM education is a really big push by the Obama administration and that’s what my research has focused on since I arrived at Temple,” she said.

Cromley, who also has received two NSF grants to support her work, is currently involved in three large research projects that involve middle school, high school and undergraduate college students. The projects are measuring the impact of modifications to middle school science curricula, developing workbook-and-discussion-based teaching methods to assist high school students better understand biology, and assessing why undergraduate students stay in or opt out of biology and chemistry majors. The middle and high school projects involve teachers and students in school districts in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Arizona and New Jersey, while the undergraduate project examines Temple students.

Two of Cromley’s research projects also have tight links with researchers in the Spatial Intelligence and Learning Center (SILC), an interdisciplinary NSF-funded center run by Nora Newcombe in Temple’s Department of Psychology.

While Cromley is thrilled to have been chosen for the Presidential Award, she is quick to point out that many people have played a significant role in her success as a researcher.

“I have a huge number of people who work with me on the three projects that I’m in charge of — about 25 as co-principal investigators, graduate students and undergraduate helpers, and a full-time staff person,” she said.  “In a lot of ways, I think this award is recognition for the whole team. Yes, my name is on it, but it’s a reflection of the work of a huge number of people.

“And there are many other layers of people who have supported me in my work: former College of Education Dean Kent McGuire, who gave me a phenomenal amount of support; a lot of people in the office of the vice provost for research who have helped me out; Temple STEM faculty, chairs and deans; and my department chair for just encouraging me,” she said.

Cromley believes Temple’s research enterprise has made it easier for faculty to conduct research and gain recognition for their important work.

“I think I was really lucky to come to Temple at the point when I did in 2005, because doing research has gotten so much easier here,” she said. “I think what I’ve been able to do is a representation of all of those initiatives that Temple has had in improving the research infrastructure.”

The Presidential Early Career Awards, established by President Bill Clinton in 1996, are coordinated by the Office of Science and Technology Policy within the Executive Office of the President. Awardees are selected for their pursuit of innovative research at the frontiers of science and technology and their commitment to community service as demonstrated through scientific leadership, public education or community outreach.