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BYU student wins top psychology graduate paper, will present at American Psychological Association annual conference

The American Psychological Association has awarded a BYU student its top prize for graduate research. Alina Fong-Ichimura, a doctoral student in clinical psychology at BYU, is one of four graduate students given the Harcourt Student Assessment Award by the APA. She will present her findings at the Association's annual conference in Hawaii on July 31.

"Ms. Fong-Ichimura's research paper was selected as the outstanding student paper from a competition with more than 150 other research papers," said Robert W. Elliott, program chair for the APA's Division of Clinical Neuropsychology. "Her findings provide insights into aspects of brain functioning that are exploring cutting edge territory in brain research."

Fong-Ichimura's research explores the human brain's ability to recognize and assign meaning to words. Using state-of-the-art MRI machines, her research team was able to triangulate low-level electrical impulses within the brain and then chart the flow of information from one processing area to another. This allows researchers to properly understand how different parts of the brain function to not only visually recognize a group of letters as a word but also to properly assign that word a specific meaning.

"I'm deeply honored and grateful to receive this award, but I feel most honored for the team of researchers that I worked with," Fong-Ichimura said. "This is not an individual award by any means; it is the acknowledgement of the accomplishments, dedication and perseverance of everyone involved."

Fong-Ichimura's research made a unique contribution to the field by which made her a perfect candidate for recognition by the APA, said Mark Allen, assistant professor of psychology and director of BYU's Brain and Cognition Laboratory.

"Alina is a tremendous student and her ability to perform this kind of high level research is remarkable," he said. "She's been able to grasp the fundamentals of brain research with the latest technology available. I think that's what made her contributions stand out. We were delighted to find out she'd been honored by the APA, but not surprised."

Writer: Brad Jensen

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