MAY 13, 2022 — The UTSA Department of Psychology has announced the inaugural recipient of an endowed research award in memory of former professor Robert W. Fuhrman. James Westphal, a student pursuing a Master of Science (M.S.) in psychology, will receive the award.
Fuhrman was a member of the UTSA faculty from 1989 until his passing in 2019. Although he served in a number of leadership roles during those years, Fuhrman’s true passion was teaching and mentoring. In addition to his work in the classroom and with student organizations, he was also a driving force in growing the psychology department’s Master of Science program and launching its doctoral program.
He was particularly committed to mentoring undergraduate students wishing to go on to graduate school and master’s students who wanted to earn their doctorate.
The Robert W. Fuhrman Endowed Award for Student Research helps to defray costs students incur conducting research in psychology, one of the degree programs in the UTSA College for Health, Community and Policy. The program is open to research projects led by students in the M.S. in Psychology program or exceptional undergraduates preparing for graduate study in eligible areas of psychology.
“Being the inaugural winner is something that I am proud and excited about,” Westphal said. “This award means a great deal to me.”
Westphal is conducting research in Assistant Professor Itamar Lerner’s Sleep and Memory Computational Lab. The lab studies how the brain encodes, stores and organizes information in memory.
In addition to focusing on ordinary learning circumstances, the researchers investigate unique learning states—for example, during sleep, or in patients with psychiatric disorders. UTSA students are among the research participants.
“With the funds, we’ll be able to complete our project while also helping UTSA students and rewarding them for their sleep,” Westphal said. “Our goal is to present our research at the SLEEP 2023 conference next June.”
Westphal came to UTSA as an undergraduate in fall 2018 and was able to finish his degree last summer. He was accepted into the M.S. program through the VIP Admissions program, a process that allows a UTSA faculty member to recognize outstanding juniors or seniors for admission into a graduate program.
“James' research focuses on exploring how sleep affects the formation of false memories,” Lerner said. “In addition, he examines how mobile sleep monitoring devices, designed for autonomous use at home, can be utilized to advance academic research of sleep.”
The announcement of this award is particularly timely, as May 8 would have been Fuhrman’s 65th birthday.
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