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Two IU professors receive prestigious award for early career achievement



mary-murphy

IU professor Mary Murphy works in the psychological and brain sciences department at IU. Murphy and associate professor Megan Thielges are headed next Thursday to Washington D.C. to receive the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers. Courtesy Photo Buy Photos

IU professor Mary Murphy and associate professor Megan Thielges are headed next Thursday to Washington D.C. to receive the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers.

The award is given to exemplary young scientists who have impressive research initiatives early in their career. There are 315 researchers receiving this award nationwide and 5 awardees from Indiana: two from IU, two from the University of Notre Dame and one from Purdue. 

The National Science Foundation describes it as “the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government on outstanding scientists and engineers beginning their independent careers.”

Megan Thielges, an associate professor in the Department of Chemistry, won the award for her research into the understanding of protein molecular motion. She funded part of the project with a grant from the National Science Foundation, who nominated her for the award. 

“We did research to develop experimental tools for studying motion,” Thielges said. “Then we would apply that to understand how one protein might recognize others and bind.”

She said she will continue to work on the same project after receiving the award.  

“My science won’t change, but people’s perception of it might,” Thielges said. “It will give me more clout among my colleagues.”

Mary Murphy, a professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, was nominated for her social research in understanding how faculty beliefs about the nature of intelligence are linked to the student performance in the class. 

Murphy’s research was completed over a two year period. She surveyed faculty in STEM departments about their beliefs in intelligence, such as if they considered intelligence something that can be developed or if it is fixed. 

The lab found if faculty members adopt a growth mindset, not only do the grades improve, but the achievement gaps between black, Hispanic and Native American students shrink. 

Elizabeth Canning, a postdoctoral student who worked with Murphy for three years, said her lab culture fosters success. 

“I never thought I would be able to do a study like that,” Canning said. “But with her guidance and research, I was able to.”

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