2022 Alumni Award Winners

Early Career Award

Viridiana L. Benitez (Ph.D. 2013)

Viridiana Benitez is an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at Arizona State University. A first-generation college graduate, Benitez was born and raised in Texas by parents from rural farming communities in Mexico. Her research is in cognitive development, with a focus on how young children learn words, how they track the patterns of their environment, and how language experience, such as bilingualism, affects cognition. To answer these questions, Benitez works with both monolingual and bilingual infants, children and adults.

Benitez received a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Houston in 2008 and a doctorate in developmental psychology at Indiana University in 2013, where she was a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow. She completed a postdoctoral research fellowship at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where she was a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Research Fellow.
Early Career Award

Jennifer Miller (Ph.D. 2011)

Jennifer Miller received her Ph.D. in psychological science and an M.S. in applied statistics from Indiana University in 2011 after completing her undergraduate degree at the University of Tennessee. After completing her Ph.D., she started a tenure-track position at Illinois Institute of Technology where she conducted research on the social mechanisms that contribute to language development and social behavior. She expanded her research program by applying developmental science to solving complex societal challenges. This led to the design and development of an interactive game to help young children from disadvantaged backgrounds learn language skills. For this game she and her team received the Illinois Institute of Technology Nayar Prize.

Shortly after receiving tenure, she co-founded Millan Chicago, a data science firm that combines psychology and statistics to help companies optimize data-driven decisions. In 2020, she left academia to work full-time with Millan where she works with numerous organizations including non-profits, government entities, and private-sector companies.
Distinguished Alumni Award

Susan M. Rivera (B.A. 1991)

Susan Rivera is a professor of psychology and dean of the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences at the University of Maryland. Prior to this role, she was professor and chair of the psychology department at the University of California, Davis, and a faculty member of the UC Davis MIND Institute and the Center for Mind and Brain. Rivera is the editor-in-chief of the journal Human Development and is a current member of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IAAC) under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. She received her Ph.D. in developmental psychology from the University of California, Berkeley in 1998.

Rivera’s research investigates the interplay between genes, brain function and structure, and environment across the lifespan (from infancy to old age). Using brain imaging (EEG/ERP and functional and structural MRI) and eye-tracking techniques, she investigates questions about how underlying brain activity and behavior support the development of skills necessary for adaptive cognitive and social-emotional well-being.
Distinguished Alumni Award

Lance E. Trexler (B.A. 1975)

After receiving his Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Purdue University in 1979, Lance Trexler has pursued two major initiatives as a rehabilitation neuropsychologist. The first began in 1982 in collaboration with Community Hospitals Indianapolis, providing resources to people with traumatic and other acquired brain injuries after discharge. The second initiative started in 2009 at the Rehabilitation Hospital of Indiana, where he led the development of a service known as resource facilitation. He has taught at the IU School of Medicine, in Speech and Hearing Sciences at IU Bloomington, and in Psychological Sciences at Purdue University.

Trexler is a Distinguished Member and Fellow of the American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine, as well as the recipient of its 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award. He was designated the Top Honoree of the Indiana Health Care Heroes, Advancements in Health Care Award in 2016 and given the Indiana Senator Patricia Miller Award for Exceptional Leadership and Advocacy for Hoosiers with Brain Injury in 2019. He is also an author on over forty peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters and has given almost 150 professional presentations.
Richard C. Atkinson Lifetime Achievement Award

Jerry Jacobs (Ph.D. 1963)

Jerry Jacobs grew up in Vermont and received his undergraduate education at the University of Vermont. After a two-year detour to fulfill a draft obligation in the U.S. Army, he became a graduate student in psychological and brain sciences at Indiana University. There he had the good fortune to join the laboratory of Russell De Valois, who was pioneering the use of single-cell electrophysiological techniques to study the biological basis of primate color vision. After receiving his Ph.D., he became an assistant professor at the University of Texas at Austin. Five years later, he took a faculty position at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he spent the remainder of his academic career. He retired holding the rank of Distinguished Professor.

Jacobs’ research career broadly centered on the biology of mammalian vision, particularly color vision. Experimental approaches included psychophysical studies of vision, electrophysiological analysis of visual function, and molecular genetic studies of retinal photopigments. His major professional honors include the Rank Prize in Optoelectronics, the UCSB Faculty Research Lectureship, the Proctor Medal of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, the Verriest Medal of the International Colour Vision Society, and the Tillyer Award of the Optical Society of America.