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Sanctae Crucis Award Recipients 2010

Tricia M. Striano '95

Coupled with the pure delight of a baby’s first smile is also great mystery.  What goes on inside the newborn brain?  What can infants teach us about expression, perspective, and language development?

These are the questions that occupy research scientist Tricia Striano.  Specializing in infants' social and cognitive development, Tricia’s ground-breaking work focuses on the neural systems involved in processing affective states, including brain systems that might be associated with autism. 

After studying psychology at Holy Cross, Tricia continued to Emory University where she received her master’s degree and, in 2000, her doctorate in psychology.  That same year found her in Leipzig, Germany, where she became head of a career development group at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.  Beginning her work there with neither a laboratory nor any local contacts to the infants she required for her development psychology studies, she nevertheless built an astounding research practice, and, in 2004, was honored with the prestigious Sofja Kovalevskaja Award from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, which carried with it a $1.2 million grant to continue her work.

From 2005 to 2007, Tricia was an assistant professor in the department of pediatrics and Kennedy Center for Human Development at Vanderbilt University. Since 2007, she has been an associate professor in the department of psychology at Hunter College where she established the Infancy Research laboratory.

At Infancy Research, she studies some of the early social, cognitive, and communicative skills that are essential for optimal learning and development, researching some of the most basic questions: why is eye-contact so important? How do infants learn?  She has determined that babies as young as eight weeks are able to focus on an object pointed to by an adult—a significant breakthrough in infant cognition and is leading to new understanding of how children learn to talk. 

Tricia has presented her research at more than 100 international talks, including keynote addresses of the European Developmental Psychology Conference.  And she has also embarked on two innovative new projects:  publishing a series of e-books for children based on principles of infant and child development, and launching a gallery in New York City specializing in contemporary art of emerging young artists. 

For her groundbreaking discoveries in the field of developmental psychology, for constantly searching for answers to the mysteries of human life and learning, the College of the Holy Cross presents to Tricia M. Striano the Sanctae Crucis Award.