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Psychology Alumnus Awarded Graduate Research Award | SUNY Plattsburgh

Joseph Lynch III thought there must be a mistake. The awards committee must have confused him with someone else.

But the committee hadn’t. He had, indeed, won the American Psychological Association’s 2013 Early Graduate Student Researcher Award.

The third-year grad student in behavioral neuroscience at Kent State University and 2011 SUNY Plattsburgh alumnus was one of only three psychological science graduate students across the country to have won the prestigious award.

Although he said he was “pleasantly surprised to find that I won this award,” he’d thought the odds were against him, figuring that “a student from Kent State would be highly unlikely to receive an award given to only two or three people every year.

“I also applied for this award the previous year and did not get it,” he said.

Crucial to His Success

Lynch used the $1,000 award to purchase equipment to continue his research, which delves into the role the hormone estrogen plays in fear responses in male and female rats. His previous work has shown that female rats generalize fear at faster rates than males, a process that appears to be linked to a genomic effect of the sex hormone estradiol on retrieval of the fear memory.

Lynch said that SUNY Plattsburgh was crucial to his success.

“First, going to Plattsburgh gave me an opportunity to teach myself how to be a successful student — how to study, how to learn and how to teach.” Lynch spent two years in the Claude J. Clark Learning Center as a tutor.

“Second, the staff at Plattsburgh, especially in the psychology department, was amazing.”

Professors Help Shape Future

Calling Distinguished Teaching Professor Emeritus Jeanne Ryan and Associate Professor Katherine Dunham “adopted mentors,” Lynch said they helped shape his future.

“Joseph grasped the research methods concepts so quickly that partway through the semester, he began tutoring a student in my experimental design class, a more advanced class that he had not yet taken,” Dunham said.

“I would have expected nothing short of excellence in his graduate work,” Ryan said. “Joseph was not only very bright, but he aimed at perfection in all his work. His responses in PSY331 were so accurate; I could have used them as the exam key.”

“The reason I am in graduate school in the first place is because of an impromptu meeting with Dr. Ryan,” Lynch said. He had stopped by her office one day to review some test questions when Ryan asked about his future plans.

“When I told her I figured I would get a master’s degree, she exclaimed that I was too gifted to settle for a master’s, and I had to get my doctorate. … She took the time with me and made a personal connection …”

That relationship with his professors made the difference, he said.  

“I do not know how unique that is — I have only ever gone to two colleges — but, that was the defining aspect of my college career at Plattsburgh.”

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