Commencement 2012

Dr. Maggie Shiffrar

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Rutgers University is pleased to welcome Dr. Maggie Shiffrar, the dean designate of the Rutgers Graduate School—Newark, as convocation speaker for the School of Public Affairs and Administration and the Graduate School—Newark.

In 1991, Shiffrar joined the faculty of Rutgers-Newark’s Psychology Department. During her tenure at Rutgers she has served as the department chair and director of the graduate program and in other leadership capacities, and has sat on numerous committees including dean and faculty search committees and dissertations committees. Shiffrar has successfully trained 13 doctoral and post-doctoral students, half of whom are now tenured or tenure-track faculty. She also has trained nearly 50 undergraduates as research assistants, most of whom have gone on to study at the graduate level.

While visual perception, the motor system, and social behavior are topics that on the surface may not appear to be closely related, Shiffrar's life as a researcher has been devoted to studying the interplay of the three. Her primary research focus has been the visual analysis of bodily motion: how visual experience, motor experience and social processes all contribute to our perceptions of other people's actions. This knowledge has practical implications, such as the development of automobile systems that can reduce accidents by detecting pedestrians in the path of cars. Funded by a Department of Homeland Security grant, Shiffrar also has conducted research on the identification of potentially threatening people from their body movements.

Shiffrar has secured more than five million dollars in external grant funding for research and graduate training. With generous funding from the Simons Foundation and the New Jersey Governor’s Council on Autism, Shiffrar and her colleagues examine how visual and motor deficits might give rise to some of the social difficulties experienced by people on the Autism Spectrum. Her research on the visual system has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, NATO, The Max Planck Institute (Germany), the French Foreign Ministry, and Autism Speaks. The results of  Shiffrar’s work appear in two edited books and more than 60 scientific articles and chapters. Most of her publications are co-authored with her students.

Shiffrar is an elected fellow of the American Psychological Association (2004) and the Association for Psychological Science (2005) and was the 2003 recipient of the Lansdowne Scholar Award from the University of Victoria in British Columbia. She received a Board of Trustees Award for Excellence in Research (2008) and a Faculty Leader in Diversity Award (2011) from Rutgers University. On the Newark campus, she received, the 2009/2010 Hosford Scholarship Award for Research Excellence.

Born and raised in California, Shiffrar earned her bachelor’s degree in psychobiology from the University of California at Santa Cruz and her doctoral degree in psychology from Stanford University. Before coming to Rutgers, she held post-doctoral research positions at the University of Paris V and at the NASA Ames Research Center.

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