Psychology professor receives presidential award

Author: Arts and Letters


Nicole M. McNeil, assistant professor of psychology and a fellow of the Institute for Educational Initiatives at the University of Notre Dame, has been named one of the 67 recipients of a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE).

She and other PECASE recipients were recognized in a ceremony Friday (Dec. 19) at the White House.

The PECASE program, which was established in 1996, identifies and honors outstanding young researchers and is the highest honor that a beginning scientist or engineer can receive from the U.S. government. Selection is based on innovative research and community service as demonstrated through scientific leadership, education or outreach. Nine government agencies, including the U.S. Department of Education and the National Science Foundation, nominate candidates for the PECASE program.

McNeil, who joined the University in 2006, is an experimental psychologist who studies how children think, learn and solve problems in mathematics. She focuses on the cognitive mechanisms that propel and constrain the development of problem solving, quantitative reasoning and symbolic understanding.

McNeil examines why some domains of knowledge, such as mathematics, are so difficult for children and how domain experience and practice affect learning and problem solving. She is interested in theoretical issues related to the construction and organization of knowledge, as well as practical issues related to learning and instruction.

McNeil earned a bachelor’s degree from Carnegie Mellon University and a doctorate from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Prior to coming to Notre Dame, she worked for one year as a postdoctoral research associate at Yale University. She has published in top journals, including Cognitive Science, Child Development, Developmental Psychology, the Journal of Educational Psychology and the Journal for Research in Mathematics Education.

Originally published by William G. Gilroy at on December 22, 2008.