Justin Matthews, one of the first students admitted to the PhD program in Cognitive and Information Sciences, has secured a faculty position in the Social, Behavioral and Global Studies Program at California State University, Monterey Bay, where he’ll teach and conduct research on their faculty as a tenure-track professor. Justin, a native of San Joaquin Valley, was at UC Merced during its foundational years. He could be counted among the batch of graduate students who served as “Foundation Students,” because he served on numerous committees to support the formation of UC Merced’s services and graduate training infrastructure.
Justin’s research combines social cognition with cognitive science. When presenting his work at CSU Monterey Bay, he highlighted three main areas of his research. In his words, he featured the topics of
“[s]ocial interaction, communication, and the space in which we live. The first two projects comprise my dissertation; the third, newer, project was added to give listeners a hint at where I am going with my research on social distance. The presentation covered my work examining how social information influences the ways people conceptualize physical space in a variety of domains: route planning in 2D environments, space and communication in the workplace, and distance estimation in natural scenes. All of these projects were previously presented at national and international conferences: Cognitive Science Society, Association for Psychological Science, and the International Spatial Cognition Conference. The first project was published in Social Psychology, the second is being submitted in the next month, and the third is in the early stages of manuscript preparation.”
He plans to continue this research at CSU, where he’ll work with students to investigate the depiction of human bodies, and how they can be shaped by gender, race, and sexuality. At CSU, he’ll have a chance to develop hands-on learning experiences with undergraduates who will work in his lab. When asked about how the CIS program supported his training, he notes that
“[b]oth the CIS program and my advisor were very supportive of my endeavors in all three areas throughout my tenure at UC Merced. Conducting quality, groundbreaking research was always a priority; UC Merced’s interdisciplinary focus encouraged involvement in projects spanning cognitive and information science, psychology, and engineering and computer science. Honing my teaching skills was also a focus of my training here at UC Merced. Serving as a teaching assistant in a variety of courses allowed me to sample many different approaches to pedagogy. In-class experiences allowed my supervising instructor and me the opportunity to work together to deliver the best possible learning environment customized to specific course content. Both the program and my advisor were very encouraging and supportive of me pursuing service experiences on campus (IRB, Research Week, graduate student committee representation). Student service experience was critical to UC Merced’s early success where graduate student voices helped create the supportive, encouraging environment graduate students experience, on campus, today.”
CSU will provide him a new and exciting environment to develop his research, teaching, and service. CSU Monterey Bay prides itself on creating a multicultural learning experience that prepares students to effectively contribute to local, state, and global communities. Being part of the 23-campus CSU system, it is a comprehensive state university that values “service through high-quality education”. Justin experienced this service learning approach while earning both undergraduate and graduate degrees in Psychology at California State University, Fresno, before beginning doctoral studies at UC Merced. Justin reports enjoying diverse approaches to teaching, research, and service during his time in the CSU system, and it was high on his list of goals to return as a faculty member after completing the CIS Ph.D. Justin’s expertise will allow him to offer both basic and advanced courses in research methodology, social cognition, spatial cognition, sensation and perception, and science communication.
Prof. Teenie Matlock, Justin’s advisor at UC Merced, shares this thought about Justin:
“While Justin was at UC Merced he actively pursued and published worldclass, innovative research—his research on the metaphorical underpinnings of social distance is ground-breaking and timely, and so is his work on facial prominence. He’s an award-winning teacher and campus pioneer whose help was invaluable to getting the campus up and running. In the early years, he helped faculty and staff put in place many of the landmarks that have become part of the research and teaching machinery at UCM. For instance, in 2005, he helped launch the first human subjects pool. As his advisor, I can say that it was very rewarding to work with such a promising, talented researcher from the local region—Justin was raised in the San Joaquin Valley, in the Visalia area. Faculty, staff, and students here will greatly miss his strong leadership, mentoring, and organizational skills. CSU Monterey Bay made a great hire.”