Koraly Pérez-Edgar head shot with short black curly hair and purple top.
Published on: Apr 23, 2021

SSRI Associate Director and cofunded faculty member Koraly Pérez-Edgar, McCourtney Professor of Child Studies and professor of psychology in the College of the Liberal Arts, has received Penn State's 2021 Graduate Faculty Teaching Award.

The award, established in 1992 by The Graduate School, is presented to faculty members in recognition of outstanding teaching performance and advising of graduate students.

Nominators called Pérez-Edgar a developmental scientist who empowers her students to reach successful careers in academia and beyond. Through her mentorship, her students are recognized and awarded funding for cutting-edge research projects. They also go on to achieve success in their chosen field.

“Her students’ success is made possible not only by Dr. Pérez-Edgar’s stellar research mentorship but also her commitment to creating an engaging and supportive environment that prioritizes trainee well-being and achievement,” a nominator said.

Since joining the department of psychology in 2011, Pérez-Edgar has chaired or co-chaired five successful dissertations. These students have gone on to become educators and leading investigators on research grants. Currently, she mentors five students who are creating their own paths across multiple areas of work, research, and policy.

Pérez-Edgar considers herself “a lucky recipient” of her students’ company while at Penn State and said she’s “an awed spectator of their successes” when they go on to do great things.

She said the key to mentoring students successfully is giving them the tools they need to become lifelong learners who seek out worthy research projects or the opportunity to apply their knowledge.

“I strive to provide students with a learning environment that maximizes their ability to access, internalize, and then disseminate the course content,” Pérez-Edgar said. “Indeed, my ultimate goal is to provide students with a foundation that allows for original and independent thought long after the final assignment is completed.”

Pérez-Edgar’s research examines the relationships between attention, temperament and anxiety. Her lab, the Cognition, Affect and Temperament (CAT) lab, uses behavioral observation and coding, computer-based tasks and psychophysiology to focus on the way in which emotion and attention interact to shape how people navigate through their social world. 

She tasks her students with having a mastery of broad literature and a deep methodological foundation. That’s achieved, she said, by working closely with her students and involving them in all aspects of the research process: study design and implementation, data analysis and presentation.

“My goal is not that they earn a certain number of grants, publish a minimum number of papers, or attain a specific job,” Pérez-Edgar said. “Rather, I want them to pursue the questions that deeply motivate them, with the requisite skill and discernment needed to generate new knowledge. I believe that the other metrics will then surely follow.”

Nominators praised Pérez-Edgar for her ability to elevate her students to succeed and for bringing them along for her successes.

“She sets a high bar for teaching and mentoring, yet one that I strive for,” a nominator said. “Sometimes the biggest impact that faculty can have is not our research publications, but the things we do every day to help students learn, grow and succeed in academia. In this respect, Dr. Perez-Edgar has no equal.”