Elizabeth A. Kensinger is Chairperson and Professor of Psychology at Boston College. She received her undergraduate degree in Psychology and Biology from Harvard University and her Ph.D. in Neuroscience from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She joined the faculty of Boston College in 2006 after completing a postdoctoral fellowship at the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard University. Her research combines behavioral testing and brain imaging techniques to better understand how the emotional content of information affects the processes that adults use to remember information. She has authored over 200 scientific articles and is the author of Emotional Memory Across the Adult Lifespan (2008, Psychology Press). Approximately 100 undergraduate students, 10 Ph.D. students, and 5 postdoctoral fellows have gained training in her laboratory. She is the recipient of research awards from societies including the Cognitive Neuroscience Society and the Association for Psychological Science. Her current research is supported by the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Institute on Aging, and the National Science Foundation.
I grew up in Kansas City, Missouri. I knew from an early age that I loved teaching and science – I would line my Cabbage Patch dolls up to teach them what they would need to know to become astronauts. I had expected to stay in the Midwest, but in the summer before my senior year of high school I received a scholarship to attend Harvard’s summer program. Having gotten a taste of the amazing scientific research happening throughout Boston, I yearned for more; and my dreams came true as I began my education at Harvard. But like many Freshman, I was homesick, confused as I realized that I was not as invested in my math and chemistry double-major as I had thought I would be, and lacked confidence in my ability to succeed in college. I seriously considered transferring to a small college in Missouri after my first semester, but my mother encouraged me to give it one more semester and to choose my classes by wandering the bookstore and enrolling in the classes that had books that I really wanted to read. It turned out that most of those books were for courses offered within psychology and biology. A set of books that particularly caught my attention was on human memory; the course was taught by Daniel Schacter. It only took a few meetings for me to recognize that I found memory – its triumphs and failures – fascinating and could imagine spending the rest of my life studying them. And I have. I had to pinch myself when I received an offer for a job at Boston College, and the opportunity to bring human neuroscience research to BC, complementing the neuroscience research being conducted using animal models. Over the past decade, it has been amazing to be in a department that has worked together to enhance the neuroscience curriculum, research offerings, and to expand our faculty with neuroscience expertise. In my leisure time, I can most often be found playing with my six year old daughter. I also enjoy playing violin, baking, and decorating cakes and cookies. My family and I love to be outdoors, hiking or just sitting together and reading on a picnic blanket. While I prefer warmer weather, I am enjoying the challenge of learning to ski as an adult – and I am highly motivated as I want to be able to keep up with my husband and daughter as they speed down the mountain.