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NVU Faculty Awarded NIH Grant and Named VSC Faculty Fellow

Northern Vermont University Professor Dr. Gina Mireault Awarded Prestigious National Institute of Health Research Grant and Named VSC Faculty Fellow

Northern Vermont University Professor Dr. Gina Mireault was recently awarded a prestigious research grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and was named a Vermont State Colleges Systems (VSCS) Faculty Fellow for the 2022-2023 academic year.

Dr. Gina Mireault, professor of psychology and chair of the NVU-Johnson Psychology and Human Services department, received a $547,156 four-year research grant from the NIH Support for Research Excellence (SuRE) program to fund her proposed research titled, “Infants’ Understanding of Violations of Expectation: The Role of Social Agents and Repetition.”

Dr. Mireault’s research has focused on various aspects of emotional development in childhood for more than 20 years, and her current research focuses on the perception and creation of humor in infants from three to twelve months old. She has presented at major peer-reviewed conferences and her work has been cited in national and international publications.

The NIH SuRE award will fund two research studies to be carried out over four years, Mireault said, with up to 20 undergraduate students gaining hands-on research experience. “Our undergraduate students do the same work that graduate research students do at major research institutions,” Mireault said. “They will collect data, code and enter it, analyze it, and present the findings at regional and national conferences. We can’t do this work without this funding.”

“The studies will bring together what are currently two separate bodies of research: studies of surprise and studies of humor in infants,” Mireault said. This research “will investigate why it is that infants find some unexpected events surprising and some funny.”

Dr. Mireault was also named a VSCS Faculty Fellow for the 2022-2023 academic year— one of two VSCS tenured faculty recognized for outstanding accomplishments in teaching and learning through this fellowship for next year. The fellowship includes a reduction in teaching load for one semester and a small stipend to help support work on a specific project.

Dr. Mireault’s fellowship project will explore how to better integrate NVU’s Learning and Working Community educational philosophy into the psychology program at NVU, to “incorporate meaningful experiences outside of the classroom into the curriculum and reduce the cost of education at the same time,” she said. Specifically, Mireault will study how that integration occurs at four work colleges in the midwestern and southern parts of the country which offer psychology degrees and plans to tailor and/or borrow their methods as she brings them to NVU, she said.