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Psychology student wins prestigious fellowship

April 26, 2013
Christopher J. Budnick

Christopher J. Budnick

Psychology student Christopher J. Budnick came to NIU because it was close to home.

But he stayed for entirely different reasons.

“Originally, I transferred to NIU out of convenience; it was near my hometown. I finished my B.A. in psychology, and then I chose to remain at Northern for my graduate degree because of the exceptional faculty and staff in the psychology department,” he says. “The high level of support and integrity in regards to research is something I admire.”

The choice to stay at NIU – and the support and encouragement he received from the Department of Psychology – paid off.

Budnick has been selected to receive a five-year, National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. This highly competitive and prestigious award is reserved for the top young scientists in the nation. About 12,000 applications are received each year; less than 17 percent are chosen.

Budnick is the first psychology student at NIU to receive this NSF Fellowship and the only student from Northern Illinois University selected in 2013. He was recognized for his research investigating the health and affective effects of unemployment, focusing on the various social and cognitive mechanisms that promote effective job search behaviors among unemployed persons.

The research has clear and practical implications for the promotion of individuals’ resilience in the face of unemployment.

Alecia Santuzzi

Alecia Santuzzi

“I’m interested in self-regulation, goal-setting/striving, prejudice/discrimination, and social anxiety/paranoia,” he says. “Typically I examine these topics in relation to job seeking and interviewing. I became interested in these lines of research from my own work experiences. When working in manufacturing/distribution and when working with youth in crisis, I observed that many struggles seem to arise from failures in self-regulation and goal striving.”

Budnick’s adviser, Alecia Santuzzi, brought the fellowship to his attention and strongly encouraged him to apply.

“Chris was an ideal candidate for such an opportunity,” Santuzzi says.

“He demonstrates superior academic performance and brings a unique perspective to his work based on his past life experiences. The National Science Foundation values both intellectual merit and the potential for broad impact, making Chris a perfect match for the award. More importantly, Chris has an exceptional tenacity to pursue his goals without being shaken by the amount of effort or challenge he might face along the way.”

The award places Budnick in good company.

According to the National Science Foundation, of the nearly 49,000 Fellows that have received the award since 1952, 40 are Nobel Laureates and 440 are members of the National Academy of Sciences.

Logo of the National Science Foundation (NSF)Along with a stipend of $30,000 for the first year, the fellowship will provide Budnick with additional opportunities for research and professional development, such as the Graduate Research Opportunities Worldwide, which offers three- to 12-month international research collaborations for Fellows.

Budnick, who is married and expecting a second child with his wife, Danielle, in August, completed his associate’s degree at Illinois Valley Community College.  He says that receiving the NSF Fellowship is not only an honor, but will give him peace of mind as he continues his studies.

“This fellowship provides financial security for my family and removes a great deal of stress,” he says. “At least for the next few years, I can know that my family is provided for and focus more intently on conducting research.”

Budnick hopes to eventually secure a tenure-track position at a research university. He encourages students who are interested in research to make it a priority in their education.

“Join our community. Become involved early, and take advantage of the considerable resources provided at NIU.  Focus on building research credentials. That means getting involved with and taking a proactive role in a research lab.”

by Deborah Fransen