News Story

Psychology Ph.D. Student to Participate in the 2021 Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting

Department of Psychology doctoral student Shawn Rhoads is one of approximately 25 individuals selected from the United States to participate in a meeting next year with a group of Nobel laureates in Lindau, Germany. While there, he will be able to discuss topics in the natural sciences with some of the world’s leading experts.

A Well Deserved Honor

Rhoads works in the Laboratory of Social and Affective Neuroscience under the mentorship of Abigail Marsh, professor of psychology. His research focuses on the intersection of neuroscience and psychology, specifically studying human prosocial decision-making, interpersonal connection and perception and shared and vicarious experiences. Prior to starting his Ph.D. program, Rhoads earned a double major in physics and psychology at the University of Southern California, which Marsh says has helped him conduct computationally sophisticated neuroscience research.

“Shawn has demonstrated himself to be a brilliant, insightful and creative neuroscience researcher—already tackling complex questions and analyses across a variety of projects,” says Marsh. “In one recently submitted paper, Shawn adapted our project to include a sophisticated and cutting-edge new approach to analyzing brain imaging data.”

Marsh encouraged Rhoads to apply to the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings after she observed his interdisciplinary understanding of neuroscience and experience across fields. She knew that he would apply what he learned from the meetings to the field of neuroscience for the betterment of society.

“Shawn’s commitment to putting science into action for promotion of the public good is humbling and contagious,” says Marsh. “He has been actively engaged in various public outreach efforts for many years, including writing, speaking and serving in leadership positions in a variety of forums aimed at improving public awareness of scientific research and using research findings for social good.”

About the Award

Six hundred scientists in training are selected each year from around the world to participate in the Lindau meetings. While there, they meet with each other and Nobel Laureates through lectures, discussions, master classes, and panels. Rhoads will also be able to participate in “open-exchanges” with the lecturers. In these meetings, he will have the opportunity to ask Nobel prize winners questions on any topic in a small group setting. This opportunity is only available for the scholars selected. 

Rhoads was one of the few chosen from the United States to participate. Chandan Vaidya, department chair of psychology, notes that this is a significant honor as only the brightest students with the most potential for making future breakthroughs in a scientific field are selected. 

“Shawn’s selection speaks to his potential to be a leader in the neurosciences, particularly the neuroimaging of mental function in the brain,” says Vaidya.  “This interdisciplinary work combines psychology, neuroscience, physics, and statistics, all fields that Shawn has shown leadership in among his graduate student community at Georgetown.”

This gathering lasts six days and marks the 70th anniversary of the Lindau Meetings. The event was to have taken place this summer, but was recently postponed until June 27-July 2, 2021 because of the COVID-19 crisis. Rhoads says that he is very much looking forward to meeting and learning from other scientists at this unique event.

“I’m incredibly fortunate for this opportunity and beyond excited to engage among and exchange ideas with trainees and Nobel Laureates from around the globe!” says Rhoads. “I hope this meeting will help inspire interdisciplinary collaboration, and challenge me in generating new, exciting questions at the junction of computational, neurobiological and social-behavioral science.”

-by Shelby Roller (G’19)

Graduate Student