BYLINE: Jade Griffin

Newswise — Susan Chipman, a pioneer in the field of cognitive science, has pledged a $1 million planned gift to the University of California San Diego’s Department of Cognitive Science. The Susan E.F. Chipman and Robert G. Fitzgerald Graduate Fellowship Fund in Cognitive Science is the first of its kind in the UC San Diego department, which was the world’s first department established in cognitive science.

Susan Chipman managed the cognitive science program at the United States Office of Naval Research for 22 years. Previously, she was assistant director of the National Institute of Education, where she was responsible for research programs in mathematics education, cognitive development and computers in education.

Her personal research focused on visual pattern perception and its development, and she has also written extensively on the participation of women and minorities in mathematics, science and technology. She was named an honorary lifetime member of the Cognitive Science Society in recognition of her contributions to the field.

“Susan Chipman’s career as a federal research manager was devoted to advancing the development of the new field of cognitive science, in all its complexity and diversity,” said Douglas A. Nitz, professor and chair of the UC San Diego Department of Cognitive Science. “Her work has helped shape our understanding of cognitive science as it relates to potential applications to education, training for complex and demanding jobs, and the engineering of effective human system interaction, among other areas of impact. We are so grateful to Susan for her generous support of UC San Diego cognitive science graduate students.”

The Susan E.F. Chipman and Robert G. Fitzgerald Graduate Fellowship Fund in Cognitive Science will provide support for doctoral students pursuing a degree in the UC San Diego Department of Cognitive Science. As an endowed fund, the fellowship will remain in perpetuity.

“UC San Diego is home to one of the top cognitive science programs in the country,” said Chipman. “Over the years of my career, I was consistently impressed with the program at UC San Diego and the work by its faculty, students and alumni. For that reason, I am pleased to make this gift to support the future leaders and trailblazers in the field of cognitive science.”

The fellowship bears the name of Chipman as well as her late brother, Robert G. Fitzgerald, a systems programmer and founder of Softworks, a company that produced systems software. According to Chipman, a significant financial legacy from her brother was an important factor in Chipman’s ability to make a fellowship donation. “An endowed graduate fellowship in cognitive science provides a meaningful way to continue the emphasis of my lifelong career into the indefinite future,” she said.

Chipman’s interest in cognitive science was sparked when she was an undergraduate student at Harvard University. She took a very early cognitive science undergraduate general education course taught by two of the field’s founding figures: Jerome Bruner and George A. Miller.

After earning her undergraduate degree, she attended the Harvard Business School and in 1965 became one of the first women to receive a fellowship funded by the Rockefeller Brothers Foundation. She was one of only 10 women in a class of 700 students that year. She then went on to study as a graduate student in Harvard's psychology department, where she received five years of fellowship support from the department's National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) training grant.

Both Chipman and her husband, Eric Chipman, an astronomer, received fellowship support while earning their graduate degrees at Harvard University. With a deep understanding of the impact of fellowships, the couple wishes to provide similar opportunities for future graduate students.

Chipman’s research findings have been referenced by other scientists and researchers. ResearchGate lists 68 publications for her with 2,068 citations and a Research Interest score in the 93rd percentile among ResearchGate members. She edited the widely referenced books, “Thinking and Learning Skills, Women and Mathematics: Balancing the Equation, Knowledge Acquisition, Cognitively Diagnostic Assessment, Cognitive Task Analysis” and “The Oxford Handbook of Cognitive Science.”

Chipman earned an AB in Mathematics, MBA, and AM and PhD in experimental psychology from Harvard University. She is a fellow of both the American Psychological Association (APA) and Association for Psychological Science (APS). She also received the APA's award for federal research managers.