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Eastern Student Receives NSF Fellowship

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Eric Cerino, a senior from Stratford majoring in psychology at Eastern Connecticut State University, has been named the recipient of a highly competitive Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) fellowship from the National Science Foundation. The $30,000 stipend will cover Cerino's tuition and support direct research costs during the first 12 months of his Ph.D. program at Oregon State University's (OSU) LIFE* in an Aging Society program (*Linking Individuals, Families, and Environments).

The National Science Foundation fellowship allows students to collaborate across disciplines in a multidisciplinary research traineeship. Only five students from across the nation get into the OSU program. Students pick a primary core (according to their Ph.D program) and a supplementary core. "My primary core is Psychosocial and supplementary core is Gerontechnology, so I will have the opportunity to extend my research with collaboration with the engineering professors and students," said Cerino. "It's awesome because I will continue my successful aging psychosocial research, with the inclusion of innovative and new age technologies that I will get to create with the engineers."

On April 29, Cerino will present his research project, "Investigating Subjective Age, Level of Activity and Depressive Symptoms in Older Adults," at the 18th Annual Posters on the Hill Conference in Washington, D.C.

Subjective age is defined as how old one feels. The goal of Cerino's research was to see if depression levels among senior citizens were impacted by how young a person feels and how active he or she is in society.

"I wanted to tackle something that affects senior citizens," said Cerino. "At the Trumbull Senior Center, I taught a computer course to seniors and fell in love with the idea of helping seniors. I have dedicated my research to them."

The results of Cerino's study indicated that senior citizens who had a more youthful subjective age reported fewer depressive symptoms. In addition, seniors who took part in more activity (both physical and cognitive exercises) tended to have a more youthful subjective age.

Cerino, mentored by Eastern Psychology Professor Jennifer Leszczynski, had one of 60 posters selected from approximately 600 submissions for the Posters on the Hill Conference. The student presenters will discuss the impact of their research experience with members of Congress during the conference.

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