For 4 years, Dr. Jennifer Fugate worked as a full-time lecturer in the psychology department. It wasn’t until she earned a tenure-track position this fall that she felt official.
Fugate’s path to UMass Dartmouth began in high school when she developed an interest in psychology during an introductory course. “In college, I was a double major in Psychology and Biology,” Fugate said. “After college, I worked in a research lab for 3 years, and I realized that I wanted to do research.”
A passion for language and emotion
In 2008, Fugate received her PhD from Emory University, where she studied how rhesus macaques and chimpanzees perceive facial expressions and vocalizations.
Later, she joined the Interdisciplinary Affective Sciences Laboratory of Dr. Lisa Feldman Barrett at Northeastern University as a postdoctoral fellow. There she worked on a series of projects that investigated how language shapes the ability of people to "see" an emotion in another individual.
Social Cognition on the South Coast (SOCO) Lab
Now, Fugate’s research examines how language affects the brain's ability to categorize social information, such as emotion. Most of her research takes place in the SOCO Lab, where she studies the structure of emotion and how language affects our perception of emotion.
She also works closely with other labs in the department that approach emotion from more developmental, biological, and neuroscientific perspectives. More recently, her lab has begun to expand its interests in language and categorization to include how naming an object changes a person’s perception and understanding of it.
Teaching in the classroom
As a professor, Fugate tries to incorporate her experience and expertise into the class. “I try to get students to see the science behind psychology,” she said. “Psychology deals with human constructions, and it is the hardest science to find answers to.”
But that doesn’t stop Fugate from bringing excitement into her classes. “I hope to bring enthusiasm to the classroom because I come from a diverse background,” she said. “No one else in the department is an evolutionary psychologist; I bring a different perspective.”