New Social Sciences research award honors Martin Chemers

Martin M. Chemers. Photo by Dan Coyro.

Throughout his tenure at UC Santa Cruz, social psychologist Martin Chemers has remained active in research, even as his campus responsibilities grew from a deanship to serving as acting chancellor.

During eight years as dean of the Division of Social Sciences, as well as 15 months spent as interim campus provost/executive vice chancellor and then acting chancellor, Chemers continued to pursue research on the cross-cultural and social-psychological aspects of leadership.

Best known for work that illuminated the importance of self-confidence and optimism in leadership effectiveness, Chemers brought those insights to his work on "nontraditional" leaders, including women and minorities, as well as to his current federally funded project identifying the strengths of programs that encourage underrepresented minorities to pursue careers in biomedical research.

"It's an incredible privilege to be able to conduct research, because the questions researchers ask shape the frontiers of knowledge," said Chemers. "In my case, I've always been interested in how organizations work, and what I've learned can be useful in combating sexism and racism."

Chemers's passion for research was evident during his tenure as dean of the division of Social Sciences, where he was known as a powerful champion of research whose small-grants program helped boost the careers of many professors.

And so, when Social Sciences Dean Sheldon Kamieniecki established a new award to recognize senior faculty members who have made major impacts through their research, he created the Martin M. Chemers Award for Outstanding Research in the Division of Social Sciences. The annual award honors a faculty member who has earned an outstanding national and international reputation in her or his field.

"It's a great honor," Chemers said of having the research award established in his name. "When Sheldon approached me, I felt very proud. And a friend said to me later, 'Every time it's given to someone, it's given to you, too,' which is nice."

The inaugural award was presented on October 11 to psychology professor Bruce Bridgeman, who has made essential contributions to the study of vision and perception. Bridgeman, who received a plaque and a check for $2,500, said it is gratifying to be recognized by his UCSC colleagues.

"It's nice to get an award locally from the people who've known me and known my career for a long time," said Bridgeman, who has built an outstanding career at UCSC since joining the faculty in 1973. "This is my first and only job."

Bridgeman has been widely recognized for his visual study of spatial orientation. By revealing key ways the brain takes in and processes visual information, his work has explained spatial illusions and shown that vision is an active process.

"Bruce Bridgeman is a pioneer in the field of visual perception research," said Kamieniecki, whose primary goal as dean is to raise the profile of the Division of Social Sciences by recruiting and retaining the best faculty. "He sets a high standard for future recipients of this award."

Of Chemers, Kamieniecki said, "As a dean, a professor, and a campus leader, he has had the kind of impact we academics dream of. It's a pleasure to honor a man who is so widely admired and respected for his work."


Friends and faculty have contributed to the Martin M. Chemers Award for Outstanding Research in the Division of Social Sciences. To inquire about making a gift, please contact Development Officer John Leopold at (831) 459-3689 or