Camillia Matuk Wins Two Fellowships for Work on Evolution

Camillia Matuk Wins Two Fellowships for Work on Evolution

Within two days, Learning Sciences doctoral student Camillia Matuk was awarded two graduate fellowships. On April 30 she received a Northwestern University Cognitive Science Graduate Fellowship, and on May 1 she was awarded a doctoral fellowship from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) of Canada.

The fellowships will support Matuk's study of how people understand evolution from visual representations. She says that there are many interactions that influence how people construct meaning about evolution. These include visual perceptions, cultural meanings, historical icons and the human fondness for narrative, in addition to the political, religious and emotional debates surrounding evolution.

"In my research, I attempt to describe how these various factors interact in the creation of meaning and how features of visual representations influence people's interpretations of evolution," says Matuk. With this goal, she interviews with students and museum visitors as they reason about evolution from viewing diagrams and animations.

The two fellowships will allow her to continue this work and also support her next step: to synthesize her research findings and create a multimedia interactive for use online and in a museum to teach evolutionary trees of life. "This intervention will allow me to study how multimedia can be used to teach evolution and the nature of science to the public, and to develop learners' representational competency," she says.

David Uttal, associate professor of learning sciences, speaks highly of Matuk's accomplishments. "Camillia is doing some fascinating work on learning and understanding evolution, as well as the role the visual displays and animations play in communicating that understanding," he says.

"I hope that my work will contribute to knowledge of how people understand scientific visualizations, and also have implications for evolution education and the design of visual multimedia more sensitive to the ways people create meaning of this complex topic," Matuk notes.

The Cognitive Science Graduate Fellowship for Interdisciplinary Research Projects is a one-year fellowship that offers support for graduate students engaged in interdisciplinary research in cognitive science. The SSHRC fellowship is awarded by Canada's federal agency that promotes and supports university-based research and training in the humanities and social sciences.
By Marilyn Sherman
Last Modified: 8/14/09