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Lifetime award for outstanding research and originality

11 May 2009

Professor John Pearce FRSProfessor John Pearce FRS

Professor John Pearce FRS, renowned for his groundbreaking studies into how animals learn, has become a recipient of a prestigious Humboldt Research Award.

The School of Psychology professor was nominated to receive this honour by Dr Harald Lachnit at the University of Marburg in Germany, himself the head of one of Europe’s largest and most influential laboratories for studying human associative learning. The Award is granted to only 100 academics annually, and recognises a researcher’s entire achievements to date.

Professor Pearce’s outstanding work has contributed to the study of the fundamental mechanisms of animal intelligence. This includes the formulation of two original theories - one concerned with how animals learn, the other with how such learning is influenced by attention. Professor Pearce has also developed a new approach to the study of how animals navigate through a familiar environment.

The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation annually enables more than 1800 researchers from all over the world to spend time researching in Germany. The Foundation maintains a network of some 23,000 Humboldtians from all disciplines in 130 countries worldwide - including 41 Nobel Prize winners.

The Award winners, who are each considered to be at the peak of their careers, are invited to spend a period of up to one year working with specialist colleagues at research institution in Germany.

Professor Pearce will spend six months working in the laboratory of Professor Dr Harald Lachnit. They will collaborate on projects to investigate how Professor Pearce’s theories concerning learning and memory in animals can account for the fundamental mechanisms of learning in humans. While in Germany he will also visit other laboratories with the intention of engaging in further collaborative research projects.

Much of the Professor’s achievements to date have been completed while at Cardiff. His pioneering work has also helped to attract a number of world-leading academics to the School. Today, this area of the School’s work has the highest international reputation and more than 50 researchers investigating the basic processes of learning.

Professor Dylan Jones, Head of the School said: "Becoming a Humboldtian is a real honour. It is only awarded to a select few and is certainly testament to his dedication and commitment to breaking new ground with his research. He is an inspiration to many other staff members and to our students."

In 2006 Professor Pearce was also elected to the Royal Society in 2006 for his "original and fundamental" research on methods of learning in animals. Royal Society Fellowships are awarded to the most eminent scientists, engineers and technologists in the UK and the Commonwealth. The awards are widely regarded in the scientific world as second only to a Nobel Prize in prestige.

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