Jon Freeman ’04 Receives BUA Distinguished Alumni Award

BUA is delighted to present the 2023-2024 Distinguished Alumni Award to Jon Freeman ’04 for his groundbreaking work in social neuroscience and for his national advocacy for LGBTQ+ visibility and representation in STEM. This annual award, launched in 2022, goes to an alumnus/a who best exemplifies the values of BUA and has used those qualities to make an impact on the community and world around them. The inaugural recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award was Magdalena Slosar-Cheah ’99 for her work in the field of infectious disease.

Jon Freeman is a social neuroscientist and associate professor of psychology at Columbia University, where he directs the Social Cognitive & Neural Sciences Lab. He received his BA from New York University in 2007 and his PhD from Tufts University in 2012. His research examines the human brain mechanisms underlying snap judgments, first impressions, and unconscious bias using neuroimaging, computational modeling, and behavioral paradigms. His work has made several discoveries, such as how the brain processes a person’s trustworthiness outside conscious awareness, or how stereotypes and prior social experiences can create distortions in the brain’s visual system. He also developed a novel technique that uses hand movements to uncover how split-second decisions unfold over fractions of a second in the brain, which is now widely used by the scientific community.

Jon is the author of nearly 100 peer-reviewed publications and the recipient of a number of awards, including the National Science Foundation CAREER Award, the Association for Psychological Science’s Janet T. Spence Award for Transformative Early Career Contributions, the Federation of Associations in Behavioral & Brain Sciences’ Early Career Impact Award, and other distinguished awards from the Social & Affective Neuroscience Society, the Society for Personality & Social Psychology, the International Social Cognition Network, and the Society for Social Neuroscience. His research is frequently funded by the National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation and has appeared in media outlets such as the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and TIME Magazine.

Jon is also leading national advocacy on the challenges that LGBTQ+ people face in the STEM workforce and on policymakers’ blind spots in resolving these disparities. Since 2018, he has been working to have sexual orientation and gender identity demographics incorporated into official data collection and reporting systems of the U.S. government and higher education that are used to ensure the equity and inclusion of underrepresented groups in STEM. He has raised public attention on these issues with op-eds in Science, Nature, and Scientific American, authored extensive formal requests to the government, facilitated the House of Representatives’ passing of the LGBTQ+ Data Inclusion Act on behalf of 90 scientific organizations, and regularly works with federal agencies and the White House on STEM diversity issues. Due to Jon’s efforts, for the first time since 1957 every graduating PhD student at every US university will soon voluntarily be asked their sexual orientation and gender identity on the government survey required to graduate. Such data will have the power to create transformative change in the equity of LGBTQ+ people in STEM and higher education. For this work, Jon was recognized as the 2019 LGBTQ+ Scientist of the Year by Out to Innovate for his “exemplary, cross-disciplinary scientific contributions and his public advocacy on behalf of LGBTQ+ people in STEM.”

We look forward to welcoming Jon back to campus this year to celebrate his many accomplishments.

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