Bruner and Zener Awards

The Psychology Department gives two awards annually to students who have demonstrated excellence in research

The Jerome S. Bruner Award

The Jerome S. Bruner Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Research recognizes a student who displays excellence in intellectual curiosity with emphasis on research experience and potential for future scholarly activity.


Jerome S. Bruner (1915-2016)

Dr. Bruner was a distinguished Duke alumnus, who graduated as part of the class of 1937. An eminent psychologist, Dr. Bruner described an undergraduate education marked by brilliant faculty, intellectual friends, reading Russian novels, and courses in anthropology, psychology, and sociology. He worked in a lab on East Campus and developed a love of research, which led him to earn a Ph.D. at Harvard in 1941. Dr. Bruner held faculty positions at Harvard, Oxford, and New York University. His work was crucial to the establishment of cognitive psychology as a discipline, but was also remarkable for its breadth, with major contributions to learning theory, developmental psychology, and education.

Being granted the Bruner Award is an important honor for any student who is passionate about research and scholarship. 


2017 Bruner Award Recipient, Jennifer Acosta


The Karl E. Zener Award

The Karl E. Zener Award is given annually to an undergraduate psychology major at Duke University who has shown outstanding performance in scholarship. The Award is based on the quality of student’s paper as judged by a faculty committee. The paper may be a report of original research or it may be an analysis of a problem with a relevant literature review. Nomination for the Award is made by members of the psychology department faculty. The award consists of a monetary prize and inclusion by name on a memorial plaque in the Zener Auditorium (Room 130 in the Sociology-Psychology Building).


Karl E. Zener (1903-1964)

Dr. Zener came to Duke University in the late 1920s where he served as Director of Graduate Studies for many years and later as the Chairman of the Department of Psychology. At Duke, Dr. Zener performed research related to conditioned response, problems of motivation, and the psychology of perception, amongst other topics. In an article from 1962, Dr. Zener projected the view of psychology as a science in which “the workforce is comprised of individuals not only of high intellectual capacity but marked openness and sensitivity to their experience.” (Sigmund Koch, 1999: Psychology in Human Context).

Being granted the Zener Award is an important honor for any student who is passionate and wishes to make a meaningful scientific contribution in the field of psychology.


2017 Zener Award Recipient, Joseph Levy