Mr. Delgado Goes to Washington
Caldwell resident and research scientist to receive high honor from White House Monday.
When Mauricio Delgado sees a McDonald's sign, he craves French fries. To fight the urge to feast on fast-food, he thinks about the beach or a blue sky.
But Delgado isn't a weight-loss expert. He's an assistant professor in the Psychology Department at Rutgers–Newark whose work delves into how the human brain deals with negative and positive information in the environment.
The 35-year-old Caldwell resident is in Washington, D.C. today to accept the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, the highest honor bestowed by the United States government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers.
"It's been a very long road for me in terms of hard work," Delgado said. "It's a reflection of the training that I've had and the mentors that I have had and of the work that I've started here at Rutgers," said Delgado.
Delgado, one of 85 researchers nationwide chosen each year to receive this award, will pose for a group photo in the White House and attend a special award ceremony. President Barak Obama is expected to partake in the ceremony.
In a statement announcing the awards, President Obama said, "Science and technology have long been at the core of America's economic strength and global leadership. I am confident that these individuals, who have shown such tremendous promise so early in their careers, will go on to make breakthroughs and discoveries that will continue to move our nation forward in the years ahead."
Delgado's research group is funded by a five-year National Institute on Drug Abuse grant. According to Delgado, his group is using functional magnetic resonance imaging to investigate how the human brain learns from positive and negative reinforcers, and how this information is used to guide decision-making.
Specifically, the goal of the project is to investigate how negative reinforcement influences human brain and behavior, as a precursor to understanding how humans learn to cope with potential negative outcomes–outcomes that can influence decision-making in maladaptive ways, such as drug abuse.
At Rutgers-Newark, Delgado currently supervises five graduate students working on their dissertations as well as many undergraduates. He also teaches a seminar for honor students on decision-making that covers everything from addiction to falling in love.
Delgado has contributed many articles to journals such as Nature Neuroscience, the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, the Journal of Neuroscience, Science, Neuron and Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience.
Because Delgado's research delves into intriguing areas–the relationship between fear of losing money and the fear of physical pain, how thinking positive thoughts fights cravings, and how stress affects the judgment of financial traders, to name a few–his research has been reported on by media such as New Scientist, The Economist, Scientific American, MSN Money, BBC News and The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Delgado received his bachelor of science degree from Wesleyan University, Conn., in neuroscience and behavior. He has both master and doctoral degrees in neuroscience from the Department of Neuroscience at the University of Pittsburgh. He was a post-doctoral fellow at New York University before coming to Rutgers-Newark to head the Social and Affective Neuroscience laboratory. Delgado was born in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
When he's not working, Delgado joked his life is "uninteresting." He said he spends as much of his spare time as possible with his wife and their two-year-old daughter, going to parks and museums or just being together.
"This job takes a lot of my life and then family is the other part of my life," he said.