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Monthly Member Spotlight

Q&A with Hsiao-Wen Liao, PhD from Atlanta, GA, Affiliation with Georgia Institute of Technology, School of Psychology

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Q: Tell us a little about what you are doing right now? (If in a PhD program—year, dissertation stage, qualifying exam, internship, what degree/program type, research interests, etc?)
A: My research aims to answer two broad questions: What factors contribute to meaningful lives? How do individual life experiences shape the pursuit of meaning across the adult life span? Specifically, my program of research has investigated (1) emotional memories, meaning-making and adult well-being, (2) developmental changes in motivation and the changes relate to autobiographical remembering, and (3) sociocultural factors that shape the construction of the personal past. My recent work involves understanding potential cognitive costs associated with the pursuit of meaning and how past and future thinking may jointly contribute to meaningful lives. An evolving research direction also includes technology and aging. 

Q: Tell us about your most recent activities and accomplishments? (project completions, papers, presentations, awards, grants, etc?)
A: After my postdoctoral training at Stanford University, I recently join the faculty in cognitive aging in the School of Psychology at the Georgia Institute of Technology. As I am setting up my lab, the Janus Laboratory, I welcome prospective students to get in touch with me!

Q: Have you had an important mentor(s) in your career? If so, how did it make a difference? 
A: Throughout my career I have been very fortunate to have had inspirational advisors and mentors who were willing to take me under their wings, spent time working with me closely, and encouraged me to pursue a research interest of my own. This was one of the many reasons that motivated me to stay in academia, as I aspire to work with colleagues like them.

Q: What are your motivations (inspirations) for studying aging?
A: My initial research interest is to understand how people make sense of life challenges. Naturally, a topic of interest would be examining age differences in meaning-making in various situations. 

Q: What has been your most memorable experience in gerontology and aging research? 
A: A memorable (and meaningful) experience would be interviewing older adults to understand what they have been through throughout their lives. When I was a doctoral student at the University of Florida, my research assistants and I interviewed about 90 older adults to complete my dissertation project. Here, participants were asked to share with us challenging life events in their recent lives. I was amazed by how resilient older adults can be in the face of adversity--I can still vividly remember many stories that they shared. As a result, an intriguing phenomenon that I seek to understand more is how emotionally charged memories do not easily fade away.

Q: Tell us about your involvement in GSA. (How long have you been a member, why did you become a member, how has GSA benefited your professional development, etc?). Which Section do you belong to?
A: I joined the Behavioral and Social Sciences Section of GSA as a doctoral student in 2015. GSA annual conferences has significantly broadened my horizons by exposing me to a wide variety of aging-related issues. By attending these conferences, I was able to get a sense of where my research stands in the larger literature as well as how the same research questions may be tackled from different theoretical and methodological perspectives. Conferences, in general, are also great platforms for me to network with colleagues who share similar interests. GSA webinars are also wonderful resources to learn, collaborate, and stay connected to the community. I have attended two webinars since the outbreak of the covid-19, which has helped me to stay connected to the community during this trying time.

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