2020 APS Mentor Award

Elizabeth Ligon Bjork & Robert A. Bjork

University of California, Los Angeles

Elizabeth Bjork and APS Past President Robert Bjork are pillars of cognitive research whose work on subjects such as desirable difficulties in learning has left a profound impact on psychological science. In addition to these research contributions, the Bjorks are revered mentors who have inspired the values, practices, skills, and personal traits in their mentees that encourage a lifelong love of science.

Since arriving at UCLA 45 years ago, Elizabeth and Robert have codirected a lab for the study of learning and memory, where they nearly always supervise students together. Despite being accomplished scientists and leaders in their field, the Bjorks exude a disarming warmth and openness, their students say. Their egalitarianism and respect enable mentees to comfortably share ideas. The Bjorks treat research as a team effort, modelling and rewarding cooperation among their students; this approach brings out the best in their mentees and encourages young scientists to engage with others’ ideas vigorously. Through modesty and a focus on the collective good, the Bjorks instill a love of science in their students. Elizabeth and Robert Bjork’s impact on psychology cannot be overstated. Of the more than 80—and growing—number of honors, graduate, and postdoctoral students and scholars the Bjorks have co-mentored at UCLA, a staggering 57 (70 percent) have had successful academic careers in areas related to learning and memory. The Bjorks are a special pair, who together provide an atmosphere of support in which scientific achievement thrives.

The Bjorks have been co-recipients of the APS James McKeen Cattell Fellow Award. Robert Bjork is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.