Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, EdD, is a professor of Education, Psychology, and Neuroscience at the University of Southern California and director of the USC Center for Affective Neuroscience, Development, Learning and Education (CANDLE). She studies the psychological and neurobiological development of emotion and self-awareness, and connections to social, cognitive, and moral development in educational settings. She uses cross-cultural, interdisciplinary studies of narratives and feelings to uncover experience-dependent neural mechanisms contributing to identity, intrinsic motivation, deep learning, and generative, creative, and abstract thought. Her work has a special focus on adolescents from low-SES communities, and she involves youths from these communities as junior scientists in her work.
A former urban public junior high-school science teacher, she earned her doctorate at Harvard University in 2005 in human development and psychology and completed her postdoctoral training in social-affective neuroscience with Antonio Damasio in 2008. Since then she has received numerous awards for her research and impact on education and society, among them an Honor Coin from the U.S. Army, a Commendation from the County of Los Angeles, a Cozzarelli Prize from the Proceedings of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences editorial board, and early career achievement awards from the AERA, the AAAS, the APS, the International Mind, Brain and Education Society (IMBES), and the Federation of Associations in Behavioral and Brain Sciences Foundation (FABBS).
Immordino-Yang was a 2018-2019 Spencer Foundation mid-career fellow. She served on the U.S. National Academy of Sciences committee writing How People Learn II: Learners, Contexts and Cultures, and on the Aspen Institute’s National Commission on Social, Emotional and Academic Development.