Beckman welcomes Senior Fellow

Kirk Erickson, a new Senior Fellow, will begin research in February investigating links between obesity and cognitive health. Senior fellowships give established faculty from other universities the opportunity to do short-term, onsite, interdisciplinary research with other Beckman Institute researchers.

Kirk Erickson will continue to team up with researchers at Beckman as he returns in 2014 as a Beckman Senior Fellow. Erickson now works as a psychology professor at the University of Pittsburgh, but he attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for his Ph.D. in psychology and worked at Beckman Institute at a graduate student and postdoc. He is currently an assistant professor in psychology at the University of Pittsburgh.

“I have a long history of collaboration with Art Kramer and others at the U of I and am looking forward to coming back to continue the collaborations and develop new ones,” Erickson said.

In addition to his Senior Fellowship, he has also been accepted into the Visiting Faculty Program of the Illinois Transdisciplinary Obesity Prevention Program (I-TOPP), an innovative research-based Ph.D. program with a focus on obesity prevention and child health and well-being. As a faculty member in the program, Erickson will be able to interact with I-TOPP faculty and scholars to develop new methods, theories, and conceptual models to help solve the complex health problem of obesity.

Through both I-TOPP and the senior fellowship, Erickson will continue his research that examines links between obesity, and brain integrity and function.

“Obesity and decreased physical health are linked to cognitive deficits in domains of executive function, episodic working memory, and inhibition,” Erickson said. “[My research at U of I] will examine the extent to which brain systems affected by overeating and obesity are the same ones that are positively influenced by participation in physical activity.”