Martha Ann Bell, a Virginia Tech College of Science Faculty Fellow and a professor in the Department of Psychology, has been named as a University Distinguished Professor.

The University Distinguished Professorship is Virginia Tech’s pre-eminent faculty rank bestowed by the Board of Visitors upon members of the university faculty whose scholarly attainments have attracted national and/or international recognition. Bell was awarded the title at the board’s March 21 meeting.

Bell joined Virginia Tech in 1996. She is an adjunct professor in the School of Neuroscience, also part of the College of Science, and is an affiliated faculty member of the Department of Human Development and Family Science, part of the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences.

Her research examines the developing brain of infants and has made her an international expert in brain imaging. She has made major contributions to the understanding of brain maturation and how humans develop the regulation of emotion and higher-order cognition and brain activity. She has served as editor of the journal Infancy, and is co-editor of the book series "Frontiers of Developmental Science." She also has served on editorial boards of six international research journals and is ad hoc reviewer for 66 international journals. Bell herself has 153 highly cited, peer-reviewed papers and invited book chapters.

Her work with infants and children has been funded with more than $4.75 million from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation. Her current NSF grant is a three-year $347,000 project that looks at how infants develop the ability to manage their emotions as they mature into toddlers, led by her own Cognition, Affect, and Psychophysiology Lab, and a research team from Washington State University.

“Dr. Bell’s work brings understanding to the emotions and behaviors that are at the very foundation of human life and how we relate to each other,” said Virginia Tech President Tim Sands. “She is an international expert in brain imaging, and her research into how toddlers react emotionally to different situations can give parents and caregivers critical tools on how to help children develop skills to better regulate their behavior.”

Added Executive Vice President and Provost Cyril Clarke: “As an academic leader and expert in the field of human development and family science, Martha has become a respected mentor and model of professionalism for her faculty colleagues. I congratulate Martha and her fellow University Distinguished Professors on this achievement, and express my appreciation for their strength of scholarship and commitment to our university.”

Bell has served on 84 student dissertation committees at Virginia Tech and other institutions. According to her nomination packet, Bell is an ardent advocate for underrepresented students, actively recruiting students through a variety of diversity and inclusion initiatives and working with Initiative to Maximize Student Development and the Post-Baccalaureate Research and Education Program (VT-PREP). Bell has mentored 23 graduate students, three VT-PREP students, and numerous undergraduate researchers in her lab.

Among her many career awards is the Virginia Tech 2020 Alumni Award for Research Excellence in the Social Sciences, Humanities, or Arts, presented by the Virginia Tech Alumni Association, and a 2019 Senior Investigator Award from the International Society for Developmental Psychobiology for making “significant contributions to developmental psychobiology.”

She earned her bachelor’s degree in home economics from Carson-Newman College in 1978, a master’s degree in child and family studies from the University of Tennessee in 1983, and a Ph.D. in human development from the University of Maryland in 1992.

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