Kamil earns national research honor

Alan Kamil
Alan Kamil

Alan Kamil, George Holmes Professor of Biological Sciences and Psychology, was awarded the Comparative Cognition Society’s Research Award.

The award honors scientists who have made major contributions over their careers to the understanding of animal cognition. An executive committee chooses the recipient and the honoree is invited to deliver the master lecture at the society’s annual meeting. The annual conference was March 6-9 in Melbourne, Fla.

Kamil researches how animals use cognitive abilities in the context of their natural history. He said he was pleased to be recognized for his work by a society that he holds in high regard.

“It’s really nice to get that recognition from my peers,” Kamil said. “We don’t always stop and recognize accomplishments, and so I’ve always thought this award was a great thing.”

In his lecture, Kamil highlighted some of his research over the past 40 years and spoke of the challenges that face research on animal cognition. Kamil also shared anecdotes about how certain research techniques were developed in UNL labs, such as visual search for very hard-to-find prey, memory for stored food and the ability to make inferences about social relationships.

Kamil said he saw many of his former graduate students at the conference and learned about their current work.

“It was gratifying to see all of the really interesting work that they’re doing now, which was partially inspired by work they did here,” Kamil said.

Kamil said that when he began his research decades ago, achieving such recognition was something he would not have even contemplated.

“My research, combining psychology and biological science, was initially pretty controversial and there were only a few researchers who thought this was important,” he said. “That’s no longer true. We’ve come a long way in this type of research and those kinds of ideas are now commonplace.”

— Deann Gayman, University Communications