By Tiffany Bentley
With an insatiable curiosity, Peter Donovick ’61 has delved into a broad spectrum of research topics.
As professor of psychology and director of the environmental neuropsychology laboratory at Binghamton University, State University of New York, Donovick has studied aging and dementia, stereotype bias, multiple sclerosis, dementia, environmental toxicology, malnutrition, incarceration, compassion, health and illness, meditation, bilingualism, and the impact of pets on mood. His research has one thing in common—the human brain.
“Our laboratory was one of the few to use a mouse model to explore the negative impact of parasites on brain and behavior,” he says. “Working with Toxocara canis, the common roundworm of dogs, we found there were significant neuropathological and behavioral consequences of exposure to this parasite. Given the worldwide prevalence of dogs and their close relationship with humans, our findings have important implications.” The results were published in Science.
Since the laboratory opened in 1966, more than 500 undergraduates have been trained by Donovick and co-founder Richard G. Burright, who passed away in 2003. The vast majority have gone on to graduate or medical school.
Among these student researchers were six participants in the Lafayette Alumni Research Network (LEARN), in which Donovick has been involved for the past six years. The students participate in full-time summer research with a Lafayette graduate or associate working in the neuroscience field.
One of the LEARN Scholars, Holly Feret ’05, was involved with several studies. Her main project involved using archival data collected from prisoners and hospital patients to analyze the relationships among age, education, and I.Q. on tests of cognitive and motor processing speed. Feret, now a genetic counselor at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, went on to earn a M.S. in genetic counseling from Arcadia University.
“It’s a wonderful program,” Donovick says, noting that two of the students have gone on to earn doctorates. “I’m proud to have influenced their careers.”
A psychology graduate, Donovick attributes his early research interests to Howard Gallup, professor of psychology emeritus, and former professors Burt Cohen and J. Marshall Brown. “I was fortunate to have some good faculty and research experience at Lafayette,” he says.
Donovick decided to pursue an academic career after serving in the U.S. Marine Corps. “After I got out of the Marine Corps, I knew I was capable of hard, sustained work,” he says. “Survival in academia means you work long hours but you direct what you’re doing. Success and failure depend on what you do.”
Donovick holds a master’s and doctorate in psychology from University of Wisconsin-Madison and completed postdoctoral fellowships at Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and Hutchings Psychiatric Center. As a Fulbright Scholar, he learned neurorehabilitation training at Recanati Rehabilitation Center, Tel Aviv, Israel.
Also a licensed psychologist, Donovick is consulting neuropsychologist for Elmira Correctional Facility and Central New York Psychiatric Center in Marcy.