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Roberta Klatzky

September 2010

Roberta Klatzky Receives Two Awards for Her Research

Psychology Professor Roberta Klatzky has spent her career researching human perception and cognition. Her work has resulted in practical applications such as navigation devices for the blind, remotely-operated devices to dig up land mines, tools to improve image-based surgery and much more. Recently, Klatzky received two awards for her research accomplishments: the Humboldt Research Award, granted to recognize fundamental discoveries, new theories, or insights that have had a significant impact, and the Kurt Koffka medal, given by Justus-Liebig-University of Giessen to scientists who advanced the fields of perception or developmental psychology to an extraordinary extent.

"My research is far from what most people think psychology is," said Klatzky, who has taught at Carnegie Mellon for 17 years and previously served as head of the psychology department. "I'm a cognitive scientist that has focused on perception. I've worked on every sense except taste, and my specialty is touch."

Klatzky became interested in perception while studying math at Michigan, and she received her Ph.D. from the mathematical psychology program at Stanford. "I loved the problems perception dealt with," she said. "And, my math background has been invaluable for my work. It helps frame analyses and allows me to effectively communicate with my collaborators."

Because the Humboldt research award is most often given to technical fields, Klatzky was particularly honored when she learned she was receiving it. With the award, Klatzky will spend time in Munich combining engineering and psychology research on force-feed back devices from a human-user perspective.

"It will be a wonderful way to collaborate on really important work," Klatzky said.

As part of the Koffka medal, Klatzky will give a talk on perceptually guided action later this fall. "This is a fairly new award, and I feel deeply honored to be among its early recipients," she said.

Also up next for Klatzky is continuing research with colleagues from Northwestern University. They are using a NSF grant to develop active touch-pad technology -imagine the iPad and iPhone pushing back on your finger - to build applications for the blind.

For more information on Roberta Klatzky, visit

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