By Theresa Steinberger
This year’s Young Alumnus Award winner Richard Addante Ph.D. ’11 – only seven years out from graduation – is already the only psychologist to participate in a NASA simulation mission to Mars. During the mission, his team helped develop NASA’s understanding of challenges that may arise for humans confined together in a long mission.
Addante has also contributed to experts’ understanding of how non-conscious memory works for individuals suffering from amnesia. He has published several papers of research discoveries that have been added to new textbooks on neuroscience and psychology.
Still, he says he wouldn’t have been able to accomplish any of it on his own. Even aboard NASA’s 45-day Human Exploration Research Analog (HERA) simulation project to Mars, Addante made sure to send a video thank you message to his UC Davis colleagues and students for teaching him valuable lessons in teamwork. And with gratitude to the UC Davis community, he continues to support students and alumni in pursuing their dreams.
“Everything I’ve accomplished has been with hard work and good graces, with the intention of helping people,” Addante explains. “It looks like I do all of these things, but anything that I have been fortunate to do is contingent upon a team of supporters, fellow Aggies, UC Davis faculty, coworkers and more.”
The Student Becomes the Teacher
Currently a tenure-track professor in psychology at California State University, San Bernardino, Addante continues to draw from skills that he learned at UC Davis.
“My relationships with other UC Davis students were formative. I learned as much from them as I learned from the faculty,” explained Addante, who still collaborates with fellow UC Davis alumni and scientists. “They required me to up my game and made me realize how much room there was to grow. That’s part of why I decided I wanted to be a professor.”
Addante said he values being part of a team whether that be in his lab with students or aboard the HERA mission. He is known for frequently reminding others to stay positive even when things don’t go as planned, believing that innovation often stems from temporary failure.
Addante’s academic contributions go beyond the classroom. He has published groundbreaking works about learning, memory, and amnesia. Specifically, his innovative research on memory has challenged previously established scholarship, requiring textbooks to be updated with the new information.
Reach for the stars
The young alumnus hopes to inspire other Aggies to take risks to achieve their personal and professional goals.
“To be recognized with this year’s Young Alumnus Award makes me feel very small because I know the UC Davis alumni network is large and talented,” he said. “I am very appreciative and hope to inspire other people to continue on the UC Davis legacy and keep reaching for the stars in their respective domains.”