Campus: CSU Fullerton -- May 9, 2005

Exemplary Teacher Named Cal State Fullerton Outstanding Professor

“What E.O. Wilson did for ants, Nancy Segal has done for twins,” said Irving Gottesman, Sherrel J. Aston Professor of Psychology Emeritus at the University of Virginia. “I am now tempted to compare her with Carl Sagan because of the more pertinent contribution Nancy has made as a scientifically sound popularizer and teacher. She has the ability to reach out and communicate with an infectious enthusiasm to both young minds and seasoned scientists. Her work all combines to make her the kind of professor one can call outstanding without reservation.”
Nancy Segal, professor of psychology and Fullerton resident, is this year’s recipient of Cal State Fullerton’s Outstanding Professor Award — the highest honor the university awards to a faculty member.

Friday afternoon Segal was surprised when CSUF President Milton A. Gordon, accompanied by various university administrators, made a visit to her classroom. The group entered carrying balloons and a white porcelain sculpture of twins.

“Every year, we select one faculty member as our Outstanding Professor of the Year,” said Gordon. “This year, it is our honor to recognize Nancy Segal, who is not only an outstanding professor but an excellent researcher and scholar.”

As the 2004-05 Outstanding Professor, Segal will be recognized at the university’s May 27 Honors Convocation and will carry the mace to lead the faculty at this month’s commencement ceremonies. She will receive a $4,000 cash award from the President’s Associates and will present a public lecture next spring.

‘Twin research is wonderfully exciting, so to be honored for doing the work I love best is so special,” said Segal, author of the highly acclaimed book “Entwined Lives: Twins and What They Tell Us About Human Behavior,” published in 1999 by Dutton Press, and the soon-to-be-published “Indivisible by Two: Lives of Extraordinary Twins,” from Harvard University Press. She is also senior editor of the American Psychological Association’s “Uniting Psychology and Biology: Integrative Perspectives on Human Development,” published in 1997.

“I like to tell people I’ve been studying twins from the time I was a little girl,” said Segal. “As a twin myself, my sister and I always had something that set us apart from most other children.”
Among her research efforts, Segal has studied identical twins who were separated at birth. The researcher was impressed by the twins’ similarities, despite their different home environments. Many of the separated twins held similar jobs, had similar mannerisms, liked the same kinds of food and entertainment, and frequently felt an immediate bond upon first meeting.

“Nancy Segal is the world’s expert on the psychology of twins,” writes Steve Pinker, Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology at Harvard University. “She not only pioneered the study of twins separated at birth, leading to some of the most important findings in the history of psychology, but she has explored all of the biological, cognitive and emotional facets of twinning in fascinating detail. Her body of writing beautifully combines scientific depth, psychological insight and human interest.”

Segal joined the Cal State Fullerton faculty in 1991 as an associate professor and that same year, established the Twin Studies Center, which has been cited in numerous publications and resources. She was promoted to full professor in 1994.

She has authored more than 80 scientific papers in scholarly, peer-reviewed journals, more than half of which were completed since joining Cal State Fullerton. She also has written more than 20 book chapters.

Because of her groundbreaking work, she is frequently called upon by national media, including Dateline NBC, 20/20, Good Morning America, ABC World News Tonight, various PBS affiliates, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, The New Yorker, Psychology Today and Discover Magazine. In fact, she’s made more than 200 media appearances in the past two decades.

A Fellow of the American Psychological Association, American Psychological Society and Western Psychological Association, Segal also served as contributing research editor for Twins magazine from 1984-1998. Currently, she is an associate editor for Twin Research and Human Genetics, the journal of the International Society for Twin Studies.

“Nancy Segal is a major member of the scientific community — with instant name recognition in the general area of biological psychology — and her work is basic to any theoretical understanding of generic and environment interaction,” said Daniel Freedman, professor emeritus at the University of Chicago. “Additionally, she is an excellent citizen, having organized conferences, volunteered her services for professional newsletters and societies, and exhibiting an endless energy in behalf of training of students.”

Segal’s research has won numerous grants, and she has presented her results at conferences around the world. Because her work has applications to immediate issues in peoples’ lives, Segal has given expert testimony and legal consultation in cases of twin loss and injury, as well as twin separation/custody disputes. She is a frequent speaker in colleagues’ classes, as well as in various campus symposia and discussion groups.

“Nancy Segal is a scholar who has ‘followed her bliss’ by devoting her life to the study of twins,” said William Smith, chair and professor of psychology at Cal State Fullerton. “While she has certainly done the usual things a faculty member does to serve the university — such as serving on committees — her greatest contribution to the university, her students and the profession is educating people by sharing her extensive knowledge about research on twins.”
Segal earned her doctorate and master’s degree at the University of Chicago and her bachelor’s degree at Boston University.

“Nancy Segal is an outstanding professor,” said Thomas Klammer, dean of the CSUF College of Humanities and Social Sciences. “Her colleagues recognized that in naming her a distinguished Humanities and Social Sciences faculty member for 1999-2000.” Segal is also this year’s Distinguished Professor in H&SS.

Segal received letters of recommendation from dozens of academics in the United States and throughout the world, including Queensland Institute of Medical Research in Australia, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Keio University in Japan, International Society for Twin Studies in London and University of Western Ontario, among others.

Her advice to students and those just beginning scientific careers is this: “Find a topic that really, really personally interests you and is theoretically important. If you are doing something that you like to do, commitment comes easily. Find a topic, a question, an issue that interests you, and working comes easy.”

Many of her students find twins research fascinating and have given her high marks as a teacher and a researcher.

“I’m probably having more fun than I should,” Segal laughs. “But it really is an interesting field, and my studies aren’t just beneficial to twins. We’re looking at the influences of genes and environments, and trying to determine the influence each has. This is of benefit to everybody.”
Jesa Kreiner, professor of mechanical engineering, chaired the Outstanding Professor Selection Committee, consisting of nine faculty members and four students.

Media Contacts:
Nancy Segal at (714) 278- 2142 or nsegal@fullerton.edu

Valerie Orleans, Public Affairs, at (714) 278-4540 or vorleans@fullerton.edu


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