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Newsmaker: Tim Verstynen

Tim Verstynen, 35, of Lawrenceville, is an assistant professor at Carnegie Mellon University.

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Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

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Notable: The National Science Foundation gave Verstynen a $507,836 award for his research into how the brain learns complex sequential skills, like playing a piano or driving a car. Using computer modeling, behavioral analysis and brain imaging, he'll examine how people learn very different parts of the whole task, like reading sheet music and moving hands over piano keys, then how the brain puts those together and gets better at the task over time. The grant will support for his research for about five years.

Age: 35

Residence: Lawrenceville

Occupation: Assistant professor of psychology, Carnegie Mellon University Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition.

Background: After developing an interest in the brain's systems of motor control and how it plans actions, Verstynen wrote his Ph.D. on how the brain puts those plans into action. He joined the Carnegie Mellon University faculty in 2012.

Education: Bachelor of Arts in psychology, University of New Mexico, 2001; Ph.D. in psychology, University of California, Berkeley, 2006.

Quote: Of his research, Verstynen said, “It could have a huge impact on educational platforms. ... You can revise the way we teach students by leveraging the different kinds of learning.”

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