Making Research Personal

Emilio Ferrer

Emilio Ferrer

Professor, Psychology

Impact: Helping the broader community connect the impact of research to their daily lives.

Whether he’s exploring lovers’ heartbeats or babies’ learning, psychology professor Emilio Ferrer appreciates the implications of his research beyond mere academic value. He is helping the broader community connect the impact of research to their daily lives.

Ferrer’s studies, funded by the National Science Foundation, measured — among other things — breathing and heart rate during face-to-face interactions. A series of his studies found that couples in romantic relationships synchronize heartbeats — in effect, sharing experiences beyond an emotional level to a physiological one.

He values the role UC Davis students play in this important research. As their teacher, Ferrer aims to be knowledgeable and demanding, but always open-minded, patient and kind.  

“Our students are highly motivated to learn,” says Ferrer. “Such motivation and curiosity are inspiring, and keep you on your toes. It’s particularly rewarding to see them develop over time and find their own research path.”

When working with students, he still looks to his adviser from University of Virginia during graduate studies, Jack McArdle, who has been — and still is — a source of inspiration.

“From Jack I have learned many things,” reflects Ferrer. “He taught me that everyone deserves a chance in education. As he put it, ‘who are we to close the doors to anyone?’ He also taught me not to be judgmental about people’s work. And, importantly, he taught me it’s vital to study hard to learn but not let the knowledge constrain the thinking.”