Angela Laird named as one of Florida's 'Most Influential' Scientists

Posted by Ayleen Barbel Fattal

A list of "cutting-edge" scientists who have the most influence on their fields—using citations by other scholars as the yardstick—includes 15 researchers based in Florida.

While most are known only in their field of study, a handful have made news. One even co-authored a bestseller.

The Floridians are among 3,200 individuals on Thomson Reuters' 2014 list of The World's Most Influential Scientific Minds, which includes the top 1 percent of scientists named as references by others in scholarly papers in the years 2002 to 2012. The list covers 21 broad fields, from pure math or physics to applied sciences such as medicine or psychology.

No Floridians made the short list of "hot authors," which the publishers defined as the top one-tenth of 1 percent. Most of them do genomic research and all but one work at either the Broad Institute in Boston, co-sponsored by Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, or Washington University in St. Louis.

Of the Floridians on the top-1-percent list, one is a hot author of another sort. He is Roy Baumeister, Ph.D, co-author of the bestseller Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength.

A psychology professor at Florida State University, Baumeister has a gift for explaining scientific concepts clearly and with wit, as his many presentations posted on YouTube demonstrate. He also has had the luck or foresight to focus on topics of great interest to the American public; he launched research on self-esteem in the 1970s, a time when parents were just beginning to heed the call for endless praise.

"Self-esteem was a huge disappointment," Baumeister says in a recorded presentation. "It didn't really deliver the goods. Making people more conceited really doesn't make them better off in any palpable way."

Instead, he says, research shows that self-esteem can only be earned through accomplishment, which requires self-control. Those who can muster it most of the time are more successful in school and work, happier, physically healthier and apt to live longer.

That discovery led Baumeister to study the barriers to self-control, including a low blood-glucose level that indicates it has been several hours since a meal. Another can be triggered by mental over-work, having to make too many decisions.

A majority of the other Floridians who made the Thomson Reuters list are involved in medical research.

Angela Laird, Ph.D., associate professor at Florida International University, is an authority on brain mapping. Her research involves comparison of brain networks in individuals who are healthy and those who have psychiatric disorders or neurologic diseases, such as Alzheimer's.

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