STEP Experience: Undergraduate Research
What? – A detailed description of what you did during your STEP experience.
I began working with my principal investigator (PI) Dr. Ian Krajbich, spring semester of 2014. His lab focuses on neuroeconomics, which is the discipline of decision making. When I first began working in the lab, I helped graduate students in his lab with their projects. I was often their first pilot subject for experiments, I found images that they needed for their experiments, created excel documents, and helped them with other little projects. At the end of fall semester of 2014, my PI, another undergraduate student in the lab, and myself began running experiments for a project my PI and a colleague of his were interested in pursuing. They were interested in reducing the frequency of groupthink. We finished collecting data (running experiments) at the end of spring semester 2015, conducted some analyses on the data, and presented our findings at the Denman Forum in March 2015. After the Denman, we conducted one more experiment and continue to perform analyses on all of the data we have collected. This project will be fully completed by early August this year.
So What? – A personal response to your STEP experience, including feelings, thoughts, judgments, and what you have learned about yourself and your assumptions from what you did and how you reacted.
From my STEP experience of being involved with undergraduate research, I learned that I am capable of achieving my goals. I learned that I can take a full load of classes, get good grades, and work in a group towards a serious research goal. While enrolling for spring semester 2015 classes, I thought that I was not going to be able to keep up with taking 17 credits and be heavily involved with research. However, I set a goal of receiving a 4.0 gpa that semester and presenting a poster at the Denman Forum. I achieved both of those goals and learned that I am capable of achieving whatever goals I set for myself. I never pushed myself that hard in high school or even earlier in college; without this undergraduate experience, I truly believe that I would never have known how capable I am of achieving my dreams.
Now What? – Discuss how the things you experienced and learned during your STEP experience will affect your academic, personal, and life goals moving forward.
My initial goal of helping Dr. Krajbich with his research project was to understand what area of psychology I would want to study in graduate school, completing the research project helped me realize that the field of clinical psychology is where my interests lie. When I began my research project, I was very interested in neuroeconomics, which is within the field of cognitive psychology. However, after finishing the project, I learned that cognitive psychology is not the field of future study for me. The field of cognitive psychology does not connect with everyday human problems the way I thought it would. While working on this research project, learning so much about the research process works and about the broad field of cognitive psychology, I was also taking classes for my clinical psychology minor. The combination of those classes and doing cognitive psychology type of research encouraged me to further investigate the field of clinical psychology.
At this point of my senior year, I believe that pursuing a PhD in clinical psychology fits my interests best. I want to become a clinical psychologist so that I can personally help people live better lives by helping patients learn how to cope or how to fix their personal problems. I still need to refine and understand what my research interests are within the field of clinical psychology before I apply to PhD programs in clinical psychology. To facilitate that process, I am taking a year off from school after spring graduation to volunteer at a variety of clinical psychology related places. I also hope to become a nanny to understand if studying children would be something I want to do. I learned from this STEP experience that having some undergraduate research experience is very helpful in the application process for graduate school. Not only did I gain research experience, but I learned more about the research process and about where my interests for graduate studies lie. I also learned more about the field of decision science and how to present myself in a professional academic setting such as poster presentations like at the Denman Forum. Participating in STEP has overall helped me refine my post-graduation goals.