My name is Zaneb Mansha and I am a senior in the psychology department. My STEP signature project was conducting research under Dr. Michael Vasey and his graduate student, Gina Gerardo, in The Vasey Lab at The Ohio State University.
The main responsibility that I initially had as a research assistant was to recruit participants for our study and conduct REP experiment sessions for students taking the intro to psychology course at Ohio State. The study aimed to examine emotion regulation and its relationship with physiological measures such as heart rate and blood pressure. Our target sample for research was college-aged students.
This STEP project was transformational for me as a person of color because we looked at racial differences in health psychology and in the medical field. One of the graduate students I worked under was writing her dissertation on the cardiovascular health of African American people versus white people. As research assistants, we got to help her with her meta-analysis which she recently got published. It was really cool for me to see the research and publication process directly from a mentor. This actually helped me decide whether I wanted to continue down the research path in the future…
The first step of the research process was to schedule experiment postings on the Ohio State REP portal. The following were posted as the requirements for the study: Individuals with allergies to electrode adhesive are not eligible to participate. We ask that you do not smoke, undergo rigorous exercise, or drink any caffeine 4 hours prior to the experiment. You must be 18 or older to participate.
As I mentioned earlier, the purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between emotion regulation and cardiovascular activity. In particular, heart rate and blood pressure were examined in relation to an emotion regulation task. After bringing the participant into the data collection room, they were given an informed written consent form to complete before beginning the experiment. They were asked to sign and date the form and given a copy to take with them for their records. Next, we took some quick measurements including age, biological sex, height, weight, and waist circumference.
Shown above is the required placement of electrodes in order to accurately monitor heart activity. The participant’s heart rate was monitored throughout the study using surface (non-invasive) electrocardiogram (EKG) electrodes.
Then, the blood pressure monitor was set up. We used a computer software called Beatscope in order to keep track of variances in blood pressure. Shown here is an example of what that looked like if set up properly.
To monitor the heart rate variability, we used another software called BioLab which is shown above.
After everything was set up and the participant had taken a few minutes to relax, we asked the participant to complete surveys related to mood and coping strategies, as well as a task that required them to recall particular situations they have experienced in their life. At the end, the participant was given a debriefing form and contact information should they have any questions after they leave. Overall, the entire process took 45 minutes to an hour to complete for each individual participant.
So plot twist, I decided to change my career pathway! I mentioned earlier that I was hoping to apply to PhD graduate programs for psychological research. However, I am now attending the Fisher College of Business in the upcoming fall to complete my Master in Human Resource Management Degree. You may be wondering what caused the sudden change in interest… Honestly, I really enjoyed my time participating in research for the past year and a half, but I also learned that I’m not passionate enough about it to dedicate my life to it. This was a wonderful experience for me regardless and I am confident that the skills I have obtained as a research assistant will be beneficial to me wherever I end up.