Halfway Through

It’s hard to believe that I’m already halfway through my time at the Lifespan Emotional Development Lab at Northeastern University. Although I feel like time is flying, I have also learned a lot since I started. I have become much more involved in the study we are conducting. I have had the chance to understand many of the steps of psychology research, from literature review to running subjects to entering and coding data to data analysis. At first, I only observed my supervisor and other research assistants (RAs) running participants, but now I lead multiple participants through our study daily, asking for assistance only as issues arise. The picture below shows me and another RA practicing the proper way to apply the sensors that we use to measure physiological responses in our participants.  I know that I’machieving my goals here at the LEDlab,  not only because of the fact that I have learned more specific research skills, but also because I have learned more about why psychology research works the way it does. For example, the physiological data that we gather supplements the survey and eye-tracking data by giving us concrete data on how the person’s body is responding to the stimuli. Thus, we do not have to rely only on what the person reports about how they are feeling, because we have evidence of the physical processes at work.

As a psychology major, the chance to have such hands-on experience in conducting a study has been invaluable in making the concepts I have read about in my classes come to life. For example, I remember completing countless problem sets for my Statistics course about hypothetical studies. These problems often required the use of SPSS, a common statistical program used in psychology. As I went through the steps of each problem, I sometimes had a hard time really understanding what to do. Where in the spreadsheet should particular data go? Which statistical test should I perform?  While I certainly do not have all the answers to SPSS, working with others to calculate those statistics for the study that I’ve been working on for weeks makes the concepts “come to life” for me. I think that this new understanding of SPSS will be helpful in future lab experiences and even job interviews, as well as in classes that will require research methods and statistics.

My main personal goal for the summer was to see if I wanted to pursue research or clinical psychology. Speaking with other RAs about their co-op experiences has been illuminating in this regard. Co-op is a Northeastern University program in which “students alternate semesters of academic study with semesters of full-time employment in positions related to their academic or career interests” (Northeastern Co-Op). Many of the other RAs spent their Co-Ops in clinical settings, working in hospitals and mental health centers. Talking to them has given me some insight into what it is like working on the clinical side of things. Talking with them inspired me to look into more experiential learning opportunities in the Brandeis psychology department, especially the Clinical Practicum Program. So, hearing about my colleagues’ co-op experiences has inspired me to look into ways to gain experience working in different sectors of psychology through my university.

– Leah Igdalsky, 2014