Learning the Ropes
Thirty-six seniors majoring in psychological sciences recently returned from a field trip to Chicago, where they each presented the results of a year-long research project. The students developed research posters based on their honors theses and presented them at the Midwestern Psychological Association (MPA) Conference in Chicago the weekend of April 14. Associate Professor Nicole Campione-Barr says 33 of them are honors capstone students who will receive departmental honors when they graduate.
“The vast majority of these students will go on to graduate school of some type, so understanding what it requires to present, to have to talk to scholars in the field, and to have their research analyzed and to be able to answer questions—it’s a level of professional development that not all of our students receive,” Campione-Barr says. She says some of the students met with representatives from institutions where they already have been accepted and others talked to former MU students who had gone on to graduate school.
Campione-Barr says the MU research posters represented all five sub-disciplines in the Department of Psychological Sciences, while a couple of students thought outside of the box.
“One of my favorite combinations this year was with one of our students, Mikki Monegan, who is interested in environmental psychology in terms of how people experience environments, and she worked with a mentor in architectural studies, Bimal Balakrishnan, and used virtual reality to have people experience different environments to see how they react,” Campione-Barr says.
Associate Professor Dennis Miller accompanied the group on the Chicago trip and calls the trip the icing on the cake of a very intense two-semester research project.
“It’s at least a full year of working one-on-one with a faculty mentor, but it is the student’s independent work,” Miller says. “The students had to do the background research and develop the hypothesis and collect and analyze the data. It’s the sort of thing we expect from a first-year graduate student; it’s an honors thesis, and this is just the culminating experience.”
Three of the MU students were awarded the MPA Psi Chi (the international honors society in psychology) regional research awards—the most of any university participating in this year’s conference. Miller says some of the past presenters have had their work published in scientific journals.
MPA Psi Chi winner Haley Benson
MPA Psi Chi winner Kristin Thompson
MPA Psi Chi winner Najeeba Hussain
While most of the students will enroll in graduate school, several have indicated they plan to enter the workforce.
“We tend to have a wide range of those who are going to go straight to work and some who will work for a while in the field while they try to decide about grad school,” Campione-Barr says. “A couple of students are going to medical school and a couple are going to law school. Three are probably going to Washington University for social work while others are going into clinical psychology and other areas such as criminology.”
Still, the field trip wasn’t all work and no play.
“We take them out for pizza and Nicole goes over the cultural places to visit so they can make the most of their time when they’re not in meetings,” Miller says.