The Importance of Getting Involved in Research
Gaining exposure to research allows you to take the knowledge you’ve learned in the classroom and apply to a research setting. Research informs program development, interventions, services, policy, among a myriad of other things. Getting involved in research will allow you to not just understand the process for all stages of the research process but also improve your verbal and oral communication skills as you present your findings in manuscripts and presentations. Lastly, you may find that yourself fascinated by the research process or find that research may provide a medium through which to answer bigger context issues you’re passionate about addressing!
The Psychological Science Research Support Specialist, assists professors and students in preparing, maintaining and using computing and scientific equipment for psychological research (both in classrooms and research laboratories). If you have general questions about research (e.g. CITI training, IRB procedures, research design/statistics) or specific questions about your research project-- including training on software or equipment-- contact the Research Support Specialist.
The Research Support Specialist also manages SONA, the Psychological Science Research Participation website. If you have questions about registering or participating in psychological research through SONA, contact the Research Support Specialist. Undergraduate and graduate research assistants who plan on collecting data through SONA must email their Pomona College CITI training completion certificate to the Research Support Specialist before requesting a researcher account on SONA (see information about CITI training below).
Tips for Getting Involved in Research with Faculty
Talk to faculty! They are eager to talk to students about their research and ways you can get involved. Faculty don’t expect you to come into your undergraduate education with years of research experience under your belt. Faculty and older students in the lab are more than happy to get you started on your research career. It all starts with setting up that first meeting! Ask professors if they’re looking research assistants over the academic semesters and/or summer.
- Nicole Weekes
- Jessica Stern
Professor Bacio’s lab studies four main areas: 1) Latinx adolescent mental health and substance use behaviors across generations, 2) Disparities related to alcohol and drug use among Latinx adolescents and young adults, 3) Culturally responsive intervention services for Latinx and other ethnic minority adolescents, and 4) Bio-psycho-socio-cultural factors that impact the transition of Latinx adolescents to young adulthood.
Professor Burns runs the Mechanisms of Interpersonal Communication Lab (MIC Lab) at Pomona College, seeking to understand the neural and psychological processes that enable people to successfully communicate, coordinate, and understand each other. The MIC Lab uses a multimodal approach to this topic with research methods that include neuroimaging (fMRI & fNIRS), behavioral experiments, computational modeling, and natural language processing. Current projects aim to study the complex and dynamic processes involved in natural communication contexts like persuasion, empathy, and group decision-making.
Professors Goto's Culture, Race and Brain Lab (CRAB) aims to understand the neural mechanisms associated with social and cultural influences on human behavior. Currently, the lab uses high-density EEG electrode arrays to investigate the spatial and temporal parameters of electrical brain activity associated with social and cultural factors. For example: 1) How cultural values affect analytic versus holistic perception using neural measures, 2) The neural mechanisms of bicultural frameswitching, and 3) The role of culture and power on social perceptions.
Professor Hurley’s lab pursues three main and interrelated questions: 1) Can peoples’ culture based orientations be relied upon to predict their attitudes and behavior? 2) What are the functional mechanisms by which people’s culture based orientations influence them toward one or another type of perception, attitude, behavior (or other outcome)? 3) To what extent is the expression of cultural themes (for example ‘group-orientation’) consistent or variable within and across global Diasporas?
Professor Lewis' Culture, Race and Brain Lab (CRAB) aims to understand the neural mechanisms associated with social and cultural influences on human behavior. Currently, the lab uses high-density EEG electrode arrays to investigate the spatial and temporal parameters of electrical brain activity associated with social and cultural factors. For example: 1) How cultural values affect analytic versus holistic perception using neural measures, 2) The neural mechanisms of bicultural frameswitching, and 3) The role of culture and power on social perceptions.
Professor Masland’s lab specializes in the study of personality (including everyday personality functioning and personality disorders), psychopathology, and relationships. Her lab uses behavioral, psychophysiological, interview, and self-report methods to understand complex questions about human life. Current projects focus on mental health stigma, social cognition in borderline personality disorder, and transdiagnostic psychosocial predictors of clinical outcomes (e.g. the perception of criticism in close relationships).
Professor Pearson’s lab uses behavioral science methods and theories to explore how group memberships shape how people think about, interact with, and relate to others and the world around us. His research is guided by two main questions: 1) How do social identities and intergroup dynamics impact how we think about and respond to social and cooperative problems, like climate change? and 2) how can a deeper understanding of these processes promote informed and equitable decision making? To explore these questions, the lab uses a variety of methods, including lab and field experiments, probability surveys, and dyadic and longitudinal analytical approaches.
Professor Sher’s Cognitive Perspectives Lab investigates how the human mind can understand the human mind; that is, how people can reconcile seemingly disparate perspectives of the self from an internal vs. external vantage point. Professor Sher’s research is guided by three questions: 1) How does the economist’s model of the “rational actor” relate to the cognitive psychologist’s model of the human as a neural information processor? 2) Can scientific investigation explain the link between conscious experience and brain activity? 3) Does research in cognitive neuroscience and psychology explain about the reality of “free will”?
What to Expect as a Research Assistant
Expectations as a research assistant will be different for each lab, but generally, a student can expect to be directly involved in one/multiple research projects. There will probably be regular lab meetings where everyone, including the PI, meets to discuss an article, checks-in on projects, or brainstorms new ideas. There will be several projects in various stages of the research process to get involved in; for example, one project may be at the beginning stage where it is an abstract idea that warrants literature review while another project has already been run and has data that needs analysis. Talking with your PI about your research interests and what skills you bring to the lab (familiarity with literature review, working with Excel sheets, etc.) will facilitate your placement in the lab in a role that you can actively contribute to.
- Any student who plans to get involved in research (whether designing their own study or working in someone else’s lab) must first complete CITI training.
- One of the first steps in conducting research involves making several important decisions about research design. One such decision includes selecting the most appropriate modality of measurement to operationalize the researcher’s variables of interest.
- If a survey/questionnaire modality of measurement will be used, a researcher must endeavor to select the most psychometrically sound measure available (i.e. valid and reliable). However if such a measure is not available (or readily accessible), some researchers will create/design one. Either way, the measures employed are critical to the internal validity of the study. Selecting--or creating-- poor measures will lower the researcher’s ability to detect potentially significant results (*Hint: power analysis and Type II Error)!
- A researcher must also make decisions as to how data will be collected from participants. Online data collection is frequently used today due to its convenience and accessibility to participants; thus it may be valuable to learn online data-collection platforms, such as Qualtrics, TurkPrime and MTurk.
- There are opportunities for students to receive funding for their research projects through programs at Pomona like SURP and PCIP. Not only does grant funding look good on your CV, but it could help you to pay participants or buy needed equipment or materials for your study!
- All research studies must be approved by the IRB before any data can be collected. Familiarize yourself with the application process, forms and ethical guidelines.
- Lastly, sharing your research results with the wider academic community is not only a vital step of the scientific process, but also looks good on your CV! Learn how to create an APA formatted poster and think about submitting to an upcoming psychological conference!