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!

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.

Research Labs

1. Ori Amir

Professor Amir studies the neural basis for humor appreciation and comedy writing, using brain imaging (fMRI), eye-tracking, computational models and artificial intelligence.

2. Guadalupe Bacio​

Cultural, context, adolescent health behaviors & development (CENTRO) Lab

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.

3. Sharon Goto ​

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.

4. Eric Hurley​

Deep Structure Cultural (DSC) Lab

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?

5. Richard Lewis

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.

6. Sara Masland

Mental Health & Individual Differences (MIND) Lab

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).

7. Adam Pearson

Social Cognition & Interaction Lab

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.

8. Shlomi Sher

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”?

9. Patricia Smiley

Professor Smiley’s CARE Lab is interested in parenting correlates of children’s emotion regulation. Some of the questions investigated in her lab include: 1) How is parenting with conditional regard related to school-aged children’s emotional and behavioral regulation under challenge? 2) Can an attached-based savoring intervention change parents’ ability to reflect on their children’s internal states and improve their parenting sensitivity? 3) How are parent chronic stress and stress reactivity related to their preschoolers’ ability to regulation negative and positive emotion?

10. Suzanne Thompson

Professor Thompson’s lab investigates the psychology of health and medicine, guided by two lines of inquiry: 1) Denial of the validity or self-relevance of health behavior change messages, and 2) Relationship monogamy as a strategy for preventing sexually transmitted infections. Some of the questions explored in these lines of inquiry include: 1a) How does denial affect message processing and 1b) What can reduce denial and increase the acceptance of health messages? 2a) Is monogamy an effective strategy for avoiding STI’s? and 2b) Why do people rely on monogamy for protection?

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.

Conducting Research

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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)!
  4. 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 and MTurk.
  5. 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!
  6. 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.
  7. 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!