One of the great things about being an undergraduate in psychology at Purdue is having access to so many hands on research opportunities. Anyone, psychology major or not, who takes the introductory psychology class (PSY 120) will be asked to volunteer to participate in experiments being conducted by students and faculty on campus. That participation helps researchers try to answer questions about how people think and act in certain situations, and it contributes to a larger growing body of research. Undergraduates (both upper and lower classmen) who are particularly interested in being involved in research can apply to be a research assistant (in a course called PSY 390) who helps faculty members and graduate students collect data for their research. Research assistants have the opportunity to learn about different methods of collecting data, how to analyze and interpret the results of that data, and what current research is being done in specific areas of psychology. It’s also a great way to develop a close academic relationship with some of the faculty in your field at Purdue who may be the best people to write letters of recommendation for you in your future academic or professional pursuits.
Another way to be involved in psychology research at Purdue is to conduct some of your own under the guidance of a faculty member in a senior research project, which is something that I am working on right now. There are several ways to go about it, including a program called Research Focused Honors which begins with an application process in the fall of students’ junior years and concludes at the end of their senior years. That program helps to develop and guide students’ research questions and processes along, and seem like a really useful tool for creating and executing a senior project. If I had had the foresight during my junior year, I would have applied for it, but instead I came to be doing research this year by developing a research question that I had over the summer into a testable hypothesis. The psychology question I had was mostly associated with social psychology, so I approached a faculty member in that field and told them about it. That conversation led to them helping me create an experiment which has been running all this semester which I am earning senior research credits for. In fact, I just finished collecting the data for it the other day, and am really excited to see if any of my manipulations turned up interesting results. This is the fun part! It may take another semester for me to analyze and interpret the data and write it all up with references to previous relevant research into a paper, but I should have it done in time to present it at the April 14th Annual Undergraduate Research Conference this spring. I’ll keep you posted on how it turns out!
For more information on undergraduate research opportunities, and to see what kind of research is currently being conducted, check out the Purdue Psychology website: http://www.purdue.edu/hhs/psy/undergraduate/opportunities/index.php
Have a wonderful holiday season!
Erin McConnell, Junior, Psychological Sciences