Springfield, Ohio —
Thanks to their own initiative and the active support of department faculty, psychology majors at Wittenberg University have had the chance to publish research papers, participate in conferences and conduct sophisticated, cutting-edge research. These opportunities — some of which are unusual for a liberal arts school — are opening doors for students and alumni, and inspiring them to pursue graduate school and their own independent research.
Lindsey Short, class of 2008, is currently pursuing a graduate degree in developmental psychology at Brock University in Ontario. While she had previously returned to Wittenberg to assist the psychology department with events such as Science Saturday after graduating, she recently came back to conduct a portion of her graduate research, in part because she knew she would benefit from Wittenberg faculty support and guidance.
“The greatest aspect of the psychology program is its amazing faculty,” she said. “They are tremendously supportive and provided me with the research experiences I needed to enter a competitive graduate program.”
As an undergraduate, Short worked closely with Associate Professor of Psychology Michael Anes, a cognitive psychologist, studying the development of face perception in children. She and Anes were awarded a grant from the Faculty Research Fund Board and spent the summer of 2007 conducting the research that would support her senior thesis. Short’s thesis was eventually accepted for publication, and she became the only incoming psychology graduate student at Brock University to have a publication in press.
Short is back in Ohio again studying “adaptation effects” – how social experiences with groups affect individual perceptual experiences of facial normality. This graduate research is closely related to the face processing work research she completed as an undergraduate.
Short said she greatly appreciates the “numerous opportunities to explore [her] interest in psychology — from interning in a clinical setting to conducting experimental research and presenting [her] findings at an international conference,” all of which she received at Wittenberg.
Short is not the only psychology major to benefit from such opportunities. Anes continues to work with current students including Dan Kochli, class of 2010, to refine further the face processing research he and Short conducted. Anes has also asked Nick del Grosso, class of 2010, twice to present research at a poster session at the prestigious Vision Sciences Society conference.
“This is an extremely important conference on human vision, and it is unusual to bring an undergraduate, especially from a liberal arts school,” Anes said.
Del Grosso is also doing sophisticated work in the field of brain-computer interfacing with Josephine Wilson, professor of psychology and a behavioral neuroscience expert. Ultimately, he would like to work on devices that will enable people to move things with their thoughts (which would be assist people who are paralyzed, for example). In the meantime, he has built his own event-related-potential recording device—a machine that measures electrical activity in the brain relative to an observed event or activity. Using four different electrodes attached to a human scalp, del Grosso is able to tie brain activity back to an event.
Other students have also been involved with Wilson’s research on the development of appetite and other eating behaviors in human and animal subjects. This past summer, more than a dozen students worked in her lab collecting data on food intake, blood sugar, cardiovascular health and density of taste receptors in obese and normal weight children.
Anes says it is exciting to see the progress of students such as del Grosso and Short who he says both deserve kudos for their initiative and dedication.
“They are doing exactly what we would expect from students at a good liberal arts school: going to graduate school, publishing with their professors and working on their own projects.”
Written by: Gabrielle Antoniadis and Amber Reyes ’12