Research Opportunities

Interested in conducting research? Research is an important aspect of the Department of Psychology at St. Mary’s. Students have many opportunities to participate in individual research and research teams with faculty advisors. Many faculty members have active research projects and are looking for students to participate in the research process. While faculty research areas span a variety of topics, there are also opportunities for you to pursue your own interests as well.

Current Faculty Research

Many psychology professors conduct research with a team of students. Professors will have two or three different teams they are working with at any time. Based on their specialty (social, developmental, clinical, and so on), they will focus on different subjects and also decide whether it will be a quantitative or qualitative study. If you were to gain a position on a research team, you will typically work with 2-3 different people that the professor selects to be on the team with you. 

Typically professors look for students during the Spring semester since that is usually the time the seniors on the team are phasing out. You will plan accordingly if you want to be on a team and apply a semester in advance. Different professors have different processes of getting on one of their teams. Some professors have you learn about their teams and select the one that interests you, and other professors have you go through a more formal application process. The first thing you need to do is reach out to your desired professor directly. Ask them what kind of teams they have and what their application process is like.

If you are interested in being part of a research team led by a psychology professor, below are the current research projects, prerequisites, and application information.

Professor Mark Barajas, PhD.

Current Project: COVID's effects on mental health; mental health, race & culture. This is a longitudinal qualitative study exploring mental health among three among specific populations -- Latinx individuals, students and faculty, and grocery store workers -- during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Three semi-structured are conducted with interested participants exploring their overall mental health, coping strategies, social connections, and challenges and successes in responding to the pandemic. Interviews are recorded and transcribed, and then analyzed following a Grounded Theory research protocol. Data collection, transcription, and analysis is ongoing. As of January 2021, over 100 interviews have been conducted and over 50 have been transcribed.
Where are you presenting: American Psychological Association Annual Convention (Washington DC); Western Psychological Association Annual Convention (San Francisco)
Anticipated # of open positions for 2021-2022: 2-4
Deadline date of application:  May 15th, 2021
Required prerequisites: Psych 1, 3, 103
Contact information for application: Psychology Annex 104, 

Professor Emily Hause, PhD.

Current project: Decision Making and Sustainability; applied research on business 
Where are you presenting: American Psychological Association Annual Convention (Washington DC)
Anticipated # of open positions for 2021-2022: 0 (Professor Hause is not looking for anyone for the Academic year 2021-22, but contact her for more information if you're interested in her research project)
Deadline date of application: N/A
Required prerequisites: Psych 3, 103
Contact information for application: Psychology Annex 107, 

Professor Hiroko Nakano, PhD.

Current project: EEG hyperscanning 
Where are you presenting: The Cognitive Neuroscience Society (CNS) and The Society for Neuroscience (SfN)
Anticipated # of open positions for 2021-2022: 1
Deadline date of application: end of summer 2021
Required prerequisite: Psych 3, 103, 110 (and 106 is advantageous); preferably junior with 2-year commitment.
Contact information for application: 

Professor James McCauley, PhD.

Current project: Two projects ongoing: A) Socioemotional Health and Remote Learning Experiences (SHARE). Captures the experiences of students using disability services this past year and identifies areas of need that SMC can improve upon. B) Conceptualizing Quality of Life Across the Spectrum: This study focuses on the measurement of quality of life and the factors that influence individual variations in quality of life in autistic adults. This project builds upon an existing 30 year longitudinal study that has assessed cognitive functioning, autism symptoms, daily living skills, and mental health indicators from early childhood into adulthood, and will involve advanced statistical modeling of previously collected data as well as opportunities to pilot new measures. 
Where are you presenting: The work from these projects will likely get submitted to either the Gatlinburg Conference on Intellectual Disabilities, the International Society for Autism Research, or APA. I also submit papers regularly to peer reviewed journals such as Autism Research, Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disabilities, and with substantial contributions from students there may be opportunities to get authorship on future papers.
Anticipated # of open positions for 2020-2021: 2 
Deadline date of application:  May 31, 2021
Required prerequisites: Psych 140, 103 preferred
Contact information for application: Students interested in any research involving children or adults with developmental conditions such as autism, ADHD, or intellectual disabilities are invited to discuss these interests with me.

Professor Makenzie O’Neil, PhD.

Current project: Research examines positive emotions on social interactions (e.g. gratitude, caregiving, empathy), and relationships between outgroups.
Where are you presenting: Society for Personal and Social Psychology (SPSP); Association for Psychological Sciences (APS)
Anticipated # of open positions for 2021-2022: 2-3
Deadline date of application:  April 1, 2021 for priority (May 1, 2021 if spots are not filled)
Required prerequisites: Psych 3 preferred
Contact information for application: Psychology Annex 108, 

Professor Hoang Vu, PhD.

Current project: Eye-tracking and lexical ambiguity; tracking language comprehension using the visual world paradigm
Where are you presenting: TBD
Anticipated # of open positions for 2021-2022: 1
Deadline date of application: Open
Required prerequisites: Must have a superhuman ability to fight boredom while reading dense, dry materials. A research driven mind is a must with killer initiative. Programming skills would be prefered or at least a strong appetite to learn.  
Contact information for application: Psychology Annex 102, 

Professor Paul Zarnoth, PhD.

Current project: Exploring the benefits of diversity, especially cognitive diversity, in group decision making. In addition, exploring the role of gender biases in interpersonal decision making and how to reduce those biases.
Where are you presenting: Society for Personal and Social Psychology (SPSP); Western Psychology Conference for Undergraduate Research (WPCUR)
Anticipated # of open positions for 2021-2022: 3
Deadline date of application: Interviews take place in early April, but the earlier a student expresses interest the better.
Required prerequisites: None, but Psych 3, 103, 160, 150, 172, 163, and 169 are all helpful preparation.
Contact information for application: Psychology Annex 103, 



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