ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT | WINTER 2015
KU major: Psychology, Class of 2009
Current occupation: Postdoctoral Fellow in Trauma Research
Research mentor while at KU: David K. Johnson
Describe the undergraduate research experience that you had while at KU: At KU I was the first research assistant in a new professor's lab - so I was there to see many projects get started. My main role was doing the background to get those projects going; for example, I did a literature review on a specific neuroimaging technique so that some projects utilizing that kind of data could take off.
Q: What do you think was the most important thing you learned while doing undergraduate research?
A: That there are lots of different levels and kinds of research. Before I did much research I thought it was all giant projects that an undergraduate I couldn't really contribute to. I was so wrong! I could contribute plenty both to large scale and smaller scale projects.
Q: What advice do you have for undergraduates who might be interested in doing research or creative scholarship?
A: Just go for it. If it is being brought up, its because someone thinks you can do it and thinks it is important for you to do it. Research is a critical skill for life (beyond just yelp!) and many professions.
Q: Do you use any of the skills or perspectives gained doing research in your current occupation? How so?
A: I became a psychologist and my primary job right now is research so - YES! Doing undergraduate research helped me realize I COULD have the kind of career/job I have now. I work in a very different subject area right now, but lots of those lessons still apply. Being comprehensive in your background research and detail-oriented at every step of the way applies to every area of research I think.
Q: Many undergraduate researchers are making decisions about what to do after they graduate from KU. Having been in those shoes, what do you know now that you wish you’d known then? Do you have any advice?
A: I didn't realize how much experience - whether you are getting paid during that experience or not - really counts for getting ahead. It isn't the greatest system nor is it fair - not everyone can afford to be an unpaid intern, a volunteer, et cetera - but it can make a huge difference in terms of getting ahead and figuring out what career is right for you.