Newswise — College students from across the U.S. will visit West Virginia University this summer for their first research experiences.

WVU’s Department of Psychology will host seven undergraduate students for intensive, eight-week research projects. The students will be on campus June 3-July 26 conducting independent studies under the guidance of faculty mentors.

For most students, the program will be their first experience in a lab learning firsthand how scientific studies are conducted.

“The program will integrate the students into the broader research community and build

their sense of belonging within a university,” said Natalie Shook, an associate professor of clinical psychology leading the program. “Even though WVU is not their home institution, they are still developing their academic identities and gaining a broader understanding of the value of what they learn in the classroom by seeing it in practice.”

The program is an opportunity for students to explore different career paths and expand their professional networks with faculty and fellow students from other colleges and universities. 

“Thinking about their future opportunities, having these hands-on, intensive experiences really helps to solidify for students their career options and what they actually enjoy doing,” Shook said. “Some students will engage in summer research programs and realize the career path isn’t for them, which is just as valuable as determining that you want to go to graduate school or pursue a research-oriented career.”

Dandre Conyers is a junior psychology major from Saint Augustine’s University. His research area is social and clinical psychology, and he will be mentored by Shook.

“Being from the Bahamas, it's hard to make it out. Guys my age usually fall to the streets, death or incarceration. I decided to take full advantage of the opportunity because many people don't get the chance to,” Conyers said. “I hope to be introduced to resources and meet a variety of professionals in my field. Being as hungry as I am for knowledge, I know this program will only add to my skillset and prepare me for my future career." 

Brianna Forte is a psychology junior with an emphasis in neuroscience at the University of Massachusetts-Amhurst. She will study behavioral neuroscience in Cole Vonder Haar and Kris Martens’ Injury and Recovery Lab.

“As a rising senior, I wanted to get the most out of my college experience. Being able to do research in the summer was a great way to do that,” Forte said. “With my goal of applying for doctoral programs in behavioral neuroscience, this program will give me the hands-on experience needed to determine where my research interests lie within the field and give me a jumpstart in terms of getting involved in neuroscience-related labs.”

Tasia Hawks is a junior psychology major from Chowan University. She will study behavioral neuroscience with Steven Kinsey.

“I decided to apply because I wanted to be exposed to research more than what my small college could offer,” Hawks said. “This program is going to help me get deeper into research and give me an edge when I apply to graduate school. I look forward to having a chance to work in the lab as well as network with everyone in the program.”

Bralia Pierce is a freshman majoring in pre-medicine psychology at the College of William and Mary. She will conduct research with Julie Patrick.

“Seeing that this experience was for undergraduates with little to no research experience, I thought it was the perfect opportunity for me,” Pierce said. “I am looking forward to working with Dr. Patrick and learning more about her research in adult developmental psychology. I believe this program will provide me the tools and skills needed to enhance my professional development and prepare me for medical school.”

Bryan Rodriguez is a junior studying neuroscience at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. He will also be mentored by Vonder Haar and Martens.

“This internship will be one of the first times I’m away from home for an extended period of time. I look forward to meeting new people and becoming more comfortable with the scientific process of developing an experiment and actually following through with it,” Rodriguez said. “One of my goals this year was to become more comfortable with uncomfortable things, and this program will help me in that direction both academically and in life.”

Malinda Smith is a junior majoring in psychology and social work at Barton College. She will conduct a developmental psychology study with Amy Gentzler.

“Much like many soon to be graduates, I am not quite sure what my plans are for the future. However, throughout this academic year, research has captivated me,” Smith said. “I hope the program will help me determine whether research is something that holds a promising future for me and is something that I am truly passionate about.”

Sidney Stover is a junior majoring in statistics and psychology from Marshall University. She will conduct developmental psychology research with Aaron Metzger

“The program will give me a chance to explore research and work closely with a mentor, which is an amazing opportunity as an undergraduate student. I hope to obtain skills and experience that will be beneficial in graduate school and in my future endeavors in psychology,” Stover said. “Research is an integral part of any field, and the skillset I gain here will be essential in achieving my future goals.” 

The program is funded by the American Psychological Association’s Summer Undergraduate Psychology Research Experience program with support from WVU’s Office of the Provost and Department of Psychology. WVU is one of nine universities across the U.S. awarded an APA grant to host students.

The students will present their projects at WVU’s Summer Undergraduate Research Symposium on Thursday, July 26.