College of Arts and Sciences

Department of Psychology

Enriching the Undergraduate Experience Through Unique Student Opportunities


Opportunity #1: Undergraduate Research Initiative

The 2002-2003 academic year marked the inception of our Undergraduate Research Initiative.  The goal of this program is to recognize and reward outstanding undergraduate research within the Psychology Department.  Each year, undergraduate students are invited to submit proposals for original research projects.  Students design these projects with the assistance of psychology faculty. To date, twenty projects have been honored with grants.  These projects reflect the diverse interests of our students and faculty, and include both basic and applied research.  Each spring, the results of these projects are presented at Department of Psychology Undergraduate Research Symposium, an event that is open to the entire university and Pullman/Moscow community.Joining the grant recipients are other undergraduate presenters who are conducting psychological research under the direction of faculty mentors.  This event has steady grown in size over the last three years.  

In conjunction with the symposium’s poster session, a guest speaker gives an invited presentation on his/her research within the field of psychology.  Past guest speakers have included Dr. Robert Horner, WSU alumnus and University of Oregon full professor, who spoke on “Conducting behavioral science to improve our schools and communities”; Dr. Carl Swander, WSU alumnus and co-owner of Ergometrics and Applied Personnel Research, Inc., who spoke on “The Future of Hiring: Research Drives Exciting Advances in Job Simulation” ; and Dr. Gregory Belenky, research professor and director of the Sleep and Performance Research Center at WSU Spokane, who spoke on “Sleep and Human Performance.”


Quotes From Past Grant Recipients About Their Research Experience

“My experience in research goes onto my resume as well as my transcript.  I feel that it gives me an edge over other applications and shows my responsibility and determination to potential employers and graduate programs.” (Kristie-Lea Kelley, ’04 Zoology BS)

“This experience strengthened my knowledge about psychology and I hope that the knowledge and experience gained will benefit my future goal of graduate school.  I hope this experience, along with my previous experience with neuroscience research, makes me a first choice candidate.” (Summer Sweet, ’04 Psych BS & Neuroscience BS) 

“Being encouraged to produce and develop research proposals at the undergraduate level is very motivating and inspiring.  It gives a student the chance to test out areas of interest in research and further helps to decide post-graduation plans.” (Kelby L. Holtfreter, ’05 Psych BS & Neuroscience BS)

“My experiences involving research will aid me in my future goals of becoming a valued researcher in the field of behavior analysis.  The opportunity to perform my own research will contribute to better performance and acclimation in any type of scientific environment.  It promotes flexibility in problem-solving and critical analysis of theoretical concepts.” (Shea Colleen Bower, ’04 Psych BS)

“I now feel that medicine without understanding the foundations of research is rather pointless.  I hope to combine my knowledge of medicine and clinical psychology,” (James Bales, ’04 Psych BS & Neuroscience BS)

“[Research] helped me to improve many skills such as time management, verbal and written communication and collaborative skills.  Although my current research is not directly related to the field [I eventually hope to enter], it taught me many skills that will enable me to pursue my goals.  Graduate school and Ph.D. programs require a lot of research and with this background, completing such projects should be a lot easier.” (Emily Verbon, ’04 Psych BS)

“The best part about doing research is the extended interactions I have had with people I work with, both professors and graduate students.” (Jeremiah Brown, ’03 Psych BS)

Quotes from Other Undergraduates About Doing Research

“The best part about undergraduate research is the chance to gain practical experience in your chosen field (or a related one) that can help you determine if you actually enjoy doing that type of work.  It is also a great opportunity to make contact with researchers in the field and expand your knowledge of career possibilities.” (Victoria Cussen, ’03 Psych BS)


Opportunity #2: Human Psychophysiology Teaching Laboratory

Our Student Human Psychophysiology Teaching Laboratory on the Pullman campus is the only teaching laboratory of its kind in the Pacific Northwest.  The lab features a 32-channel electroencephalograph (EEG), a device capable of recording electrical brain activity using electrodes attached to the scalp.  The procedure is noninvasive and painless.  The EEG reading allows an investigator to examine the brain’s response to certain sensory stimuli and discriminate between certain physiological states (e.g., being awake, excited, asleep or dreaming). 

This lab provides undergraduates with the unique opportunity for hands-on experience, both as a component of class instruction and as a resource for research training.  Students will be able to design and conduct their own studies using the high-tech monitoring equipment.  According to John Hinson, acting chair of the department, “the Undergraduate Research Initiative is intended to create more opportunities for in-depth experience and more material support to student researchers.”      


Opportunity #3: Service Learning & Practicum Experience

At this time, three undergraduate courses (i.e., Clinical/Community Psychology, Psychology of aging, and Community Research) include a service learning component.  The component requires each student to spend a set number of hours working at a community site related to that course’s material.  Service learning provides another unique opportunity for hands-on, experiential learning.  It gives students a chance to apply the information that they have learned in the classroom, develop skills related to specific employment options, and get a first-hand look at the daily functions of particular agencies.  In addition, students provide valuable volunteer assistance to agencies that may be either understaffed and/or under-funded.   

Students who wish to extend their on-site training beyond the service learning can enroll in our Undergraduate Practicum course.  This course provides students with the opportunity to gain supervised experience at one of more than 50 local and county agencies.  Student meet once a week in a classroom setting, but the majority of their time is spent working on site under the direction of a site supervisor.   


Opportunity #4: Community Research Course

Another unique aspect of our program is our Community Research course.  This course is designed to teach students about statistical analysis and scientific methodology through direct application.  To do so, groups of students are paired with individuals from various community agencies who are interested in collecting data related to some aspect of their agency’s work.  After conciliation with the site representative, student groups design a study to address the agency’s needs.  They collect the data, analyze it and present their findings to the agency, along with possible recommendations.  Similar to service learning, this course provides students with a unique and creative learning experience, and it provides the community with an important service.

When asked by Dr. Paul Whitney, former chair of the Psychology Department,  about the relevance of the Community Research experience, Keva Herron (’05 Psych BA) responded, “I was very surprised to see just how beneficial the knowledge and information that we (students) learn here at WSU can be to the community.  Applying what has been learned during my academic career at WSU not only helps me by offering a real-world application scenario, but also helps the community by having research projects run properly to evaluate certain aspects that need improvement to better our local community.  Much of the community needs help and does not have the training, knowledge, or experience to run these projects, and it's very nice to know that we can offer our knowledge and time to help them and perhaps even make a difference locally.  Real world applications are a solid example of how to put our education to work post-graduation.  They are also more ‘hands on learning’ as compared to theoretical classroom practice assignments that comprised most of our undergraduate careers."

Opportunity #5: Psi Chi

The WSU chapter of Psi Chi, the national honor society for psychology majors, is an enthusiastic and active group of students who complete a number of community service projects each year.  This year they joined a group of psychology graduate students and raised more than $1200.00 for the American Cancer Society.  This group also makes frequent visits to the one of the local senior care facilities for recreational activities, and is currently heading a university and community wide cell-phone drive to collect recycled cell phones.  The phones will be donated to Alternatives to Violence on the Palouse, a local organization that serves the victims of intimate partner and sexual abuse.

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