In August, psychologist Sujeeta Bhatt, PhD, of Georgetown University Medical Center, and Kathleen Pierce, a fifth-year social psychology graduate student at The Ohio State University, became the first to complete an APA-sponsored research fellowship in the Department of Defense's Counterintelligence Field Activity Office (CIFA) in the Washington, D.C., area.
The fellowship program, which began in June, is a collaboration between APA and the Department of Defense. Heather O'Beirne Kelly, PhD, who directs the APA science policy fellowship programs, says the fellowships are "a perfect opportunity to extend APA's efforts to promote behavioral research within the federal government and to train psychologists in national security-related research and policy."
At CIFA, which serves as the coordinating office for the Department of Defense's counterintelligence activities, Bhatt researched various techniques to detect deception, and Pierce analyzed how competing identities affect multinational individuals. The fellows worked in the office's Behavioral Sciences Directorate under the supervision of three psychologists, Scott Shumate, PhD, Kirk Kennedy, PhD, and John Capps, PhD.
Working with other CIFA psychologists, Bhatt says, allowed her to gain insight into how Department of Defense workers--including psychologists--can use psychological research to create public policy.
"As a scientist, I'm used to moving from grant to grant," she says. "[The fellowship] allowed me to see what other options exist in neuroscience outside of academia."
Likewise, Pierce--who has had a longtime interest in current events and government--used the fellowship as an opportunity to study policy beyond the university.
"I learned what it is that people in the real world, outside of academia, want from us," she says. "And I learned how I could best communicate my work to them."
Now that the fellowship has ended, Bhatt is using a CIA postdoctoral grant to use functional magnetic resonance imaging to determine which brain regions activate when a person engages in deception. Pierce is completing her degree.