APA’s 2012 Summer Science Fellowship program held at George Mason University

Advanced undergraduates gain hands-on experience in psychological research along with advocacy and professional development training.

By Bree Gunter

This summer, the Science Directorate of the American Psychological Association (APA) sponsored the fifth annual APA Summer Science Fellowship program, which was held at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. Twelve undergraduate students – all rising seniors – were selected from a pool of more than 500 applicants to participate. 

Based on their areas of interest in psychology, participants were matched with faculty members in the George Mason psychology department, and during the six week program, gained valuable research experience. This year’s students had a wide array of research interests, and they were placed in labs that gave them hands-on experience in fields such as cognitive and behavioral neuroscience, clinical psychology and industrial/organizational psychology. 

The fellows also participated in professional development sessions, primarily led by George Mason faculty members and geared toward preparing the students for graduate school and careers in psychological science. These sessions covered topics such as developing research questions, how to give a scientific presentation and the ins and outs of getting into graduate school.

Fellow Mara Norton-Baker explains a flow chart that details the data collection and analysis process used during her experiment. The 2012 Summer Science Fellows convened on the roof of the APA building on APA Policy Day.
Fellow Mara Norton-Baker explains a flow chart that details the data collection and analysis process used during her experiment (left). The 2012 Summer Science Fellows convened on the roof of the APA building on APA Policy Day (right).

In addition to research training and professional development, an APA Policy Day was arranged during which the students visited APA’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. for a briefing about science policy by staff members of the Science Directorate’s Government Relations Office. The students then toured the United States Capitol Building, met with a psychologist who works as an APA Congressional Fellow and learned about APA’s efforts to influence policy decisions and advocate for the interests of the discipline.

Students also had some time to visit Washington, D.C. and see the sights. In addition to visiting the monuments and several museums, the fellows joined several APA staff members one evening at Nationals Park to watch a Nationals’ game against the Colorado Rockies.

The 2012 APA Summer Science Fellows were: 

  • Taylor Bolt – Clemson University

  • Lauren Breithaupt – Baker University

  • Lucia Chen – University of California, San Diego

  • Aryanne de Silva – Wellesley College

  • Darrius Jones – University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

  • Mary-Kate Duffy – Villanova University

  • Noah Levine – Rice University

  • Zachary Monge – Boston University

  • Micah Mumper – Macalester University

  • Mara Norton-Baker – University of Notre Dame

  • Grace Sullivan – Buena Vista University

  • Kayley Sullivan – George Washington University

George Mason University faculty mentors were:

  • Tim Curby (applied developmental)

  • Susanne Denham (applied developmental)

  • Christianne Esposito-Smythers (clinical)

  • Pamela Greenwood (cognitive and behavioral neuroscience)

  • Eden King (industrial/organizational)

  • Craig McDonald (cognitive and behavioral neuroscience)

  • Robyn Mehlenbeck (clinical)

  • Tyler Shaw (human factors and applied cognition)

  • June Tangney (clinical)

  • James Thompson (cognitive and behavioral neuroscience)

  • Rob Youmans (human factor and applied cognition)

The 2012 program was considered a great success by students and staff alike. At the close of the program, several fellows indicated that the Summer Science Fellowship provided them with a unique research experience that allowed them to experience many different aspects of the research process. Noted fellow Lauren Breithaupt (who worked in Dr. Robyn Mehlenbeck’s lab): “I was able to assist with the research recruitment process, initial experimental trials, data analysis, research article composition and presentation. Along with these experiences, I worked on article reviews, patient intake information and clinic management skills.”  

Students also noted that their experience was a great way to prepare them for graduate school by giving them tips from both current graduate students and faculty members who review graduate applications. 

Fellow Grace Sullivan, who worked with Dr. Craig McDonald, concluded her review of the program by commenting: “I loved the program and learned a lot. I’m so appreciative to have had this opportunity; I think it’s a great program and I can’t think of a better way I could have spent my summer. I feel like it helped me learn a lot while putting me in an environment where I received motivation and preparation for graduate school.” 

Information about the application process for the 2013 Summer Science Fellowship program will be available in late fall. Check the Science Directorate website and this newsletter for details.

Bree Gunter is Science Programs Associate for the APA Science Directorate.