Undergrads learn about research and more as APA’s 2013 Summer Science Fellows at George Mason University

Psychology students gain hands-on research experience, learn about policy and advocacy, and receive professional development training.

By Bree Gunter

This summer, 12 undergraduate psychology students were matched with faculty mentors in the George Mason University psychology department as part of a fellowship program sponsored by the American Psychological Association (APA). Participants were placed in labs based on their interests in various fields of psychology, which included clinical, human factors, industrial/organizational and cognitive and behavioral neuroscience. The six week-program enabled students to gain direct experience in research labs, with responsibility for conducting literature reviews, running study participants and performing data analyses.  

Fellow Sara Moss, who worked in Robyn Mehlenbeck’s, PhD, lab, summed up her experience this way: “My work exposed me to a real clinical research in the most hands-on way I could ever have hoped for as an undergraduate. I was forced to think critically about my own research interests as they relate to my past and future experiences. I was able to work on a variety of tasks that balanced interaction with patients, faculty members and graduate students. I saw research and clinical treatment from multiple perspectives in just six short weeks!” 

The program, designed through a partnership between the APA Science Directorate and psychology faculty at George Mason in Fairfax, Va., ran from June 8 through July 20, 2013. The 12 participants — all rising seniors — were selected from a pool of more than 500 applicants.

The 2013 APA Summer Science Fellows were:


Home Institution

Faculty mentor and area of expertise

Jessica Braymiller Mercyhurst University Craig McDonald
(cognitive and behavioral neuroscience)
Ho Kwan Cheung Pennsylvania State University Eden King
Hailey Dotterer University of Michigan June Tangney
Eureka Foong Chen Yew Linfield College Rob Youmans
(human factors and applied cognition)
Juan Diego Guevara Georgia Southern University Rob Youmans
(human factors and applied cognition)
Shakema Lynch St. John’s University Eden King
Sara Moss Dickinson College Robyn Mehlenbeck
Andrew Nelson Pacific Lutheran University Tyler Shaw
(human factors and applied cognition)
Emily Pacic Michigan State University Steve Zaccaro
Jamielyn Samper Lebanon Valley College Carryl Baldwin
(human factors and applied cognition)
Anton Sytine Iowa State University Tyler Shaw
(human factors and applied cognition)
Claire Tseng Grinnell College June Tangney

Beyond providing lab experiences, the faculty also helped the students prepare for graduate school by leading twice-weekly professional development sessions on the graduate admissions process, skills needed to excel in graduate school and careers in psychological science. Among the topics discussed were developing a research question, giving effective presentations, how to navigate and network at conferences, strategies for applying to graduate school and how to create a professional curriculum vitae.

Left photo: Fellows Jessica Braymiller and Jamielyn Samper examine a study participant’s brainwaves. Right photo: Fellows Eureka Foong and Juan Guevara examine drawings by participants in a creativity study with Rob Youmans, PhD (center).

Left : Fellows Jessica Braymiller and Jamielyn Samper examine a study participant’s brainwaves. Right: Fellows Eureka Foong and Juan Guevara examine drawings by participants in a creativity study with Rob Youmans, PhD (center).

To expand their knowledge of areas of psychological science outside of academia, the fellows also participated in two field trips that offered a look at policy and advocacy work and at research in a corporate setting.  

On “APA Policy Day,” students met with the Science Directorate’s Government Relations staff at APA’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., to learn about APA’s efforts to influence policy decisions and advocate for the interests of the discipline. They also received a tour of the nearby United States Capitol Building and met with a psychologist who works on Capitol Hill as an APA Congressional Fellow.

Fellow Ho Kwan Cheung indicated her appreciation for learning about policy and how scientific research helps shape policy: “Even if people are not interested government work, it is still very useful to see the bigger picture of research; most of us are so focused on the research being done in lab and publishing it. ...”

The students also visited the private research firm Westat in Rockville, Md., to learn about its research, survey, data management and statistical work. Westat Senior Research Scientist (and psychologist) Emanuel Robinson organized meetings with Westat research staff whose work matches the fellows’ interests. Fellow Andrew Nelson noted, “The trip itself was exceptional. Dr. Robinson’s planning, especially considering that is was individually tailored to each student, could not have been better, and I strongly recommend that you include this trip for future programs.”

The 2013 Summer Science Fellows during their field trip to Westat with Westat Senior Research Scientist Emanuel Robinson.

The 2013 Summer Science Fellows on their field trip to Westat with Westat Senior Research Scientist Emanuel Robinson (center).

The importance of professional networking was a major theme of this year’s fellowship program. One of the professional development sessions was devoted to building and maintaining networks, and students were encouraged to stay in contact with the people they met at APA and Westat.  All students established LinkedIn accounts and invited their peers and other professionals they met over the summer to connect with them.

Of course, the students also took time to enjoy Washington, D.C., including kayaking on the Potomac and celebrating the 4th of July on the National Mall.

Information about the application process for the 2014 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.