Undergraduate research

Faculty members in the Department of Psychology all have active research programs in their own area of specializations.

Psychology students at Mount Allison are able to participate in the research process in a number of ways:

  • Each year, individual faculty members supervise research projects for honours and directed studies students.
  • Students also have the opportunity to apply for research awards, which allow them to work with faculty members over the summer term.
  •  Many students will either work or volunteer in faculty research laboratories.
  •  Students in our Introductory Psychology classes are given the opportunity to experience the research process by participating in our Psychology Participant Pool and becoming a participant in the many studies conducted each year in our Department.

Students often enrol in psychology because they find the discipline fascinating and are interested in learning about themselves and others. In addition to learning about what is known about the mind and behavior, students majoring in psychology also learn the scientific methods to acquire new information. Thus, students become critical consumers of knowledge and can acquire additional research skills throughout their undergraduate education.

Benefits of acquiring research experience

Research experience allows students to apply the skills they have learned in the classroom and develop skills valuable for further education and jobs.

Specifically, students gain skills such as:

  • conducting a literature review
  • designing studies
  • collecting and analyzing data
  • computer skills
  • communication skills (both oral and written)
  • interpersonal (collaborative) skills

Research experience allows students to evaluate their level of interest and skills for research-oriented educational programs and career choices.

Gaining research experience as an undergraduate will provide students with a more accurate sense of what research entails. Students should thoroughly explore educational and career opportunities to determine required courses and/or experience.

For those students who are considering graduate studies in psychology, gaining research experience at the undergraduate level will provide a flavour of future endeavours.

Ways to obtain research experience

Volunteering in a research lab

Many faculty members welcome volunteers in their research labs when there are appropriate projects.

Volunteers may help with data collection, data entry, as well as other aspects of the research process. Such experience may assist students who intend on completing a directed studies course or an honours thesis project as well as obtaining a paid research assistant position.

Earning academic credits and gaining research experience

Students can gain research experience when enrolled in some classes (e.g., social psychology, memory, human neuropsychology, and research and design).

Students completing a directed studies (Psyc 4950/4951) will acquire many research related skills. Directed studies provide students with the opportunity to work one-on-one with a faculty member. Although the requirements will vary according to the supervisor and the project, students often conduct an extensive literature review and an empirical project.

Students are often required to complete a written report of their work and present it as a poster on psychology’s annual research day. Students can gain research experience by completing an honours thesis (Psyc 4990).

For information about the honours program in psychology, students should attend the information session(s) scheduled during the academic year.

Earning money and gaining research experience

Students may apply for paid research assistantships in various labs. Undergraduate research assistantships may also be available through the University.

How to approach faculty members about gaining research experience

Speak to individual faculty members about the opportunities they have in their research labs. Research interests of faculty members are listed below.

Before you contact a faculty member, students may want to consider and be prepared to tell a potential supervisor the following:

  • why they want to gain research experience
  • what are their educational and career goals
  • what work/volunteer experience they currently have
  • what their academic background is (e.g., year of study, courses taken and achievements earned)
  • why they want to work with that particular person
  • what type of position they are seeking

In addition, students should be prepared to provide a written package summarizing this information (e.g., cover letter, CV, unofficial copy of transcript).

Some students will have already established rapport with faculty members and will feel comfortable approaching a professor. If you are making initial contact, you can do so by:

  • Sending an e-mail requesting a time to meet and discuss potential research opportunities.
  • Stopping by a faculty member’s office (e.g., during office hours) to request a time to meet or asking if they are available to chat now.

Faculty members often receive many requests from students about research opportunities and are limited in the number of students they are able to supervise. Be sure to be proactive, and courteous, about gaining research experience. 

Faculty research interests

Find out more about specific faculty research interests.

Faculty research interests

Dr. Rima Azar

Taking a biopsychosocial approach to health, Dr. Azar’s work focuses on the biobehavioural mechanisms linking stress and health from a developmental perspective. She has a particular interest in: (1) maternal and paternal coping strategies when caring for children with chronic or complex health conditions; (2) patient/family navigation and peer-to-peer support for families of children/youth with complex care needs; & (3) biological (i.e. inflammatory and endocrine) mechanisms linking maternal prenatal depression and anxiety to birth weight, to postnatal stress response, and health.(Contact: razar@mta.ca)

Dr. Terry Belke

Dr. Terry Belke is an operant psychologist. Operant psychologists study how the consequences that follow behaviour affect the occurrence of that behaviour. Dr. Belke studies how behaviour is affected by experience — in other words, learning. In his research he investigates the opportunity to run as a rewarding consequence for behaviour in rats. This procedure allows him to study the rewarding value of running and the factors that influence motivation to run. Learning more about the conditions that make running rewarding may help us to understand how to make exercising more rewarding. (Contact: tbelke@mta.ca)

Dr. Stephen Claxton-Oldfield

Dr. Stephen Claxton-Oldfield is a social psychologist. An argument could be made that ‘all psychology is social psychology’ as all behaviour takes place in a social context and, even when other people are not actually present, our behaviour continues to be influenced by them. Topics of interest to social psychologists include attitudes and attitude change, forming impressions of others, interpersonal attraction, prejudice, the self, prosocial behaviour, and aggression. Dr. Claxton-Oldfield’s main research program focuses on the people who volunteer in hospice palliative care settings. Volunteers are the heart of the hospice palliativecare team, providing emotional, social, and practical support to dying persons and their loved ones. (Contact:  sclaxton@mta.ca)

Dr. Geneviève Desmarais

Dr. Geneviève Desmarais studies how our mind merges together the different kinds of information that come from the senses. Even though the information coming in through the different senses are processed by completely different brain areas, we experience one unified perception. Dr. Desmarais studies how we integrate sight and sound, and how the memory representations of objects we both see and touch develop -what kind of information is stored in your memory? Is that information different depending on whether we see something or touch something? (Contact: gdesmarais@mta.ca)

Dr. Nancy Garon

Dr. Nancy Garon studies social and cognitive development in typical and atypical populations. Research suggests that early social interaction with the caregiver is critical for normal development. Children with autism, for example, have difficulties that affect how they interact with others. These initial differences lead them to learn about the world in different ways. Dr. Garon’s research has focused on the very early development of temperamental differences in siblings of children with autism who are at high risk of developing autism. Her research has also focused on the early development of executive functions, which are complex cognitive skills that have been strongly associated with social ability. (Contact: ngaron@mta.ca)

Dr. Odette Gould

Dr. Odette Gould studies adult development and aging. Dr. Gould’s research focuses on how cognitive and social variables both play a role on how normal aging affects everyday cognitive experiences such as memoryand collaboration. Much of her research addresses how adults, particularly older adults, seek, understand, and use information concerning their health (e.g., medication adherence and health care decisions). She also studies the experiences of health-care providers, and howinformation is exchanged between patients and health-care providers. (Contact: ogould@mta.ca)

Dr. Lisa Dawn Hamilton

Dr. Lisa Dawn Hamilton studies sexuality and relationships. Dr. Hamilton studies sexual health from a biopsychosocial perspective, examining the relationship between environment, behaviour, and biology as they relate to sexual response and sexual behaviour. Specifically, Dr. Hamilton studies the psychological and biological mechanisms through which stress can affect sexual functioning, using psychophysiological measurements, hormonal assays, selfreport surveys, and behavioural observations. She also studies sex education, and the psychological and physiological components of monogamy and nonmonogamy. (Contact: ldhamilton@mta.ca)

Dr. Gene Ouellette

Dr. Gene Ouellette studies speech, language, and literary development. Although we tend to take our communication skills for granted, speech and language are both fundamentally important to human life and incredibly complex systems. It is thus of interest to study how speech and language skills develop cross childhood. Literacy skills play an important role in our lives; Dr. Ouellette studies how our speech and language and cognitive skills relate to learning how to read, spell, and understand printed text.

Dr. Jennifer Tomes

Dr. Jennifer Tomes is a cognitive psychologist. Cognition involves attending, thinking, reasoning, remembering, recognizing, categorizing, speaking, listening, reading, writing, and even being aware of the world around us. Cognitive psychology is a broad area that investigates a wide range of interesting questions from how we are able to use language, to why I cannot remember my new phone number, to how we are able to solve problems. Dr. Tomes’ primary research focus is human memory. She has three primary research streams. First, she investigates the development of false or illusory memories and how these ‘memories’ differ from veridical memories. Second, she is interested in the long-term impact of concussion on cognitive and memory processes, and decisions involving reporting concussions. Finally, she is interested in educational testing strategies and how they impact student learning. (Contact: jtomes@mta.ca)

Dr. Doruk Uysal Irak

Dr. Doruk Uysal Irak is an industrial and organizational (I-O) psychologist. I-O psychology is the scientific study of working and it applies that science to workplace issues facing individuals, organizations, and teams. Dr.Uysal Irak has two lines of research. The first one focuses on the work-family interface, which investigates the topics of work-family conflict, employed parents, and well-being at the workplace. The question of “how workplaces can be improved in order to promote employee well-being” is one of the focuses of those studies. The second line of research focuses on personality in the workplace. She studies the role of traits on organizational outcomes such as turnover intentions, job satisfaction, and person-environment fit. (Contact:  duysalirak@mta.ca)

Dr. Louise Wasylkiw

Dr. Louise Wasylkiw studies personality. The field of personality psychology seeks to unravel the mysteries of a person by considering that people are both the same as other people (saying someone is shy implies that this person is like other shy people and probably feels anxious in social situations) and different from others (saying someone is shy tells us that this person differs from others who are more outgoing). In her research, Dr. Wasylkiw is interested in the self (beliefs and feelings people hold about themselves). (Contact: lwasylki@mta.ca)

Psychology Research Day

In 2002, the Department of Psychology began hosting the Psychology Research Day. This annual event  is held at the end of each academic year, and gives our undergraduate students the opportunity to present the results of their research projects. 

Every year, 10 to 15 students in the Department of Psychology carry out honours theses projects and 15 to 20 students carry out directed studies projects. In both of these cases, the students plan a research project, conduct a literature review, collect and analyze data, and write a research report. On Research Day, honours students present an oral report summarizing the theses and directed studies students present posters outlining their projects.

Since 2002, Psychology Research Day has become an annual event. The day is much like a mini-conference, and is typically attended by the Psychology faculty, the honours students' parents and other family members, the honours and directed studies students' friends, as well as up-and-coming psychology students. It is a terrific opportunity to hear about all of the exciting and high-quality research that is being carried out in the Department.

Useful links


Becoming a teaching assistant

The Department of Psychology hires undergraduate students to work as teaching assistants each year.

To apply, fill out the teaching assistant application.


Psychology Society

Hello psychology friends! The Psychology Society Executive aims to provide both social and academic services for all students in the Department of Psychology.

Membership

  • $10 = membership fee (admission to all social events and information on other services provided by the Psychology Society)
  • $15 = membership fee (as described above) AND a Psych Society T-shirt!

For more information

» Follow @MTApsychsociety on Twitter

» E-mail us at psychsoc@mta.ca

Get ready for a crazy, psychedelic year!