The Psychology Department offers students opportunities to become involved in research. Hands-on research experience provides valuable skills in literature review, experimental design, research methods, and data analysis. The skills obtained through research experience will help students further understand concepts relating to psychology and research and will also help prepare students for graduate study.
Faculty members are often more than willing to mentor and supervise student research projects or have students help with faculty research projects. The Psychology Department faculty here at UW-Whitewater study a wide array of research topics spanning from school and social psychology to cognitive psychology and neuroscience.
By enrolling in PSYCH 498 (Independent Study) or PSYCH 499 (Senior Thesis), students can earn credit for their research. Students may also apply for grants to fund faculty-mentored research projects through the UW-W Undergraduate Research Program. Students must have taken the appropriate prerequisite courses in order to enroll in Independent Study or Senior Thesis.
Research Labs and programs
Students may gain valuable research experience through the department's research laboratories and research programs dedicated to conducting psychological research. These labs and programs are typically led by individual faculty members who serve as the "principle investigator" on research studies that are conducted within the lab or program. It's also typical for the research conducted in labs and programs to have a long-term and specific research focus, such as investigating the mechanisms of reward evaluation in the brain, or the relation between reading fluency and reading comprehension among school children. Involvement in a research lab can confer students with a strong background in a particular and focused field of research.
Below are details about several labs/programs within the psychology department. More detail can be obtained by contacting research faculty directly.
Interested students are advised to have successfully completed both PSYCH 215 (Basic Statistical Methods) and PSYCH 216 (Research Methods), and have Junior standing before applying to join a lab or program.
Behavioral Neuroscience Research Lab (Dr. Meg Waraczynski)
We study the neural mechanisms of reward evaluation in the mammalian brain. Specifically, we study how neurochemical manipulations of cells in a structure called the extended amygdala affect rats' evaluation of the reward effect of stimulating the brain's medial forebrain bundle. Ultimately, we seek to computationally model how cellular activity patterns in the extended amygdala represent the momentary value of a reward in the context of the animal's current internal and external environment.
The work of undergraduate assistants is critical to these goals. Each semester students in both psychology and the biological sciences assist with animal testing, data analysis, and other related tasks. Some students earn competitive undergraduate research grants, complete thesis projects, and present their work at professional conferences and in professional journals. Students also get to know other motivated, curious, hard working students with a variety of interests and gain experience working as part of a team to achieve important goals. If you would like more information about our lab contact Dr. Waraczynski (email@example.com) or any students currently part of our research team.
School-Based Reading Research (Dr. Christine Neddenriep)
Our research team is interested in looking at the relationship between reading fluency (reading with ease) and comprehension (reading for understanding) in elementary-school children. We are currently working with third-grade students at Washington Elementary School in Whitewater to improve their fluency and comprehension by using a strategy, Reread-Adapt and Answer-Comprehend (RAAC) which has been shown to increase students' speed and accuracy in reading as well as their understanding of fictional text. However, RAAC has not been applied to improving understanding of nonfiction text. Our research team has developed specific comprehension questions to assist students in understanding nonfiction text using the RAAC method. We use single-case, experimental designs (e.g., multiple baseline design across participants) to evaluate the effects of the intervention. We first evaluate the effects of fluency instruction alone on reading speed and accuracy as well as comprehension and then we add the comprehension instruction to determine the relative change in both fluency and comprehension with the addition of comprehension instruction. Our team currently includes one undergraduate student, Shawna Loniello, who is in the Research Apprenticeship Program (RAP) and five graduate students in school psychology.
The Laboratory for Language and Emotion (Dr. David Havas)
The Laboratory for Lanugage and Emotion uses the theory of embodied cognition to explore the relationship between language and emotion. This lab is specifically interested in how language can evoke strong emotions in people, and also, how emotions impact language comprehension. Recent research has shown that manipulations of participants' facial expressions of emotion change the speed with which they comprehend emotional sentences. For example, pleasant sentences are read faster while smiling than while frowning, and vice versa for unpleasant sentences. This finding helps support theories of embodied cognition, and shows that emotional states interact with sentence understanding. Students who participate in this lab will be exposed to a variety of research methods, including the use of electrodes and eye tracking equipment. Please visit the lab's website or contact Dr. Havas (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information about this lab.
The Applied Health Psychology Lab (Dr. Sasha Karnes)
The Applied Health Psychology Lab is currently recruiting and enrolling adult patients from Aurora Healthcare for a randomized controlled trial. The purpose of the research is to test the effectiveness of a web-based program that is based on motivational interviewing for increasing physical activity. Undergraduate researchers are involved with day-to-day study operations. Specific tasks include gathering and cataloging participant intake information, obtaining informed consent, collecting survey data, and sending intervention materials.
FORMER UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCHERS: WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
- Dr. Ashley Acheson is a 1998 graduate in psychology. Before graduation, he conducted research in the Behavioral Neuroscience Lab. He is now an assistant professor of psychiatry and research imaging at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio.
- Amanda Rewoldt, spring 2013 graduate, is current the Child and Adolescent Day Treatment Coordinator at Rogers Memorial Hospital. She intends to apply to graduate programs in clinical psychology in the near future.
- Julia Lamping, spring 2013 graduate, is currently enrolled in UW-Stout's Master of Science in Applied Psychology. She is completing a dual concentration in both industrial/organizational psychology and evaluation research.
- Megan Wehse graduated with a BA in Psychology and Social Work in 2014. She completed her senior thesis working in the Laboratory for Language and Emotion. The title of her senior thesis project was, "Semantic satiation and the comprehension of emotional language." Megan has been accepted to a Ph.D. program in Visual and Cognitive Neuroscience at North Dakota State University.
- Thomas Haasl graduated with a BS in Psychology in 2013. He completed his senior thesis working in the Laboratory for Language and Emotion. The title of his senior thesis was, "Effects of facial muscle fatigue on emotional language comprehension." Thomas has been accepted to the Master's program in Applied Economics at UW-Whitewater.
UW-W alum featured in video
Ashley Acheson, Ph.D., is a 1998 UW-Whitewater graduate in psychology. Ashley is currently an assistant professor of psychiatry and research imaging at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. He conducts brain scans and psychological testing of children who are at risk for drug use. Check out Dr. Acheson's work in this video.