-Written by Katie Little ‘18
Working in the MAP Lab during the summer is completely different than it is during the academic year. During the academic year, research assistants must prioritize their schoolwork. The MAP Lab hosts weekly lab meetings to discuss tasks for the next week, but progress slows as students have limited time to dedicate to reading articles, running participants, and analyzing data. The summer provides the opportunity for some members of the lab to work full-time conducting research in clinical psychology.
This week, Erica, Will, and I (the three summer lab members) will be writing blog posts to reflect on what we’ve been doing this summer. We really hope that our posts help explain what our roles are as research assistants and inspire some of you to get involved in summer research.
A Typical Monday in the MAP Lab:
9:00 AM—Arrive to the Wall Academic Building on the Davidson College Campus. Immediately start scrambling to prepare for the weekly MAP Lab Meeting with Dr. Sockol and the other research assistants. To be ready for the meeting, I check my to-do list from the previous week and try and make sure everything is complete and printed out.
10:00 AM—Dr. Sockol arrives. Will, Erica, and I save our work on the lab computers, and we all move to the center table to go over everything we did last week. After we talk about what items we completed and what items we still are working on, we peer review our abstracts, posters, and blog posts. Peer review is a huge part of the research process; we each write our comments down and talk about our broad critiques.
After peer review, we talk about our goals for the rest of the week. We each make to-do lists of each task to keep track of everything we have to do. Each of us has several different projects in the lab at any given time, and it can be difficult to make sure all the balls stay in the air. The full meeting usually takes about 2 hours.
12:00 PM—Lunch. On Mondays, lunch means a break after lab meeting before we get started on our tasks for the week. However, we sometimes have lunch meetings with the other psychology students on campus to discuss articles relevant to each of our fields. These meetings give us the opportunity to learn about what the other labs are working on and about other sub-fields in psychology.
1:00 PM—Time to work. It can be stressful to realize that half of the workday is already gone, but we all sit at our computers to buckle down and start checking off items on our to-do lists. Here are some common tasks that we do in the lab:
- Data analysis in SPSS Statistics: SPSS Statistics is a computer program that lets us quickly perform statistical tests on large sets of data. It can be tedious since a lot of it involves writing out “code” to tell the program what test to run and on what numbers, but once you get the hang of it, it can tell you a lot of information in a relatively short period of time.
- Writing abstracts: Abstracts are usually 200-250 word summaries of a study. They include things like why you did the study, how you did the study, and what you found, as well as why your findings are important. We submit abstracts to conferences to tell them why we should get the opportunity to share our findings with other members of the psychological community and the public.
- Making Posters: Posters are ways for us to show our work in a visual format. We make posters using Powerpoint, and they include information about our research and graphs/charts showing our results.
- Pilot Testing: Pilot testing is how we practice running a study. Since our experiments use real people as subjects, we need to practice everything we say and do to make sure participants won’t be confused or uncomfortable when we conduct our study. Sometimes we pilot test by using our fellow lab members as subjects; other times, we get members of the Davidson community to come help us out. We don’t use the information that our pilot test participants give us in the actual study, but pilot test participants do provide us with feedback on how we can make things run smoothly.
- Running Participants: Once we pilot test a study and make sure everything, from the materials to the method, is perfect, we get to have real participants come into the lab. This is a super exciting part of the process, and we are thrilled to have visitors come into our space and help us with our research.
5:00 PM—Time to go home. Because we have personal information about real people stored in our lab and on our computers, we always are careful to log out of our computers and lock all file drawers with personal information. We then lock our lab door and make sure everything is secure.
Working in the lab during the summer is a highly rewarding experience. We currently have 3 full-time lab members working on 6 different projects, and we get to learn more about what we’re interested in every day. Each of us has different backgrounds in research and different interests in the lab, but by working together, we each get to become better researchers.
Image Found: https://openclipart.org/detail/193039/awesome-summer