My Undergraduate Research Experience

As a Psych major, I thought it would be important to be involved in research during my time at Luther. Although I still don't know exactly what I plan on doing post-graduation, the idea of grad school is a very realistic possibility, and research experience is incredibly important if I want to be considered. So, my sophomore year, I met with my adviser to discuss options for research.

Amazingly, there are a ton of opportunities to do Psych-related research at Luther; almost every one of the Psych professors is actively involved in research. When my adviser and I discussed my interests (namely the mind-body connection), she steered me toward the Laboratory for the Investigation of Mind, Body, and Spirit, which is led by Dr. Loren Toussaint. About a year in to my research, I think it's been a really great fit!

I have been a part of two major research projects. The first is a collaborative process between Dr. Toussaint and Dr. Ani Kalayjian of Meaningful World. Dr. Kalayjian gave self-report questionnaires to individuals in locations of severe trauma throughout the world, and she sent the completed questionnaires to Dr. Toussaint, who passed them along to three other students and I. We are examining the link between trauma, forgiveness, and meaning in life. There are almost 1,000(!!) responses from Africa, Haiti, Israel, Palestine, and Armenia. After the incredibly daunting task of entering all of the data into a computer system to be analyzed, we have since been looking through the information for interesting correlations and implications. We presented some of the data at the Minnesota Undergraduate Psychology Conference last spring (see picture), and are continuing to work on putting together more presentations for this year.

The other project I have been working on is with Whole Health - Easily and Effectively (WHEE). WHEE was developed by Dr. Daniel Benor. Dr. Toussaint has a relationship with Dr. Benor, and again received data from him in response to Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). This research looked at EMDR compared to typical cognitive behavioral therapy to see which is more effective. As I am the only student working with this research, the process is going a bit more slowly, but at the very end of last year, Dr. Toussaint and I were able to start analyzing the data.

Although research is not at all my favorite thing to do, I have definitely learned a lot (and will continue to learn) through this experience. I think it's amazing how many students within the Psychology department are able to be involved in real research at such a young age, and how we can do it without leaving the Psych building. I love how much autonomy I have in the lab, while still knowing that professors are always there for questions, guidance, and direction. I would definitely recommend the experience to anyone considering going on to graduate school in Psychology!

Presenting a poster at the Minnesota Undergraduate Psychology Conference

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