Elizabeth is currently engaged in remote research with collaborators across the country
A brief explanation of the experience in the program.
I studied as a doctoral student of developmental psychology at Brigham Young University (BYU) during the years 2015-2020, under the mentorship of Dr. J. Dee Higley. My research focuses on using nonhuman primate models to understand human development and disease. While BYU does not house monkeys, I travelled to an off-site facility each summer for approximately 2-3 months to collect data. Thanks to BYU, I was able to conduct my research using funding for which I applied and received from the BYU Psychology Department's Experiential Learning Grants, BYU Graduate Studies' Graduate Research Fellowships, and BYU Global Women's Studies' Fellowships. As a doctoral student, I published 9 papers and 2 chapters, and presented at 7 national conferences. I taught 7 classes (3 courses) and received the Psychology Department's Outstanding Psychology Graduate Instructor award. I also won first-place for presenting my dissertation research at BYU's Three-Minute Thesis Competition, a university-wide competition for BYU graduate students. BYU's Psychology Ph.D. program enabled me to have many growth-promoting experiences. I am grateful for the mentorship of my advisor, as well as the mentorship of the other faculty members in the department. When I received my Ph.D this past spring, I couldn't help but reflect on my gratitude for the many hands that helped me get to this point.
2. What your post-graduation plans are/were/what are you currently doing.
My next steps are to complete a post-doctoral fellowship and then apply for a faculty position at a university. My experience in BYU's Psychology Ph.D. program taught me to love research as well as mentorship, so I hope to one day have a research lab where I can help undergraduate and graduate students seek their dreams, as my mentors did (and are still doing) for me. Presently, I am engaged in remote research with collaborators across the country. Some of the projects on which I am focused include investigating factors impacting outcomes of adopted individuals, studying the impact of prenatal exposure to maternal depression/anxiety, and assessing the relationship between individual variation in neurotransmitters and adolescent alcohol consumption, among others. Some of the projects involved nonhuman primates and some involve humans!
3. Any Advice for potential students?
My advice for potential graduate students is three-fold:
1. Advocate for yourself! You know yourself better than anyone. You know what your goals are, so YOU make sure that the steps you are taking (i.e., the classes you take, the labs in which you work, the internships you do, etc.) are in line with your goals. You know what your bandwidth is, so YOU make sure that you don't over- or under-commit yourself or your time (i.e., the number of credits you take, the hours that you commit to work in a lab, the research projects you work on, etc.). You know where your research interests lie, so YOU make sure that you are engaged in research or that you are seeking out research labs that investigate topics that are interesting to you. Find what matters to you! And if you don't know how to begin, talk to a faculty member that you trust! Talk to me! We can help you figure out your next steps!
2. Try to overcome any apprehension or shyness you might feel about contacting faculty. Take it from me, someone who is naturally shy and unsure of myself, faculty members want to help you succeed. Your reaching out to them enables them to help you! Whether you are emailing them about a potential position in their lab, writing a letter of recommendation, advice about applying to graduate school, etc., remember that they are kind, normal, friendly people who will have ideas on how to best help you! (And don't feel bad if they don't respond to your email! Just email them again, or stop by their office. If they don't respond, it's most likely because they are busy and they forgot, not because they are ignoring you!).
3. Remember that it is more important to work hard than it is to be smart. When I began graduate school, I would cry to my husband and say, "I am the dumbest (<---haha) person in the program. I don't ever have anything to say in classes because I barely understand what is going on and everyone else knows so much more than I do." His response was always the same: I would rather work with someone who is a hard worker than with someone who is a genius. And he was right. Putting in the hours to learn the skills that you need to conduct your research or the hours to read to understand theories or the state of the literature is invaluable. Practice diligence, doggedness, and resilience and you will succeed in graduate school! :)