Research: Not Just Experiments and Test Tubes | #1

As a Psychology student, an internship is not your typical office job. As a prospective researcher, it made more sense for me to invest my time this summer in Psychology research. Upon being presented with the opportunity to work on a Cube from the MCubed Program, I couldn’t resist. This summer, I am working on a project with Dr. Brenda Volling, the director of the Center for Human Growth and Development here at the University of Michigan. Dr. Volling is commencing her first new study in many years.

My job, as a research assistant, along with three other University of Michigan undergraduates who I am part of a team with, is to work behind the scenes to accomplish the many goals of this new study, which is still in the process of being established. Something new that I am experiencing is the steps that are needed to begin a study. At this point, I have spent many weeks reading literature that relates to the focus of the new study. This literature includes theses, peer-reviewed journal articles, and even lengthy dissertations.

***One fun thing I’ve gotten to do is learn how to manage complex video equipment!***

I’m fortunate to be a peer advisor for the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program during the fall and winter semesters. Something that my own students often tell me is that they don’t feel they are actually doing research. Something that I explain to them, and that I am experiencing even more myself through this summer research internship, is that research is not always “fun and exciting.” Research isn’t getting to run participants through experiments all of the time, or administering surveys, or sitting in a lab with test tubes. The bulk of research is the more tedious, dare I say “boring,” tasks. This includes understanding previous research through readings. Great researchers must ask great questions, and in order to do that, it is necessary to determine what questions have yet to be asked and what has come before.

Another facet of beginning research that I am currently experiencing is the process of proposing your research and *hopefully* getting it approved by the Institutional Review Board (IRB). In order for this to happen, you have to make sure your research is ethically sound. Since Dr. Volling’s research includes moms and children, the IRB takes extra time to scrutinize any part of the proposed research that could have adverse effects on its future participants.

Though this research has yet to include the “fun and exciting” parts, in the few weeks that I have been working with Dr. Volling, I have learned so much. In my opinion, that in itself is “fun and exciting.” I am so lucky to be here and to be gaining more insight on the inner-workings of developmental research and launching a new study. I can’t wait to begin recruiting families to get the study going!

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