Winners of the TOPSS Student Competition

The APA Committee of Teachers of Psychology in Secondary Schools (TOPSS) congratulates the student winners of the TOPSS Competition for High School Psychology Students.

Each student received a $250 scholarship. Funding is provided by the APA Education Directorate.

2015 TOPSS Competition for High School Psychology Students

  • Elma Adusei of Fredericksburg Academy (Fredericksburg, Va.)

  • Alison J. Gold of Ladue Horton Watkins High School (St. Louis, Mo.)

  • Lavinia Wing Lam Tse of Oundle School (Oundle, Peterborough, U.K.)

  • Lucy R. Purnell of Oundle School (Oundle, Peterborough, U.K.)

The 2015 competition question asked students to submit an essay (3,000 words maximum) exploring the neurological, cognitive and social implications of substance abuse. Students were asked to write about one type of substance use (e.g., tobacco, alcohol, cannabinoids, opioids, stimulants, or hallucinogens) and a scientifically tested measure for prevention or intervention.

2014 TOPSS Competition for High School Psychology Students

  • Miriam Hauptman of Ladue Horton Watkins High School (St. Louis)

  • Rebecca Jordan of Rye High School (Rye, N.Y.)

  • Emory Nager of North Salem High School (North Salem, N.Y.)

  • Milena Pirman of Kimberly High School (Appleton, Wis.)

Each student received a $250 scholarship. Funding is provided by the APA Education Directorate. The 2014 competition question asked students to submit an essay (3,000 words maximum) exploring the current prevalence, impact and/or implications of obesity. Along with describing the bipsychosocial factors that contribute to obesity, students were asked to offer a solution using psychological science.

2013 TOPSS Competition for High School Psychology Students

  • Sarah Giuffrida of Penn Manor High School (Lancaster, Pa.)

  • Katie Shen of Solon High School (Solon, Ohio)

  • Sarah Whyler of Penn Manor High School (Lancaster, Pa.)

  • Aliya Zaidi of Solon High School (Solon, Ohio)

The 2013 competition question asked students to write a short (500-1,000 words) composition exploring the role psychological science can play in both explaining and informing solutions for social injustices and inequities. Students were also asked to design an original visual poster on the theme “Psychology Addressing Injustice” to accompany their written component.

2012 TOPSS Essay Competition

  • Rakesh Goli of The Altamont School (Birmingham, Ala.)

  • Ning Liu of Parkview High School (Lilburn, Ga.)

  • Rebecca Shaw of Horace Mann School (New York)

  • Rachael Spillane of Topsail High School (Hampstead, N.C.)

The 2012 essay question asked students to describe specific psychological concepts as they relate to the various ways a person might react to a natural disaster. Students were asked to relate these specific psychological concepts to a person’s potential behavior and mental processes following the disaster. Students needed to include definitions and specific examples related to the experience of living through a natural disaster; examples could be as small scale or as large scale as the students preferred. Some of the topics students were given as options for discussion included biological components related to memory, emotions and/or stress, learning principles of classical conditioning, operant conditioning or observational learning, and attribution theory.

2011 TOPSS Poster Competition

  • Corie Schwabenland of Central West High School (Fresno, Calif.)

  • Zackery Perkins of Oscar F. Smith High School (Chesapeake, Va.)

  • Andrew Branstetter of Solon High School (Solon, Ohio)

  • Laura Wetzel of Stevens Point Area High School (Stevens Point, Wis.)

The 2011 poster question asked students to focus on the theme “Psychology is a Science.” Students were asked to select one or more theme(s) or topic(s) within psychology that demonstrate(s) that psychology is a science. Students were asked to design an original visual poster that included the phrase “Psychology is a Science.” The poster needed to illustrate at least one psychological concept, theory, or research discovery, or an application of psychology in the community. In addition, students had to submit a written component explaining the concepts presented in the poster and stating how the poster illustrates that psychology is a science. Students were also asked to explain how they developed the idea for their posters, and to discuss how the poster topic or theme was researched, citing all the sources used.

2010 TOPSS Essay Competition

  • Sabina Babar of Colonia High School (Colonia, N.J.)

  • Rachael J. Erickson of Sutton Memorial High School (Sutton, Mass.)

  • Allison Gutworth of Colonia High School (Colonia, N.J.) 

  • Alexis Suskey of Grandville High School (Wyoming, Mich.)

The 2010 essay question asked students to focus on the effects human behavior has had on the current environmental crisis. Students were asked to create and describe a community service project that could be carried out in their local communities to encourage environmentally-friendly behavior, explaining how human behavior affects a specific environmental issue. Students had to use three principles of learning theory from a choice of five: reinforcement, schedules of reinforcement, shaping, observational learning and generalization-to encourage this behavior change in their communities.  Finally, students were asked to use research findings on these principles to support their plans.

2009 TOPSS Essay Competition

  • Arzina Alam (Avenel, N.J.)

  • Sharon Hecker (Sparta, Mich.)

  • Meghan Christine Zeitter (Grand Rapids, Mich.)

Each received $500 scholarships for their winning essays. Sara Berlin of Miami, Fla., received an honorable mention award for her essay.

The 2009 essay question asked students to focus on techniques advertisers use to encourage consumers to purchase their products. Students were asked to create an advertising campaign on behalf of a fictitious company that sells new athlete shoes, explaining how principles of compliance and techniques of persuasion were used. Students also had to discuss at least two potential ethical issues in using compliance in advertising, and develop a conclusion on the value of using psychological principles and techniques in advertising in general. Finally, students were asked to make a recommendation for prospective consumers that would aid them in making good decisions about future purchases.

2008 TOPSS Scholars Competition

  • Mira Vale from Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School (Sudbury, Mass.)

  • Rebecca Joy from Arlington Catholic High School (Arlington, Mass.) 

  • Rohit Mehta from Colonia High School (Colonia, N.J.)

This year’s competition generated a record number of entries. A panel of college and university level psychology faculty selected these three students based on their ability to complete a critical analysis and synthesis of empirical research. The essay question posed for this year's competition focused on the portrayal of psychological disorders in movies. The students were asked to choose a psychological disorder and use the DSM-IV-TR to summarize the salient characteristics of the disorder. The psychological disorders were based on three movies, As Good As It Gets (1997) — Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, A Beautiful Mind (2001) — Schizophrenia, and The Mosquito Coast (1986) — Bipolar Disorder.