Degree In Sight

Student scientists turn up the volume

APAGS has selected the members of its new science subcommittee, which will provide research-oriented graduate students a stronger voice in APA governance. The committee will also help strengthen the connection among researchers and clinicians starting in graduate school, says APAGS Chair Rachel Casas.

Creating the committee fulfills one goal of the APAGS strategic plan drafted last spring, which emphasized the need to increase science representation within the organization. "The committee is filling a gap that existed in APAGS," says Nabil El-Ghoroury, PhD, APAGS associate executive director. "Science members represent up to one-quarter of the APAGS membership. Creating a science committee is a step forward in addressing the needs of those students."

In addition, funding agencies are pushing for more translational research, so it's critical that clinical psychologists and research psychologists learn to work together early, says Casas. She hopes the group will help build bridges at the student level.

While the committee's role is still evolving, members' first job will be to select recipients for the four basic psychological science research grants APAGS awards annually and to plan science programming for students at APA's 2010 Annual Convention in San Diego, Aug. 12–15.

Last summer, APAGS's executive committee selected Washington University in St. Louis graduate student Michael Scullin to chair the committee. After a call for applications this fall, he helped APAGS's executive committee select the other members.

"We were looking for students who represented diversity in their research interests," says Casas. "They are all exceptionally capable and qualified with track records of attracting funding and publishing their research."

Members of the inaugural committee are:

  • Committee chair Scullin, who works in WUSTL's Behavior, Brain and Cognition program, studying how the cognitive and neural mechanisms that underlie memory retrieval change over time, as well as sleep's role in memory consolidation. He was interested in chairing the committee as a way to extend himself beyond the laboratory. "I knew it would allow me to advocate for important science issues, especially those issues that impact students," he says. He plans to identify issues pertinent to science students—such as funding, publishing and technology—and help develop resources to address their needs.

  • Kristopher Bradley, an experimental psychology graduate student at Oklahoma State University, who studies terror-management theory—the idea that reminders of mortality can influence behavior. He sought to be a committee member because he believes science is the heart of psychology. "I would like to interact with other people who share this vision and help cultivate this idea in other students," he says.

  • Steven Holochwost, a graduate student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who studies the effects of stress on young children's neuropsychological development. He's interested in designing public policy that could ameliorate these effects. He wanted to serve on the committee because he believes developmental psychology is becoming more biologically and empirically oriented. "I would like, in some small way, to play a part in shepherding the discipline through this process," he says.

  • Dianne Palladino, a doctoral student in the social and health psychology program at Carnegie Mellon University, who studies how to improve health outcomes and quality of life among people with chronic disease, particularly diabetes. Her research examines how psychosocial, behavioral and cognitive factors affect adherence to medical self-care regimens. She hopes the committee will promote interdisciplinary applications of psychological science.

  • Megan Smith, a cognitive psychology graduate student in the Washington University in St. Louis Memory Lab, investigates how studying and testing benefit learning and memory. She has worked as a mentor to other psychology students and organized outreach projects to promote psychology. As part of the committee, she hopes to facilitate collaboration among students across areas of interest and institutions and to promote science-oriented presentations at conferences.

  • Elena Wright, a graduate student at Yale University, who studies interpersonal emotion regulation and anxiety. She is also interested in identifying the positive coping mechanisms minorities use when exposed to ambiguous and overt racism. Through the committee she hopes to ensure that APAGS addresses the needs of science-oriented graduate students.

  • Michael Yassa, a graduate student in the neurobiology and behavior laboratory at the University of California, Irvine, who uses fMRI to investigate the computations carried out by regions of the brain's medial temporal lobe during both healthy and impaired aging. He also works as an adjunct faculty member at Irvine Valley College and has been active in science advocacy. "I am constantly looking for new opportunities to enhance communication and education in neuroscience and psychology," he says.


Beth Azar is a writer in Portland, Ore.