Sara Chapin is a senior Neuroscience major who is working on her Honors Thesis. Sara was interviewed by junior Caitlin Gilby, who majors in Psychology and Communications.
UofSHealthPsych: Let’s start with some background. Where are you from?
SC: I am from Yardley, Pennsylvania, which is 30 minutes outside of Philadelphia, PA.
UofSHealthPsych: Why did you choose to attend The University of Scranton?
SC: I originally heard about Scranton through my campus minister who came here and absolutely loved it, so I looked up the school. I think what sold me on it was how great our pre-med program is because I hope to become a doctor. I also like the community aspect of Scranton. I really like that you can walk down the Commons and say hi to someone right away and they will say not only hi, but ‘hey Sara’ and they know who you are.
UofSHealthPsych: Were you always a neuroscience major?
Yes, I entered as a neuroscience major. I really like the understanding of the brain and how it relates to human behavior. I always had somewhat of an interest in learning about mental illness, so I thought that neuroscience was a good way of getting at that, but still having a strong basis in biology.
UofSHealthPsych: What inspired you to become involved in the Health Psychology Research Team?
SC: I was already in a research lab on campus, at the end of my sophomore year, and then I did research at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. We were working with Ketamine as an antidepressant. I really got hooked on studying mental illness. I then wanted to leave the lab I was in and I saw that Dr. Arigo was coming to campus. She was advertising a research program in clinical psychology that focuses on understanding the relationship between mental and physical health, which drew me in.
UofSHealthPsych: How long have you been a part of the lab?
SC: For two years now. Dr. Arigo started here last year, and I was with the first group that started as her research assistants.
UofSHealthPsych: Can you tell us about your Honors Thesis project?
SC: My Honors Thesis started last year, when a group of research assistants began coding expressive writing narratives (writing samples from a clinical intervention). Dr. Arigo and I talked a lot about the study and she was doing other research looking at self-perceptions of versus behavioral demonstrations of social comparison. I came up with an idea of looking at whether people engage in social comparisons in the expressive writing narratives whether that relates how they scored themselves using a self-report measure of whether they make comparisons. So we’re asking whether their sense of social comparison is reflected in the behavior of social comparison in a writing activity. We are now finishing coding all the expressive writing narratives (where we look for examples of comparisons). We should be able to get some final data really soon, so that is exciting.
UofSHealthPsych: How does this research tie into neuroscience?
SC: I think it ties into neuro in the sense that behavioral neuroscience looks at the neural underpinnings of our behavior – in this case, a social behavior. We are also looking at cognition and perception of ourselves, but not with as much of a biological basis as neuroscience normally uses. This study is definitely more behaviorally based.
UofSHealthPsych: What are your plans for after you graduate?
SC: I have been accepted to four medical schools so far, so that’s exciting. I am between Penn State and Thomas Jefferson (in Philadelphia). So I don’t know where I am going to medical school yet, but I am pretty sure I will have a decision pretty soon. After four years, I’ll decide what I want to specialized in. Right now I have interest in family medicine, psychiatry, and pediatrics. I am not really positive what specialty I will get into, but it is all very exciting.
UofSHealthPsych: Yes it is. Congratulations! So what do you plan to do as a career after medical school?
I ultimately want to be a primary care physician and be the person you go to prevent or maintain wellness, rather than be the person that fixes something when it has already gone wrong.
UofSHealthPsych: How do you believe you will incorporate psychology into your medical career?
SC: The Health Psychology Lab experience is going to be very useful with what I want to go into, especially since I am interested in primary care. In health psychology class we learned about how there a lot of different factors that affect someone’s adherence to medical care, like if your doctor emphasizes your goals and knows if you might have barriers to changing behaviors (like exercise). So I want to integrate all of that into how I actually care for my patients, understanding what is going on in their lives besides what I am telling them to do. I also hope to do more research in health psychology when I go to medical school and beyond.
UofSHealthPsych: What is one piece of advice you want to give to future Health Psychology Lab students, or anyone becoming involved in research?
SC: Definitely figure out what it is you are interested in doing. Don’t change what you are interested in doing to match someone else’s interests. Find that advisor who will work with you, because you are going to spend a lot of time on the work and I think you should enjoy what you are doing. Once you are involved you should be passionate about it. Don’t let other people do the work that you can do, because you will learn a lot from actually doing the work.
UofSHealthPsych: Do you think that this is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned from being in a lab?
SC: I think with our lab it is unique that we have a lot of teamwork and collaboration on projects. We can work together on finishing different projects and understanding how to delegate, which is really awesome. I have also learned that research is a lot of hard work. If you actually want to get something out of it you need to put in the effort.
UofSHealthPsych: What will you miss most about Scranton?
SC: I will miss sitting on second floor DeNaples with my friends, drinking coffee and talking about life. Sadly enough, as a senior I do not want to let go of my friends and some of the free time when I can hang out with people on campus. Academically, I am going to miss being able to study a lot of different topics instead of focusing on one. I am in SJLA so I am involved in philosophy, neuroscience, and psychology research. I like that I can have that wide variety of different interests here.