Meet @RowanCHASELab: Interview with Laura Travers

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Laura Travers is a first-year Ph.D. student in clinical psychology. She has a Master’s degree in health psychology from University of the Sciences in Philadelphia. She was interviewed by research assistant Emily Vendetta.

@RowanCHASELab: Let’s start off with the basics! Tell us about how you were introduced to the field of health psychology.

LT: It was an interesting turn of events. I didn’t actually know that health psychology existed as a field until my junior year of undergrad, when we had a guest speaker in one of our psychology courses. She was a health psychologist who helped initiate a health coaching program with one of the local hospitals. I participated in the program, and from then on I was hooked. 

@RowanCHASELab: Could you describe your previous research experience and what you think helps to make a good researcher? 

LT: I’m interested in so many topics, which can be both a good thing and a bad thing at times. My main projects during my Masters program were looking at the impact of the collaborative working relationship between a provider and pharmacist on patients receiving medication assisted treatment (MAT), examining the policy associated with implementing the Sugar Sweetened Beverage Tax in Philadelphia, and conducting a systematic review of the literature on comorbid chronic pain and PTSD.  I think what helps make a good researcher is acceptance of failure. Failing to support a hypothesis can still be a success within research, and it is always a learning experience.

@RowanCHASELab: What are your current research interests, and how have they changed from your undergraduate career to now? 

LT: It’s tough to narrow it down, but my main focus now is on chronic pain and PTSD. My interests changed dramatically from my undergraduate career until now. During my junior year of undergrad, I worked in a neurophysiology lab recording crayfish action potentials. My senior year, I examined the effect of increased levels of caffeine on anxiety and learning in rats. Through these experiences, I discovered animal research models are just not for me. Luckily, it was also during my senior year that I became a health coach, and this experience is what really solidified my desire to work in health psychology. 

@RowanCHASELab: What initially made you want to work with the CHASE lab and have Dr. Arigo as your mentor?

LT: I was interested in working with the CHASE team to learn more about social comparisons, and there is a wide array of research opportunities due to the multiple ongoing studies in the lab. I specifically wanted to have Dr. Arigo as my mentor because she is able to find opportunities for me to pursue my specific interests and to have much broader learning experiences. 

@RowanCHASELab: What are some goals you have for yourself while you’re pursuing your clinical psychology Ph.D.?

LT: I wanted to o learn how to effectively analyze research data and how to convey our findings to both the academic field and the general public. 

@RowanCHASELab: What do you want to do with your Ph.D. when you finish graduate school? 

LT: I’m hoping to continue conducting academic research, but I also want to work within a hospital setting practicing and promoting integrated care. I’d like to eventually achieve a balance between research and practice, where I will have the opportunity to apply the research I’m doing within the field, while also relaying its success, or failure, to the academic community. 

Meet @RowanCHASE Lab: Interview with Postdoctoral Fellow Cole Ainsworth

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Dr. Ainsworth has a Ph.D. in Health Promotion and Health Behavior (Public Health) from the University of Alabama, Birmingham. He was interviewed by Ph.D. student Kristen Pasko.

@RowanCHASELAB: Could we start with you telling us a bit about yourself? Where are you from? What are some hobbies you have?

CA: Sure! I come to the CHASE lab from the great state of Alabama, and I received my Ph.D. training at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Earning that degree has been one of my only activities in the last few years, but I am looking forward to picking up where I left off with other hobbies like reading, roller skating, and the occasional online gaming shenanigans.

@RowanCHASELAB: How would you describe your undergraduate experience? How did that lead to your graduate experience?

CA: My undergraduate experience didn’t follow a single path. In fact, I started college as a vocal performance music major! After realizing that I probably would not become a world-famous vocalist in musical theater, I sought other professional interests and ended up majoring in psychology. It gave me a foundational understanding of human behavior, which is what really drew me to the field in the first place. Still unsure of what specific career to pursue, I took a couple of courses in public health and ended up loving it so much I applied to a related master’s program.

@RowanCHASELAB: Continuing with that theme, you received your Ph.D. in health education and promotion. Can you tell us about the perspective this field has regarding applications of research and how you believe your training within this field adds a different and new perspective to our lab?

CA: I find there is quite a bit of overlap between research conducted in the areas of public health education/health promotion and psychology. For one, both are interested in behaviors that affect human health and research generally seeks to improve health outcomes by helping people realize opportunities for behavior change. As you may have guessed, public health tends to place value on understanding how to affect change at both the individual and population levels. My training has reflected the art of balancing these two – sometimes competing – levels of influence, essentially maximizing the benefits for as many people as possible.

@RowanCHASELAB: You’ve had previous experience working at MD Anderson Cancer Center as a graduate intern. That sounds like an amazing opportunity. What are some of the more unique opportunities you got working at that facility?

CA: My time as an intern at MD Anderson Cancer Center was great. I assisted with projects focused on lifestyle medicine for women in remission for certain types of cancer. First, it allowed me to see for myself how a research lab with multiple related projects actually operates. It also gave me a chance to expand my understanding of the ways mental practices like mindfulness and other behaviors like physical activity and nutrition can be modified to improve cancer-related outcomes. Lastly, I got to take the initiative on several projects, such as developing a protocol for using new physical activity assessment software and creating a price breakdown of the dietary component for one of the studies.

@RowanCHASELAB: What initially got you excited to work in the CHASE lab as a postdoctoral fellow?

CA: Dr. Arigo is doing a lot of really cool research related to social comparison in the CHASE lab. I think social comparison is a powerful tool at the disposal of health professionals, but we need to better learn how to leverage it in order to create meaningful digital health programs and interventions. The CHASE lab is a trailblazer with respect to that belief, and I am already learning so much from the brief time I have been here.

@RowanCHASELAB: What is some valuable advice you would give to students at Rowan looking to pursue a career in research?

CA: Pursuing a career in research will challenge you in many ways as an individual, but I have never looked back and regretted the path it has led me down. Don’t be afraid to be wrong. Research is often about pursuing the unknown, and even our most informed guesses about a phenomenon can be off.  In addition, a healthy sense of skepticism can go a long way in a research setting if communicated appropriately. Finally, don’t limit yourself from the start. Take time to think about how your interests – while seemingly unrelated – can tell you something new about the world if you put them together.

@RowanCHASELAB: What is it you are hoping to get out of your experience here in the CHASE lab? Any specific projects you are excited to have a hand in?

CA: I hope to develop new skills during my time in the CHASE lab. My training to date has focused on physical activity and cancer prevention intervention, and I am excited to learn more about the process of developing digital health tools and how to improve the user experience to promote long-term engagement in positive health behaviors. Project WHADE (women’s health study) is definitely one that has my attention because of the way smartphones are being used to capture the effects of timing and social comparison on health behaviors like physical activity.

@RowanCHASELAB: Lastly, what are your plans for after you leave this lab, and how will the skills you learned in the CHASE lab help you in your future endeavors?

CA: I am never ever leaving this lab! Joking aside, I really want to take my experience and interest in communication, human behavior, and digital technology and develop solutions to the problems facing our world today. That plan could come to fruition in many ways, via institutional research, consulting, or even entrepreneurship. I am keeping an open mind about it. My appointment as a postdoctoral fellow in the CHASE lab has allowed me ample opportunities to hone the research skills I began learning during my graduate training. Even more, I am gaining exposure to the duties of an independent research scientist like mentorship and project management. I have no doubt that whatever the future holds, my time in the CHASE lab will serve as a momentous stepping stone in the right direction.

Meet @RowanCHASELab: Interview with Research Assistant Emily Vendetta

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Emily Vendetta is a senior Psychology major at Rowan University. She was interviewed by Laura Travers, a first-year Ph.D. student in Clinical Psychology.

@RowanChaseLab: Let’s start off with the basics! Would you mind telling us about your undergraduate experience and how you were introduced to psychology research?

EV: I have known throughout most of my undergraduate experience that I wanted to get a degree in psychology. But it wasn’t until the past two years that I was very dedicated in continuing my career and getting my masters in school psychology. Knowing I wanted to go into a masters program, I wanted to get the most experience and knowledge out of my undergrad that I could to help prepare me. That’s when I looked into joining a research lab. I thought, “what better way to expand my knowledge than getting a first hand look at how research is performed?” 

@RowanChaseLab: Continuing with that theme, since this is the first time you have worked in a research lab, what are some valuable skills you’ve learned? 

EV: There are so many valuable skills that I will carry with me throughout my career. Time management is an important one. Not only scheduling your time dedicated to the lab but also being able to manage more time-sensitive research tasks. Another one is being flexible and understanding that things change in the lab and being able to take direction well. I have definitely improved on my literature searches and getting the most out of literature databases. 

@RowanChaseLab: Since you are also interested in school psychology, how does this experience relate to your specific research interests? How have they changed since then?

EV: Health psychology, (CHASE lab’s main interest) can be used in so many aspects of our lives. Taking the information I’m learning about how we can help change behaviors and lifestyles can be applied to all ages. I hope to help children start healthy habits young and make good choices from a young age. This will help set the path to a healthier lifestyle as they grow up. I can also focus on their parents and help guide a healthier lifestyle for the whole family. 

@RowanChaseLab: What initially got you excited about working in the CHASE lab as a research assistant?

EV: I was thinking about joining a research lab when I came to Rowan and I remember getting an email from the psychology department about the CHASE lab taking applications. I knew it didn’t directly focus on what my specific research interests were, but I knew no matter what, I would learn valuable skills that can translate to any career. I was excited to have this opportunity to work with such intelligent women and learn from them. I was very eager to just help out in whatever way I could. 

@RowanChaseLab: What is some advice you would give to other students at Rowan looking to pursue a research assistant position?

EV I would say to definitely take the risk and apply to a lab even if you think you might not get it. It doesn’t hurt to try and you never know the people you will meet who are willing to help you. Also, make sure you are available and flexible. The professors and students running the research are counting on you and trusting in you. Believe me, you are very important to them and they value your work and time. 

@RowanChaseLab: What is something you want to do or are excited to learn about while working in the CHASE lab?

EVI am excited that I have the opportunity to take over one of our projects, #Fitspiration. I will be the one responsible for making sure this is running smoothly and keeping up with data management. I feel very honored to have this experience. I also can’t wait to see how we will keep expanding our studies and learning from the data collection. 

Emily presenting our pilot data for the #fitspiration study at Rowan Psychology Research Day (April 2019)

@RowanChaseLab: Lastly, what are your plans for after you graduate, and how will the skills you learned in the CHASE lab help you in your future endeavors? 

EVI plan to enroll in the School Psychology masters program here at Rowan University and become a school psychologist. My time with the CHASE lab has helped me to improve my knowledge and understanding in research which is definitely something I will be using in my masters program. I can use this information to help me understand new research within my field. 

Meet @RowanCHASELab: Interview with Megan Brown

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Megan Brown, B.S. is the Research Coordinator (RC) for the CHASE Lab. She was interviewed by Kristen Pasko, B.S., a first-year Ph.D. student in clinical psychology.MB Interview

@RowanChaseLab: Let’s start off with the basics. Would you mind telling us about your undergraduate experience at Rowan and how you were introduced to psychological research?

MB: I was actually a biology major my first semester at Rowan, and I just didn’t feel as passionate about it. I was taking essentials of psychology at the time and found it extremely interesting and decided to try out psychology. Turns out I loved it, and when I took my research methods course I became extremely interested in research and decided to find a lab to get involved in. That’s when I realized I wanted to focus on psychology but with more of an emphasis on research, and decided to switch to a B.S. in psychological science and minor in neuroscience.

@RowanChaseLabContinuing with that theme, we know you previously worked in other Rowan research labs. What was that like?

MB: It was great, and gave me a more thorough understanding of how to actually conduct research. I was in Dr. Angelone’s lab, where we focused more on attention and visual processes. With the help of another student in lab, we ended up developing a study on distracted pedestrian crosswalk behaviors, and I am currently working on a manuscript with Dr. Angelone. I was also given the chance to develop and run a study in my advanced research course with Dr. Abrams, where we evaluated social physique anxiety in college students who go to the gym.

@RowanChaseLabHow does this experience relate to your specific research interests? How have they changed since then?

MB: Well my specific research interests revolve around mental health; specifically depression and anxiety. I have always been very physically active, playing sports my whole life and going to the gym. so I knew I had an interest in mental and physical health. I just didn’t know how to combine them. So when I got to do the study on anxiety and the gym I started to realize this would be the path I would like to take. My interests have only changed a little since then, where now I am also interested in stress and social influences. I reflected on the work I did with Dr. Angelone and Dr. Abrams and realized both have social factors that influence an individual’s behavior.

@RowanChaseLabWhat initially got you excited to work in the CHASE lab as our RC?

MB: I would definitely say the research topics are what got me excited initially, along with the chance to build my research skills and gain more experience. I saw the lab focused on health behaviors and social influences which was right up my alley. I also want to go into a Ph.D. program eventually, so I knew having the job of a research coordinator would help prepare me for that experience.

@RowanChaseLabWhat do you suspect you will be spending most of your time this year? What can we expect of any independent work you might be doing?

MB: Most of my time will be divided among the various projects we have going on. My role is to oversee recruitment, participant communication, data collection, and data entry for two large projects – one with students and one with midlife women. Along with that, I will also be spending time as a mentor for our research assistants and working on developing more as a researcher. As far as independent work goes, I am in the process of working with Dr. Arigo and Dr. Greeson on a study involving stress, sleep, and anxiety in participants who went through a mindfulness-based stress reduction program. I am also working with Dr. Angelone on a manuscript for the crosswalk study we did. So a lot of exciting projects going on right now!

@RowanChaseLabAny important lessons you’ve already learned already as an RC?

MB: Oh yes! Organization and taking notes is everything. As a research coordinator I am retaining a lot of information, not just about my own schedule, but about others schedules, projects, etc. so it is crucial to write everything down and have a very organized system for keeping track.

@RowanChaseLabLastly, what is something you want to do or are excited to learn about while working in the CHASE lab?

MB: Something I would like to do while working in the CHASE lab is enhancing my clinical experience. I know I will have the chance to work with participants in person, so being able to learn the skills needed in order to convey what our study is about and build a trusting relationship is something I am very excited to learn.

Meet @UofSHealthPsych: Interview with Elle DiLorenzo

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Elle DiLorenzo is a sophomore psychology major, completing her first year of work as a research assistant. She was interviewed by senior Sabrina DiBisceglie.

ElleUofSHealthPsych: Where are you from, and what drew you to the University of Scranton?

ED: I’m from Valley Stream, New York, which is town on Long Island. I wasn’t interested in Scranton at first because so many people from my high school were planning on coming here. My friends encouraged me to look here anyway, and once I stepped on campus, I fell in love with the academics and the atmosphere. I guess I just got a feeling that this school was the right place for me.

UofSHealthPsych: Why did you choose to be a psychology major?

ED: Initially I was a biology major on the pre-med track, but I wasn’t inspired by what I was learning or by what my future looked like. I knew I was interested in medical settings but I wasn’t really sure where I belonged in that environment. After consulting with different professors and people in my life I recognized that I could work in and study the medical field with psychology. I decided to take and introductory course and I immediately knew that I wanted to be involved with psychology for the rest of my life. Psychology sparked inspiration in me, so I decided to declare it as my major and I haven’t regretted it. I still have a biology minor.

UofSHealthPsych: What activities are you involved with on campus, besides research?

ED: I am the future President (current Vice President) of S.A.F.E Space, which is a club focused on equality, charity, advocacy, and education particularly in the LGBTQ+ community. I am also the future Secretary of the Psychology Club here on campus. Other than that I am a teaching assistant for Abnormal Psychology and I am a part of the Honors Program.

UofSHealthPsych: How did you decide to join the Clinical Health Psychology Research Team?

ED: I took Abnormal Psychology as a first semester sophomore, which at the time was taught by Dr. Arigo. One day I went to her office and we began to discuss the work that her lab did and how my interests aligned with the field of Clinical Health Psychology.  For the rest of that semester I sat in on lab meetings to learn as much as I could about the lab. Eventually I made the decision to join because I was particularly interested in the upcoming research that was being done by a senior and really wanted to be a part of it.

UofSHealthPsych: Can you tell us a little bit more about your individual research interests and the projects you’ve worked on?

ED: I am interested in chronic pain and how physicians’, family members’, and friends’ perceptions of the pain affect the person suffering from pain, psychologically and physiologically.  I am also currently working on a few different studies involving fitspiration, physical activity, and social comparison.

UofSHealthPsych: What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned from doing research with the team?

ED: I think the most valuable lesson I learned was to enjoy the process of doing research. When I first started I was really fixated on final results and implications of the research I was doing and I didn’t value the journey. Throughout the year I would talk to other lab members, especially Kristen Pasko, and through talking to them (as well as to Dr. Arigo) I have learned how important the learning process is.

UofSHealthPsych: What is your favorite memory of working with this research team?

ED: My favorite memory of working in the lab is when I was able to present at Student Scholar Day with all of the other members. It was a really amazing experience and I learned a lot about what it’s like to present a poster at a conference. Also everyone in the lab was really supportive and encouraging so I also really enjoyed that.

UofSHealthPsych: What have you enjoyed most about working on a research team?

ED: I have enjoyed working on the fitspiration studies the most for many reasons. Initially I wasn’t sure I would be able to help, but I had so many opportunities to be involved with the fitspiration studies in particular. Not only was I able to learn all about the research methodology, but also I developed an interest in social media and physical activity which I did not initially having coming into the lab. I really enjoyed the opportunity to learn and expand my interests.

UofSHealthPsych: Was your experience with the research lab what you thought it would be?

ED: My experience in lab was different than I thought it would be, but in the best way.  I think coming into the lab I was really concerned that I would unable to help anyone because I had no prior experience. Now I realize that I had a misconception of how a lab actually runs. The lab really focuses on helping everyone out so I always had something to do and the members were always willing to guide me if I was ever confused. Overall I learned much more than I expected to.

UofSHealthPsych: Is there any advice you would give an underclassmen interested in psychology research?

ED: I would advise underclassmen to communicate with any professor they are interested in working with. I was initially too intimidated to speak up, but when I finally did I got an amazing opportunity. Most professors are willing to help you as long as you show them that you are motivated, interested, and hardworking.

Meet @UofSHealthPsych: Interview with Madison Montalbano

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MadisonMadison Montalbano is a junior psychology major. She was interviewed by senior Nicole Plantier.

UofSHealthPsych: Where are you from, and what drew you to the University of Scranton?

MM: I’m from Rockaway, NY a small beach town. Like many of our lab members, I came to visit the University of Scranton as a junior in high school and automatically felt a sense of community. I wanted a small school where I would receive individual attention and opportunities to grow as a person, making Scranton the perfect place.

UofSHealthPsych: Why did you choose to be a psychology major?

MM: I have been interested in how people cope with difficult life challenges for a long time, and I hope to one day be a professional and be able to facilitate understanding and growth in clients.

UofSHealthPsych: What activities are you involved with on campus, besides research?

MM: I have served as a teaching assistant in past semesters and will again in my senior year. I have recently been elected secretary of Psi Chi. Additionally, this semester I have been interning as a part of a practicum course.

UofSHealthPsych: How did you decide to join the Clinical Health Psychology Research Team?

MM: I decided to join after taking Dr. Arigo’s Health Psychology course. The class sparked my interest in health psychology and spurred me to ask Dr. Arigo if I could get involved.

UofSHealthPsych: Can you tell us a little bit more about your individual research interests/projects?

MM: I am interested in chronic illnesses both how the ill person and their families cope with them. Currently I am working on a study looking at how college students cope with family member’s chronic illness. Specifically how, or if, it had affected their adjustment to college.

UofSHealthPsych: What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned from doing research with the team?

MM: I have learned so many things from working on the research team. First, I learned about the importance of attention to detail for all tasks is essential to successfully completing a research project. Second, I learned how to work collaboratively with other lab members to complete larger projects. As I continued in the lab and took on more responsibilities, I learned how to develop my own research project and write an IRB application.

UofSHealthPsych: What have you enjoyed most about working on a research team?

MM: I’ve enjoyed learning from both Dr. Arigo and other lab members about their research interests and seeing their working styles. It is nice to work with people who have similar interests as I do as well as those with different interests I got to learn more about.

UofSHealthPsych: I know you still have a year, but what are your plans after graduation?

MM: After graduation, I am planning on attending a graduate program in clinical psychology, possibly for a PsyD.

UofSHealthPsych: Is there any advice you would give an underclassmen interested in psychology research?

MM: I would say to learn as much as you can about what types of research professors in the psychology department are doing and ask to sit in on a few lab meetings before you choose what really interests you.

Meet @UofSHealth Psych: Interview with Nicole Plantier

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Nicole Plantier is a senior Psychology major. She was interviewed by sophomore Elle DiLorenzo.

UofSHealthPsych: Where are you from, and why did you choose the University of Scranton?

Nicole blog pictureNP: I’m from Moosup, CT, a small town in northeastern Connecticut about two hours away from Boston. I chose the University of Scranton because I fell in love with the school on my tour. The friendly atmosphere of the students and faculty drew me in.  As a prospective student, the open and welcoming vibe I got from the community here at The University was unmatched by other schools.

UofSHealthPsych: Why did you decide to study psychology?

NP: I originally planned on pursing a graduate degree in Forensic Psychology. My favorite television shows are Law & Order and Criminal Minds. Asking and answering questions about human behavior interests me. While my interests have shifted, and I’m no longer interested in Forensic Psychology, I have found the research process of psychology is my true passion.

UofSHealthPsych: How did you decide to join the Clinical Health Psychology Research Team? 

NP: Towards the end of spring semester last year, fellow team member Sabrina DiBisceglie told me about her individual research project on students’ responses to the Fitspiration trend on Instagram. I thought the work she was doing was incredibly interesting and I asked her how to get involved. I contacted Dr. Arigo, and started attending lab meetings in the Summer.

UofSHealthPsych: What are your roles as a research assistant with the research team?

NP: When I first started we had a large observational study running – Project CHASE, which collected daily surveys and physical activity data from college women. While that was running I interacted with participants and collected their Fitbit data. I also have done some data coding for a project that Kristen Pasko, another team member, was leading. Additionally, I’ve been working on searching for articles for a project investigating the effect of social comparisons on physical activity.

UofSHealthPsych: What would you say has been the greatest advantage of being a part of the Clinical Health Psychology Research Team?

NP: I think the greatest advantage is the exposure to research that I’ve received. As a team, we’ve read many research articles and have had informative discussions on them. We’ve also had discussions on statistics, graduate school, and other relevant topics. As a psychology major here at the University, you are required to take a research methods course, but being able to apply what I’ve learned has helped me develop even more as a skilled researcher.

UofSHealthPsych: What skills have you gained from working as a research assistant will be most useful in the future?

NP: I think being able to perform literature searches, critically read research articles, and effectively interact with participants are a few of the skills that I’ve gained from working as a research assistant. These skills are transferable and I will be able to apply them in my future as a student, as well as a researcher.

UofSHealthPsych: What are your plans after graduation?

NP: I have applied to doctoral programs in psychology with a concentration in cognitive psychology. Hopefully, if everything works out, I will be starting a program in the Fall. If not, I plan to apply for research assistant or coordinator positions to gain more research experience.

UofSHealthPsych: What kind of research are you most interested in?

NP: I’m interested in cognitive psychology, more specifically human attention and memory. But, I’m also highly interested in the effect of social comparison on different aspects of health behavior.

UofSHealthPsych: I’m still learning the ropes as the newest member of the team. Do you have any advice for someone who is just beginning to work on a research team?

NP: Don’t be afraid to ask questions! If you have a question, there’s a good chance another person has the same one. As undergraduates we aren’t expected to know everything. Participating on a research team is a learning experience, and part of learning is asking questions. Also, don’t take on more than you can handle! Mental health should be a priority, stretching yourself too thin can be more harmful than it is productive.