Meet @UofSHealthPsych: Interview with Marissa DeStefano

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Marissa DeStefano is a senior psychology major at The University of Scranton. She was interviewed by senior Katie Notarianni.

Marissa PicUofSHealthPsych: We’ll start easy. Where are you from?

MD: I’m from Martinsville, NJ. I went to Bridgewater Raritan High School.

UofSHealthPsych: What do you like most about The University of Scranton?

MD: I like the size of the campus. I love having small class sizes and walking around campus seeing friendly faces. I really feel a sense of community on campus. I also love the food! DeNaples food was one of my top reasons for choosing Scranton.

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

MD: I am a teaching assistant for Dr. Arigo’s health psychology course (PSYC 228). I’m the vice president of APSSC (the Association for Psychological Science Student Caucus), and I’m the vice president of Psi Chi (the Psychology Honors Society). I also really enjoy going to yoga classes on campus and the gym.

UofSHealthPsych: What made you choose to study Psychology and what are you most passionate about in the field? What kind of research are you most interested in?

MD: I chose psychology because I have always been intrigued by the human mind. I wanted to learn more about how our minds work, and how I can help people with mental illness. I’m really passionate about understanding how psychological disorders develop, and what methods of treatment are available to help. I am also interested in the relationship between our mental and physical health and how they affect each other.

UofSHealthPsych: What is your favorite memory working in the Health Psychology Research Lab?

MD: I really enjoyed presenting at student scholar day last year. It was cool to see all our hard work pay off and to see the research that other students are doing. It was a good way to celebrate our accomplishments as a research team.

UofSHealthPsych: What are your plans after graduation?

MD: My plans are still uncertain! However, I plan to attend graduate school in the fall. I applied to doctoral and masters programs in clinical psychology and clinical mental health counseling. I am still waiting to hear back from a couple of schools and then I will make my decision. This summer I plan to work in a clinical setting, possibly in an inpatient or outpatient treatment center but I am still in the process of applying to jobs!

UofSHealthPsych: What advice would you give to underclassmen about being involved in Psychology and/or Research?

MD: If you are interested in gaining research experience don’t hesitate to ask! Think about what research you are interested in and see if your interests align with any of the professors in the department. I encourage you to visit different professors during office hours to chat about your research interests. Don’t give up if the first professor you ask already has a full research team, keep trying and always have a backup plan!

UofSHealthPsych on Campus: The University of Scranton’s Psychology Research Day and Women’s Health Research Panel

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Contributors: Zuhri Outland, Marissa DeStefano, Kristen Pasko, Sabrina DiBisceglie, Dr. Arigo

Our research team recently participated in two events at The University of Scranton. Here are our reflections on these experiences.

APSSC Student Research Day

Every year, the University of Scranton chapter of the Association for Psychological Science Student Caucus (APSSC) hosts a series of brief presentations to promote student research in the Department of Psychology. This is a student-run event that allows psychology research labs on campus to present their research interests and accomplishments to their peers. The event is a great opportunity for students who are interested in psychology research to see how their classmates are involved and to learn more about their professors’ research interests. It is also a good opportunity for professors to advertise their work and recruit new members for their teams.

At this year’s event (February 25th), students from several labs in the psychology department presented their research to an audience of 25 students. Labs represented were those of Dr. Hogan (psychological testing), Dr. Orr and Dr. Cannon (behavioral neuroscience), Dr. Kuhle (evolutionary psychology),  and Dr. Arigo (health psychology). Students Caitlin Gilby and Arielle Williams also presented their faculty-sponsored independent research projects. Students spoke for 5-10 minutes and used slides to illustrate their work.


At the event, several members of our health psychology research team presented on the lab’s focus and the work that we have been doing this year. We described health psychology as a field, our specific interest in social influences on health, our outreach efforts (like Healthier U Day), and our ongoing study Project CHASE (College Health And Research Team APSSC RD17Social Experiences). For Project CHASE, we described how each member has contributed to the study (scheduling appointments, sending reminder emails, conducting face-to-face interviews, and managing data). Kristen, Zuhri, and Marissa also shared their independent projects, which will include data from Project CHASE and other ongoing studies. Their topics include exercise motivation, relations between different types of social media and health behaviors, and perceptions of various body types. 

After the presentations there was time for interested students to talk to researchers about their experiences. Students were interested to know how we got involved in a research lab, and how we got the opportunity to form our own independent study. These students were invited to discuss their interest with faculty members or fill out applications to become research assistants. The event was a great opportunity to share all of the work do and learn about some of the work our friends and classmates have been doing.

Women’s Health Research: Panel Discussion and Fair

On the evening of March 2nd, professors at the University of Scranton participated in a panel discussion on their research on women’s health. This event, which was presented by the Women’s Studies Program and the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs, was intended to showcase the excellent women’s health research on our campus and begin an interdisciplinary dialogue about women’s health research. Participating faculty members came from a variety of backgrounds and each had a different perspective on women’s health. Backgrounds were in nutrition, exercise science, psychology, political science, and nursing.

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The panel: Drs. Trnka (moderator), Bachman, Grossman, Harris, Feeney, and Arigo

Dinner was provided and included an array of healthy options. The event opened with welcoming remarks from Cathy Mascelli, our Assistant Director of the Center for Health Education and Wellness (CHEW), who spoke to the importance of examining gender differences in health outcomes. Each presenter then spoke for roughly 5-10 minutes on their research and interests in women’s health. Dr. Ann Feeney discussed her research on postpartum smoking cessation; Dr. Jessica Bachman described her findings related to postpartum weight loss interventions; Dr. Joan Grossman discussed weight gain and health risks during menopause, as well as weight loss interventions for this group; Dr. Arigo gave an overview of health psychology and our research on women’s body image, eating behavior, and physical activity; Dr. Jean Harris provided the broader context of what this research means for government policy (such as regulations on health care).

After these presentations, Dr. Jamie Trnka, the director of our Women’s Studies Program, opened the discussion to the audience for questions. She began with her own question about intersectionality and diversity, and questions from the audience focused on how best to handle issues of generalizability beyond the lab and doubt from the general public about the importance of women’s health research. It was interesting to see the

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Dr. Arigo, Kristen, Marissa, Zuhri, and Sabrina at the table fair

commonalities and differences among each panel member and how they approached each question from her own perspective. The last part of the event was a table fair, where attendees could interact with panelists and their students and ask more detailed questions. Zuhri, Marissa, Sabrina, and Kristen represented our lab at the table fair, and students from various majors approached us to ask about our work.

The key takeaways from this discussion were not only the importance of studying women’s health, but also the idea that everything that we do as a research team is connected to so many other perspectives and outcomes. That while the research we do is fun and interesting, it can also be the research that helps someone later or forms a government policy or is part of a treatment plan. The research isn’t just a solitary act – it can affect the lives of women at all ages. This event also demonstrated the importance of creating a conversation of women’s health. With this beginning, those who participated and/or attended the event may now have a greater appreciation for the current issues in women’s health and acknowledge that there is much more to learn. We look forward to future events like this to continue the discussion.

Interested in reading more about the panelists’ research? Visit their webpages (linked above) or look them up on Google Scholar!

Meet @UofSHealthPsych: Interview with Kristen Pasko

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Kristen Pasko is a senior psychology major at The University of Scranton. She was interviewed by Zuhri Outland, who recently graduated.

UofSHealthPsych: Where are you from?

RP: A little town called Skipback, PA. I like to compare it to Stars Hollow from Gilmore paskoGirls. It’s about 2 hours from here.

UofSHealthPsych: Why did you choose The University of Scranton?

RP: One of my high school guidance counselors recommended it to me. They thought I would like the feel and community of the school as well as the small size. Plus, the Jesuit educational mission and ideals are similar to those of my high school, and I really liked it there.

UofSHealthPsych: What inspired you to join the Health Psychology Research Team?

RP: I took Abnormal Psychology with Dr. Arigo and enjoyed the class. From there I interviewed her for a career development course, and found out that we had similar interests (in social media, for example). She introduced me to the field of health psychology and to the lab.

UofSHealthPsych: Tell us about your experience with the Health Psychology Research Team.

RP: It has been both challenging and eye opening. I have done things that I never thought I could do before, like helping to oversee a large, complicated project with many participants. Being in the lab has expanded my interests and I have found some new abilities.

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

kzRP: Just how much goes into the research process. There is so much that you don’t see from the outside. And learning how to be professional yet personable with participants. That’s been really helpful for me, because it also strengthens my clinical skills.

UofSHealthPsych: We know that you’re doing an independent study this semester. What can you tell us about it?

RP: (Laughs) It involves Snapchat! It’s about the relationship between social media and health behaviors. I’m interested in how people respond to social media. It came from all of the work I did on the Fitspiration blog series, which was a great way to learn how to communicate research to a broad audience.

UofSHealthPsych: What did you like the most about Scranton and the research team?

RP: For Scranton, the people. For the research team, how much I’ve seen myself grow over the past two years.

UofSHealthPsych: What are your future plans?

RP: So I don’t have to miss Scranton or the team too much, actually. Right after graduation I’m staying on as a research coordinator, working with Dr. Arigo on projects related to physical activity. Eventually I plan to apply to graduate school for clinical psychology.

UofSHealthPsych Welcomes Leah Schumacher to Campus

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leah1On September 20, 2016 the Health Psychology Research Team and the Psychology Club welcomed Leah Schumacher, M.S. to talk about her research and clinical experiences. Leah is currently a Ph.D candidate in clinical psychology at Drexel University in Philadelphia.

Leah’s visit featured a talk on her research into behavior lapses and difficulty with healthy eating and exercise. Before the main event, our research team was treated to a conversation about Leah’s experiences with graduate school and exploring a career path that was right for her. Leah shared her own journey with us: she explained how her  path did not take her exactly where she planned, but each experience helped lead her to a career that she is excited about. We learned the importance of finding your own path, and considering master’s degree programs to help hone in on your interests before the substantial commitment of a Ph.D. or other doctoral-level program.

Leah explained that choosing a grad program leah3is not the end of your path, and there will be opportunities to change in the future if your career goals change. (This was a relief to us!) We learned that it is important to get experiences in a variety of settings because that can help you discover what is right for you. She talked about how the best way to know if you want to pursue a particular career is when you go out into the field and try it. You may find that your experience does not match your expectations. She gave an example of working at a substance use treatment facility; although she valued the experience, it taught her that working with substance use isn’t quite right for her. An important take away message from this conversation was to make sure you try things you think you won’t like, because that could end up being what you like the most.

During this conversation, we distinguished between graduate programs in psychology and related fields. For example, the differences between programs in clinical psychology, counseling psychology, or social work. She also explained the differences between a masters program versus a Ph.D. program. Ph. D programs are highly competitive, and you should not be discouraged if you do not get accepted your first time applying. We discussed that picking the best program for you should take precedence over “the best program” in other people’s minds.

 

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Leah speaking to UofSHealthPsych, the Psychology Club, and other student guests.

After this session came Leah’s main talk, which was attended by our lab, Psychology Club members, and other interested students. Leah presented her research on “lapses” after starting a behavior change effort and how they affect people who are trying to live healthier lifestyles. Specifically, she explained that behavioral lapses occur when individuals set goals to follow a behavior modification plan and then experience a slip back to their old behavior. Some people will experience a lapse for a day or so and then continue working towards their goal, while others will quit entirely. Research in this area looks to explain the psychological contributors to behavioral lapses. Leah brought to our attention the scarcity of research in this area and the opportunities for new discoveries.

Everyone who attended the talk gained beneficial information. This included information regarding graduate school and career paths, but also on health psychology research that could be helpful for improving behavior change treatments. Overall it was a valuable learning experience for all those involved. We thank Leah for sharing her research and personal experiences with us!

Learn more about Leah’s research team at Drexel. Contributors to this post were Zuhri Outland, Kristen Pasko, Marissa DeStefano, and Dr. Arigo.

Meet @UofSHealthPsych: Interview with Coco Thomas

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Coco Thomas is a senior Nursing major who joined the Clinical Health Research Team in 2015. She was interviewed by senior Psychology major Katie Notarianni.

Coco

UofSHealthPsych: Where are you from?

CT: I’m from Parsippany, New Jersey. Soon to be full time in Scranton, PA!

UofSHealthPsych: Why did you choose Scranton?

CT: When I visited the campus, it just felt right and I decided on a whim that this would be my school. It ended up working out very well for me and I am glad how it turned out.

UofSHealthPsychWhat inspired you to join the Clinical Health Lab?

CT: I wanted to do research but was uncertain about what kind. I was talking to Dr. Cannon, a Neuroscience professor, and a student said “you should talk to Dr. Arigo.” I attended the APSSC Research Day to hear her students present, and I contacted her to ask about opportunities in the lab. I’m glad that the other student pointed me in this direction.

UofSHealthPsych: Do you do anything for your health that you learned from the lab?

CT: Dr. Arigo gave me a Fitbit once to try it out. It was helpful so I could learn how to use it and trouble shoot it so I could help research participants with technical difficulties. It also helped me look at my own health from a new perspective.

UofSHealthPsychWhat advice do you have for students who might be interested in research?

CT: If you’re motivated, just go for it. It’s a good experience and definitely worthwhile. If you put in the work you will get a lot out of it. It’s a way to learn in an applied setting. Instead of just reading, you can implement concepts into action.

UofSHealthPsychWhat do you plan to do after you graduate?

CT: I am going to graduate and get my nursing license. I am going to work in the ER at Moses Taylor Hospital and continue taking classes at The University of Scranton while continuing research. Eventually I plan to apply to medical school.

UofSHealthPsychWhat will you miss most about Scranton?

CT: When I leave I will miss the opportunities that are offered here. For, example retreats and study abroad, research, and different activities on campus. I will also miss the types of people that come to Scranton. Everyone is kind and friendly and I have noticed that Scranton helps people develop good personalities and values.

MEET @UOFSHEALTHPSYCH: ALYSSA RODEMANN

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Alyssa Rodemann is a senior Psychology major who recently completed an Honors thesis on perceived life expectancy among college students. She was interviewed by senior Psychology major Jess Baschoff.

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

ARI’m from Bridgewater NJ. Funny enough, I looked at schools with good early childhood education programs. When I came on campus it felt really homey and the campus was beautiful and I liked the size of it. It just felt right to me.

 UofSHealthPsych: Why did you choose Psychology?

ARI took an AP Psychology senior year and it was something that really clicked with me. I knew I wanted to study it more, so I changed my major from education to psych.

UofSHealthPsych: What advice would you give to first year Psychology majors?

AROne piece of advice is don’t come in with rigid expectations. Keep yourself open minded and take everything one day at a time. Everyone has different experiences and journeys. Take advantage of everything that the University and the Psychology department offer. I’ve been really involved in the Psychology Club and APSSC, which have been great for getting to know other majors and sharing ideas about our interests.

UofSHealthPsych: How did you get involved in research?

ARAt the end of my sophomore year I really enjoyed my research methods class with Dr. Warker and I wasn’t 100% sure about what I wanted to do in research. But I knew I wanted to join someone’s lab, so I asked Dr. Warker and I’ve been the lab for two years now. I was very excited to hear that the department hired another clinical researcher (Dr. Arigo) in 2014. I talked to Dr. Hogan and he introduced me to Dr. Arigo at the Psychology Welcome Back Barbeque at the beginning of last year.

I had been working with Dr. Hogan on a health psychology-related tutorial and wanted someone in that area as my mentor for my Honors thesis. I approached Dr. Arigo with an idea for the project and she agreed to serve as the mentor. I defended my thesis last week, and the next step is to turn my thesis paper into an article for publication. So I’ll be working on that with Dr. Arigo over the next few months.

UofSHealthPsych: What are your plans after graduation?

ARI have a couple of plans. I’ve gotten into two masters programs, one at St Johns in Queens, NY and Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey. I’m still waiting to hear back from Columbia University about their masters program. Eventually I’d like to get PhD in clinical psychology and join army and conduct research in trauma. If that doesn’t work out, I’ll join the army and figure out my future from there.

UofSHealthPsych: What will you miss about Scranton?

ARIs it valid to say absolutely everything? I will probably miss the professors because I became really close with a lot of them in the department. Outside of the department I’ll miss walking around campus and seeing people I know everywhere I turn and I’ll definitely miss the close-knit community.

MEET @UOFSHEALTHPSYCH: Natalia Juscinska

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Natalia Juscinska is a senior Psychology major who recently completed an Honors thesis with Dr. Arigo. She was interviewed by junior Psychology major Kristen Pasko.

Natalia

UofSHealthPsych: Tell us about your specific interests in the field of psychology.

NJ: Clinical psychology and health psychology. I’m mostly interested in research so I think I want to do that in the future. Most of my research is on stress and anxiety, how stress relates to physical illness, and what you can do to manage stress. I’m also interested in chronic illness and things you can do to help people manage it, like improving adherence. So, it’s a lot of things we’ve talked about in health psychology. I really like trauma and PTSD as well, so, we’ll see where graduate school takes me.

UofSHealthPsych: Wow, that explains why the Clinical Health Psychology Team is such a good fit for you! What originally made you join the team – how did you find out about it?

NJ: I took research methods my sophomore year, and I knew that I really wanted to get involved in research, but at the time I was more interested in the clinical side of things and no one had a “lab” for a that. Dr. Arigo posted a flyer at the end of that year, recruiting research assistants. I looked up some of her published works and I found them really interesting. I thought that her team would be a good fit for me, because I’m really interested in the overlap between mental and physical illness.

UofSHealthPsych: What are your specific responsibilities in the lab that you have taken on, and could you tell us about your own project?

NJ: The most recent work I’ve done is on my thesis. It’s on perceived stress and social comparison in type 2 diabetes. I’m looking at whether engaging in social comparison has an influence on how stressed patients say they are, before and after comparison.

My first measure is asking them about how much overall stress they felt in the last month. Then, I give them a prompt to read of either upward or downward comparison and then ask them how stressed they feel in the moment. My hypotheses weren’t supported, unfortunately. It was a secondary analysis of Dr. Arigo’s work, so I have to make some adjustments.

Separate from my thesis, I’ve also helped out a lot with the expressive writing coding that we’ve been doing for Sara Chapin’s project. I’ve drafted some IRBs for smaller projects in the past, and I helped out with Project Connect last year. That was one of the first times I got to interact with participants.

UofSHealthPsych: That is all so exciting, especially from being a part of our first Fitbit study at the U, to now recently finishing your thesis! So, now that senior year is coming to an end, what are your plans for further schooling and your career?

NJ: I’m taking a year off to do Jesuit Volunteer Corps (JVC) this year, and then I hope to get my Ph.D after that. So I will definitely be applying to grad school; either clinical or health psychology, and doing more research.

UofSHealthPsych: Could you tell me more about JVC?

NJ: I’ll be doing case management full time in Connecticut for a year as a part of JVC. I’m looking forward to getting clinical exposure in that role.

UofSHealthPscyh: That is wonderful. Congratulations! I have one last question. How has working with the Clinical Health Research Team prepared you for life after Scranton?

NJ: When I was looking for research there was nothing that combined the physical and mental health aspects of psychology that I was interested in. I did not even know that health psychology was a field before Dr. Arigo came to the U. So, I think this really opened up my eyes to what I’m interested in, how to synthesize it, and a field that I really want to pursue in the future.