Class of 2017 Snapshot: Lal Koyuncu, BA ‘17 Psychology

Meet Lal KoyuncuBA ‘17 Psychology (Dean’s List). Lal’s career trajectory took a sharp turn when she began working at a UBC daycare; she realized her passion was working with children. She nurtured this passion through research. She became a research coordinator in the UBC Infant Studies Centre and has presented her research at a number of research conferences. In advance of graduation, we asked Lal to reflect on her time as a psychology student, to share her proudest moments, and to offer advice for students on carving out their own academic path.

First of all, can you tell us a bit about yourself, your interests, research, and awards?

I am an international student from Istanbul, Turkey and aim to pursue a career with children. My passion for working with kids began started to work at a daycare on campus. Since then, through the Arts Co-Op program, I further explored my passion by becoming involved in developmental research at the UBC Infant Studies Centre, working with Dr. Janet F. Werker for the past two years.

Through my work at the Centre, I have assisted in conducting research in the acquisition and development of language in early infancy, with a focus on bilingual babies. I also ran a study with newborn infants at BC Women’s Hospital using a technique called “High Amplitude Sucking” (HAS), which measures changes in newborns’ sucking patterns in response to audio of different segments of speech. I have presented my findings at the Psychology Undergraduate Research Conference (UBC), the Undergraduate Neuroscience Conference (UBC), and Connecting Minds (KPU) and Language Sciences Undergraduate Research Conference (UBC).

Why did you choose to study psychology at UBC?

I originally came to UBC to study Environmental Sciences in the Faculty of Science. I didn’t know anything about the field of psychology until I took an introductory course (PSYC 102) and fell in love with the subject! I decided to switch faculties and pursue a psychology major.

Was there anything or anyone who inspired you?

My life absolutely changed when I started working at a daycare on campus in the beginning of my second year. Until then, I did not have a particular interest in developmental psychology (or children in general!). We had infants as young as 1-year-olds, all the way to toddlers approaching kindergarten. I felt a special bond with them and quickly fell in love with working with children! I saw first-hand how these children grew and changed in short periods of time. Being around children almost every day of the week incredibly inspired me and led me to pursue research opportunities in this field. One of the kid’s grandmother from the daycare, Dr. Janet Werker, ended up being my mentor for the next two years.

Is there a single most important moment that has stood out for you during your time as a psychology student?

Not one, but four moments stood out to me the most: the conferences I had the chance to present my research in! It was amazing to share and discuss my work with fellow students and faculty members. I truly felt like I was a part of a wider community, and my work mattered!

What advice do you have for students on how to carve their own academic path?

The best advice I can give you is to reach out to people! If you stumble upon a professor or student who works on something that interests you, you should reach out and talk about it. It’s incredible what a simple conversation student might lead to. You might come across wonderful opportunities through the people you meet.

What was your favourite class, and why?

Apart from the developmental psychology classes, my absolutely favourite course was Psychology of Religion (PSYC 404) with Dr. Kristin Laurin. It’s a seminar class mostly based on readings and discussions. It was incredible to learn from my classmates’ experiences on extremely diverse religions and cultures, as well as reflecting on my own. This course taught me to have an open mind and heart and think critically about the world we live in!

Which academic and professional achievements are you most proud of?

Reflecting on my past five years at UBC, what I am the most proud of is the people I met and the relationships I’ve built. If it wasn’t for my colleagues and mentors, I wouldn’t have found these opportunities.

What are your future career plans?

I will be starting my Master’s degree in Child and Adolescent Psychology in Leiden University in the Netherlands this fall. I aim to continue working with children in both clinical and research settings as a child psychologist or family therapist!