Are you interested in getting the inside scoop on how clinical research takes place and how to contribute to knowledge in the field? In this RA Q&A, Aafreen Siddiqui shares her experience working in a clinical psychology lab.
By Madeline Renner
Aafreen Siddiqui was curious to learn more about clinical psychology research and wanted an up-close view of how research and knowledge creation takes place in the field. This led her to work as a research assistant with the Perfectionism and Psychopathology Lab, led by Dr. Paul Hewitt. The Perfectionism and Psychopathology Lab explores personality vulnerabilities as they relate to psychological difficulties and other outcomes, with a particular emphasis on perfectionism.
Aafreen is an incoming fourth year undergraduate student at UBC, pursuing a double major in psychology and philosophy. In her role as a research assistant, she transcribes interviews, and runs participant sessions for data collection. Aafreen guides participants through these sessions, answers questions, addresses any concerns, and debriefs participants afterwards. When she’s not in the classroom or the lab, she can be found reading books, or watching television series — Gilmore Girls is a current favourite.
What motivated you to apply to work as an RA in this lab?
I have been interested in clinical psychology, especially disorders, since I took my first psychology class in the 11th grade. The main reason I applied to work as an RA in this lab was that I wanted to experience how a clinical lab functions in a lab setting.
I have worked as an RA in other labs before, but when I came across this lab, I was really intrigued by the focus on perfectionism, because that was a field I hadn’t explored before. When I looked at their ongoing projects and publications, I realised that perfectionism was something I would want to learn more about in detail, as well as contribute to their ongoing research projects.
I was also motivated to join the Perfectionism and Psychopathology lab because it would give me a better idea of research in the clinical field, which is what I aim to pursue and specialise in after completing my undergrad.
What intrigues you about this lab’s research?
As I mentioned, because I hadn’t explored the topic of perfectionism before. Learning about the fact that when perfectionism is on the extreme end of the spectrum, it disrupts the quality of life of individuals with this personality trait, changed my outlook on the topic, because of the common belief that perfectionism is something that motivates people to do a task as well as they can.
However, I soon learnt that it is a lifestyle where individuals feel like they need to set unachievable goals for themselves which leads to a lack of satisfaction and stress.
It really intrigues me that the research done in this lab is actually being used to help attempt to alter the maladaptive thoughts and help induce a feeling of satisfaction.
Do you have advice for other students who want to get involved in research?
The most important advice I have for students attempting to get involved in research is to be patient. I still remember the day I emailed almost every lab at UBC to inquire about whether they had a position available, and most of them replied by saying that they weren’t looking to hire new RAs.
After months of waiting patiently, I finally heard back from a lab who wanted to interview me, and things have been uphill since. So if you aren’t hearing back instantly or don’t have a position at a lab yet, don’t give up — patience and persistence is key! It does get really overwhelming but I swear it’ll all work out.
I would also recommend selecting courses carefully because some labs ask about the courses you have taken which make you a suitable candidate, for example, if you’re applying to a social lab, taking PSYC 308 (Social Psychology) will help your application.
What is your favourite part of working as an RA?
I think my favourite part of working as an RA in a clinical lab is that I get to see up-close how clinical research takes place, and that I get to be a small part of it. I also really like working with the other RAs. Along with that, I really enjoy transcribing participant interviews and altogether contributing to the clinical research field.
How do you see this field of research changing in the next few months or years? How do you see student involvement changing?
I think that the main thing that will change is the incorrect assumption of what perfectionism is and how it impacts individuals and their lifestyle. I think that once people will be more aware of the impact perfectionism has, the more importance it will be given and there will be more research conducted on it. The more research that is conducted, the better ways we will be able to come up with to help individuals with a high score of the perfectionism trait.