The honour roll call: conversations with psychology honours students



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UBC Psychology students presenting their research at 2019 PURC.

UBC Psychology’s honours program provides advanced training in psychological research to outstanding students who intend to pursue graduate studies in psychology.

BA and BSc students who take part in the undergraduate program have access to small upper-level classes with a like-minded cohort of peers. The program offers students a chance to work with faculty researchers, design a unique research question, and present their findings at UBC’s annual Psychology Undergraduate Research Conference (PURC).

Admission to the honours program is highly competitive with 20-25 incoming third-year students admitted into the program each year. The deadline to apply to the program has been extended to April 15, 2020.

Ahead of the deadline, 4th year honours students share their research, their favourite experience and why psychology students should consider applying for the program. Expand the accordions below to learn more about their experience in the honours program.

“My favourite aspect of the honours program is the wonderful, tight-knit community we have. Students take several courses together and we are always there to support each other — after all, we’re all going through this together.”
BSc. Hons, Behavioural Neuroscience

  1. To start with, can you tell us about your research?
    I'm an incoming Master's student in the Cognitive Science area of Psychology at UBC. I'm interested in understanding how people deploy physical effort to achieve their goals (e.g. avoiding an unpleasant outcome). I also develop novel methods for automatically reinforcing animals for specific behaviours, and am exploring how glucocorticoids are locally regulated in the rodent brain. I currently work in the labs of Dr. Rebecca Todd and Dr. Kiran Soma in Psychology, as well as the lab of Dr. Tim Murphy in Psychiatry. In graduate school, I will be working with Dr. Rebecca Todd (my current honours supervisor) and Dr. Alan Kingstone.
  2. How has being in the psychology honours program helped you determine your future career or area of study?
    One of the labs in which I will be working in graduate school is my current honours lab (Dr. Rebecca Todd's Motivated Cognition Lab), and my graduate co-supervisor Dr. Alan Kingstone taught the History of Psychology class which I took as part of the honours program. Beyond these very direct impacts of the Honours program on my future work, the opportunity to write two theses and be mentored by two amazing supervisors has deeply shaped my interests and ignited my passion for research.
  3. What has been your favourite experience from the psychology honours program?
    My favourite experience has been the opportunity to work and learn from a group of supportive and highly motivated peers. The people of the Honours program truly make the program an enlightening and empowering experience.
  4. Has your perspective on psychology changed since you’ve been in the program?
    Since joining the program, I have been able to sharpen my interests in Psychology. I have become more focused on and interested in the research elements of psychology and, in particular, the cognitive science area. Without the honours program, I would certainly have had less experience and knowledge with which to make decisions about my future path in the field of psychology.
  5. Why should psychology students consider apply for the honours program?
    If you are thinking about attending graduate school in psychology or neuroscience, or are thinking about a postgraduate career that requires solid statistical skills or is focused on the brain and behaviour, then I cannot recommend the Honours Psychology program enough!

  1. To start with, can you tell us about your research?
    I’ve been super passionate about research since high school. I wrote several research papers doing the International Baccalaureate program and decided I really wanted to get my Ph.D. — which I definitely intend to do at some point! In university, I got involved in psychology research right from my first year and have worked in several labs since. My research focuses on infant language development and the impact of a bilingual upbringing on this process. I’ve worked in two of UBC’s Early Development Research Group centres in my third and fourth year and gotten to work with some amazing people!
  2. How has being in the psychology honours program helped you determine your future career or area of study?
    The honours program has helped me in a ton of ways for my future! To start with, it provided me with the confidence and direction I needed to pursue my research interests. In looking for a supervisor for my third year, I discovered Dr. Janet Werker’s lab and reached out to her because my interests aligned so well with her work. Being in her lab really solidified my interest in bilingual language development research. It also helped me find a project for my fourth year thesis at Dr. Geoff Hall’s lab, in a very similar field. This experience has contributed a lot to my passion for this field!
  3. What has been your favourite experience from the psychology honours program?
    My favourite aspect of the honours program is the wonderful, tight-knit community we have. The cohort is fairly small (though I believe it will be growing due to popular demand!), and we all get to know each other very well. The small class size means we have productive, engaging class discussions every week. Students take several courses together and we are always there to support each other — after all, we’re all going through this together. And it’s not just academics — we go out and have fun together as well!
  4. Has your perspective on psychology changed since you’ve been in the program?
    I have learned so much about psychology from the honours program. It has both opened my eyes to how diverse it is as a discipline and also all its problems and the solutions we’re trying to propose for them. Psychology is a rigorous science when done right and we are always improving it. In honours, we talk about all those considerations to make us better scientists. It’s been amazing hearing about my peers’ research and the methodology we have come up with to answer some tough questions!
  5. Why should psychology students consider apply for the honours program?
    Another reason why the honours program is great is that it teaches you so much about the process of disseminating research information, both in terms of writing and presenting. You don’t get as much of that from a regular psychology degree, and I think that’s incredibly valuable for a future career as a researcher. In psych honours (this isn’t typical of most honours programs), you get to write theses both years. This both helped familiarize me with the literature and allowed me to improve my writing year to year. Understanding the current state of the literature, in particular, is really powerful because it makes you a better critical thinker and allows you to develop your own research questions — both vital skills for researchers!

  1. To start with, can you tell us about your research?
    Over the summer of 2019, I worked full-time through the Quinn Research Assistantship with Dr. Paul Hewitt to facilitate group psychotherapies for perfectionistic individuals. Dr. Hewitt supervised my honours thesis where I investigated the temporal relationship between adverse parenting, perfectionism, and depression in children. I spent the last four semesters working with Dr. Kristin Laurin and her graduate student Mr. Gordon Heltzel. Together, they supervised my 3rd year honours thesis and 4th year directed studies. Through several MTurk and pilot studies, we contributed to the understanding of why people avoid opposing political perspectives. I also spent four semesters working with Dr. Jessica Tracy as a research assistant and directed studies student. Here, we explored the pernicious effects of hubristic pride. This summer through the NSERC USRA, I will investigate neural and cognitive representation of money in gambling games with Dr. Luke Clark. My hope is that these experiences will further my long-term aspirations of helping those with mental health issues through research and practice.
  2. How has being in the psychology honours program helped you determine your future career or area of study?
    Through the psychology honours program, I was able to work with professors and graduate students who gave me truly amazing opportunities. From ethics approval to data analysis, these people allowed me to get involved in every process of research. Through the constancy of care and help that they provided, I discovered that I love research.
  3. What has been your favourite experience from the psychology honours program?
    My favourite experience from the psychology honours program was the two years I spent with my peers. As the same cohort, we really got close, often bonding over the tribulations of our work. Thanks to this program, I became friends with some lovely people.
  4. Has your perspective on psychology changed since you’ve been in the program?
    I initially studied psychology at UBC because I wanted to learn how to help people with mental health issues. Now that I’ve finished with the program, I learned that psychology is a science. It rigorously follows the scientific method, and it takes real hard work to think and be a scientist. Thankfully, I’ve learned that there are many ways to apply psychology as a science such that I can still have the opportunity and competency to help others.
  5. Why should psychology students consider apply for the honours program?
    The honours program really provides an amazing opportunity for growth and learning. I really recommend people to apply.

    1. To start with, can you tell us about your research?
      I have a wide variety of research interests, including everything from the wellbeing of childhood cancer survivors to infant language development. I did my third year honours project in the Motivated Cognition Lab about avoidance behaviours and I am currently finishing my fourth year honours project in the Infant Studies Centre doing an EEG study about how infants learn language. My long-term goal is to become a physician so my next pursuit will hopefully be medical school!
    2. How has being in the psychology honours program helped you determine your future career or area of study?
      The psychology honours program has been an incredibly valuable opportunity to try out many different types of research in different labs with totally different focuses. This really helped me discover what type of research I was most interested in and what areas I am most passionate about. I discovered that I love clinical research where I can see the implications directly and interact with people on a daily basis, particularly kids. That really helped me decide that I wanted to go into medicine, and specifically be a pediatrician so I can continue working with and helping kids everyday.
    3. What has been your favourite experience from the psychology honours program?
      My favourite experience from the psychology honours program was the opportunity to meet so many like-minded students. It was really great to meet people who are passionate about the same things as me, and find the same things exciting! Especially because the psychology program is so large, it can be tough to meet people, but the honours program made it easy to find some really great friends who care about the same things I do.
    4. Has your perspective on psychology changed since you’ve been in the program?
      My perspective on psychology has really broadened through my experience in the program because I’ve been exposed to so many different types of research that I never would have known about if it weren’t for honours. It is so cool to know that although we are all in the same program, we have such different projects addressing totally different topics because psychology itself is such a varied field. I have learned so much from my peers and been exposed to entirely different areas that I wouldn’t have known existed otherwise.
    5. Why should psychology students consider apply for the honours program?
      I would recommend the honours program to absolutely anyone who thinks they might be interested in research or a career in psychology, as it’s a great way to add to your degree and open up many opportunities!