Category Archives: Research

What do you do, in 30 seconds or less? Preparing your ‘Elevator Speech’ for Convention

Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

So, you’ve put hundreds of hours into your research – you know the theories inside and out. You can talk about the relationships between your variables. Your methods. Your findings. Your implications. But, can you do it in 30 seconds or less?

Convention necessitates we prepare our ‘elevator speech’ to engage quickly (but meaningfully) with colleagues while we are crunched for time moving from session to session or waiting for a session to start. Maybe you’re looking to solidify your introduction for a seminar or conversation hour you’re leading. This is your opportunity to communicate the importance of your work and how it benefits our field. Think of this as a way for you to provide a clear, brief message on who you are and what interests you.

Here are some quick and easy tips to help you prepare your ‘elevator speech’ and build connections at convention:
Think about the major themes of your research. What are the questions you are trying to answer? What are the topics that excite you? Why are these issues important? Given the diversity of our field, it is likely that you will interact with psychologists and students who are unfamiliar (or vaguely familiar) with your research area, so be sure to eliminate all jargon.
Talk about what motivates you. Your goals for life post degree. Why is it that you are doing this work? Are you seeking to impact clinical practice? Are you trying to influence policy? Are you looking to join the academy, clinical practice, think tank, etc.?
Write it down and practice. This might seem silly, but it is crucial. Here is your opportunity to refine what you are trying to say and become comfortable communicating it with others. You can practice with your family, friends, and classmates. Here is your opportunity to work out the bugs and practice these conversations. Check out an outline here and watch Duke University students practice their elevator speech (literally) here.
Let them know who you are. Find out who they are. Remember, this ‘speech’ is an opportunity to make a meaningful connection. Make it personal. It’s likely you may want to follow up with them in the future, and your 30-60 second interaction may blossom into a relationship or mentorship. After all, your elevator speech opens the door for further conversation.

Lastly, remember to breathe and enjoy convention.

Editor’s Note: Check out these additional posts about how to have a successful Convention experience.

Why Policy?

US Capitol Rotunda

U.S. Capitol Rotunda, Source: Flickr, user sidkid

“Why policy?”

I have been asked this simple, two-word question more times than any other question in the past year. Back in September, I began working as a graduate-level policy scholar for the Public Interest Government Relations office at the American Psychological Association. As this opportunity coincided with my fifth year of doctoral studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, I have often had to explain my hectic schedule upon meeting new individuals. Research and academia, most will understand, as those things fit seamlessly into the doctoral studies mold. But then comes the follow-up question: Why policy?

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APAGS Convention Tracks – Science

APA 2016 bannerThis year, the APAGS Convention Committee has put graduate student programming at Convention into tracks: Diversity, Professional Development, Science, and Internship. We’ve done so with an eye for how certain programs and talks might go together, so that students can set their goals for convention (e.g., get the skinny on how to research efficiently) and feel assured that they hit all the talks.

Check out my previous post that highlights the Professional Development track.

My self-care activity throughout grad school has been hiking. For that reason, my mind is making connections between our APAGS tracks and hiking routes. Imagine each track as a particular hiking path. Sometimes they intersect with other paths, and sometimes you can hop between paths based on your needs. In fact, the hiking analogy can be extended further! Hydrate during convention, pack good footwear (lots of walking), and tie up your food at night so that grizzly bears hungry grad students cranky advisers don’t get into it.

Second track: Science

Length: Straight shot to some sweet pubs and science-nerdiness                            Preparation: Read up on internships leading to unexpected career paths, and how to dive into research 

  1. Alternative Career Paths with a Doctorate in Psychology (also in Professional Development)
  2. Conducting Research within a Social Justice Framework: From Research Question to Publication (also in Diversity)
  3. Networking with a Purpose: Making a Plan, Building Relationships, and Maintaining Connections (also in Professional Development)
  4. Late Breaking Poster Session
  5. Conducting Research on Marginalized Identities: When Research is “Me-Search” (also in Diversity)
  6. Reviewing for a Journal as Graduate Students: The Whys and Hows
  7. Individual Development Plans for Students and Postdocs (also in Professional Development)

Happy trails!

Editor’s Note: Each day this week we will highlight a different APAGS Program Track. Find out which track is right for you! Also, check out the full schedule of APAGS programming.

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The Learning Scientists: Our Story

LSLogo200x200Recently, I had been trying to come up with creative ways to help my students link concepts from class to the real world. Improving learning is one connection. But there are many others, such as how we might frame an advertisement to help it sell, or how we can improve procedures in the criminal justice system to avoid false convictions – like Steven Avery’s first conviction. (The many who watched Making a Murderer have probably thought a lot about this connection to cognitive psychology, possibly without realizing how much of a role it plays!) Anyway, I decided to create an assignment requiring my students to interact with one another and make connections with popular psychology-related articles on Twitter. The first step was creating a Twitter profile for myself, and building it up with psychology-related tweets.

One random night, I saw that Yana was tweeting many messages to a lot of different Twitter handles. It turns out Yana had been feeling guilty that she wasn’t doing more to reach out to the community with her work on improving study strategies. Somewhat impulsively, she tried searching “test tomorrow” on Twitter, and realized that TONS of students were tweeting about upcoming exams. Many students were tweeting about being unprepared, not knowing how to study, or being unable to concentrate.

So, Yana started tweeting advice and encouragement to the students: wishing them luck on their exams, asking them what strategies they used to study, and whether they’d tried practice questions or writing out everything they knew on the topic from memory. I thought it was such a cool idea that I decided to join in. I suggested we start using the hashtag #AceThatTest, and overnight that hashtag had turned into our joint Twitter account: @AceThatTest. That was January 22nd, 2016.

Since then – in under a month – we have gained almost 700 followers on Twitter, tweeted well over 2,000 times, hired a student intern, made a website with a blog (learningscientists.org), been asked to help out with a book on learning, and forged many new connections with researchers and educators around the world. The project really took off in ways that I think neither of us had anticipated! The passion we both bring to the project comes from our mutual frustration with the lack of communication between science and educational practice.

We want to improve communication between the various educational experts. Education is an extremely important topic, and we believe that there are many experts in this realm, each bringing an important perspective that can serve to improve education. Teachers who have been practicing in the classroom for years are experts. Students, by the time they graduate high school, and may be considering entering into higher education, have 13 years of educational experience under their belts, and could be considered experts. Professors, like Yana and myself, who both research learning (sometimes in the lab, sometimes in live classrooms) and teach undergraduate students in our own classrooms are experts. Professors who are working with teachers in training in institutions of higher education are experts.

If you have an “it takes a village” mentality, like we do, then the idea of having so many experts with diverse experiences and perspectives is extremely exciting. No one person can solve every problem that comes up, but a diverse group has serious potential to get things done. Unfortunately, many of these groups are not communicating with one another as much as we believe they should be. The situation is not entirely dissimilar from the schism between research and practice in clinical psychology. In an ideal world, researchers would clearly communicate their findings and make them easily accessible to practitioners. Meanwhile, practitioners would communicate any practical concerns they have with implementation to inform further research. Yet instead of this type of symbiotic relationship, there is a strained relationship between clinical practice and clinical research, and the lines of communication are not as open as they should be, and need to be if we want clinical psychology to be maximally beneficial for the profession and the public as a whole. Clinical psychologists know this, and have been addressing the problem; there have even been special APA Convention programs and even special journal issues to address the lack of communication.

The same problem occurs in education – communication is simply not open, and it’s time for the many educational experts to address this. We have to talk to each other if we want to improve education. It seems to us that we can’t complain about a lack of communication while keeping our heads down in our own silos. For this reason, Yana and I started the Learning Scientists community.

Please help us spread the word, and open lines of communication between all education experts. There are many opportunities for you to get involved: Tell colleagues outside of psychology about this work, follow us on Twitter and tweet at us, comment on our blog, or even write a piece on something you’re passionate about and send it to us. You can get in touch with us through our website via our “contact us” tab, or on Twitter @AceThatTest.

LScientists Banner200x849About the authors:

MeganSmithMegan Smith is an Assistant Professor in the Psychology department at Rhode Island College. She received her Master’s in Experimental Psychology at Washington University in St. Louis and her PhD in Cognitive Psychology from Purdue University. Megan’s area of expertise is in human learning and memory, and applying the science of learning in educational contests. 

YanaWeinsteinYana Weinstein is an Assistant Professor in the Psychology department at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. She received her PhD in Psychology from University College London and had 4 years of postdoctoral training at Washington University in St. Louis. The broad goal of her research is to help students make the most of their academic experience. 

Together they co-founded the Learning Scientists (@AceThatTest on Twitter) to make scientific research more accessible to students and educators.

 

 

The author found himself interning here at Electronic Arts for 10 weeks one summer, thanks to a fateful TED-like video and a LinkedIn suggestion. (Source: nickstone333 on Flickr. Some rights reserved.)

A Cog Neuro Student Nabs an Industry Internship

The author found himself interning here at Electronic Arts for 10 weeks one summer, thanks to a fateful TED-like video and a LinkedIn suggestion. (Source: nickstone333 on Flickr. Some rights reserved.)

The author found himself interning at Electronic Arts for 10 weeks one summer, thanks to a fateful TED-like video and a LinkedIn suggestion. (Source: nickstone333 on Flickr. Some rights reserved.)

Editor’s note on the term “internship”:  Doctoral students in clinical, counseling, and school psychology may hear “internship” referenced in this post and immediately think of the yearlong field placement in a therapeutic setting that is required just prior to earning the doctorate. Here, author Stephen Gray refers to a different kind of internship–one that may interest students in science and research fields who are considering non-academic experience prior to graduation. 

A leg up 

Internship. It may be a strange word to weathered doctoral students who have done nothing but tirelessly toil away on research studies for years, but in a world where there are an increasing number of PhDs and a decreasing number of tenure track jobs, it may become something to consider as the job market continues to shift. And while the term may invoke images of demoralized undergraduates getting coffee for high level CEOs, rest assured that there are plenty of companies and organizations interested in taking advantage of the unique skills a graduate student in psychology has to offer.

Although giving up a summer of research may slightly delay the timing of your degree, an internship offers invaluable experience in knowing what research in the “real world” is like and may allow you to determine if it’s a good fit for you. Having an internship on the resume gives you a leg up compared to other industry-bound students when applying for jobs, and in some cases, may even result in a permanent job offer from the company at which you intern.

Finding my way into an internship

To be completely honest, I didn’t come into the summer before my fifth year as a doctoral student with intention of finding an internship – things just sort of worked out that way.

It started a few years ago, when I stumbled upon a TED-style online talk by Dr. Jeffrey Lin, the head of social systems at Riot Games. Dr. Lin, who has a PhD in cognitive neuroscience from the University of Washington, spoke of the research Riot Games was conducting to reduce negative player behavior in the game League of Legends. As a passionate online gamer myself, the idea that I could use my skills as a researcher to study how people interact with video games was enticing.

Per Dr. Lin’s recommendation, I joined a LinkedIn group called “Games User Research,” and came in contact with dozens of individuals with psychology degrees who were now using their skills for the gaming industry. Desperate to get some hands-on experience myself, I made a post introducing myself and asking about opportunities for freelance work.

To my surprise, I received quite a few responses, although the one that stood out to me was a Consumer Insights internship at Electronic Arts (EA) in which I would be working for an individual with a PhD in social psychology. After submitting my application and a series of interviews, I was soon headed to Los Angeles to begin my summer as a researcher at EA.

My favorite part of industry research is its blistering pace…I was also fortunate to receive a hiring recommendation

Turning an internship into a potential job

The experience I gained was invaluable. My favorite part of industry research is its blistering pace; I was able to dabble in six different projects while I was at EA in ten short weeks. I conducted literature searches, analyzed large sets of survey data, and presented my results to stakeholders and executives. I was also fortunate to receive a hiring recommendation, meaning that I have a potential job waiting for me when I finish my PhD next year.

The industry world is not for everyone – there are plenty of students (and advisors) who scoff at the idea of doing anything but academic research, and that’s okay. For the rest of you who are on the fence about what to do with your degree, I would highly recommend seeking out an internship that fits your passion. Even you dislike the experience, it will provide critical information about the right career path for you.

Editor’s note: Stephen Gray is a PhD student in experimental psychology, focusing on cognitive neuroscience, at the University of Chicago. Stephen is completing a two-year term on the APAGS Science Committee.