Undergraduate majors in psychological & brain sciences have the opportunity to take a broad range of courses from professors who are leaders in their field. They also frequently take advantage of opportunities to delve into primary research during their undergraduate years, giving them a head start in their careers. And they benefit from a close-knit community of majors and faculty members. Here are a few stories of students and recent alumni who took advantage of all that BU Psychological & Brain Sciences has to offer:
What is the relationship between social status and behavior? Diletta Mittone, a senior psychology major at BU, has embarked on an honors thesis project to find out. Her research, which was inspired by volunteer work in the Brain and Early Experiences Lab under the supervision of Dr. Amanda Tarullo, will examine how socioeconomic status and bilingualism interact in predicting cognitive control in children.
“I gained valuable research skills, experience, and mentorship from my involvement with research labs in the department,” said Mittone. “When I began volunteering two years ago, I had no idea whether research was something I would enjoy, let alone pursue. However, my experiences working with children, collecting and analyzing data, and working on research projects and conference posters have allowed me to discover my interest in child development research.”
Growing up around younger children, Mittone has always been interested in the relationship between the brain and behavior. After she graduates in the spring, Mittone plans to continue her study of developmental psychology and hopes to one day investigate the effect of early-childhood psychological trauma on the behavior of children and adolescents.
A psychology major and Kilachand Honors College resident, Danyele Homer has taken full advantage of the opportunities at BU to conduct hands-on research as an undergraduate. She has participated in BU’s Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) and helped conduct studies at the Museum of Science. She was part of a team of students who presented a poster at the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies conference in NYC. And she combined her love of yoga with her work with Professor Shannon Sauer-Zavala at the BU Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders to develop her senior honors thesis project, exploring the overlap between the mindful aspects of yoga and the emotional acceptance goals of the Unified Protocol (UP), a cognitive-behavioral treatment used to treat emotional disorders like anxiety and depression.
While Danyele isn’t completely certain of her career path, she plans to obtain a full-time position as a research assistant and ultimately earn her PhD in Clinical Psychology.
A recent graduate and the 2016 recipient of BU’s Psychology Research Award, Katheryn Lefton now puts her research skills to work in the Holtzman Lab of Washington University in St. Louis’s School of Medicine. Working directly under a senior scientist in the neurology lab, Lefton studies the effects of apolipoprotein E in Alzheimer’s disease. As a research technician, Lefton employs many skills she learned while managing a lab at BU. She is involved in most steps of the research–performing mouse injection surgeries, caring for post-op animals, as well as executing histology procedures and cell culture experiments.
“Now that I have been out of school, I can see that my year managing a BU lab–handling any problems quickly, doing administrative work, and communicating across departments to keep every aspect of the lab running smoothly–was the most beneficial part of my education,” said Lefton. “The experience helps inform my work every day.”
Steven Dufour graduated with honors from Boston University in 2016 with a BA in psychology and a minor in statistical methods. As an undergraduate, he worked with Dr. David Barlow to research trans-diagnostic approaches to the treatment of emotional disorders. During his senior year, Steven conducted his honors thesis on the feasibility of an online intervention aimed to prevent anxiety and depression in undergraduates. Also as an undergraduate, he helped improve treatment for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorders as a volunteer at the Boston Veterans Administration Medical Center. He wishes to continue his research of trans-diagnostic treatments for emotional and traumatic disorders, and plans to pursue a PhD in clinical psychology.
“The students and faculty I was able to work with have stuck around in my life after graduation,” said Dufour. “We’re still working on papers together. They’re still helping me prepare for graduate school applications. And I know that they have continued to help the other recent graduates of the lab develop their careers as well. That was never something I expected, but we are enormously grateful for it.”
Originally a biology major, Appleman was inspired to double major in biology and psychology after taking Professor Jackie Liederman’s physiological psychology course. Then when she took a neuropsychology class with Professor Alice Cronin-Golomb, Appleman had her eureka moment.
“Cronin-Golomb’s undergraduate neuropsychology course introduced me to clinical neuropsychology and defined my current career path,” says Appleman. “I was unfamiliar with neuropsychology as a profession before attending BU, and Dr. Cronin-Golomb’s class provided an excellent look at options for both clinical and research work in this field. The academic advising I received in the program (in addition to relationships with professors) was important in understanding how to best prepare myself to apply to competitive graduate programs.”
Upon graduating in 2009, Appleman entered BU’s master’s program in psychology, working with a doctoral candidate to research sleep and cognition in Parkinson’s disease. Now a BU doctoral student, Appleman continues to study Parkinson’s. Her research aims to identify cognitive markers that may predict future diagnoses of the disease that degenerates the motor system.