Tulane’s Child & Family Lab: A Prelude

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Hello everyone! My name is Victoria Parker and I am rising Senior, originally hailing from Boston MA, who has come to Tulane to work towards my degree in Psychology and Early Childhood Education. Three years ago, when I first arrived in this far and novel city, I was timid ad hesitant about finding my place, both at Tulane and within the greater New Orleans community. I have always had a passion for working with children, and I chose Tulane specifically for their education program. However, Freshman year came and went, and although I had gotten my footing, I still felt lost and unsure of how I wanted to direct my passions and my future degree and apply it to the “real world”. Then, at the start of my Sophomore year, everything changed.

I was enrolled in Educational Psychology with Dr. Sarah Gray, where she taught us how to critically examine the concepts of psychology, human development and learning theories and apply it to both educational practices through our service learning as well to psychological research methodology. It was here, that one day after class Dr. Gray announced that she was the Principle Investigator of Tulane’s Child and Family lab and that she was looking to recruit more undergraduate researchers. As she described her research in greater detail something inside me shifted with excitement and purpose, I applied, and have been working there ever since! The Tulane Child & Family lab and research team has shaped my Tulane experience, my career goals and critical thinking, and myself as a confident and compassionate member of the Tulane and New Orleans community.

The lab works to understand how mothers, as significant adults in children’s lives, help support healthy child development in the face of stress. Specifically, the study examines the influence of children’s violence exposure on their social-emotional and behavioral regulation as well as their school-readiness outcomes, and how the mother-child relationship and parenting factors may buffer the impacts of such exposures. For more information check out our website here: Tulane Child and Family Lab and Dr. Gray’s WDSU news interview here: WSDU interview.

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When I first started in lab I mostly handled interview transcriptions and data entry, but with time and experience I have become more involved in  lab tasks involving Preschool Self Regulation Assessment (PSRA) coding, greater participant recruitment and scheduling responsibility, and systematic reviews of other similar research to help us plan our next steps in our data analysis. This summer internship expereince will allow me to dive deeper into the lab work and research, and work more closely with our current Graduate students. I am so excited to continue working in the lab this summer, and have developed five learning objectives to help me in my endeavor to make the most out of this incredible opportunity.

  1. I hope to broaden my understanding of the statistical analyses with applied, experimental psychology and SPSS software, and then use that knowledge to help think critically of how best to run and analyze our data.
  2. I hope to strengthen my participant recruitment skills and the administrative side of clinical psychology research, without which the lab would not be able to continue.
  3. I hope to develop and improve my scientific writing skills by both reading more of the current literature, papers and posters of the graduate students, and writing myself.
  4. I hope to further my PSRA coding reliability and complete a systematic review of how past studies have used such data to shape the future direction of our analyses.
  5. And finally, I hope to work closely with the graduate doctoral student’s, so that I can learn from them, and confirm that this is the future work I want to pursue.

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The Newcomb College Institute’s mission of educating women for leadership while integrating research, teaching and community engagement is reflected in this internship as this mainly female lab is headed by Dr. Sarah Gray who is an incredible pioneer both in her field and in our community and it has been so inspiring working behind such a strong woman. Furthermore, the lab is working with solely local New Orleans women and mothers to learn from them about pathways to resiliency for their children, so that in the future this data, currently purely for research’s sake, can be applied to make valuable changes within these strong, but exposed women and children’s lives. Overall, the research and applied educational aspects, the community engagement and the powerful interconnectedness of strong, resilient women that Dr. Gray’s lab facilitates makes this internship a powerful opportunity for me to carry out the Newcomb College Institute’s mission.

I officially start my internship work May 30th! In order to prepare, I have been shadowing our current, lead recruitment manager (a graduating senior) before she leaves, and have been researching and exposing myself to the current and related literature. I am so excited for this summer adventure, and will keep everyone updated as it progresses!

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