All posts by vrparker3

Gray Lab Summer 2017 Conclusion

 Although my summer experience working in the Child and Family lab has come to a close, I have learned and accomplished so much that I will take with me not only into my comomchild-300x300ntinued research position for the upcoming year, but also in my course work, future career paths, and perspectives and interactions with people in my every day life. From achieving all of my initial summer learning goals, to learning lessons of the importance of relationships, resilience, context and self-awareness–this summer experience has challenged and rewarded me in ways I could not have imagined. 

In terms of of my specific learning objectives, the Gray lab supported me and gave me every opportunity to successfully achieve my goals. My first goal was to broaden my understanding of statistical analyses and SPSS software used to run such analyses and then applying that understanding to ours and others research. Thanks to the support of the NCI grant, I was able to get the SPSS software on my computer. That resource in conjunction  with the support of all the Gray lab graduate students, (whether they were sharing their SPSS instructional manuals with me, 
Screen Shot 2017-12-17 at 5.15.21 PM.pngoffering me tutorials involving tedious hours spent showing me how to run varying analyses, answering all of my questions, or sharing with me their own research project data analysis plans and results) I am now confident in both running my own statistical analysis, as well as interpreting the statistics and result tables of the empirical literature that I consume. Part of this first goal was to be able to use this acquired understanding to help the lab make some analyses choices as we shift focus from strictly data collection to analysis. I was able to achieve this goal by writing several syntaxes including ones for child community violence exposure, children’s’ hot self-regulation and children’s’ cool self-regulation. My second learning goal was to strengthen my participant recruitment skills and the administrative side of clinical psychology research. Although after this summer, another undergraduate will take over recruitment, recruitment was one of my favorite experiences I had in lab because it helped me connect the research beyond just participant ID numbers to real people with stories who are inconveniencing themselves to assist with our work. This appreciation and connection was one of the biggest lessons of the summer. My third learning goal was to develop my scientific reading and writing abilities. By the end of the summer I had successfully read and critically analyzed and discussed our weekly empirical article for lab meeting, presented and lead an article discussion during lab meeting, completed a literature review on self-regulation, and finished my honors thesis proposal. The Gray lab gave me the exposure, tools, support and challenge that I needed to gain confidence in my scientific reading and writing abilities. My fourth learning goal was to further my PSRA coding reliability and complete a systematic review of how past studies used PSRA data to inform analyses plan within our own research. Using the Interclass Correlation Coefficient (ICC) measure to determine inter-rater reliability, by the end of the summer Hannah (our lead lab coordinator) and I were within an acceptable range of reliability and had made good progress and double coding PSRA videos. I completed my PSRA systematic review and started creating syntaxes to assist in our future data analyses. My final goal was to work closely to the graduate students and learn from them. This goal was easy to achieve due to the strong mentorship values the lab has, and without the support from all of the gray lab team–none of my above goals would have been attainable. 

So, now that I reached all my summer learning goals, what is next? Luckily, I get to continue working in the Gray Lab for the next to semesters! I hope to continue to build on my current experience as I endeavor to complete my senior year honors thesis. I am excited to see how the graduate student’s projects evolve as they take on their master thesis, dissertation and compositional research projects. I am excited to meet new people, as more undergraduate students join the lab and to give them any knowledge and support that I can to assist them on their research endeavors. Furthermore, if any readers are Tulane or New Orleans students interested in getting involved in undergraduate research projects–please feel free to contact me for any questions or support you may need in starting the process. I cannot reccomend the experience highly enough! Beyond the upcoming semesters, this summer experience has given me career goals of eventually pursuing graduate work in psychology so that I can best give back to both the field and my community. 

Beyond the skills I learned, the Gray Lab has also developed my concepts of social justice within and beyond the field of psychology. One lesson from the summer that particularly resonated with me was one surrounding cultural sensitivity and understanding the dangers of labeling and telling and recognizing only one story. During one of our weekly lab meetings we read the following article to guide our discussion about the risks of closed-minded labeling, particular within the work we do. In it, Nigerian writer Chimamanda Adichie beautifully captures how everyone gives labels and everyone has been singularly labeled to all of humanities detriment. Understanding this inherent misstep and consciously countering the instinct to make assumptions about someone’s identity is incredibly important in any field where you are interacting with people who may identify differently from you. In regards to psychological research this applies in many ways. Here is an interesting article that exemplifies this lesson by explaining and empirically supporting the dangers of focusing on one story in research by expanding trauma research beyond a strictly psychopathology maladaptive perspective to contextually adaptive strategies. These are just two examples of how the Gray Lab has challenged my biases and grown my perspectives on social justice and how to be a compassionate human. I will link our Lab Values here for further lessons that being a part of this lab has taught me. 

In terms of my goal and NCI’s mission of being a leading woman and an agent of positive change, working in the Gray Lab has taught me how to reach these goals by introducing me to inspiring models. Whether it was the mothers I talked to at the pediatric clinic, the administration and staff at the Head Start programs, my undergraduate research peers, the graduate students, or Dr. Gray herself, being constantly surrounding by incredible and hard working women with a diversity of skill sets and ways of contributing has helped me find my own voice and confidence in the field and beyond. I am so grateful for this experience, and I plan to apply what I have learned this past summer in all of my future endeavors 

 

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The Midpoint: halfway between the minimum and maximum value

Summer in the Child and Family lab has been zooming by, and much has been happening! We have welcomed wonderful incoming graduate students to our team while saying sad but proud goodbye to others, we have started a shift in focus from purely data collection to exploratory analyses and critical thinking of our aims, and we have graduate students attending and presenting innovative posters regarding significant lab data findings at the APA’s (American Psychology Association) annual convention!

As for me, I have been constantly learning new things, gaining more confidence and insight around the field of psychology and how I want to be a part of it in the future, and working towards my learning objectives that I established at the start of the summer. These objectives were:

  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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Results of my demographic descriptive and frequency statistics SPSS analysis

In terms of participant recruitment, I have a distinct memory at the beginning of last year of hearing Margaret, our prior undergraduate in charge of recruitment, making phone calls to participants in lab and thinking that I could never do that. I was scared of being too awkward, pushy, intrusive, unprofessional or hung up on. So, when I was told I was going to take over for Margaret since she graduated, I was nervous to say the least! However, as I trained in our recruitment protocol, I began to feel more competent, and then with each call I made all those fears and insecurities began to disappear. Recruitment is a crucial part of keeping the lab moving forward, and although more administrative, it is a valuable skill both within and beyond the field of psychology. Furthermore, once a week I go to a pediatric clinic to do in-person recruitment. Connecting with the participants, being able to explain the study to them and answer their questions is actually a very rewarding process because it allows me to value them as people who are willing to give their time and energy to join the lab team in order to help important research take place, rather than to just view these people as identification numbers in my data entry tasks.Although I definitely have a lot to learn in the realm of SPSS, I have transitioned from knowing only how to enter data to understanding how to create basic syntax, merge data sets, check for specific errors and interpret demographic descriptive and frequency statistical analyses. My SPSS knowledge has grown through youtube tutorials, books and resources from our lab library, and hands-on guidance and instructions from graduate students. My proudest accomplishment thus far in terms of SPSS was creating a syntax for a community violence exposure variable as well as using SPSS to attain the demographic information and statistics regarding the participants I am using for my independent research project.

The development of my scientific writing has been one of the areas I have improved the most on. Before this summer, I really did not know much about scientific writing because most of my psychology classes have been lecture and exam-based. With the guidance of 4th year graduate student, Justin Carreras, in my endeavor to write a literature review regarding the constructs of self-regulation, emotion recognition, social competency and school readiness in the context of a child’s community violence exposure, I have gained much knowledge about conducting independent research, reading empirical articles and writing them. For those of you embarking on your own research and literature reviews who want some guidance, I highly reccomend Writing Literature Reviews by Jose L. Galvan as a resource!

The PSRA (Preschool Self-Regulation Assessment) Data coding has been progressing forward slowly but surely! Depending on how busy the week in lab is, I code around four to eight videos each week

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Peter, one of our undergraduate RA’s attempting one of our child visit 2 tasks to make sure we have all the right legos pieces

starting from our oldest data working to the new, while our Lab Head, Hannah does her own coding, working from new to old. Eventually we will meet in the middle and then go through and consensus code the other’s work. Hannah and I have both completed many videos in order to train for correct and aligned coding and we conference every other week to go over any issues that arose.

Finally, I have indeed been working closely and learning lots from the graduate students! From SPSS training to article presentations and discussions during our weekly lab meetings the graduate students always interact with the undergrads and help us grow us learners and critical thinkers. Elsa Obus, a second year graduate student, is heading to the annual APA convention on August 3rd to present her research on Associations Between Preschool Children’s Exposure to Arrest and Incarcerated Problem Behaviors . We are all so excited for her!

This summer experience in lab has really helped me develop as a female leader as I have had so many incredible mentors that through modeling and support have allowed me to gain confidence in my ability as a competent woman working within the field of psychology. From tangental conversations in lab that, as women, we need to stop constantly apologizing to each other in the work place to seeing our Principal Investigator, Dr. Sarah Gray, successfully run a lab, enter motherhood, while at the  same time dedicate herself to her many other work responsibilities (Supervision of the Tulane Psychology clinic, mentoring graduate and undergraduate students and much more!) Overall, I am so excited that this summer in the Tulane Child and Family Lab has allowed me to build my skill sets as a critical thinker and future psychologists and prepared me as I embark on my senior year and beyond!

PSRA and Pediatric Clinics: A Two Week Update

Things have been quite busy over in the Child & Family lab so far! Luckily, our lab is located in Percival Stern on Tulane’s campus, and so my commute consists of a beautiful and mercifully short 10-minute walk from my house each morning. To the untrained eye, our lab space may look like a small and windowless box, however, I have come to see it for what it truly is: a carefully organized (thanks to our amazing lab head, Rebecca Lipschutz) space that functions as a systematic organism  in which intelligent, passionate minds and statistical computer programming join forces in the name of child and family trauma research!!

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Lab in action! (Featuring Elsa Obus, a first year Graduate Student)

As a little reminder, the mission of our lab is to understand more about how in families with violence exposure, mothers help their children cope with stressful situations and the various related variables within those interactions ranging from physiology heart-rate data, insightful parenting and self regulation. With two weeks of full lab functioning underway, we have all started to settle into our summertime schedules and lab roles! Each week, all of the lab research assistants have a list of both independent and collaborative lab assignments to complete ranging from recruitment, participant visits, data entry or transcriptions, coding, research, writing, planning etcetera.We have weekly lab meetings every Wednesday in which the whole lab comes together to check-in, update each other, work through any issues, and present the weekly research paper discussion (we each have a designated week and topic to present). This is my favorite time of the week because I get to learn so much, especially from the Graduate students because of their independent research and writing projects! My main lab tasks this summer include participant recruitment and scheduling, Preschool Self-Regulation Assessment (PSRA) data coding and literature review, and the beginnings of the research and writing process for my independent thesis that I will continue to work on into the upcoming year.

My weekly schedule usually consists of the following. Monday afternoons I visit to the Lakeside Pediatric Clinic where I get to talk to families about our study, and if they are eligible and interested, attain their contact information. Tuesdays and Thursdays are spent contacting all of our eligible families to schedule their visits, while Wednesday and Fridays I spend watching and coding our video recordings of the administration of the PSRA with our participants.  Any unfilled pockets of time leftover are spent researching, writing, or meeting with Justin (one of the lab’s 3rd year Graduate Students) and Dr. Gray regarding my independent research project. My main advice to any readers

planner blog picwho hope to pursue a research position in the future, or really any internship in which you have a diversity of tasks to complete and keep track of, is organization! I tend to be very forgetful, so I write everything, and I mean everything, in my planner.

If research is an opportunity that excites you, there are many ways to get involved–and they all involve taking initiative! I had it easy because Dr. Gray was my professor, and she mentioned during class that she ran a psychology lab. From their I emailed her and expressed my interest, filled out and application, interviewed, and jumped right in! However, you do not have to wait to hear about research opportunities to get involved, in fact, I reccomend that you don’t! A helpful method to discover available research positions that align with your interests is Tulane’s online resources. Tulane’s Center for Engaged Learning and Teaching (CELT) has a great Data Base of research opportunities organized by area of study and followed with tips and procedures regarding how to best reach out to the Principle Investigator. Beyond this resource, each academic department at Tulane has a website that includes a section about faculty research and possible involvement opportunities along with contact information.  Here is an example from the Psychology department’s page!

I am very excited about all the lab work thus far, and can’t wait to keep everyone updated! I expect to learn a lot more in the coming weeks, especially  about the research process as I embark on my own independent thesis project. Whether I am doing basic data entry, recruitment, PSRA coding, or having discussions with fellow RA’s about the work we are doing–I truly love working and learning in lab and its an experience that I would highly reccomend!

 

 

 

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!