In this blog post, second year student Ashley Taylor describes her experiences of working on a research project as part of the BPS undergraduate research assistant scheme.
Having completed my second year as an undergraduate Psychology and Counselling student, I’m now working at the University as a research assistant over the summer. I had been hoping to gain experience in research for a while, so when I approached one of my lecturers and became aware of the British Psychological Society Undergraduate Research Assistantship Scheme, it seemed like a rare and exciting chance to work alongside active researchers in the department. The scheme provides funding for a second year undergraduate student to be supported by a supervisor as a research assistant for 8 weeks during the summer. The BPS offer a small number of assistantships each year and the scheme is very competitive. We applied in March and it was a nervous wait until May when we were thrilled to hear we had been accepted! I was excited to get started and have the chance to gain hands-on experience in a real-world project for the first time.
The work I am doing is in the field of cognitive psychology. I had become more interested in cognitive psychology during the second year module ‘Further Biopsychology and Cognition’, so the chance to be part of research in the area has also been exciting. The project investigates the impact of emotion on visual attention using the change blindness paradigm (Rensink, O’Regan & Clark, 1997), which follows on from a study by Dr Catherine Thompson and Robert Bendall (Bendall & Thompson, 2015). It has been really interesting to gain insight into their previous work and to learn how such a project comes together. So far, I have had the opportunity to build the experiment, recruit and test participants and analyse the data we have collected to date. I have also been able to use the skills I have learned over the past two years of my degree in the project, such as writing a method and using software such as SPSS and E-Prime. I have gained a lot of confidence in my research skills and I now feel (slightly!) more prepared to take on my dissertation next year.
The rest of the project will now consist of analysing the next set of data we collect. I will also begin to prepare a poster of our findings to present at the BPS conference in 2017, which is another exciting (and scary!) opportunity. For me, the BPS scheme has provided insight into the world of research which I would not otherwise have gained, and what I have learned from my supervisor has been great motivation for my course and for continuing my studies further. It has given me a new perspective on how the studies we learn about in our degree come from real-life experiments. It has also been eye-opening to see the work that researchers and academics do on a daily basis, which I definitely wasn’t aware of as a student. From my experience, I would recommend anyone interested in a career in research to explore the options available whilst still an undergraduate student. I didn’t know of all the existing opportunities until I began to inquire more in the department. It is a great way to gain experience in the field and I’m grateful for the chance to do so.
Bendall, R .C. A. and Thompson, C. (2015). Emotion has no impact on attention in a change detection flicker task. Frontiers in Psycholology, 6, 1592. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01592
Rensink, R. A., O’Regan, J. K., and Clark, J. J. (1997). To see or not to see: the need for attention to perceive change in scenes. Psychological Science, 8, 368–373. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.1997.tb00427.x