Promoting Undergraduate Research
By Peter J. Marshall
One of the key strengths of the Psychology program at Temple is the synergy between teaching and research. Temple has the status of a “Research 1” university, meaning that we are part of a select group of institutions of higher education across the United States with very high levels of research productivity. At the same time, we serve a very large number of students at the undergraduate level. So how are these two aspects of the university related to each other? The synergy between research and undergraduate teaching at Temple is manifested in various ways, including the fact that many of our professors are leaders in their fields of study, with very active research programs. This means that our teaching at all levels is grounded in the latest research, both through our faculty and through our graduate students, who often provide instructional support in their role as Teaching Assistants, and who are themselves becoming expert researchers. Our strength in research also has other benefits for undergraduates, and we provide various opportunities for students to become involved in research. These include gaining course credit for carrying out research in a laboratory research group. Working in a lab allows students to gain deeper involvement in a particular project by working with faculty and graduate students to delve into a focused line of questioning.
While we have been able to continue our classroom teaching throughout the move to online instruction, what changes has the pandemic brought to the involvement of undergraduate students in research? Towards the end of the Spring semester, our students were able to showcase their research projects in various ways, despite all our activities being remote. For example, Psychology had a strong presence at the annual Symposium for Undergraduate Research (SURC), for which students from across the University used the VoiceThread app to create impressive presentations that were then posted online for viewing and commenting. Within our own department, the annual Psychology Honors Poster session was run successfully as a live event on Zoom, with students presenting their research posters to an engaged audience of faculty, peers, and family members.
This summer, several students were able to continue their research explorations through the LAURA (Liberal Arts Undergraduate Research Awards) program that has been one of the signature programs of CLA Dean Dr. Richard Deeg. One such student is Matt Ambrogi, who is working with Dr. Tania Giovannetti to developing training materials for a smartphone application designed to improve daily function in people with dementia. This summer, Matt took a deep dive into the research literature to identify training strategies with the most empirical support. He is now helping to develop training procedures and measures of training performance that will enable the cellphone app to be tested later this year.