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Koret Fellowship Program

Alejandra Magaña Gamero

Psychology & Ethnic Studies major, Class of 2018

This past year I had the opportunity to engage in research in the psychology department with Dr. Bruchmann. Our research primarily focused on how we make comparisons, more specifically how comparing ourselves with others changes our self-perceptions, and how people make comparative judgments. We also focused on two other studies. In the first one: Knowledge and Happiness. We were interested in looking at how knowledge of a wide range of topics relates to the way people think about happiness. The second was a study about person perception; we were interested in how people’s physical appearance skews our perception of them.

Through this research position I had the opportunity to recruit and interact extensively with research participants while safeguarding their confidentiality. Additionally I was able to interpret and analyze qualitative data from online surveys and writing tasks. Though sometimes it was difficult because I had never used complicated spread sheets, or let alone conducted research, the experience was extremely useful.

At first, I was uncertain of whether or not I should take the research position as I already had a lot on my plate. However, becoming a research assistant was very beneficial to my professional development and propelled me toward my career goal of becoming a counseling psychologist. My experience allowed me to understand intricate, scholarly, published work, and taught me how to balance collaborative work (group lab sessions), and individual work (research sessions). Furthermore, engaging in, in-depth research exposed me to various topics and allowed me to determine that my area of interest within psychology is in the realm of race and ethnicity, specifically rehabilitation of “at-risk” youth.

Participating as an undergraduate in academic research was an opportunity that is not feasible to many. Engaging in scholarly work that is much more rigorous than that of the undergraduate level enabled me to educate myself beyond the classroom. With psychology research at least, researchers are engaging with human subjects everyday and learning to work to improve the lives of others. By exposing myself to research and material that is applicable to the professional world, I was able to become a more competitive and most importantly prepared individual. Being a part of a real research team as an undergraduate student has prepared me for graduate school and beyond. Doing research has developed my creativity, strengthened my professional skills, and fostered my innovation and critical thinking.

Without the continuous support of the LEAD program and the grants it receives from various donors, this experience would not have been possible. Overall, this experience prepared me for a difficult and rough senior year, as I am currently applying to graduate school while also working and being a full time students. However, I would not trade my experience for anything. I believe that everything that I have come across has shaped me into the individual I am today. Lastly, if I had to give any advice to the underclassmen it would be to take advantage of any and every opportunity they come across, even if it something that is out of their comfort zone. I look forward to learning about the future projects that students engage in through the LEAD fellowship.