WC Students win Psi Chi awards and attend EPA conference

By Autumn Scully

Elm Staff Writer

During the Eastern Psychological Association conference in Boston from March 2 to 4, 10 Washington College students presented their research from four projects that were granted regional research awards from Psi Chi, the international honor society in psychology.

Each student that went to the conference presented a poster for their project. The first author on each of the four Psi Chi award-winning projects also gave a two-minute presentation at the conference.

According to the EPA website, there were over 2,000 people at the conference, consisting of undergraduate and graduate students, in addition to academic and professional psychologists.

The WC students that attended the conference described it as an exciting and enriching experience.

“Imagine hundreds of undergraduate students who are all exceptionally passionate about all different aspects and topics in psychology — it was awesome,” outgoing Psi Chi President senior Lauryn Konieczka said. “It was so inspiring to see how many students my age were so dedicated to the field of psychology.”

Incoming Psi Chi President junior Sarah Poirier shared this sentiment, saying she “wished there was more time to do everything.”

WC projects made up four of the 14 projects overall that won regional awards in the northeast.

“I think so many WC students win every year because our department really pushes us…to do interesting and unique research topics,” Konieczka said. “You can really tell that our department wants its students to succeed and have fulfilling projects that we can refer to in our future psychology endeavors.”

Konieczka, along with research partners senior Jacob Lafferty and senior Katelyn King, completed their award-winning project titled “The Association Of Maternal Warmth With Children’s Responses To A Mishap” for Dr. Tia Murphy’s Advanced Development course.

Similarly, Poirier, along with research partner and vice president of Psi Chi senior Marah Vain-Callahan, completed their award-winning project titled “Effect Of Mood On Memory In Immediate Visuospatial Recall Ability” for Dr. Lauren Littlefield’s Neuroscience Research Methods course.

In these courses, students formed groups and were allowed to come up with a topic to research with advising help from the professors when needed.

The students described appreciating the freedom and independence in their work and consider it part of the reason they were able to win the awards, according to Poirier.

“I did spend a lot of time on this…I feel like it was really brought up by the students,” Poirier said. “Dr. Littlefield was really only there for guidance.”

Both courses required students to complete and submit their research project abstracts to the EPA by Dec. 1, which gave them the opportunity to later attend the conference. If a student on the research team was in Psi Chi, they could also submit it for a Psi Chi regional award, as Poirier and Konieczka did.

Overall, students felt that the process of conducting and submitting this research gave them important practical experience in their field that is rare for undergraduate students. Winning awards and attending the conference made the experience even more valuable.

“I mentioned this project in all of my grad school interviews, and the interviewers were always seemingly impressed that I had an undergraduate research opportunity that made it so far,” Konieczka said. She will attend Lehigh University to receive her master’s in school psychology in the fall and partly credits this to her psychology opportunities at WC.

Poirier plans to submit more research projects to the EPA that she has lined up over the next year and hopes to attend the EPA conference again in 2024.

Photo courtesy of Sarah Poirier 

Photo Caption: Students at the Eastern Psychological Association conference presented collaborative research.

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