In the past few decades there have been many advances in our understanding of human emotions and psychology. These advances have led to improvements in how doctors treat internalizing disorders like depression and anxiety. Internalizing disorders have a significant impact on the quality of life of individuals as well as on society. Though we have made many advances, there is still a great deal more to learn about these conditions and their causes. Improved scientific techniques now offer researchers opportunities for an even deeper level of understanding about internalizing disorders.
The goal of this study is to learn more about genetic and environmental factors that could influence the likelihood of someone developing an internalizing disorder. To help accomplish this, the researchers are inviting parents (or legal guardians) and their adolescent/young adult twins, ages 15 to 20 years old, to participate in this study. This age group of twins is key to the study because it allows the researchers to observe behaviors and collect basic data during a significant developmental period.
Dr. Roberson-Nay, the primary investigator for this study, and her team are looking to acquire a small group of highly motivated, enthusiastic individuals here at VCU to be research assistants in this study. These positions are currently volunteer (unpaid) positions, but there is the possibility of earning course credit. The types of research experiences that you will gain depend largely on your own interests as the current twin study touches on many different aspects of psychology and biology. Some examples of the experiences you are likely to gain from the lab include:
-Extensive participant interaction
-Working with psychophysiological software and equipment -Opportunities for posters and papers -Collaboration with researchers from a variety of backgrounds
We are requiring that all students dedicate a minimum of 10 hours a week to working in the lab. We are also requiring at least a one year commitment (including summer 2016) as the level of training on our part is quite high.
If you are interested working with our lab please contact the project coordinator, Jennifer Cecilione (firstname.lastname@example.org) with a CV/resume. Please include your year in school, GPA, and major as well as a brief summary of your academic and research interests.
Ashley McCuistion, VCU Anthropology alumni and current graduate research assistant at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, recently dropped a message to her former undergraduate research mentor, Dr. Bernard Means, to share her summer research experience and those of three of her fellow School of World Studies alumnae. Mariana Zechini, Catarina Conceicao and Becki Bowman round out the quartet of recent VCU graduates who continue to pursue professional careers in the field of Archeology. All four of the VCU alums conducted research as undergraduates at VCU as part of Dr. Means’ Virtual Curation Laboratory.
Ashley’s message to Dr. Means reads: “Earlier this summer I had an idea to make a sort of “where are they now” or “day in the life” video highlighting the different things students who have graduated from VCU are doing in archaeology. I pitched the idea to everyone I knew who was working in the field this summer and three of your former students and I were able to put something together. I really hope you like it, I think it turned out pretty cool!”.
This is an undergraduate course that is service-learning designated, entirely on bike and in the community. The course will include three interrelated components from which students will learn, do and reflect on learning content:
Community-Engaged Research: In this undergraduate course, students will use a community-engaged research (CEnR) approach to investigate the current state of biking on campus and collect data on biking usage and infrastructure to address a university-identified need, the VCU State of Cycling Report. The 2010 VCU SCR provides data on bicycling trends on the two VCU campuses: Monroe Park Campus and the MCV Campus. This is a major focus for the course, as it will better enable the university to plan for additional investments and improvements in the future as VCU continues to expand.
Community Engagement: Students will engage with an experiential learning opportunity that empowers action through research, and learning through reflection and community engagement. Students will participate in weekly Ride + Learns, or group bike rides, that are led on bike and with community bike experts. Through direct observation and dialog, students will investigate, explore and critically reflect on bike infrastructure and programming, and experience the joy, benefits and challenges of urban biking.
Service-Learning: This is a service-learning course and coincides with yearlong city and university-wide bike initiatives to prepare the city and campus for a 9-day international bike event in Richmond, Virginia: the 2015 UCI Road World Championships. Students will engage in service-learning through bike-related activities by providing bike parking and valet assistance at the event in collaboration with SportsBackers BikeWalkRVA. A service-learning framework locates our classroom in the community, on bikes, and at the heart of this international biking event.
Course Learning Goals
The core questions we will investigate during this course are:
By the end of the 7-week course, students will be able to:
Program of Research: Research assistants will assist with an IRB-approved and NIMH grant-funded study titled, “A Twin Study of Negative Valence Emotional Constructs (Juvenile Anxiety Study – JAS).” This study is interested in investigating internalizing disorders. Internalizing disorders (ID), consisting of syndromes of anxiety and depression, represent common, debilitating negative emotional states whose etiology is not well understood. A growing body of basic research has suggested that these conditions share more of their risk factor domains and underlying neurobiology than would be predicted by clinical nosology alone. Thus, the NIMH has launched the Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) project as part of their strategic plan to “develop new ways of classifying disorders based on dimensions of observable behaviors and brain functions.” RDoC aims to serve as a framework for new approaches to research on mental disorders using fundamental dimensions that cut across traditional disorder categories. The goal of this study is to examine various emotional indices using laboratory-based paradigms (e.g., CO2 hypersensitivity, stress responsivity) to gain a better understanding of the underlying etiology of ID.
Study Methodology: Child and adolescent participants will complete at least one lab session at the Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics. During the visit, participants complete self-report measures, an IQ test, and computer tasks involving looking at faces. In addition, they provide a saliva sample and complete two physiological assessments: one in which they inhale 7.5% CO2 enriched air, and another that involves a fear potentiated startle paradigm. During these “physio.” tasks, research assistants affix several electrodes to the participants and these assistants are responsible for checking and maintaining reading levels (i.e., they monitor and correct for issues with incoming physiological data).
Activities: The student research assistants will be involved in all aspects of the study including independently running data collection sessions, entering data, cleaning data, and performing basic analyses. In addition to gaining laboratory experience, students will engage in academic work as part of her BIOL492 experience. Specifically, students will be encouraged to read an identified collection of articles that pertain to the carbon dioxide hypersensitivity, panic disorder, emotion recognition, fear-potentiated startle, and other related literature. In addition, students will meet weekly with the research team to review various aspects the research project, review progress, and discuss relevant articles/literature pertaining to the twin studies. Students also will be expected to write a research paper by the end of the semester on a topic agreed upon by the student and Dr. Hettema. The topic of the paper will relate to an aspect of the described study.
Hours per week:
Break down of how hours will be used each week (approximate):
Total: ~10 hours/week during the fall semester
Reading literature/working on paper: 1 hour/week (home)
Assisting with data collection: 5-6 hours/week (in lab)
Data entry/cleaning/analysis: 2-3 hours/week (in lab)
Attending weekly lab meetings/meeting with research team: 1 hour/week (in lab)
Dr. Hettema and the study coordinator, Andrea Molzhon, will be responsible for the overall supervision of the students’ progress on this project and will meet with them periodically. Moreover, Dr. Hettema and the study coordinator will be responsible for day-to-day supervision of the twin studies and for day-to-day supervision of all students working on the project. Please contact Andrea Molzhon with any questions:
To apply, download the application and send as an attachment to: email@example.com with “JAS RA Application” in the email subject.
Download position application here: VCU Research Assistant Application_ B