Summer Science Series: The Value of Work

Jackie Buckman ’14 and Victoria Rain ’14 agreed to their summer job before they realized they would even be compensated for their work. They were just excited about the chance to collaborate with a faculty member on psychology research.

So, instead of returning to her hometown in New Jersey to wait tables, Buckman spent her summer at Goucher with Assistant Professor of Psychology Nyasha Grayman-Simpson, analyzing possible bias on a test of character and learning a whole lot along the way.

“I wanted to do something this summer that would be more helpful in determining what I wanted to do in the future,” Buckman said. Instead of serving meals to strangers, she worked through Goucher’s Summer Science Research Program. Rain, who was studying neuroscience and psychology in Salamanca, Spain the first part of the summer, said she headed straight to Goucher afterward because she was so eager to start the research.

The character test the two studied measures data on positive character traits, pro-social behavior, cultural orientation, and personal background. They were trained to use a program that helps organize the data, making it simple to look at scales and values, and they’ve been learning how to hypothesize, structure data collections, and reach conclusions. The research complements Grayman-Simpson’s work, which focuses on cultural and positive psychology.

Grayman-Simpson recruited the two students, who had been in several of her classes. As summer researchers, they lived on campus and worked full time. Grayman-Simpson said she didn’t just gain employees, she gained collaborators.

“We do a lot of learning together,” she said. “That’s very helpful because I feel like the knowledge gets co-constructed in the lab … . They’ll come up with an idea that I wouldn’t have thought of; they’ll see something in the literature that I didn’t see.”

Whether researching or asking questions, Buckman said she has become much more familiar with the research process. “It’s just nice to go back and forth,” she said. “I feel like I’ve gotten attention I wouldn’t get at other schools.”

Beside mastering new computer programs and gaining professional experience, Buckman said she’s learned a lot about the life of a research assistant. “It’s really hard; it doesn’t come easily. You need to be patient,” she said.

Though they joke about the struggles, Grayman-Simpson is serious about the gains.

She said Buckman and Rain are doing a lot of work that other students aren’t able to participate in until graduate school. And the one-on-one work with the students has really highlighted their abilities for Grayman-Simpson. “When it’s time for recommendation letters and references, there’s just so much more I can add,” she said. “It’s also just helpful for me to be able to see what undergrads can do… . I’m incredibly impressed.”

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