Students majoring in psychology with an emphasis in health psychology are participating in applied research alongside faculty members-research that will help them prepare for the professional world.
This research, conducted by faculty member Rob Wright and several of his students each semester, has focused on projects intended to increase the attention individuals pay to their health.
"I select about five to six students each semester, generally the ones who have performed well in previous classes, and invite them to participate in mentored student research with me each semester," Wright said. "We have them come in and learn what it's like to do professional grade research."
For one of the projects, Wright has students in one of his classes choose a health practice they want to improve and implement changes for a month. Student research assistants then help in the data collection and recording of their findings throughout the process.
Another project, which is based in consumer psychology, examines whether the thought that eating fruits and vegetables as part of a daily diet is as expensive as people believe. Students research this by regularly visiting local grocery stores and calculating the price per serving of fresh fruits and vegetables.
These research projects, along with others Wright and his students are involved in, take students from theoretical to practical application of their classroom learning. That application plays a pivotal role in students' education and professional life.
"I have noticed that those students who get involved in research get into graduate schools-they get job offers," Wright said. "This research opens their eyes to the practical side of psychology, not just the theoretical."
For students like Madison Egli, a recent BYU-Idaho graduate who participated in the program, experiences like this develop a deep appreciation for the role research plays in psychology.
"As a student, working in the mentored student research program has helped me gain both an appreciation for the work that goes into research as well as a solid foundation with which to apply for graduate school," Egli said. "This program has helped me to excel in my work and helped to strengthen my academic skills."
Throughout the program, Egli also recognized that her mentors helped her reach for her potential.
"The best part about this program was being able to see my own potential through the eyes of others," Egli said. "My mentor pushed me to take on challenging tasks because he believed I could excel when I didn't quite believe in myself."
The efforts of Wright and his students paid off in additional ways, including having some of their research published in the Psi Chi Journal of Psychological Research. The two recent publications- which presented the student's research on interpersonal conflict in the workplace and health behavior change- helped prepare students for their studies after leaving BYU-Idaho, which, for many, include graduate school.
"Because of this program, I now have a well-developed resume, a full year of mentored research experience, as well as a publication on the way" Egli said. "I am also now aware of my potential and I am more confident taking on more challenging tasks in the workplace."