Sarah Marks

Briefly describe your applied learning experience

I started out doing a Directed Individual Study with Dr. Christine Hughes. One of the topics we research in the lab is looking at how to manipulate rich-lean transitions in a laboratory environment while working with rats. Rich-lean transitions involve transitioning from a favorable condition to a less favorable condition. The rats work pressing levers to gain a reinforcer of sugar water. Now I'm working on research for my honors thesis with rich-lean transitions and how a combination of variables (specifically work requirement and reinforcement amount) affect the amount of time a rat pauses before beginning the next work requirement. Rich-lean transitions occur in everyday life, for example, when we go from relaxing on Sunday to back to work on Monday. My research aims to examine rich-lean transitions and look at what variables may mitigate the aversiveness of the transition.

Did you receive any grants or other funding for your applied learning experience?
How did you get involved in this applied learning experience and what did you hope to gain from it?

Honestly I knew I wanted to work in a lab in my major because I had no other experience with hands on work. I enjoyed Learning/PSY 217 so much that I knew I wanted to go into the field of behaviorism, so I reached out to Dr. Hughes and asked if I could speak with her about her lab. She showed me the lab and spoke with me about the type of research they conduct and I was immediately hooked. At the time, all I wanted to gain was experience conducting research doing something I enjoy, but this experience has been so much more. 

What did you gain from this experience? What was challenging? What did you learn?

I gained a lot from working in the Experimental Analysis of Behavior (EAB) lab. First of all, I learned how to conduct research in a laboratory setting. Before joining the lab, I had absolutely zero experience conducting research. I also learned how to analyze and display data in excel. At lab meetings we display our data and update others on what is happening with the experiments. I learned how to properly care for the laboratory animals as well as maintain a clean lab environment. I've learned about several different areas of behavior analysis that are only briefly talked about in classes, such as delay discounting and rich-lean transitions.

In what way will this experience make you a more viable candidate when you are seeking a job or applying for graduate study?

I know I will be a more viable candidate when applying for graduate study because I will have already conducted my own research, collected and analyzed data, written solid research papers, and worked as a team member in a lab environment. I will have several people who can attest to my hard work and passion for research. I will be able to explain what I'm passionate about as well as ideas I have for future research.