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.
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.
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.
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.