20 years of undergrad research

At Carnegie Mellon, innovation comes from people of all ages. Everyone, from undergraduates to professors, has the opportunity to do research in the fields in which they have interest. Such an opportunity was granted to Ashley Reid, a junior psychology major, who assisted in an existing research project in social psychology. She contacted her current adviser, Brooke Feeney, about working as a research assistant.

After a semester of training, experience, and weekly meetings, she decided that she would be excited to be involved with studies in relationships. Since then, Reid has been part of Feeney’s relationships lab project.

As many people know, close relationships are complex, and many are not long lasting. Reid is currently finding trends within newlywed couple interactions as they discuss their goals that relate to their future independent exploration and their own specific goal achievement. “This [the project] will also relate to ultimate relationship satisfaction,” Reid said. As of now, she is still conducting background research and is still logging couple interactions on a weekly basis. She hopes to have a completed report by May and that this will lead to conclusive insight on having healthy relationships, something that is of interest to many.

Financial aid for research came from the Undergraduate Research Office. SURG, the Small Undergraduate Research Grant, funds students’ research projects every semester, while SURF, the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship, funds students’ projects over the summer. Reid started her own project in the psychology department over the summer and received a fellowship from the URO. This has helped her pursue her interests in research. “Receiving a fellowship [helped] motivate me. Being [given a grant] is like confirmation that the work I am doing is relevant, worthwhile, and interesting to others,” Reid said. Through the URO, any student can receive funding to conduct research in his or her own field of interest.

Research is something Reid enjoys doing, and it has truly made an impact on her. Studying the topic frequently and in detail changed Reid’s outlook on relationships. She said, “I definitely look at relationships with an eye biased to the dimensions I observe in the relationships.” Reid explained that she now often finds herself analyzing the supportive actions and attachment styles between people in relationships.

Doing research has also changed her internally, perhaps even helped her understand her own relationships better. “[It] has made me more aware of my own provision of support within my interpersonal relationships,” she said.

To any new student, finding time to talk to advisers or professors can be daunting. However, Reid believes that undergraduates who are interested in research should not be intimidated, and should seek advice from these people.

“There are so many resources at our school that can help make ideas a reality, and so many faculty and staff members willing to help that there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to do the research that you are interested in,” Reid said.

While Reid has shown true fascination with research, she is unsure what she wants to do in the future. Nonetheless, research has definitely helped her prepare for life ahead of college.

“I have also been able to gain some first hand experience into the world of what doing research professionally may be like. This will hopefully assist me in the plans that I make for myself in the future,” she said.