ADA, Ohio — This summer, scientific methodology and mountain hiking are on the agenda for Kayla Boaz, an Ohio Northern University junior majoring in psychology. A Fulbright Canada MITACS Globalink internship will bring her to Vancouver, where she will work at the Center for Infant Cognition at the University of British Columbia.
Boaz will assist Dr. J. Kylie Hamlin, professor of psychology at UBC and director of the Center, in her research focused on the early origins of the development of the human moral sense. According to UBC, Hamlin studies “preverbal infants who lack language and sophisticated cognitive abilities” to determine how and when the far-reaching influence of cultural norms and values impacts their moral judgment.
During his 12-week internship, Boaz will work full-time. She says her duties will include assisting with statistical analyses, detailing study methodologies for the academic community prior to publication, and possibly coding. She will also have the opportunity to attend industry events across Canada.
This Fulbright Canada internship was competitive and involved an extensive application process. Candidates who rise to the top are then matched with one of the university research programs with which they aspire to work.
Boaz says that in February, when she learned she had been accepted to UBC, she jumped out of bed at 7:30 a.m. to tell her parents. The internship will be a key step in his goal of obtaining a doctorate. in clinical psychology, a degree notoriously difficult to obtain; the American Psychological Association states that acceptance rates are around 12%. If successful, Boaz says such a degree would allow her to enjoy the best of both professional worlds: providing therapy and conducting research.
“I’ve always been interested in psychology and how the brain works,” explains Boaz. “Even as a kid, I was trying to figure out why people felt the way they felt. I think that really drew me to this field.
The West Chester, Ohio native is particularly interested in the impact of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder on people beyond the classroom. According to the CDC, approximately 6.1 million American children between the ages of 2 and 17 have been diagnosed with the disorder, making it one of the most common childhood disorders. It can continue from adolescence to adulthood. The overall prevalence of ADHD in adults is 4.4%, according to statistics from the National Institutes of Health.
At the UN, Boaz, who is in the honors program, has already taken advantage of research opportunities, including in the human behavioral neuroscience lab run by Phillip Zoladz, Ph.D., professor of psychology. The lab examines the impact of acute stress on memory formation in hopes of understanding the basic physiological behavioral factors that impact the development of traumatic memories. Students working in the lab gain experience in experimental design, data collection in human participants, data scoring, data analysis, and poster/manuscript preparation. The laboratory research was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health.
“Kayla has a drive to acquire knowledge that I rarely see in undergraduates,” says Zoladz. “She tries not only to understand, but to master the concepts taught in each of her classes and in my research laboratory. Kayla has a real passion for research and, as one of my research assistants, she has developed the skills needed to overcome the daily hurdles of empirical research.
Zoladz says he thinks Boaz has a promising professional future. “Her hard-working attitude and intellectual curiosity set her on the right path to becoming an independent and successful research scientist,” he notes.
Boaz says she has “gotten a lot” from her work in the Human Behavioral Neuroscience Lab and is “excited to see what research is like at a larger university.”
Living in Vancouver is also something Boaz is passionate about. Besides being one of the most populous and ethnically diverse cities in Canada, it is located along the North Shore Mountains which offer unparalleled views and terrain.
“I love to travel. I’ve spent the last two summers working in Grand Tetons as a server because I love the mountains,” Boaz says. “The fact that this internship is in Vancouver is so amazing.” I hope that on the weekends we can go hiking and really experience the city. I think being able to combine my two favorite things – travel and psychological research – for my third summer in college is just the best thing ever.