Faculty Research Interests

Your comp advisor will be assigned to you based on a Google form that will be emailed to you by the department chair and that you will fill out with your interests and preferences. Listed below are the topics that faculty in the Psychology Department are willing to supervise as senior projects. Some faculty have also indicated their preference for how the project might be organized, i.e., one or two semesters, etc.


Professor Megan Bertholomey

I am broadly interested in supervising research projects that take a behavioral pharmacology approach to understanding the mechanisms underlying pathological behaviors using preclinical models. My research is aimed at examining stress- and gonadal hormone-related changes in rat models of psychopathology, with a particular emphasis on substance use (especially alcohol), anxiety, PTSD, and depression. As it is increasingly understood that sex as a biological variable (#SABV for short) is an important consideration in research, all projects under my supervision will use both female and male rats.

Some topic ideas include, but are not limited to:

  • The effects of stress on the exacerbation of binge-like alcohol seeking and drinking
  • The effects of gonadal hormone manipulation across development (early life, adolescence, adulthood) on drinking behavior
  • The effects of cues in both appetitive (e.g., drug-seeking) and aversive (e.g., fear-related) behavior
  • Models of comorbidity, or, the overlap between drug-seeking and anxiety- and depressive-like behavior
  • Pharmacological interventions/treatments to alter these behaviors

Organizational Preference: Two-semester comps are strongly encouraged, though one-semester comps may be acceptable if you have at least one semester of previous experience in the lab (e.g., an independent study) or are planning on doing a library comp.

Professor Monali Chowdhury

I am broadly interested in supervising projects on topics related to (1) developmental issues of emerging adulthood (college-age years) and adolescence, and (2) autism spectrum disorders and other developmental disabilities.

(1) Emerging adulthood

I am particularly interested in topics related to the period of adolescence and emerging adulthood (which is roughly college age years: 18 -23 years) such as: friendship, family relations, romantic relations, dating, dating abuse, body image, sexual health, identity development, effect of media and social networking (use of Facebook, Twitter etc.) on developmental issues etc. I also have some interest in other periods of the human lifespan such as childhood, middle adulthood, and late adulthood.

(2) Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs)

My own research is in the area of ASDs and I am interested in most issues related to ASDs. To name a few topics: attitudes and opinions towards ASDs, ASD-like features among college students (e.g., social aloofness or awkwardness, inflexible adherence to rituals, heightened preoccupation with a narrow range of interests etc.), Asperger’s Syndrome among college students, love and dating among high-functioning individuals with ASDs, support groups for individuals with ASDs etc.

Organizational preference: I prefer to supervise two-semester comp projects.

Professor Rodney Clark

My research interests are: Neurochemical correlates of motivation as well as interactions between drug effects and ongoing behavior including animal models of drug abuse. Additionally, I have two separate lines of research. The first line of research involves the behavioral pharmacology of the antimalarial drug Mefloquine and its motivational properties. Second, I study classical conditioning of the immune system with pharmacological agents. Broadly defined project topic areas are as follows:

  • Behavioral Pharmacology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Basic Experimental Analysis of Behavior
  • Behavioral Teratology
  • Biomedical Ethics (Archival, survey, etc.)
  • Applied Behavior analysis

Organizational Preference: Year-long comps (Psychology 600/610).

Professor Lydia Eckstein

I am interested in supervising research projects on social psychological topics. Such topics may include projects on

  • attitudes and attitude change
  • intergroup relations, including stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination
  • norms and conformity
  • self-processes (self-presentation, self-esteem, self-control, etc.)
  • helping (or the lack thereof)
  • relationships

I am especially interested in supervising research projects in the following areas:

  1. Immoral behavior: I am interested in personality characteristics and situational circumstances that facilitate (or inhibit) immoral behavior. Examples include investigating the importance of moral identity, the effectiveness of honor codes, the factors that make cheating more or less likely, the relationship between political attitudes and immoral behavior, and ways in which we justify immoral behavior (e.g., through restructuring the immoral behavior into something honorable or recalling previous moral behaviors).
  2. Aggression and violence: I am interested in the cognitive processes that facilitate intergroup hostility and biases, but I am also interested in factors that make aggressive behavior more (or less) likely.
  3. Social Justice and Political Psychology.

I am open to supervising both one-semester and two-semester projects.

Professor Jeff Hollerman

Behavioral, anatomical and electrophysiological investigations in the rat central nervous system, particularly in relation to animal models of autism and dopaminergic function and dysfunction (e.g., natural and drug reward, schizophrenia, Parkinson’s).

Organizational preference: Year-long comps (Psychology 600/610).

Professor Christopher Normile

I am interested in supervising projects related to the intersection of psychology and law. In addition, I’m interested in supervising projects for students who are interested in statistical cognition (i.e., teaching and learning of psychological statistics among not only psychology undergraduate students, but graduate students and professors too). Some example topics include, but are not limited to:

  • False confessions: Why is it that people falsely confess to a crime? How do these false confessions influence other aspects of the criminal justice system (e.g., jury decision-making, perceptions of exonerees, forensic analyses)
  • Eyewitness memory: how can an eyewitness’s memory be manipulated? How do false memories occur?
  • Jury Decision-Making: How do juries decide on a verdict? What factors of a trial do juries focus on more? Are the instructions juries given comprehensible?
  • Perceptions of exonerees: How does the general layperson perceive exonerees? How do the causes of wrongful convictions influence these perceptions? How do exonerees reintegrate back into society?
  • Statistical Cognition: Are Bayesian Analyses more intuitive than Frequentist Analyses (i.e., null hypothesis testing) for students? Conceptual understanding of Bayesian vs. Frequentist analytic approaches among faculty. Comparing statistical software to determine which program is best for student learning, etc.

Organization Preference: I prefer to supervise two-semester comp projects for students who plan to do an experiment. I am open to supervising one or two semester comp projects for students interested in doing a library project.

Professor Lauren Paulson

Currently, my personal research projects are on the topics of eating behavior/disorders and rural mental health issues and concerns.

Specifically, I would be interested in supervising student research projects related to the following topics:

  • Eating disorders/Disordered eating, & Body image
  • Exercise
  • Supervision and Professional Development
  • Rural Issues and Concerns
  • Community Counseling

I am open to supervising both one and two semester comps.

Professor Ryan Pickering

Broadly, I research the impact of both social identity and social experiences on physical and psychological health and performance. I am interested in supervising research on topics within social psychology, social psychophysiology, and sustainability. Topics may include:

  • Stress: Creating stressful laboratory situations and measuring physiological stress through a continuous noninvasive arterial pressure (CNAP) machine, electrocardiograph (ECG) sensors, and/or impedance cardiography tape.
  • Social status: Socioeconomic status background, income inequality, cross-class interactions, social class as a social identity/cultural influence.
  • Resilience/success/interventions for individuals from underrepresented groups.
  • Disclosure: When/why/where people choose to disclose concealable stigmas (e.g. sexual minority status, mental health issues, religious/spiritual beliefs, etc.) and whether those disclosures are perceived as socially acceptable
  • Sustainability Psychology- Behavior change, messaging/branding, how personality traits impact sustainability behavior
  • Social justice

I am open to supervision both one-semester and two-semester projects, but physiology projects should be two-semester projects.

Professor Kristen Warren

I am broadly interested in supervising projects using neuroscience approaches to investigate human cognitive functions. My research focuses on episodic memory and how brain activity, connectivity, and plasticity changes in response to the varying demands within this system—creating new memories or retrieving old ones—and between this system and other cognitive systems—decision-making, attention, emotion, or language. My lab uses combinations of cognitive testing, EEG recording, and open-source MRI datasets to answer these questions. Potential topics include, but are not limited to:
• Encoding and retrieval processing
• Differences between memory types (episodic, short-term, procedural, etc.)
• How memory changes across the lifespan or in disease
• Sleep (or lack therof) and memory
• Interactions between memory and other cognitive systems
• Related/similar inquiries in other cognitive systems

Organizational Preference: Two-semester comps are strongly encouraged, though one-semester comps may be acceptable if you have at least one semester of previous experience in the lab (e.g., an independent study) or are planning on doing a library comp.