As a new initiative, the Women Who Code team is interviewing women in research across IU. Our goal is to recognize and celebrate women in academia across the university, demonstrate the value of technology in various fields, and empower readers to get involved in research or otherwise succeed in their field. More information about this initiative, including how to be interviewed or get involved in research yourself, is included at the end!
Our first interviewee is Amanda Grenell, a postdoctoral researcher in the Psychological and Brain Sciences department.
What is your research?
My research focuses on individual differences in cognitive skills and science and math learning in early childhood. I am particularly interested in determining how cognition may influence the effectiveness of specific instructional approaches and materials to optimize learning. I am currently a member of the Learning, Education, and Development (LEAD) lab, directed by Dr. Emily Fyfe. Research in the LEAD lab focuses on the cognitive processes involved in thinking and learning about math and how different aspects of the learning environment can influence math learning.
How does technology help your research? What technology tools, resources, or programming languages are used in your lab, and what do you use them for?
There are several ways we use technology to conduct our research. For example, we use various programs to create experimental stimuli and collect data online, such as PsychoPy, Pavlovia, Qualtrics, and Zoom. PsychoPy can be used to create experimental stimuli and tasks, and Pavlovia can be used to run experiments online and store collected data. Qualtrics can be used to create experimental stimuli and questionnaires and to collect data online. Finally, we have recently used Zoom in the lab to conduct remote study sessions with families during the ongoing pandemic. We also use various programs to prepare and analyze our data. For example, programs such as Datavyu can be used to code and transcribe video data. We also use FileMaker and Excel for data entry and cleaning. When the data is ready to be analyzed, we rely on statistical programs such as SPSS and R to conduct our analyses. We also use social media to disseminate and share our research findings from completed studies. Throughout the research process, we also rely on tools such as Slack and Zoom to ensure that lab members can efficiently communicate about ongoing research projects and conduct project meetings.
Do you have any advice for students looking to get involved with research? What advice do you wish you had been given when you first started in research?
My advice would be to learn about the potential research opportunities available to you based on the research areas or topics that currently interest you. Don’t be afraid to ask one of your professors about potential opportunities or directly reach out to a faculty member who does research that interests you. Finding research opportunities based on your current research interests will allow you to learn more about that area of study while also learning about the general process of conducting research.
When I first started in research, I wish someone would have emphasized the importance of every step of the research process, big or small, to the overall goal of conducting research. It takes a long time for a study to be conducted, and research assistants often join projects at different stages of the research process. Therefore, it is helpful to understand how the current tasks you are working on fit into the study’s bigger picture. If possible, it is also beneficial to get experience with different tasks at various stages of the research process. Also, don’t hesitate to ask questions and to contribute your ideas as an undergraduate research assistant! Research is a collaborative process and finding ways to contribute to the various steps of the research process will enhance your learning and research experience.
How did you first get involved in research?
I took an undergraduate developmental psychology course during my second year of college at the University of Virginia. I enjoyed hearing about classic developmental psychology experiments and wanted to learn more about how research was conducted. I asked my professor about opportunities to be involved in research in the developmental psychology labs in the department. I applied to be a research assistant in one of the labs she suggested and was offered a position. During my two years as an undergraduate research assistant, I realized that conducting research was something that I enjoyed and that I wanted to gain additional research experience after graduating. This led me to work as a lab manager of a developmental psychology lab at Georgetown for two years before applying and starting a doctoral program in developmental psychology at the Institute of Child Development at the University of Minnesota.
If someone is interested in learning more about your work or getting involved, where can they learn more?
If you are interested in learning more about the work we do in the Learning, Education, and
Development Lab, visit our website at https://leadlab.sitehost.iu.edu/index.html.
If you are a woman conducting research at IU and would like to be highlighted, or know someone else who may be interested in an interview, please reach out to email@example.com! We hope to continue highlighting and celebrating women in academia throughout the year. We would love to hear from researchers at all levels (undergraduates through postdocs!) and from any field.
If you are an incoming or current freshman woman at IU interested in getting involved in research, please consider applying to our Emerging Scholars Research Experience for Undergraduate Women program! CEWT will pair first-year and sophomore women of all majors with IU faculty mentors from across campus to conduct research in all disciplines in this year-long program. All projects actively use technology and/or computing and require NO previous experience. You can learn more about the program here.