Mei Ling psych labElliott Jardin (’13) was undecided when he came to Oregon State as a freshman. The San Francisco native started out in the exploratory studies program, and then settled on psychology when he became passionate about learning the material.

But it wasn’t until he started working in Dr. Mei-Ching Lien’s Attention and Performance lab—first as a researcher and then as lab manager—that he really decided what he wanted to do.  

“This experience completely changed my future plans,” he says. “Before working with Dr. Lien I had no plans for graduate school. In my short time with her I applied, and was accepted to my top four programs.”

In the fall, Jardin will head to the University of Akron, where he will pursue a Ph.D. in adult development and aging.

Jardin is just one of the nearly 80 undergraduates who assisted with faculty research throughout the past academic year. According to John Edwards, director of the School of Psychological Sciences in the College of Liberal Arts, seven of those undergraduates were co-authors on articles published in professional journals, and 14 were co-authors on presentations at professional conferences.

“The students are involved in real research, real studies we intend to publish,” Edwards says. “I know of no other program that offers the level of teaching as well as mentoring that goes on in the lab. We’re pretty proud of that.”

One of the school’s most noted mentors is Frank Bernieri, a social psychologist whose research focuses on first impressions, empathy and nonverbal communication. Since 2003, Bernieri has mentored upwards of 50 undergraduates in his research enterprises.

“These students function as a team,” Edwards says. “The research is quite complicated, and his students organize and run the experimental sessions, code video data, and prepare data for analysis.”

One of those students is Katy Krieger, a senior who started working with Bernieri during her freshman year, and managed the lab last year.

“He doesn’t just give us lists of grunt work and goals, he makes us do things for ourselves and our peers, and pushes us to think, communicate and process like real researchers in social psychology do,” Krieger says.

Last year, Krieger traveled to New Orleans to present some of her work at a national conference, and has noted that her colleagues are typically shocked when they find out how young she is.

“Going to New Orleans and having other researchers actively single out my project and talk to me was the moment I realized I was in the big leagues, and really had to step up my game from there,” she says.

Krieger, like Jardin, is also interested in graduate school and continuing with research, but according to Edwards, psychology graduates from Oregon State are creating successful careers for themselves in a breadth of fields.

“Our graduates are airline pilots, people running consulting businesses, people doing human resources, and sales. It’s all over the map,” he says. “On one hand you have the science and data, where you’re dealing with information. And then you’re learning about people, and understanding people pertains to all jobs.” 

Did you know ...

In 2009, the American Psychological Association’s Center for Workforce Studies found that 72 percent of responding psychologists who earned their doctorates in 2008-2009 were hired at their “first choice” job. Also, at least 73 percent of those who responded were employed within 3 months of getting their degrees.