Students present original research at Carolinas Psychology Conference

Posted on May 9, 2013

From left, Peter Kim, Robert Elsner, Niq Whitley, Krista Keesey, Zane Shipman, Virginia Harmon, Gabby Dierickx, and Jacq Strowd pose outside Ambassador Presbyterian Church.

After nearly a year of literature review, empirical research, data analysis, and editing, the 2012-13 Experimental Methodologies psychology class (PY 312), led by Professor of Psychology Dr. Robert Elsner, presented their research at the Carolinas Psychology Conference at Meredith College April 20.

Erskine students at the conference, including juniors Whitney Brown of West Columbia, Virginia Harmon of Taylors, Krista Keesey of Due West,  Zane Shipman of Greenville,  Jacq Strowd of Turbeville, and Niq Whitley of Columbia, as well as seniors Gabby Dierickx of Simpsonville and Peter Kim of Rock Hill, joined peers from dozens of schools, including Davidson College, Meredith College, North Carolina State University, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The Carolinas Psychology Conference is one of the longest-running annual meetings of undergraduate students in psychology and related fields, and is renowned for the high level of research presented, as well as the distinguished group of featured speakers each year. This year’s keynote speaker was Dr. Lisa Amaya-Jackson of Duke University.

Dr. Amaya-Jackson serves as associate director of the UCLA-Duke National Center for Child Traumatic Stress and the Center for Child & Family Health. She is also director of the Duke Evidence-Based Practice Implementation Center and co-director of the NC Child Treatment Program. Her research focus is on psychological trauma and exposure to violence in children and adolescents. Her interests in this area span not only the epidemiological search for assessment of risk factors, protective factors, and treatment effects, but also the assessment of whether traumatized children are able to access and utilize appropriate services.

The information presented by Dr. Amaya-Jackson helped reinforce information provided the day before by Jonathan S. Abramowitz, Ph.D., professor and associate chair of psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Abramowitz spoke with the Erskine students in a private session at UNC about graduate schools and strategies to get into top programs. He also discussed his work as editor-in-chief of Journal of Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders.

The Erskine students’ work focused on various aspects of psychology, including attraction, body image, music, odors, personalities, and sports. They fielded tough questions from the audience and were able to recognize ethical, statistical, and procedural problems in the work of students from other colleges. Most students from other schools were presenting work done as part of their professors’ projects; however, Elsner required Erskine students to do their own original work. The students honed their presentation skills, avoiding reading from slides or vocalizing pauses, and demonstrated knowledge of their topics as well as knowledge of the literature and the ability to cite it precisely.

After a long day at the conference, the students returned to the hotel to rest up for church the next day. Elsner took the students to visit Ambassador Presbyterian Church in Apex, N.C. The visiting students were greeted warmly, and the pastor spoke about the excitement of hosting Erskine students for the day. Some members of the congregation remembered Erskine groups from past years, and many were delighted to learn about the conference, the students’ research, and Erskine College.

Editor’s note: Senior Gabby Dierickx contributed this story.