San Marcos,
11:47 AM

APA Grant to Fund Undergrad Research Program

By Whitney Frasier

College students from the local area will soon have the opportunity to apply for research assistant positions in a wide variety of projects across the discipline of psychology in both animal and human models. This program was made possible by a $20,000 grant awarded to California State University San Marcos (CSUSM) from the American Psychological Association (APA).

According to their website, APA and its affiliate organizations provide a wide range of grants, scholarships and awards with the aim of advancing the science and practice of psychology as a means of understanding behavior and promoting health, education and human welfare.

This specific grant will provide support for an eight-week summer research program that fosters faculty-mentored student research and scientific literacy, while exposing students to the various fields of psychology.

The main facets of the program will involve the direct research and mentorship that occurs in the laboratory as well as a structured program involving all students. The summer program will be organized so that all summer students will participate in a weekly journal club, run by the faculty organizer, in which each student will read, discuss and present empirical literature related to their current project. This will not only teach students how to read, interpret and critique literature, but also expose students to the various fields of psychology represented in the labs. Students will be expected to be involved in all program activities.

“This program will allow them to not only immerse themselves fully in research, but will provide training in responsible conduct of research and professional development opportunities in oral and written communication that will help them in their careers as they move forward,” said Kimberly D’Anna Hernandez, a professor in the Department of Psychology. “Students will have the opportunity to become independent scientists and hone their critical thinking skills in this intensive eight-week nationally recognized program.”

The program, which is geared toward undergraduates with little or no research experience, is expected to increase students’ exposure to psychological research and psychological research skillsets, as well as provide opportunities for them that they otherwise have not had an opportunity to engage in.

The research assistants selected for the program will work in specific focus labs under the guidance of D’Anna-Hernandez and other CSUSM professors: Nancy Caine, Kim Pulvers and Kimberly Vanderbilt.

The focus labs students will be hired for include D’Anna-Hernandez’s behavioral neuroscience lab where student will engage in identifying underlying neuromechanisms of maternal behavior in mice; Caine’s animal behavior lab that will investigate predator-prey interactions in various mammal species, including a study of human snake detection; Vanderbilt’s children’s behavior laboratory that will hone in on how children learn to reason about the thoughts and behaviors of others, in particular, how young children learn to judge the reliability of sources who provide information through a series of interviews science concepts; and Pulvers’ clinical health psychology laboratory that addresses stress and mental health, and disease prevention in relation in nicotine and tobacco use and other addictive behaviors.

“Students who complete a summer research training program undergo a transformation in skills and confidence,” said Pulvers. “However, many students can’t take advantage of training programs outside of San Diego because they can’t commit to being away from home for that long. Having a nationally recognized training program at our students’ home institution removes a major barrier to promoting high-quality undergraduate research.”

Additionally, the grant will further CSUSM’s mission to incorporate undergraduates in meritorious research as a high impact practice and prepare students with a broad skillset in their future careers.

Hired students will receive full-time pay for 40 hours a week at $14 an hour. Students from all surrounding institutions, including San Diego State University, Palomar College and MiraCosta College, are encouraged to apply.

For more information about applying to a student research position visit the APA Summer Program website. To contact the directly email Kimberly D’Anna Hernandez at or Kim Pulvers at