Meet Alyssa Compeau, a Second Year Masters Student at Loyola University Maryland
A: In the beginning of my sophomore year of college, I started helping my psychopathology professor with her research. Her expertise is in the area of eating behavior and personality traits, so I became interested in these areas through my work with her. I also saw this research area as one that could make a large impact given our society's focus on weight and the pervasiveness of body dissatisfaction. And actually this area fits very well within my life because my family owns a meat store and I have multiple family members and friends who chefs, so it makes sense that my career also involve food and eating!
Q: What is the most valuable thing you learned from conducting this study?
A: Wow, this is a really difficult question.. I think one valuable thing I learned from this project was how to manage my own research lab. This was the first time I managed a lab independently, and although I still need more practice, the experience helped enhance my supervisory and training skills, as well as general time and schedule management. This was valuable for me because I know that this will be an important part of my future career because I can't do projects alone and will always need the assistance of great research assistants. I also see the experience as a whole as extremely valuable because its a way for me to enhance my research skills and learn new methods for conducting research.
Q: What are your career goals?
A: I plan to get my PhD in clinical psychology, and continue my research with fat talk, eating behavior, body image, and obesity. I would like to become a professor, so that I can conduct research, teach, and mentor students. I love research, so I want this to be the focus of my future career. I also feel that my mentors have been so important in my career so far that I want to be able to do the same for other students.
Q: As a graduate student, what advice can you give to undergraduates in psychology who plan to get an advanced degree?
I think that one of the most important things you can do as an undergraduate student is to develop relationships with your professors. Through these relationship, I was given the opportunities to become involved in research, poster presentations, and papers. These experiences have led to attending national research conferences around the country, which is not only fun but provides great opportunities to network with experts in the field. They are a great resource of advice because they have also been through graduate school, and its always nice to have someone in your corner.I know that I would not be where I am today if it were not for the relationships I made and have maintained with my mentors.
Q: What was the most challenging part of the project?
A: I think the most challenging part of this project was developing the experimental manipulation for fat talk. There is currently no standardized fat talk manipulation within the literature right now, so I didn't have any empirically-validated materials to use. The goal of my manipulation was to prompt participants to engage in fat talk, but as I and my research assistants can attest to, this is much easier said than done. It was very difficult to think of questions that might prompt these types of comments, and even though my research assistants thought the questions might work, it often did not. It was frustrating throughout data collection, but I'm looking at it as a learning experience; and I'm already thinking of future projects to test and validate fat talk manipulations!
Written By: Jessica Harras