Siri Danielson ’21 researches the impact of adverse experiences on mental well-being during adolescent development at Queen’s Emotions and Risky Behaviours in Youth (QuERBY) Lab in Kingston, CA

Hello from Kingston, Ontario! My name is Siri Danielson and I am going into my junior year at Whitman. I am a psychology & philosophy double major with an intended Hispanic Studies minor. This summer, I am working as a research assistant at Queen’s University with the Queen’s Emotions and Risky Behaviours in Youth (QuERBY) Lab, led by Dr. Jeremy Stewart.

Some members of the QuERBY Lab over the summer! (All are current or recently graduated Queen’s students)

The QuERBY Lab is dedicated to researching self-destructive and risky behaviors demonstrated by adolescents, and often, how these sorts of behaviors are related to suicide risk. Apart from my broader interest in psychology, I am particularly interested in developmental psychology and the unique impact of adverse life experiences that occur during adolescence. That being said, being able to take part in the work that this lab does has been incredibly formative in both answering and expanding the sorts of questions that I am interested in.

This summer, my work is concentrated on a new study that is focused on looking at how major life stressors shape emotional reactions to pleasant and unpleasant information. The study involves participants looking at various images, answering questionnaires concerning life events, and completing behavioral tasks. As this study is just starting up this summer, a big part of my role here has been developing and finalizing what this study will actually look like. The majority of my time here so far has been spent in the lab, going through different versions of the study to make sure it is ready for participants, familiarizing myself with the technology being used, and writing a finalized protocol that can be used by other research assistants in the future. I also have gotten to see some of the logistical components that go into making a psychology study happen, such as the process of ethics approval, designing demographic surveys, and organizing how data is stored and collected. This is really the first experience I have had seeing the nuts and bolts that go into psychological research, so this has been especially exciting for me!

Another fun element of my internship is that the study I am working on is a collaboration between psychology faculty at Queens and Whitman. So, while I am gaining experience working within a completely new psychology department and lab, I also get to implement some of the methods I have been using this past year working with Professor Tom Armstrong in the PEEP Lab at Whitman. Dr. Armstrong flew in to Kingston last week to help get this study going and to train other research assistants with some of the tools and equipment we have been using back at Whitman. During his visit, I also attended a talk that he gave here about the research we have been doing in our lab at Whitman, concerning disgust and anxiety. This was especially interesting for me, as I got to hear lots of new questions and perspectives in relation to the work we’ve been doing this year in the lab from the Queen’s community!

My experience in Canada so far has been incredibly engaging and fun, and it is already going by so fast! Going into the next weeks here, I am really looking forward to start running participants and being able to look at some of the data we collect. I think that this part will be the most rewarding, as this research can be directly applied to ongoing conversations and questions about the state of treatment plans for adolescents at risk or who are struggling with mental health disorders.

Beyond this summer, I am looking forward to staying up to date on how this study progresses and the results that will come from it. I am also excited to see the ways in which my experience here can be applied to the work I will continue to do with the psychology department at Whitman!

Experiences like Siri Danielsons’s are made possible by the Whitman Internship Grant, which provides funding for students to participate in unpaid internships at both for-profit and non-profit organizations. To learn how you could secure a Whitman Internship Grant or host a Whitman intern at your organization, click here or contact Assistant Director for Internship Programs Mitzy Rodriguez

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