Saint Anselm Hosts Dr. Susan McGurk for Hechtl/Lasky Lecture

by Richard Curran, '16

IMG_0790On Tuesday, April 12th the Saint Anselm Psychology Department hosted Dr. Susan McGurk from the Center of Psychiatric Rehabilitation at Boston University for the Annual Hechtl/Lasky Lecture Series. The series is in honor of former faculty members Richard Hechtl and Julian "Jack" Lasky, who were leaders in Saint Anselm College's psychology department, having devoted their careers to promoting wellness through basic and applied psychology research.

Students have previously worked with Dr. McGurk on her research while she was at Dartmouth University, and she was excited to return to campus to present her current work. Dr. McGurk has won numerous awards such as the National Alliance of Research in Schizophrenia and Depression (NARSAD), the Young Investigator Award (1987-1990), the Independent Investigator Award (2010-2012), the 2004 Rehabilitation Practitioner of Distinction Award by the National Rehabilitation Association, and the 2007 Gerard Hogarty Award for Excellence in Schizophrenia Research. As part of the lecture series, students had the opportunity to meet with Dr. McGurk during a dinner and research presentation on campus.

IMG_0792Dr. McGurk shared her experiences helping people with psychiatric disability achieve employment goals through her program called the "Thinking Skills for Work Program." This program is a multi-component cognitive remediation program combining computer practice of cognitive skills and the teaching of compensatory strategies in order to optimize cognitive and work functioning in persons receiving vocational rehabilitation services.

McGurk has helped many people through this program to overcome challenges, improve their self-image, and maintain employment. Dr. McGurk is an inspiring researcher who has made great contributions to the psychology field, and it was a pleasure having her come share her knowledge with us on campus.

Senior Shannon Sholds presents INBRE research at Eastern Psychological Association meeting

by Mackenzie Wild, '16

This past year, Shannon Sholds, a senior Psychology major, conducted research as part of the Idea Network of Biomedical Research (INBRE) summer research program.  The INBRE program gives students the opportunity to stay on campus, with housing and a stipend, during the summer to conduct research under shannonthe mentorship of Saint Anselm College faculty. Last summer, Shannon Sholds worked with Professor Paul Finn from the Psychology department to examine the effect of exercise intensity on body pH as well as changes in sleep, mood, and taste threshold. In this post, Shannon shares her experiences with her research, the INBRE program, and presenting this project at the 2016 Annual Meeting of the Eastern Psychological Association.

Could you tell me a little about your study and your hypothesis? The purpose of this study was to investigate changes in overall body pH, sleep, mood, and taste threshold that occur over the course of a collegiate Division II Cross Country season. Our hypothesis was as aerobic training decreased and anaerobic training increased, overall body pH (as measured by salivary pH) would shift from alkaline to slightly acidic. This shift in pH would effect a change in sleep disturbances in the athlete, with concomitant changes in mood and taste threshold. It was also hypothesized that before the championship meet, participants would exhibit negative changes in mood and decreases in sleep quality.

What were your findings? Were you surprised by your findings? Our hypotheses were partially supported. We did not find significant changes in salivary pH measured by pH strips, but changes in exercise intensity were demonstrated by the heart rate and mileage changes recorded from the Fitbit watches worn by the athletes. We also did not find significant changes in taste threshold using electrogustometry. We did find significant changes in mood: measures of vigor decreased, while measures of anger, confusion, fatigue, depression, tension, and overall mood disturbance all increased. The athletes also reported being significantly more tired and sad, and the Fitbit sleep data showed they were significantly more restless at night. Some of the findings were surprising, because although they reported being tired during the day, most of the athletes reported that they got plenty of sleep. The Fitbit data however, showed that this was not the case. Although they were sleeping for a normal amount of time, the athletes were restless for most of the night and missing out on the restorative REM sleep they needed. It was surprising to see how hard it can be to self-report sleep. It was also nice to see that the negative changes in mood that runners talk about while tapering is a substantial claim.

What made you interested in athletes in this way? Being a runner myself, I experienced what it was like to feel cranky and “off” during a taper (decreasing mileage). Tapering usually happens in the week or so before a championship meet, and it can be really hard to mentally feel prepared for that when you haven’t been getting much sleep and feel all these negative emotions. Running is truly addictive. When you become accustomed to a certain level of sympathetic arousal that you achieve from running 60 miles a week, dropping down to 10 miles that week feels similar to going through withdrawals. I wanted to do this study to help athletes understand this process, and hopefully prevent some burnout that they may be susceptible at this time. I also wanted to make coaches and trainers aware that these reports from their athletes are substantial and it may be difficult to motivate athletes during this time of the season.

How did you get involved with INBRE? Many of my friends from the chemistry department had been involved with INBRE over the summer and loved the experience. I was unsure about whether or not I was ready for the research process, but Professor Finn motivated me to try and I’m really glad I did.

What suggestions would you give to students who hope to apply for INBRE grants in the future? Make sure you choose to work with a professor that has the same research interests as you and that work well with. Start the process as early as possible, and make sure you love what you are researching.

What was your favorite thing about presenting at EPA? What was most difficult? My favorite part of presenting at EPA was getting to talk about my research to people with a wide array of backgrounds. It was a really fulfilling experience to talk to statisticians, sports psychologists, other undergrads, etc. because they all come with different questions and expertise. The most difficult part was feeling confident about my work. It is really hard to avoid comparing your work to everyone else’s and stressing over how much more you could have done.

What do you think the advantages are to presenting at a professional conference such as EPA? What did you gain? I would definitely love to present at a conference again. It is a great way to expand your knowledge, build confidence with your work, and make connections. For the most part the environment at a poster session is really supportive, which allows students to practice presenting their interests in an intimate setting with people that are genuinely interested in your findings.

Spotlight on Alumni: Anselmian Jacki Kinsman earns Doctorate

By Dominic Bolton, ‘18image1

Jacki Kinsman, an Anselmian alumni and former psychology major, recently obtained her doctorate in School Psychology at William James College. She talked with us regarding her experiences and offered some advice to current psychology majors.

What were some of your favorite classes at the college and why?

My favorite classes at Saint Anselm College were definitely my psychology courses. My very favorite psychology classes were taught by Professor Charlene Bonner. Psychology and Law and Abnormal Psychology were by far the most interesting. I loved her style of teaching because she taught us like grown-ups- we got what we put into it and she showed the best videos! She also told us a lot of personalized work-related stories, which is actually a big part of the reason that I decided to go for my doctorate. I also really enjoyed all of the Criminal Justice classes- as I was a Criminal Justice minor. I took a class Social Justice with Professor Humphrey. It was such an interesting class and for an end of the year project we could literally do whatever we wanted. I chose to write letters to death row inmates and they wrote back; thus starting an end of the year journal project. I have always loved to get into people's minds and figure them out.

Did anything about Saint A's start you on your path to getting your doctorate?

Both Professor Bonner and Professor Finn were extremely influential in starting me on my path to get my doctorate. They were driven and loved their jobs, but most importantly they always believed in me. I knew that I wanted me to be the best that I could be and that included going as far as I could with my education. I was horrible with math and was failing my statistics class at one point. I remember setting up a meeting with Professor Finn and breaking down into tears because I just didn't think I could do it. He spent endless hours after class helping me understand the world of statistics and always reminded me that I COULD do it- and I did (just barely)! Professor Finn also told me that there was one thing that I would never ever regret and that would be getting an education. People can take your job away, but they can never take away your education. He was so right; despite my mountain of student loans, I have never, ever, regretted getting an education.

What was your senior thesis about?

My senior thesis experiment was The Overlap Between Superstitious Behaviors and Obsessive Compulsive Symptoms in College Athletes. I chose this topic because I personally suffer from anxiety and I was also a student athlete at Saint A's. I played softball and I had a lot of superstitious behaviors that mirrored obsessive compulsive symptoms. My findings revealed that a lot of student athletes, specifically athletes from Saint Anselm College suffer from similar superstitious thoughts and OCD-like symptoms.

How did Saint Anselm prepare you for the work you did post-graduation?

My education at Anselm College was HARD. Graduate school was by far easier than undergrad. I tell people every day that graduate school took a lot of my TIME, but I was doing something that I loved. I understood it. Undergrad was hard because I had to take a broad range of classes, some that interested me more than others. However, Saint Anselm instilled in me a lot of determination, a strong work ethic, and really phenomenal writing skills. Some of this stemmed from the fact that most colleges do not require their psychology majors to write a thesis, thus setting Saint Anselm College apart from other schools.

Are there any notable internship or volunteer experiences that helped you decide a specific area of Psychology to study?

I decided not to do an internship at Saint Anselm College because I spent a significant amount of time outside of class as a student athlete. However, I made sure that I got involved wherever I could. I volunteered through the Melia Center and I did a lot of work at the Youth Development Center in Manchester and Webster House, a safe haven for troubled children. Working with these troubled youth really helped me decide upon an area that I wanted to concentrate in. I decided pretty early on that I wanted to become a Child Psychologist, and more specifically do some work in schools. Since then I have branched out to also do some work in the field of neuropsychology, by conducting evaluations for children and families.

Do you have any advice for current Psychology Majors?

My advice would be very similar to Professor Finn’s. You will never regret getting an education. If you truly like psychology, stick with it! There are many jobs that people with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology go on to do.  If you truly love it, keep at it. For me, it is the most rewarding job in the world, and there is nothing else like it. If you have your heart set on becoming a psychologist, go for the gold- get that doctorate, I promise you, you will not regret it.

This last question isn't related to academics, but do you have any notable memories about the Election period that took place during your time at Saint A's? Recently the school hosted a Republican debate and the school was very busy with that.

I am somewhat embarrassed to say that I really tried to distance myself from politics, despite the fact that my best friend and four-year roommate Kaitlyn McClure '07 was VERY involved in it (at Saint Anselm College and now). I suppose my most notable memories stemmed from the work that she did. Kaitlyn's very own hard work and determination during the election period that took place during our time at Saint Anselm College got her to where she is now. A couple of years ago she was on Mitt Romney's campaign and worked on Capitol Hill in D.C. I suppose it ties to the overall theme of what I'm saying here- you can do absolutely anything with the right drive and determination- even work for a presidential candidate.