Chronicles of the Cubical Psychology Research Assistant: The Introductions
Hi everybody! I recently just started a new lab this summer to develop research experience for graduate school. To commemorate it, I decided to start a diary-like series where I blog about what I do during my shifts. Technically, I started last week, but it was not as one would say “legit” research stuff. This is not only to keep a diary for me to look back on, but to help anybody else get a sense of what being a research assistant is like. Bear in mind, each lab is different with random personalities involved, as an undergraduate who’s taking it for class credit, this is what I can offer.
A brief idea of what the lab: It’s a lab about a 15-20 minute walk from my apartment. I chose this for convenience and competitiveness. The requirements to be “hired” was to have at least a 3.5 GPA, which is already high. I can’ reveal too much about the research I’m doing, but it involves PTSD and a specific group. The Principal Investigator has vast experience working in this field and is nationally recognized, as his previous studies have been effectively implemented intop several practicies. This is how I know I chose the right lab. PTSD is not my dream area focus, but it’s related closely to clinical and cognitive psychology. Take any lab you can get!
Since I signed up to start at 8am, I arrive about 10 minutes early because it’s a good professional habit to develop. I meet the first research assistant and learn that 1) dress code is business casual (I showed up in jeans awk) and 2) not many people arrive on time. Regardless, I shouldn’t make a habit. Later, I meet one of the graduate research assistant and he gives me a brief overview of how the lab runs. Since I can’t do anything until I get computer access and additional training, my only duties for the first week is to read IRBs (basically the research outline) and study them carefully. That way, I familiarize myself with the study. There were five packets in total. Honestly, I didn’t stay on track the whole time and doodled in my notebook for a good portion of my shift. Even if the graduate noticed, he never mentioned anything. Everybody is really chill. I meet the second graduate and she expects to send me an email of my duties soon. I learn that we’ll have plenty of RA meetings involving training and graduate school talk. I’m thankful that the graduate assistants are willing to act as mentors to us. Heck, one of the listed duties is building a grad binder for all of us.
Like the first day, I keep reading the IRBs. I meet one more research assistant. Everybody seems new for the summer, so it’s mostly a clean slate. I admit to napping for an hour, and again, nobody notices since they understand all I’m doing is reading research protocols and procedure. The project coordinator hands me more packets such as the questonnaires we give the human subjects. I discover a lot of new inventory that should I continue with clinical psychology, I will meet again. They don’t go in depth with me about it much, but just understanding what exactly happens is close to a learning experience. I ask a few questions about the IRBs, then leave for the day.
Okay, this was the biggest joke shift and it was only my second week. I even dressed business casual and there was nobody to impress, of course. Nobody showed up until an hour later. Even then, she was doing her own data entry. Another came in and offered me internet access since I would be easily bored. Trying to be a noble research assistant, I do stay on task and review the current IRB and questionnaire. I’m sure a spent at least 3 hours on Facebook, Buzzfeed, online shopping, etc. Eventually, everybody leaves by 12pm and I’m the only one, so it’s easy to get away with things without getting caught. I received some emails from my supervisor that my first official duty with begin on my next shift, which I’m excited about. Yay for real work!
That’s all I have from my first three days. I know eventually, it’ll be filled with many hours of data entry and grunt labor since it’s unpaid, but any research experience is worth it. Also note, I’m balancing this between an actual job so combined with classes, my schedule will be very packed during Fall. My social life may be damaged, but I know how to manage myself.