Skip to Main Content

Student Research

Research in psychology is not a mysterious endeavor reserved only for professors or for the scientists who you read about in your textbooks. Nearly any MSMU student can become involved in research. Here in our psychology department, we study various topics such as language development, gender wage-gaps, alcoholism and substance use, virtual reality, and more! Becoming involved in a research laboratory is also a great way to gain skills for graduate school—master’s and doctoral programs really value these hands-on experiences. Keep reading to learn more about how you can gain these skills in the psychology department, at the Mount. 

It is possible to enroll in PSY 193 or 194 (the research apprenticeship class here at MSMU), when joining one of our research labs. This is not like a traditional class wherein you’ll have lectures or a textbook. Rather, we’ve built our research experiences so that MSMU students can “get their hands dirty” with real human participants and real data! Most faculty have weekly or biweekly meetings with their research students (usually a very small group, less than 10) to plan, conduct and analyze their research. One of our goals is also for you to present at a conference. We present our findings at our MSMU Student Psychology Conference, and also at regional, national, and sometimes even at international conferences (pssst: this is also a great seller on your resume or grad-school application).

Check out the blurbs below to learn about our faculty’s research labs. Identify one or two topics that you find interesting, and don’t hesitate to reach out to these faculty members to see how you can get involved.


Faculty Member Name: Prf. Aloha Buenaventura 

Goal: to find out if Mount students are using Mount's psychological services and to assess why or why not in order to address if changes need to be made for students to access it more.  

The work this research entails: gathering data regarding Mount students' use of mental health treatment resource.  

Creating a survey to give mount students related to: percentage of students actually using psychological services, what makes students use psychological services, what factors are preventing them to do so.  

 Faculty member name: Prf. Yuliana Garcia

Description of research lab: Interested in educational psychological research? Our lab focuses on studying psychological issues relating to adjustment and achievement in educational settings. In particular, we are currently working on a project to test for bias among elementary school teachers using virtual reality. Additionally, if you have any interest in using technology to study psychological phenomena come by, we’d love to hear your ideas! 

 Faculty member name: Prf. Dolly Rojo

Description of research lab: We are the Little Athenians Lab. In this lab, we explore various research topics of language. In the past, Professor Rojo has focused on preschool-aged children and has asked research questions about their understanding of a multilingual world: do they grasp the idea that non-native speakers are trying to communicate something valid, or do young children simply believe these speakers are being funny or inaccurate in their manner of speaking? Research questions that we are currently exploring include how young children who are learning two or more languages assimilate their language skills and culture knowledge to their ongoing lives. How is their new language incorporated into their self-identity? 

In a different project, we are also exploring how different instructor's titles (e.g., Mrs., Miss, Professor, first-name) affects student's experience in the classroom, as well as the instructor's own reactions to how students engage with them, based on title differences.

 Faculty member name: Prf. Michelle Samuel

Description of research lab: If you're interested in helping to advance equity and parity for women in the workplace- this lab is for you! Are you interested in studying women's leadership? Wage discrimination against women? Lack of representation of women in leadership roles? Our lab studies all of this and more by assessing existing data about women in higher education leadership roles. This lab has two great senior mentors who would love to help younger students learn how to help advance gender equality.

Faculty member name: Prf. Julia Tang

Description of research lab: Our Developmental / Health lab has two main branches: 

1) Studying Health Issues: The first is a student-driven research group that investigates health questions/problems during adolescence to adulthood. Our current lab is currently interested in examining adolescent and adult binge drinking, the predictors (aka factors that reduce or make binge drinking more likely), and the relationship between binge drinking and smoking cigarettes throughout adolescence and adulthood. We have had the opportunity to submit and present our recent findings at the Western Psychological Association in Pasadena and the Association for Psychological Science in Washington, D.C.. Past labs have looked at a range of topics including:adoption, depression, relationship and marital status, health behaviors (e.g. smoking, drinking, risk taking, delinquency), cancer and caregiving, stress and well-being.

2) Community-Based Research: We also partner with the Southern California Children's Museum in Pasadena and our second branch is for students interested in working in communities and helping our community partner with their evaluation needs. For example, one current project the museum has asked us for help (if we have a student) is to help evaluate their weekly children's programs via collected feedback forms from parents. They hope for data like this to be used in obtaining donor support and grants in the future, as well as for internal use in evaluating current needs and successes at the museum. This branch would be great for students who are interested in children, play, and seeing how research can be applied out in the real world with real world organizations.