Grace Wheeler’19

I am a junior majoring in Psychology with a Biology minor. I have accepted a summer research internship with Boston University’s Developing Minds Lab to conduct studies of cognition in infants and children. This internship is unpaid and provides no housing or other support, but it is a carefully organized and well-established program that will expose me to all aspects of the research process, from running studies to coding and analyzing data. I will also have the chance to discuss current literature with the rest of the research team, and to present my work in weekly lab meetings.

I first became interested in this area through my class on infant and child development with Professor Lovett sophomore year; our classroom study of the stages of development and diverse cognitive theories was augmented by practical experience assisting and observing children at the Bowdoin Childcare Center, and recording their behavior. I worked with three-to-five-year-olds for several hours each week. It was fascinating to watch these children’s individual progress as they learned to relate to adults, to each other, and to the world around them. One of the most interesting things to me from a research perspective was the aspect of “popularity” in children so young— what factors of behavior or temperament seemed to make some children very desirable as playmates and companions, and what factors seemed to isolate others.

Last summer, I was very fortunate to work with Dr. Hannah Reese in the Bowdoin Psychology Department on her study evaluating the effects of mindfulness and meditation on Tourette Syndrome. In my research, I read, analyzed, and collated results from past studies involving meditation as a treatment for neurological disorders, and in particular, case studies on Tourette Syndrome. I assisted Dr. Reese in her research design to determine what types of data and treatments to include, and this work confirmed my enthusiasm for psychological research and my interest in a future career treating social disorders in children.

I believe the internship at the Developing Minds Lab will be a perfect complement to the experience I had assisting Dr. Reese last summer, because it is a larger program with a research team, and it will give me direct exposure to other stages of the research and experimental process. The focus of the program – children’s social and cognitive development – is exactly the area of my own academic interest. The chance to participate fully in lab meetings with senior researchers and to discuss the relevant literature and present my own work is unusual in a summer internship, and I believe it will be very valuable to me both intellectually and professionally. I will also have the opportunity to pursue my own independent research project related to the lab’s work, with input and oversight from Professor Kibbe and her team of post-docs and graduate students.

In my internship at the Developing Minds Lab, I am very much looking forward to studying how children’s cognition interacts with their view of the world, and how cognitive developments affect sociability with others. After interviewing with the research staff at the lab, I know they have a lot to teach me and I am excited to start working with them. I am confident that this experience will enhance my understanding of children’s cognition and refine my career goals, and that the skills I have honed in my coursework at Bowdoin and through my research experience with Dr. Reese will contribute meaningfully to the work of the Developing Minds Lab.