Research Program Engages Students
Published: Tuesday, February 5, 2013
Updated: Friday, February 8, 2013 14:02
Catherine Merwin (NHS ’15) spent an hour last semester identifying emotions in photographs and measuring how quickly she could press various buttons. She was one of 115 students to participate in GRVP Live!, a round-robin of research in psychology, linguistics and neuroscience held by the Georgetown Research Volunteer Program.
GRVP is a research collaboration between students and professors that aims to increase student involvement and individual learning in psychology, linguistics and neuroscience.
“It’s a place to bring together the principal investigators who are running the studies and are looking to connect with students and the broader community,” GRVP principal investigator and founder Rachel Barr said.
Professors and students research everything from language and memory in children to changes in learning, memory and performance with aging, though study participants are unaware of what is being tested while they are participating in the experiments.
“[The experiments] were interesting, and it made me wonder what they were testing,” Merwin said.
Many students who participate in GRVP and GRVP Live! are encouraged to do so by their professors, with extra credit as a common incentive. Students are paid for participation in some studies that do not offer course credit.
The program offers an intensive way to complete multiple studies in a short amount of time. GRVP started the event, which is held once a semester, in January 2012, and hopes to see increased participation from both undergraduates and the outside community at this semester’s session Feb. 19.
“Over the past few years we’ve focused a lot on undergraduate research, and we really want to make sure that we can keep that growing, and now we want to turn our attention toward community involvement,” Barr said.
Residents of the Washington, D.C., area can sign up through the GRVP database to be contacted if they qualify for specific studies. The psychology subject pool database SONA, however, specifically allows Georgetown undergraduates to independently select studies they qualify for and would like to participate in.
“Participation from [those outside Georgetown] is not as strong as participation from those that are in [Georgetown] courses, but it’s something that we’re trying to build up right now,” GRVP Participant Coordinator Conor Piercey (NHS ’15) said. “It’s not that we really have had difficulty doing it, it’s that our focus has been on campus, and right now we’re trying to branch out a bit more.”
Barr added that increased participation would improve the studies’ results and validity.
“We have a whole lot of questions that we’re interested in about how people are functioning, so we want as many people to answer those questions, as many people to be involved, as possible,” Barr said.
Students interested in psychology and other disciplines enjoy participating in studies.
“[GRVP] opened my eyes to all the research that’s going on,” Piercey said. “I thought it would be a good way personally to get involved in some research and to help everyone else as well.”