Applying to the EMBody Lab: FAQ
I. GENERAL QUESTIONS
What is the best way to contact you?
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org after checking this FAQ for updates that might clarify any questions you have.
When will you be accepting new students?
NEW GRADUATE STUDENTS: I will be reviewing applications for two new graduate students to join my lab in Fall 2022 (application deadline Dec 1, 2021). Applicants to the EMBody Lab can come in through the Clinical Psychology, Developmental Psychology, or Social Psychology programs.
EXISTING GRADUATE STUDENTS (e.g., grad student collaborators with a primary supervisor elsewhere in the department): To existing graduate students at Queen's - hello! I'd love to hear from you any time. I look forward to learning about your research, and/or whether my research could complement your training while at Queen's. You'd be welcome to sit in on regular lab meetings, once they are up and running. If you develop a project idea involving new data collection or archival data available through the EMBody Lab, it would be fun to talk about. Please note, however, that transparency with your primary mentor at Queen's is paramount. I'll assume that you and your mentor have discussed your interest in meeting with me, and I will also reach out to your mentor myself to make sure we are all on the same page about the best way to support your training.
UNDERGRADUATE STUDENTS: Wow, I am blown away by the level of interest among undergraduates at Queen's! Spots for Winter 2022 are closed. I will begin considering new undergraduates for Fall 2022.
PAID STUDY COORDINATORS (part-time/full-time): The EMBody Lab may have have at least one paid position available in the summer of 2022. Please check back here for updates, if you might be interested in joining us in a full- or part-time paid position.
II. FOR GRADUATE-LEVEL APPLICANTS
What kind of training is available in the EMBody Lab?
Our research naturally supports a variety of training experiences. Our studies use experimental and longitudinal methods in child and adult samples, and they are informed by concepts from clinical, developmental, and health psychology, and affective science. Some graduate students will be more invested in working with peripheral physiology measures, while others may wish to focus on EEG/ERP methods. Other students may be interested in using experimental methods for understanding the nature of emotional experience or the physiology of stress, while yet others may concentrate more on observational components of our work (e.g., clinical diagnostic assessment, dyadic observation).
Some elements of graduate training in the lab will be universal. All graduate students will have the opportunity to conduct independent and team-based research at the intersection of clinical, affective, and developmental science. All graduate students will be trained in critical reading and interpretation of scientific literature, advanced research methods and data analysis, advanced writing mechanics in the psychology discipline, publishing and the peer review process, and equity and ethics in clinically oriented research. Moreover, for all students, graduate training will cover issues in professional development, such as professional identity development, conducting programmatic research, and preparing for postdoctoral work and beyond.
What do you look for in graduate student applicants?
I'll be looking for evidence that you:
- ...are a creative thinker, with your own point of view and the ability to draw original insights from your training experiences.
- ...have a clear reason for wanting to conduct research with me in particular, not just in clinical psychology or the mood disorders/emotion dysregulation area broadly. You'll be likelier to thrive in my lab if our research interests overlap, for instance, if you want to understand: the relationship between subjective and objective emotion responses, emotion language, the nature of emotional awareness or interoception or their roles in wellbeing, the impact of stress on the body or on emotional development, and/or affective mechanisms in the onset and maintenance of mood disorders or related outcomes. It will help you make a strong case for our overlap if you have read some of my work, and if you can explain your interests in your own words. I do not expect anyone to be interested in all aspects of my research equally.
- ...will increase the inclusivity of our lab and department, and, as you progress in your career, of the research community at large. This could mean that you have lived experiences as a member of a group that is historically oppressed or underrepresented in academia. If your commitment to inclusivity does not come from lived experience (mine does not), I'll be looking for evidence that you will join me in educating yourself about your own social privilege and ways to help dismantle white supremacist systems in academia.
- ...have strengths and basic skills to serve as an initial foundation for graduate-level research in my lab. Often (but not always) foundational skills come from prior research experience in a relevant area, often at the post-bachelor's level. Specifically, it is a plus if you have experience in some (NOT all!!!*) of the following:
- Collecting and/or analyzing peripheral psychophysiological data (e.g., heart rate, heart rate variability, pre-ejection period, electrodermal activation, blood pressure variability)
- Collecting and/or analyzing neurophysiological data (e.g., EEG, ERP, or heartbeat-evoked potential)
- Collecting and/or analyzing ecological momentary assessment (EMA) data
- Analyzing verbal/text data using computerized or human coding methods
- Computer programming of experimental tasks (e.g., using E-Prime)
- Programming using web-based data collection platforms (e.g., Qualtrics, RedCap, Metricwire)
- Running participants in a lab setting through experimental and/or observational paradigms
- Recruiting or screening participants for clinical studies
- Interacting with clinical or high-risk participants (e.g., running clinical participants in a lab, conducting clinical interviews)
- Managing large or complex databases, such as in multi-method or longitudinal research designs
- Computer programming (e.g., Python, Matlab, R)
- Conducting or contributing to statistical analyses
- Creating or contributing to scientific presentations (e.g., conference posters, peer-reviewed manuscripts)
* At least one set of studies has shown that women hold themselves to a higher standard when applying to jobs.
What if I don't know enough about the graduate school application process?
Information about the graduate school application process is often passed down informally by word of mouth from mentors to mentees. Unfortunately, applicants from backgrounds underrepresented in academia often face more barriers to getting insider information. There is not yet a structural solution to this problem in our discipline, but some researchers have created terrific resources to help distribute information about the clinical psychology applications process. I will add links here, as I find them:
- Open Access Tips/Materials for Clinical Psych Ph.D. Applicants, with commentary, by Mallory Dobias, M.A., a clinical psychology doctoral student at Stony Brook University. (Fun fact: Mallory graduated from the same lab at the University of Texas where I had previously done some of my training.)
- Application Guide for Non-Clinical PhD Programs, by Kate Petrova, B.A., a social psychology doctoral student at Stanford University. Note: most of this advice applies to clinical program applicants as well!
- Mitch's Uncensored Advice for Applying to Graduate School in Clinical Psychology, by Mitch Prinstein, Ph.D., ABPP, a professor the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
- So You Want to Go to Clinical Psychology Graduate School? ... Or Something? A powerpoint on choosing your career path in clinical psychology-related fields and preparing for the application process, by Jessica Schleider, Ph.D., a professor at Stony Brook University.
- Clinical Psychology Graduate School Personal Statement Examples, compiled by Jessica Schleider, Ph.D., at Stony Brook University, and Craig Rodriguez-Seijas, Ph.D, at the University of Michigan.
Which parts of the application do you pay the most attention to?
I will weigh less heavily the parts of applications that I believe to be especially affected by mentoring inequities and other social barriers. Although you could easily make the case that all portions of applications are affected by external barriers in a trainee's environment, I personally will put less weight on:
- Letters of recommendation. Because of their inflated rhetoric, academic rec letters are notoriously poor sources of data on applicants. Moreover, access to strong letter writers can be limited for applicants with backgrounds underrepresented in academia. My advice is to prioritize getting letters from teachers or academic supervisors who have worked with you the most closely, even if those writers do not have high status. Also familiarize yourself (and, if you think they need it, familiarize your letter writers) with resources on producing strong, unbiased letters, such as this, this, and this. Most letter writers also appreciate being sent a bulleted list of your skills or experiences that are relevant to your applications, to jump-start their writing process.
- Grade point averages & test scores. Don't worry if some of your grades or scores are lower than you are capable of getting. I will look at patterns more than at raw scores. For instance, does your transcript show an upward trajectory? Does it show particular strengths and interests in certain areas? Did you challenge yourself by taking unusually difficult courses? If there is a clear reason why certain grades or scores suffered that you are comfortable sharing, you can mention it in your application. Note: Queen's has suspended the GRE requirement for the current application cycle.
Instead, I will weigh more heavily these parts of your application, where where you can place front and center your unique strengths, goals, and research interests:
- Research statement. The research statement is where you communicate your fit for the program and research advisor you are applying to. My take on writing strong research statements:
- Feature your intellectual interests prominently. What research questions animate you? What ideas or concepts have shaped your thinking? How have your interests evolved over the course of your past and present research experiences? What new things do you want to learn, and why are they important?
- If you have relevant skills, or have held relevant responsibilities, name them outright. This information should also appear in your CV.
- Don't just tell; show evidence. Use concrete examples to demonstrate the quality and originality of your thinking; beyond merely naming your interests and plans, elaborate on them with details to show what sets your ideas apart. Use details to describe the research experiences and responsibilities you have had and the skills you've acquired. Don't merely say that you see fit with a program/researcher: demonstrate the fit throughout your statement.
- If you choose to disclose a personal challenge, be brief. You may encounter strong opinions on whether your research statement should disclose your personal history (e.g., mental health difficulties, traumatic experiences). Until recently, applicants were advised not to self-disclose about challenges. These days, there is recognition of pros and cons to self-disclosure, and some mentors now routinely advise applicants to do it. Whichever you decide, don't let self-disclosure eclipse the academic information your research statement needs to convey.
- Avoid flowery writing. Keep your language precise and your paragraphs focused. Often a simple word that you would use in real life is stronger than a thesaurus word. Use "signposting" techniques (e.g., thesis statements, topic sentences, subsections) to create an easy reading experience.
- Curriculum vitae (CV). Your CV is your chance to convey information about the activities in which you have invested your time over the years. Note, though, that there are strong conventions for the content and format of psychology CVs. To get the format right, consult guides like this and this (shared by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln) and make several rounds of revisions. Opinions differ, but *I* consider it ok (and interesting!) for CVs of grad school applicants to include selected pre-college and non-academic activities. No need to go overboard, but feel free to include: major awards/achievements in high school, serious work or volunteer experience outside academia, fluency in languages other than English, or non-academic talents or pursuits if they are central to who you are.
I'm thinking of applying to work with you. Should I contact you ahead of time?
Not necessarily. I welcome you to email me if you have a question to which you genuinely need my answer, which will affect your decision to apply to work with me. I plan to review applications closely for everyone who lists me as a potential primary mentor, regardless of prior contact.
III. FOR UNDERGRADUATE-LEVEL APPLICANTS
What kind of training is available in the EMBody Lab for undergraduates?
The EMBody Lab will periodically have openings for undergraduates to complete directed research courses, honours theses, and volunteer research assistantships. See the top of the FAQ for updates on when these positions are available.
Undergraduates in the lab will have both distinct responsibilities as part of smaller sub-teams, and common training experiences shared by all their peers in the lab. Relatively distinct research activities may include: working with psychophysiological data; working with EEG/ERP data; assisting with clinical diagnostic assessment of participants (adults &/or children); computer programming; and coding of verbal/behavioral data. Common experiences will include: participation in lab meetings, where discussions will cover research-oriented readings and relevant social problems; opportunities to participate in directed research projects and contribute to scientific presentations; and discussions of equity, ethics, and professionalism in clinically oriented research.
Some work in psychology research is of the less "glamorous" type (e.g., data entry), while other work is often more desired (e.g., screening and running participants). Different types of work work will be split equitably across students, and as much as possible, activities will be assigned to match student interests and goals. Students who stay in the EMBody Lab for multiple semesters will have the chance to deepen and diversify their training experiences as their interests evolve.
Psychology research would get nowhere without undergraduates! The EMBody Lab commits to mentoring undergraduates in return for their work. We will provide consultation and practical support to help students define and achieve their professional goals.
Articulating lab values, and--importantly--finding better ways to act on them, will be a work in progress as the EMBody Lab grows. Students in the lab will have a meaningful role in shaping the philosophy and character of our group. In general, we won't view our research in a bubble apart from the social context in which it occurs. Rather, we will consider pressing social, ethical, and professional issues as inseparable from the content and conduct of science. Ultimately, this lab will uphold the dignity of people, including its members, its research participants, and the public, who may be affected by our findings.
For starters, here are some core objectives that will guide work in the lab:
Acting on Anti-Racism and Inclusion. Clinical psychology as a discipline has racism in its roots, and white supremacist culture pervades academia more generally. We will educate ourselves about the ways in which our academic institutions, and our own behavior, exclude others and perpetuate injustices. We will resist complacency and adopt new behaviors that promote social justice in all aspects of EMBody Lab work (see this brief statement and initial ideas).
Confronting the Work-Life Dilemma. We will acknowledge tension between professional productivity and personal well-being. In this, we'll consider the social/political assumptions baked into the very notion of work-life "balance," and whether balance is possible, and for whom. We'll assume that lab members are always doing their best to juggle competing demands, and we will structure the environment as much as possible to accommodate lab members' needs.
Balancing Autonomy with Collaboration. Psychology research is inherently collaborative, so our work will be stronger if we function well as a team. At the same time, students at all levels have individual goals and interests. Graduate students, especially, need to develop their own professional identities, to prepare for careers beyond the doctoral degree. Mentoring in the EMBody Lab will encourage both autonomy and collaboration, to best support students' long-term learning and success.