This past summer, I worked as an undergraduate research assistant under the guidance of Professor Platt and Feng Sheng in Platt Labs, with a focus on visualizing loss aversion. An almost intuitive mental accounting mechanism, loss aversion helps us evaluate decisions and avoid potential losses associated with risk-taking behaviors. To visualize and further study this mechanism, we designed and conducted a series of eye tracking experiments – in other words, we aimed to measure the decision-making processes in participants’ minds through their eye movements and fixations.
During the 10-week research experience at the lab, I went through the whole process of designing and conducting a scientific experiment. From reading related academic papers and preparing stimuli, to interacting with participants and cleaning the primary data, I acquired several practical skills in the lab that I would never have been exposed to in lectures or even lab seminars. Furthermore, participating in this project from the very beginning offered me more control over my tasks as I wasn’t merely receiving orders but also actively looking for problems and potential improvements. For instance, I was able to sit down with the two main investigators of this project and pitched my ideas for future studies based on my observations this summer.
Before starting my work under PURM this summer, I was both curious and uncertain about doing research as an undergraduate. However, through the ten weeks with my mentors and fellow research assistants, I have come to enjoy the unique experience of exploring the scientific field in real time instead of reading about them years later.