Over the summer of 2018, I was selected as a full-time paid research assistant through the Penn Undergraduate Research Mentorship Program (PURM) by Dr. Lily Brown. I applied to Dr. Brown’s lab to increase my exposure to anxiety disorder research and delve into a more clinical setting. In Dr. Brown’s lab, I mainly worked on a study that assesses patients’ physical and psychological health outcomes in anxiety disorder treatment through physiological and ecological momentary assessment (EMA) daily life assessments and laboratory assessments of distress tolerance, cognitive bias, and emotion regulation. My primary duties were to directly interact with study participants to collect data and then analyze data resulting from laboratory tasks. In addition, I worked closely with a nurse to manage physical health data resulting from comprehensive nursing assessments. Separately, I worked on an independent project to present in a poster in which preliminary findings suggest that GAD symptom severity is associated with difficulties in emotion regulation in patients with probable posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Some of my other responsibilities included assisting with IRB proposals and managing self-report data that is collected from patients at the Center for the Treatment and Study of Anxiety.
I learned many valuable skills while working as a research assistant in Dr. Brown’s lab. I familiarized myself even more with using and analyzing psychophysiological data, which is an emerging method in clinical psychology that we used to evaluate fear responses. Furthermore, I learned a lot about the logistics of how research is conducted by assisting in IRB proposals and seeing the various steps needed to approve and fund research. I had the opportunity to work with patients, which provided me with firsthand experience of how anxiety disorders manifest themselves and may heighten with study procedures. Lastly, I forged a strong bond with an outstanding mentor who provided me with insightful advice as to how to carry myself and make choices that will best advance my educational and professional development. My long-term professional goal is to pursue a doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology with specialized expertise in anxiety disorders, and my experience in Dr. Brown’s lab through PURM has been invaluable in my training process.