Miranda Benjamin '13 of Kingston, N.Y. wants to understand why people act as they do, and what influences them throughout their lives. The study of psychology, she said, "applies to everyone."
Benjamin recently represented MCLA at the COPLAC Regional Conference as she presented a poster on the association between college students' sleep hygiene and perceived sleep quality, developed from survey research the psychology major and two other students conducted last spring.
"We hypothesized that students who reported worse perceived sleep quality would also report worse sleep hygiene habits," Benjamin said. "We also thought that music would be a beneficial sleep aid that would be correlated with better perceived sleep quality."
While the student researchers did not find significant results to support the hypothesis that music might encourage sleep, they did discover that females, on average, reported worse perceived sleep quality than the males they surveyed.
"We also found that students with no bed partner or roommate had worse sleep hygiene than students with a bed partner, a roommate in another room, or a roommate in the same room," Benjamin said of the survey research. "Lastly, we found that freshman and sophomore males had significantly worse sleep hygiene than freshman and sophomore females."
Benjamin's opportunities for undergraduate research continue this semester, as she is taking a research course from Dr. Maria Bartini, chair of MCLA's psychology department. She and her classmates are looking into the various aspects of the motivational climate in youth soccer.
"We get to play a role in every aspect of the research, which is a great experience that I never thought I would have at the undergraduate level.
High-impact experiences like Benjamin's research opportunities provide her with a solid foundation for graduate school: She plans to study applied behavior analysis.
"Applied behavior analysis is the use of multiple techniques to help change problem behaviors into more positive and adaptive behaviors. I plan on getting my master's degree in applied behavior analysis while working at a facility that works with children with autism, so that I can get some experience in the field before moving on to pursue my Ph.D.," she explained.
Once she is board certified as a behavior analyst, Benjamin can continue to help individuals with autism or other disorders. "This is something that I'll definitely continue through my career; however, I hope to pursue research in the field as well, along with possibly teaching at the college level."
Benjamin is glad she made the switch to MCLA.
"My experience as a psych major here has been great," she explained. "I really couldn't ask for anything more. The classroom discussions are very interactive and thought-provoking, and the professors are always available for help outside of the classroom.
"The research experience has definitely contributed the most to my experience at MCLA." Benjamin added. "It's helped me grow as person, and has prepared me for my future graduate studies really well. ... I would definitely recommend MCLA to prospective students. It's a close-knit school that provides its students with a multitude of opportunities, both socially and academically, and really facilitates individuality and growth."