Undergraduate Research


This April, four MCLA students will travel with psychology professor Dr. Maria Bartini to participate in the 23rd National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR) at the University of Wisconsin. They were selected from thousands of submissions because their abstracts displayed a unique contribution to their fields of study.

Psychology majors Jon Cavanaugh '10, Devin Bryant-Bosshold '10, Lynne Vanderpot '09 and Nicole Mace '09 will present their findings on social relationships and friendship in college students at the conference, which will be attended by students from throughout the country.

The projects began in the fall during Bartini's research seminars after she assigned a general topic of social relationships and friendship. They then developed a lab experiment to examine social behavior in college students, recruiting participants among MCLA students.

The study involves deception, Bartini explained.

"Students came in to perform a collaborative task - either with one of their friends or someone they did not know. A third student, who understood what the project was about, pretended to be another participant. That person either helped and cooperated with solving the problems or interfered with the problem-solving.

"We were interested in seeing how this affected the other two students' behavior. How did they react to this person? Did they show different types of social behaviors? We looked for types of behaviors they displayed in reaction to this third person," Bartini said.

Her students also gathered information about the participant's friendships and personality characteristics through surveys.

Bartini said the research experiences will be invaluable because all of the students plan to go on to graduate school, which will look to see how they analyze data using statistical strategies and that they have presented research at a conference.

"A high-caliber conference experience definitely gives them a leg up," she said. "It's a great experience to be able to defend your ideas. It's a learning experience for students on so many levels, regardless of what they plan on doing for a career."

Vanderpot and Mace will present a poster that focuses on the questionnaires, to understand some of the variables that predict good friendship qualities and other positive social behaviors. Cavanaugh and Bryant-Bosshold will give a talk about the behaviors observed in the lab experiments.  

Established in 1987, NCUR is dedicated to promoting undergraduate research, scholarship and creative activity in all fields of study, hosting 2,000 students and their faculty mentors to present their research through posters, oral presentations, visual arts and performances.

Student presentations are welcome in all fields and disciplines from the creative and performing arts to biomedical, engineering, and social science research. The conference hosts students and their faculty mentors to present their research through posters, oral presentations, visual arts and performances.