From Puerto Rico to MCLA and onto Harvard: Psychology Student Receives Prestigious Summer Research Fellowship

MCLA senior Juliana Rodriguez started college in Puerto Rico off and on, but never saw the finish line until she came to MCLA in 2021. Now she’s ending one fellowship and preparing for another that will start in June.

Rodriguez will spend 10 weeks working as a trainee in the Harvard Medical School/McLean Hospital Summer Research Program. The fellowship also comes with an $8k award and funding to present research at a national conference.

She is currently working as a research assistant for a fellowship at the Erikson Institute at Austen Riggs that will end in May. Assistant Professor of Psychology Dr. Carter Carter shared the Harvard opportunity with his students and Rodriguez applied.


"The psychology department is both delighted and completely unsurprised that Juliana has received this highly selective and rigorous fellowship,” Carter said. “Juliana is a truly exceptional student, someone whose intellect, depth of engagement, and collegiality contribute a great deal to the life of our department. She has already been engaged in advanced psychological research at the Erikson Institute of the Austen Riggs Center. McLean Hospital, a Harvard teaching hospital, and the Austen Riggs Center are the two most prestigious psychiatric hospitals and research centers in the world. It is difficult to overstate how proud we are to see Juliana representing MCLA, and the psychology department, in these world-renowned institutions. She represents the very best of our college!"

Rodriguez said she was hesitant to apply to the fellowship due to its reputation and a small acceptance pool.

“I was humbled and surprised to have this opportunity,” she said. “The professors at MCLA made me realize that I have a lot to offer.”

Rodriguez starts the 10-week program in June and will focus on either the neuroscience division researching anxiety, stress, and depression or work in the child adolescents and psychiatrist department. The data she acquires will be presented at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS) or the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics & Native Americans in Science (SACNAS).

After the McLean fellowship, Rodriguez will graduate from MCLA in the fall and take a year off to work in the field. She said she hopes to gain more knowledge and experience before pursuing a dual program for master's and doctorate degrees.


“Taking one year off and having the two internships will make me a better candidate to land a spot in one of these graduate programs,” she said. “I never thought I would think about grad school… the world is an open canvas. Clinical psychology is something that I’m very interested in. and I’m open to going anywhere within the field where I can get experience before going into graduate school.”


Rodriguez moved to Massachusetts to live with her brother in 2020. Her educational interests varied between hotel management and social work but never stuck.

“I knew I wanted to be in the industry of helping,” she said. “I came back to psychology because I used to help my mom when she was taking college courses and I was in high school. I remember that the classes I enjoyed helping her with most were the psychology classes.”

While Rodriguez’s fellowship at Austen Riggs comes to a close, she reflected on her hands-on experience working with Katie C. Lewis, Ph.D., the director of research and medical staff member at the Austen Riggs Center.

“It’s been an awesome opportunity,” she said. “I’ve been able to apply what I’ve learned at MCLA during my time at Austen Riggs and even sit in on discussions with clients and analyze the results of their tests. It’s eye-opening to see these professionals coming together to determine the best course of action for their patients.”

Rodriguez is looking forward to the summer fellowship for networking opportunities, working with professionals doing cutting-edge research, and practicing public speaking in anticipation of presenting data at a research conference.