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K-State Today

June 30, 2014

Department of psychological sciences recognizes outstanding students

By Communications and Marketing

The department of psychological sciences recognized several of its students for excellence in research and contributions to the department. The students were presented with awards at the department's annual spring banquet.

Zhe Wang, May 2014 bachelor's graduate in psychology with a minor in statistics, China, received the J. C. Peterson Prize for Outstanding Graduating Senior in Psychology. The prize is presented for outstanding contributions to the psychological sciences program and the overall field of psychology. In addition to an excellent academic record, Wang worked concurrently in three different psychological sciences research labs: Gary Brase’s evolution and cognition lab, Kimberly Kirkpatrick’s behavioral neuroscience lab and Michael Young’s cognitive/ electroencephalography lab. Wang was previously awarded a Doreen Shanteau Undergraduate Research Fellowship for her project in the Brase lab, which studied computational models of how people evaluate mate value of others as a function of their own traits. She also was an undergraduate research assistant at the Mathematics/Q-Center at Kansas State University and participated in the 2013 mathematical contest in modeling/ interdisciplinary contest in modeling. Wang is a co-author on a recent conference poster, one published research article, and a paper under review. She will be attending the neuroscience doctoral program at the University of Rochester in August.

Conor O’Dea,May 2014 bachelor's graduate in psychology, Manhattan, received the E. J. Phares Prize for Outstanding Undergraduate Research. The prize is presented to a psychology student who has excelled at research. O’Dea worked in Donald Saucier’s social psychology research laboratory and Lester Loschky’s visual cognition research laboratory since 2012. He has collaborated on many projects including his contributions to projects examining how prejudice is perceived in ambiguous situations and how information in visual scenes is processed. O’Dea received a Doreen Shanteau Undergraduate Research Fellowship in 2013. He is a co-author on a manuscript reporting the motivations associated with opposition to diversity programs on college campuses and has presented five posters at national and regional conferences. O’Dea will be continuing his education at K-State, where he will pursue his doctorate in social-personality psychology under the direction of Saucier.

Michele Ulmer, senior in psychology with a focus on behavioral neuroscience, Manhattan, received the Leon Rappoport Psychology Scholarship for a nontraditional student in psychology. The scholarship is presented to an outstanding nontraditional student in psychology. Ulmer will receive this scholarship during the 2014-2015 academic year. She is working in Mary Cain’s research laboratory on a project where she is examining how the brain changes caused by differential rearing alter vulnerability to drug abuse. In addition to conducting research in the fall 2014 semester, Ulmer also will be a recitation leader for general psychology. “Michele is an extremely motivated student with a passion for behavior neuroscience," Cain said. "While she has only been in my laboratory for one semester, she has quickly acquired our laboratory skills and the theoretical background for our research.”

Madelyn Ray, junior in psychology, Tulsa; Derrick Till, senior in psychology, Manhattan; and Andrew Tenbrink, senior in psychology, Shawnee, received the Doreen Shanteau Undergraduate Research Fellowship. The fellowship is a $500 award to upper-division undergraduate students in psychology to work with a faculty mentor on psychological research. Each will conduct their research projects during the 2014-2015 academic year.

The students will present their research at the department's annual Undergraduate Research Convocation in the spring and submit their findings for publication in a psychology journal. James Shanteau, a university distinguished professor emeritus of psychology, established the fellowship in honor of his wife.

Ray will conduct research on laboratory rats to determine whether lesions of orbitofrontal cortex will impair performance in a novel version of the reversal learning task, where one choice is correct, or rewarded, and another choice is incorrect and then the choices are switched. Ray predicts that orbitofrontal cortex lesions will impair reversal learning performance, and she will likely follow up this experiment by examining which brain areas orbitofrontal cortex communicates with in reversal learning. She will conduct this project with her faculty mentor, Charles Pickens, in the area of behavioral neuroscience.

Tillwill conduct a study to test his prediction that those who possess extreme liberal and conservative opinions tend to share the similar underlying personality trait of social vigilantism. He predicts that group identification and values may not be the primary driving force behind the passionate and rigid promotion of ideological viewpoints. Instead, individuals who possess polarized political attitudes may promote them to fulfill psychological needs to argue that the beliefs they hold are the best. He will conduct his project with his faculty mentor, Don Saucier, in the area of social psychology.

Tenbrinkis studying the effects of explicit performance goals on the timely completion of a video game task. He is particularly interested in whether goals based on the performance of a social cohort will prompt greater behavioral change, and whether higher performance goals will produce greater exploration of alternative strategies in an attempt to meet these loftier aspirations. He will conduct his project with his faculty mentor, Michael Young, in the area of cognitive psychology.