This summer, scientific methodology and mountain hiking are in store for Kayla Boaz, an Ohio Northern University junior majoring in psychology. A Fulbright Canada MITACS Globalink internship will take her to Vancouver, where she will work at the University of British Columbia’s Centre for Infant Cognition.
Boaz will assist Dr. J. Kylie Hamlin, UBC’s professor of psychology and Centre director, with research that focuses on the earliest development origins of the human moral sense. According to the UBC, Hamlin studies “preverbal infants who lack language, sophisticated cognitive abilities” to determine the how and when the extensive influence of cultural norms and values impact their moral judgement.
During her 12-week internship, Boaz will work full time. She says her duties will include assisting with statistical analyses, detailing study methodologies for the academic community prior to publication and possibly coding. She’ll also have opportunities to attend industry events across Canada.
This Fulbright Canada internship was competitive and involved an extensive application process. Candidates who rise to the top are then matched with one of the academic research programs they aspire to work with.
Boaz says when she received the news in February that she had been accepted at UBC, she leaped out of bed at 7:30 a.m. to tell her parents. The internship will serve as a key step in her goal to earn a Ph.D. in clinical psychology, a notoriously difficult degree to obtain; the American Psychological Association states acceptance rates are around 12%. If she succeeds, Boaz says such a degree would allow her to enjoy the best of both professional worlds: provide therapy and conduct research.
“I’ve always been interested in psychology and figuring out how the brain works,” says Boaz. “Even as a kid, I was trying to figure out why people felt the way that they did. I think that really drew me to this field.”
The West Chester, Ohio native is particularly interested in how Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder impacts people beyond the classroom. According to the CDC, an estimated 6.1 million U.S. children ranging in age from 2 to 17 have been diagnosed with the disorder, making it one of the most common childhood disorders. It can continue through adolescence into adulthood. The overall prevalence of adult ADHD is 4.4%, National Institutes of Health statistics show.
At ONU, Boaz, who is in the Honors Program, has already been taking advantage of research opportunities, including in the Human Behavioral Neuroscience Lab managed by Phillip Zoladz, Ph.D., professor of psychology. The lab examines the impact of acute stress on memory formation with the hopes of understanding basic physiological behavioral factors that impact the development of traumatic memories. Students working in the lab gain experience in experimental design, data collection in human participants, data scoring, data analysis and poster/manuscript preparation. Research in the lab has been funded by the National Institute of Mental Health.
“Kayla has a drive for acquiring knowledge that I rarely observe in undergraduate students,” says Zoladz. “She not only attempts to understand, but to master the concepts taught in each of her courses and in my research laboratory. Kayla has a genuine passion for research and, as one of my research assistants she has developed the skills necessary to navigate the day-to-day obstacles involved in empirical research.”
Zoladz says he believes Boaz has a promising professional future. “Her hard-working attitude and intellectual curiosity have her well on her way to becoming a successful, independent research scientist,” he notes.
Boaz says she has “gotten a lot” out of her work in the Human Behavioral Neuroscience Lab, and is “excited to see what research looks like at a bigger university.”
Living in Vancouver is also something that thrills Boaz. Along with being one of Canada’s most populous and ethnically diverse cities, it is situated alongside the North Shore Mountains that offer unparalleled views and terrain.
“I love to travel. I spent the past two summers working in the Grand Tetons as a server because I love the mountains,” says Boaz. “The fact that this internship is in Vancouver is so incredible. “I’m hoping on weekends we’ll get to hike and really experience the city. I think that being able to combine my two favorite things – traveling and psychological research – for my third summer in college is just the best thing ever.”