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Hands-on Experience in Research Labs

Posted in: Research

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Hands-on Research

Students gain real-world experience in cutting-edge labs

Students in Laura Lakusta’s infant research lab are exploring new frontiers to understand how children develop language. “There is so much we don’t know,” said Laura Lakusta, professor in the Department of Psychology, so there is endless opportunity for inquiry in her lab.

In past decades, in order to understand language development, researchers relied on what children said themselves and parent’s accounts of understanding, but now, thanks to sophisticated eye-tracking equipment investigators can now use implicit measures which are more reliable and can help detect language comprehension even earlier. For example, Lakusta’s latest study involves infants as young as six months.

Keeping close tabs on the literature to learn about cognitive discoveries across the globe, Lakusta and her team of research assistants then chart out new areas to investigate: designing experiments, recruiting study participants, and carefully collecting data in the Cognitive and Language Development Lab.

Lakusta and collaborator Barbara Landau at Johns Hopkins University recently received a three-year, $500,000 National Science Foundation Research grant for research on: “Interactions Between Language and Cognition in the Early Acquisition of Spatial Language.”

For students, this grant means a busy summer ahead. In July and August, six students will be working as paid research assistants in Lakusta’s lab. Their tasks will include analyzing and coding videos of how infants look at different stimuli, greeting participants, and calibrating equipment. Lab manager Melanie Lawrie, a graduate student in Psychology, is responsible for organizing the flow.

For two others, Maria Brucato ’17 and Carla Iroldi, they got funding to develop experiments while working at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. They are working with Landau, the grant’s co-investigator who is the Dick and Lydia Todd Professor of Cognitive Science and the director of the Science of Learning Institute. In the fall, Brucato will begin a PhD program at Temple University, while Iroldi will return to Montclair State to complete her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in psychology as part of the five-year BA/MA program.

Student inquiry in psychology, digital humanities, linguistics, and more

Students across the College of Humanities and Social Sciences collaborate with faculty year-round in our psychology research labs, as well as areas of digital humanities, linguistics, and more. Through study at research institutions, students can gain new understanding about their fields as well as experience to set themselves apart when applying to competitive graduate programs. These collaborations also teach day-to-day skills that are essential for job seekers in any field including: data analysis, organization, interpersonal communication, and technology.

Faculty-student research is just one of many hands-on opportunities for CHSS students. Others include student clubs and honor societies, on-campus employment, internships and cooperative education opportunities, and more. Visit our career management pages for more on how students in the humanities and social sciences can prepare for success after their Montclair State experience.