HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (March 31, 2014) – Cassandra Baldwin, Monique Whitaker, and Kelly Arnold, all psychology majors from The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), attended the Mid-South Psychology Conference held March 1 at Christian Brothers University in Memphis. And all three came back with an award for their efforts.
Master's student and Samson, Ala., native Baldwin won first place for her poster presentation about how music affects the emotional and physical response system to pictures. Senior and Powell, OH, native Whitaker won second place for her paper presentation on the psychological ownership of cancer. And senior and Huntsville native Arnold won honorable mention for her poster presentation about the way teenaged girls discuss sexual activity on social media.
"The Olympics were just wrapping up at the time, and I felt like we'd done a gold, silver, bronze sweep," says assistant professor of psychology Dr. Aurora Torres of the students' success. Fortunately, the three had had a little practice, which helped. "I teach them experimental psychology and, as part of the class, they have a poster and oral presentation," she says. "So they know how to put one together."
But even if the outcome hadn't been victorious, there is always benefit to be gained by attending. "Regardless of if they win, they get that experience," she continues. And that's something that all department faculty, not just Dr. Torres, encourage. "We have a good record of mentoring students to develop a sound record, and one way to do that is for undergrads to compete against each other by presenting at conferences."
The Olympics were just wrapping up at the time, and I felt like we'd done a gold, silver, bronze sweep.
Dr. Aurora Torres
UAH Assistant Professor of Psychology
Indeed, all three students say that they took away more than just their award from the conference. "It gave me a lot of confidence, and I'm more sure I'm on the right path," says Whitaker, referring to her research. "The feedback I received from the judges and the student questions are changing how I am doing my next project."
Baldwin agrees. "I would say the conference helped me confidence-wise as well," says the McNair Scholar and winner of this year's highest departmental honors. "Given my shyness, participating at the conference helped reinforce for me that I can talk about my ideas with other researchers. As always, it is rewarding to see that my research matters to somebody."
And the same goes for Arnold, who is planning to present at two more conferences in the near future. "Answering so many different questions from total strangers was extremely helpful," she says. "I definitely made some mistakes in the aesthetics of my poster and I saw some flaws in my presentation style, which I will correct in future."
Of course whether she will also win an award at these future conferences remains to be seen. But no matter what happens, Dr. Torres says she is sure to be impressed. "We get very invested in our students so we're proud of their achievements," she says. "I'm always proud of how our UAH students present themselves."