Undergrad Research Labs
The unifying themes in my action-research, clinical work, and policy/advocacy are the development of positive, constructive life paths for children and youth and the organization of opportunities to allow this to happen in equitable ways. This has brought me into areas such as social-emotional learning (SEL), its more recent variation, social-emotional and character development (SECD), emotional intelligence, social competence promotion, character education, primary prevention, school-based, evidence-based intervention, and socialization of identity. It has also brought my work increasingly into the areas of implementation and sustainability of interventions, and cutting edge issues such as the link of SECD and academics and the distinguishing features of sustainable, versus well-implemented, empirically supported innovations. Finally, I have most recently begun to work in the area of promoting civic engagement among Rutgers University students via the creation of a Collaborative for Community-Based Research and Service (engage.rutgers.edu).
I have worked to establish the field of prevention, school-based preventive intervention, and social competence promotion as a credible, important, and rigorous area of research, practice, and public policy. To accomplish the latter, collaborative models are necessary, as are programs of longitudinal, synergistic action-research with an explicit eye to practice and policy. Thus, I have organized my work within the Rutgers Social-Emotional Learning Lab (http://www.rci.rutgers.edu/~melias/ and www.edutopia.org/user/67). The Lab is dedicated to conducting action-research in public, private, and religious school settings for the purpose of building children’s skills for facing the tests of life, and not a life of tests. It focuses on understanding the relationship of academic achievement, social-emotion competencies, and the development of character and a core set of life principles, and the development of school-based interventions to strengthen social-emotion skills , character, and one’s Laws of Life, and prevent bullying, violence and victimization, substance abuse, and related problem behaviors.
Projects of the Rutgers Social-Emotional Learning Lab focus on students and their school, family, and community environments. We employ a project-based, constructivist and inquiry-oriented social-learning approach to pedagogy and a developmental ecological-community psychology approach to understanding settings and designing, delivering, and evaluating interventions. In addition, we carry out applied research related to bullying/youth violence, victimization, character development and identity, spirituality, purpose, and forgiveness, social-emotional and social decision making skills, social support, classroom organization, management, and discipline, test anxiety and motivation, menschlekheit development in schools and families, Jewish education, emotional intelligence, and the design, implementation, and sustainability of preventive interventions.
Current projects include:
- Developing Schools of Character in New Brunswick and Jersey City
- Improving School Climate for Academic and Life Success
- Laws of Life and Social-Emotional Learning in the Schools: A Longitudinal Action-Research Project
- Implementation and Sustainability of School-Based Interventions
- Assessment and Improvement of Civic Engagement
- Social-Emotional Learning and Academic Achievement/Closing Achievement Gaps Project
- Empowerment , Leadership, and Service-Learning Groups for At-Risk Girls and Boy
My research concerns perceptual organization, grouping, visual similarity, shape representation, object categorization, and other aspects of human visual cognition.
Douglass Develomental Disabilities Center
Behavioral and educational research conducted with children and adults with autism. Areas of research include evaluating the effectiveness of treatment procedures, assessing family functioning, and influencing social behavior in autism.
Participation includes ten hours per week of involvement in varied research activities: collection, coding, and analysis of data, systematic observation of instructional sessions and naturalistic interactions, and literature reviews.
Seminars and daily contact allow the student to share a variety of experiences with both the instructor and other students.
Open to juniors and seniors. Priority is given to students who have done field work at the Douglass Developmental Disabilities Center. ENROLLMENT IS LIMITED.
I study the causes and consequences of social injustice, gender myths, and effective teaching. My theoretical approach involves a blend of cognitive complexity, social identity, and social power. My research has shown that those with more complex cognitive representations engage in less intergroup bias, that those with a feminist identity or racial identity engage in less bias, and that these social identities relate to higher levels of cognitive complexity. Other social researchers have shown that those with high social power are less cognitively complex, and engage in more intergroup bias. In combination these results suggest that being raised with social power (e.g., dominant ethnic, gender, or economic group) makes one less cognitively complex, which in turn makes one less aware of social injustice and more likely to blame victims and lash out at low power groups. Inducing cognitive complexity helps to reduce intergroup biases and social injustice.
Current projects include:
- the role of feminist identity and cognitive complexity on the acceptance of myths regarding victims of sexual assault
- manipulating cognitive complexity to reduce intergroup biases
- gender differences in cognitive complexity (women are more complex)
- political ideology and cognitive complexity
- how prejudice and discrimination are presented in textbooks
- how gender dysphoria is presented in textbooks
- the role of cognitive complexity and collective esteem in depression
Future projects with potential Spring 2018 start dates:
- outgroup hatred versus ingroup preference in explaining intergroup biases
- feminist pedagogy
Qualifications for working with Dr. Foels include:
- psychology major
- GPA of 3.3 or greater
- strong library skills
- commitment to 9 hours a week of research activities
Dr. Arnold Glass
Human cognition is best understood in terms of a set of inter-connected functional neural systems. There is a huge need for functional schematics and functional anatomical maps of these systems and I have taken up this challenge. Anyone who likes to draw and is interested in neuroscience will find this work very rewarding.
Our understanding of human cognition has many important practical implications for the area of education. I am doing classroom based experiments that test instructional methodologies that improve academic performance. I now have a massive amount of data from 10 years of experiment that I must analyze by fitting the data to mathematical models. Anyone who is willing to perform the tedious but essential task of downloading the data and organizing it in a spreadsheet format for further analysis will find this work rewarding.
When we see or hear, our brains are transforming information from one form into another. So our brains are information processing systems, just like computers are. Computers can electronically perform operations much faster than our brains. But the procedures that our brains use for transforming information are much faster and more efficient than those currently used by computers. Describing the procedures that the brain uses to encode and retrieve information is the goal of my research. Students who enjoy mathematics and/or computer programming who are interested in how the mind works should find this work fascinating.
Rutgers Whole School Restorative Practices Project
The Morningside Center Whole School Restorative Practices (RP) Project is a randomized controlled trial (RCT) of a whole school discipline reform program based on integrating restorative practices and social emotional learning (SEL) curriculum in 18 K-12 public schools in Brooklyn, NY. The whole school RP program is designed to build community among administrators, teachers, staff, students, and families within a school to strengthen relationships and reduce exclusionary discipline, like office discipline referrals and suspensions. Our program evaluation asks: Does the Whole School RP Project have a positive impact on reducing overall discipline referrals and especially reducing disparities in discipline referrals of Black, male, and special education students in elementary, middle, and high schools in a high needs district? RCT evaluation will be based on NYC DOE data records of discipline, attendance, and achievement, as well as survey, interview, and focus group data collected in the spring of each school year for three years. Data will be collected using schoolwide surveys for teachers and students to measure SEL competencies and perceptions of school climate in the program implementation schools with RP and in the business-as-usual schools for comparison.
The Rutgers Evaluation team is interested in recruiting highly motivated undergraduate research assistants to play a vital role in collecting and processing data to evaluate the impact of the whole school RP project. This will be an outstanding opportunity for students interested in a large scale, multi-year research project and intervention focused on reducing punitive punishment and exclusionary discipline, closing the discipline gap for Black, male, and special education students, strengthening teachers’ and students’ SEL skills, and improving overall school climate. We seek students who might be able to commit to the project over multiple semesters.
Undergraduate research assistants working with this project will:
- earn course credit for a psych 300 level or 400 level course;
- gain research experience in a multi-year RCT in high-needs elementary, middle, and high schools;
- assist in the collecting and processing of research data, including teacher surveys, student surveys, and program implementation data;
- learn about and discuss racial inequities in schools, especially involving the reducing the discipline gap
- Begin work in January 2018 for the spring semester and continue through Spring 2020 (if possible).
- Rutgers academic credit may be awarded for each fall and spring semester.
- Approximately 8 hours per week between the hours of 9am and 5pm in the GSAPP building including a lab team meeting, schedule to be determined.
- CITI online basic course for involvement in human subject research.
- Some volunteer hours over the summer term (financial compensation may be available for summer hours)
- Site visits to Brooklyn schools for survey administration in May of each program year (2018-2020); reimbursement for travel to school sites is available, schedule to be determined.
- NYC DOE fingerprinting and background check in order to enter schools.
Students interested in applying to participate in the Whole School RP Project should submit a completed application along with a current resume to project manager Allison Ward-Seidel. Applications can be found on Psychweb:
click here for application
. Application deadline is Wednesday, Nov 15, 2017.
We are currently looking for a part time lab assistant for the 2017-18 academic year. Please visit our lab website to apply.
How do people use information from complex naturalistic environments when retrieving information from memory? My research focuses on the relationship between mental representations of the environment and episodic memory, and how people use knowledge and expectations about their environment to make decisions. To better understand the cognitive goals underlying memory I combine computational modeling with behavioral experiments.
Current studies include:
How do prior knowledge and expectations about objects in natural and ransom scenes influence episodic memory?
How do people categorize color and how do prior expectations about color influence episodic memory?
How does the natural frequency of, and object or word affect recognition and recall?
How can prior knowledge be useful in assessing the validity of eyewitness testimony?
How do people use natural frequencies when reasoning?
Research in the lab is heavily dependent on the use of computers. Familiarity with Matlab programming and/or strong skills in photoshop are very helpful.
Racism Identity Coping and Health (RICH) Lab
We are currently inviting interested and enthusiastic individuals to apply to be research assistants in the Racism, Identity, Coping, and Health (RICH) Lab under the direction of Dr. Lori Hoggard, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology (Social area). We seek to understand the physical and mental health consequences of racism and discrimination encountered by African Americans and members of other racial/ethnic minority groups. In doing so, we focus on identity, coping, and important mechanisms that underlie the associations between racism and health. The lab employs diverse approaches, including surveys, experiments, and psychophysiological (e.g., heart rate, heart rate variability, blood pressure) methods.
Research assistants in the RICH lab are expected to be exceptional undergraduates with an interest in psychology. Although previous research experience is not required, it is expected that most applicants will have completed basic introductory psychology courses. We also ask that students only apply if they are able to commit at least two semesters to working in the lab. As such, preference will be given to sophomore and junior applicants with a GPA of 3.0 or higher. Finally, research assistants will generally be expected to spend approximately 5-10 hours/week in the lab, although specific days and hours are flexible.
Please visit our lab website at http://www.rurichlab.com/join-the-lab.html for an application.
My research is concerned with mental time travel, that is, how we think about the past and future and how memory and foresight abilities develop. We currently have a number of studies underway that examine various aspects of autobiographical memory and future thinking in children and adults:
1. Development of future thinking in preschool children. We are collecting data on how children at 3 and 4 years of age reason about the future. Some of the questions we are concerned with include: Is it easier to imagine oneself in the future or another person? Is the ability to think about the future related to the development of working memory and/or executive function skills?
2. Autobiographic memory and the life story. How do specific autobiographical memories contribute to the development of a person's life story?
3. Planning and time management. Is the ability to plan for the future related to the ability to manage one's time effectively?
4. Mother-child interaction and the development of future thinking. How do conversations between mothers and children about future events contribute to the development of future thinking in young children?
5. Development of time concepts. How do young children learn to think about the past and future in terms of conventional units of time (e.g., hours, days, months and so on)? What role
do parents and teachers play in this development?