Psychology Faculty Research Open House: Celebrating Research & Faculty-Student Collaboration

Full House at Psychology Faculty Open House

More than 18 faculty members from the  Department of Psychology  presented their latest research at the  Psychology Research Open House on Monday, November 18, 2013 in 163 Behavioural Science Building. The well-attended event, organized by Dr. Alexandra Rutherford, Dr. Jill Rich and the Undergraduate Psychology Students’ Association, was a faculty version of the annual poster day that all psychology students enrolled in an Honours Thesis class participate in  every spring.

“We used to do a 2-day in-house conference with 15-minute presentations from faculty members, but we found attendance waning and people were just coming for individual presentations and leaving. This year we wanted to do something more inclusive, something that allowed students and faculty to really discuss the value of research,” said Dr. Rich.

“Faculty really enjoy going to the spring open house to see what students’ research interests are, but we realized that sometimes, within a school as big as Psychology, which sometimes feels like its own faculty, even other faculty members are not fully aware of what kind of research is going on,”  said Dr. Rutherford, “So we decided to organize this for two reasons: first, to help students access their professors outside of class time and to provide an opportunity to see what kind of research is happening within their sch ool, and second, to open research up to other faculty members and support the psychology community.”

Dr. Rutherford’s research display, entitled Gendering science: Psychologies of gender and gendered psychologies in the 20th and 21st centuries, explores how cultures of masculinity, constructions of gender, and the politics of knowledge have affected the scientific and social practices of both 20th and 21st century psychologists as they sought to define not only the field’s subject matter and methods, but the very kind of person a scientists should be. Through her research, Dr. Rutherford seeks to promote public discussion about the relationships among feminism, gender and science in the 21st century.

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The large poster boards throughout the room provided students and visitors with accessible summaries of the various faculty research projects and faculty members were on hand next to their displays to answer questions and provide additional information. Dr. Laurence Harris, who is also Director of the Centre for Vision Research, and who works with the Canadian Space Agency, created a summary poster board for all of the research projects in his multisensory lab. Dr. Harris’ research display, entitled Multisensory science: Vision, touch, hearing, orientation and the body, explores how the senses are mapped onto the vestibular system, the sensory system that contributes to balance in most mammals and to the sense of spatial orientation, especially “how the brain sees and experiences movement.” He is expecting a virtual reality machine to be installed in his lab soon, and is working on “how to create an out-of-body experience” in a measurable way.

Many of the research topics on display around the room   highlighted subjects that have received widespread media attention in recent years, including: “Laptop multitasking hinders classroom learning,” “Stigma and self-stigma of mental illness,” and “Culture, gender, and intergenerational conflict for second-generation Canadians”.

“This is really like a research cocktail party,” said Suzanne MacDonald, Chair of the School of Psychology. “We’re definitely looking forward to making this an annual event.”

Professor Talking to a Student - Psychology Faculty Open House

"The Psychology Faculty Research Poster Day was a phenomenal opportunity for faculty members to learn more about one another's work; but most importantly, it was a fantastic opportunity for undergraduate students to engage with our researchers and learn more about the research and potential opportunities for graduate school," said Faculty of Health Associate Dean, Research, Dr. William Gage. "There was a tonne of enthusiasm among the students, evidenced by so many students huddling around each professor's poster. This is a model event for engaging undergraduate students, and others, in research."