Ahmed Alattas's Summer 2019 SPUR Reflection

Ahmed Alattas headshotOne of the most exciting moments of my undergraduate journey was when I received an email update from SPSP about my SPUR application status with the message “Congratulations! You have been chosen as one of ten students to participate in this year’s SPUR!” I was in disbelief and overjoyed by the opportunity. Not able to contain my excitement, I directly informed my PI in the lab (Dr. Sapna Cheryan) at the University of Washington who had encouraged me to apply to SPUR.

Before coming to New York City, I had many concerns regarding the future (e.g., applying for graduate schools, studying for the GRE, etc.). When I arrived to the Social and Moral Cognition Lab, I realized that Dr. Larisa Heiphetz had prepared a comprehensive program for the summer research assistants (RAs) with weekly sessions related to research and professional development. This weekly guidance provided clarity to some of my unanswered questions with regards to the future. The lab manager, Redeate Wolle, was very welcoming and provided thorough training to prepare me for my role for the summer. I found the other members of the lab were just as accepting, cooperative, and willing to share their research experiences with me. Taken together, I felt like I belonged in the lab, which allowed me to adapt to my new role quickly. James Dunlea, who is a graduate student in the lab, was incredibly helpful and attentive to any question I had. He was a role model for all the research assistants and provided mentorship whenever he could. I felt extremely lucky to have worked with him and he made me feel supported and as if my contribution mattered.

As an RA, I worked on daily tasks, which included: data collection and entry, recruiting, etc. As part of data collection, we visited an off-site testing location, the Brooklyn Children Museum (BCM). At BCM, I learned valuable skills on how to approach families to tell them about the studies we’re running, consent families for those studies, as well as how to keep the children engaged when going through the protocol. I found it intriguing to see how labs differ in the way they design and execute to answer their research questions. Additionally, having an offsite testing location allowed see other parts of the city and not be confined to just the lab space.

The weekly lab meetings included very useful workshops with Dr. Heiphetz and the graduate students. The workshops included: applying to graduate school, personal statement writing, CV/resume building, and so much more. These sessions were not only educational and informative, but helpful to any career path I would take. Above and beyond that, I collected data for James’ project investigating how children attribute knowledge of moral and conventional norms to targets that are described as either having an incarcerated parent, or a non-incarcerated parent. I am hoping to present some of these findings as a poster at the annual 2020 SPSP conference. 

I am incredibly grateful to SPSP’s committee for this great opportunity that allowed me to grow and develop as a researcher. I would also like to thank Dr. Larisa Heiphetz, Dr. Sapna Cheryan, Redeate Wolle, Emily Nakkawita, and James Dunlea for making my summer worthwhile. Being at SAMC Lab this summer really helped me clarify my future plans, enhance my research skills, and made me feel prepared for graduate school. I am definitely leaving this internship with more clarity than when I began. Overall, it was one of the most meaningful experiences I have had and I will take it with me anywhere I go.

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