My internship at Dr. Kristen Lindquist’s lab at UNC Chapel Hill this summer has been a highlight of my research career. Thanks to this experience, I have been able to significantly further my understanding of how the brain constructs emotion, which is a topic I have been interested in since high school.
For 8 weeks, I got the chance to immerse myself in cutting-edge affective science research which completely changed the way I thought of what emotional states were and what kind of role the body plays in the construction of emotion. My main project over the summer was to continue work on a neuroimaging meta-analysis on the brain-based relationship between emotional states and body states that I had started over the previous summer.
I say continue because I had first received the SPUR award in 2016, but had to request for a deferral to this summer because certain visa restrictions meant that I couldn’t secure a visa to the US. Dr. Lindquist was still kind enough to take me in as a remote intern in 2016 and thus I was able to work on the meta-analysis over the year preceding my internship this summer.
As part of this main project, I was able to learn not only how to search for, evaluate and code literature looking at the neural coordinate correlates of physiological states, but also how to actually run the meta-analysis itself using MATLAB NeuroElf and Multilevel Peak Kernel Density Analysis.
How meta-analyses are conducted was previously a daunting mystery to me but it was made very accessible to me at the lab and I was able to pick it up with relative ease. My work at the lab, therefore, not only allowed me to dive deeper into the affective science research questions I was interested in, but also instilled a love in me for the methodological and statistical techniques that go behind answering such complex questions.
While the meta-analysis was my main focus, I am also very grateful for the efforts that my doctoral student mentor Jennifer MacCormack put into creating a well-structured internship for me that included many other learning opportunities.
For example, one of the components that I found to be incredibly useful was reading and discussing papers from a variety of areas such as embodied emotion, psychological constructionism, and the MKDA method. These stimulating discussions allowed me to both better understand the theory and context behind my main project and also test my ideas on those individual topics.
Another component that was included due to my interest in embodiment was learning how to evaluate and score psychophysiological data. I was able to get significant first-hand experience in coding, preparing and analysing raw EKG, BP and Cardiac impedance data in Biolab and I was also able to learn what measures can be derived from such data, how they are calculated and how they are used.
All in all, the SPUR internship was one of the best learning experiences of my life and has only confirmed that graduate school is the right path for me. I am extremely grateful to SPSP, Dr. Lindquist and Jennifer for not only making this learning opportunity in the lab possible, but also making the entire trip to Chapel Hill unforgettable. Thank you so much!