Sonia Baron's Summer 2018 SPUR Reflection

Sonia Baron headshotI think one of the most exciting days of my undergraduate years was when I received the acceptance email to the SPUR 2018 cohort on winter break last year. Before I knew it, I was wrapping up my junior year and getting ready to head off to California for eight weeks. I was a research assistant for Kiara Sanchez in the Dweck-Walton lab at Stanford University. It was overwhelming to fly across the country for the summer, particularly in the middle of looking for grad school programs and studying for the GRE. Many of those feelings went away once I met Kiara and started to discuss our research interests and her work in the lab.

The first week consisted of us going through the papers that relevant to the lab’s work. By the end of the week, I had learned how to critically read and summarize the results and methods of various studies. We also discussed any potential directions and follow up questions from these papers. From the second week, I was joined by two other research assistants, and we all started to code data from various projects.

Kiara asked me on our first meeting if I had ever worked with qualitative data. Though I have never gone through qualitative responses before this summer, I can now say that after eight weeks I can analyze, classify, and code qualitative data. Each project introduced me to different stages of this process, and by the end of the program, I had a comprehensive understanding on how to run a study in social psychology.

I also go to practice coding with R. Our drive folder had some resources for practicing R, which some of us in the lab studied for a few days. But I became even more familiar with the language when I was asked to calculate the diversity index. After trying out different functions from various packages, Kiara and I found someone’s code online that I tried to rewrite to work with the data set from the study. After plenty of error and warning messages, I not only got to the code to work but was finally able to program with tidyverse!

Every Monday, the department hosted RA workshops where we all got to interact and know each other. We went through how to read papers, conduct literature reviews, and how to come up with concrete research questions on our first three meetings. Each Monday afterwards, we all had different grad students, lab managers, and faculty to talk to us about their work, and trajectory thus far in Stanford. This was a great space to meet other RAs and to learn about the labs in the psychology department.

I also sat in some lectures of a social psychology class offered by Kiara and two other grad students. Sitting in some classes helped me put some of the projects I was working on in context. It was fun to revisit some of the concepts that I had learned a while ago.

SPUR was one of the most enriching experiences in my undergraduate career, and I am thankful to SPSP for allowing me and students from underrepresented background work on research outside of our home universities. It was fun getting two know and work alongside other assistants in the lab and the department.  Besides from the work in the lab, I got to explore the community of Stanford through various panels and events open to the public. I even sat in one dissertation defense! Now I am ready to head on to my last year of undergrad and excited to continue learning about social psychology.

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