Biology and neuroscience double major Andrea Felix ’21 knows that medical schools are looking for students who have developed research skills as undergraduates and that gaining acceptance into a graduate program often depends on the alignment of a student’s research interests with the staff of the graduate school. Being able to do research was an essential part of Andrea’s decision to apply to Wesleyan.
“I wanted to start conducting research on my first day at Wesleyan. Dr. Holly Cole (assistant professor of psychology) welcomed me into her lab with open arms. At first I thought that I was in over my head, being a freshman and all, but I am happy that I stuck it out because now I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. This is my fourth year working in Dr. Cole’s lab.”
Cole’s research combines cognitive and social psychology. She is particularly interested in how social interactions and social pressures may influence a person’s memory. Currently four student research assistants, including Andrea, are studying how the perception of threat may impact a person’s decision to act in a prosocial manner. Cole said, “Specifically, we are conducting a study to determine how the perceived threat of COVID-19 impacts a person’s willingness to behave in ways that promote the wellbeing of others during the pandemic. This includes behaviors such as wearing a mask, avoiding large crowds, etc.”
Andrea said she feels comfortable designing experiments, conducting controlled tests, and providing analysis in other classes because of the experience she has gained from working in Cole’s lab. In addition to Cole’s guidance, Andrea appreciates learning the value of teamwork and how to be a good teammate. “The truth is that there could never be good teamwork without the sum of its parts: good teammates. Having a professor lead a cohort of students allows each student to grow into better teammates and improve skills like communication, finding previous research, and ideation that we need to be productive in a research lab. I have used these skills in other classes. I learned to take the lead and instruct others on making valuable contributions to a team.”