Support for student research

The BPS has awarded 19 stipends to undergraduate researchers. Ella Rhodes reports.

This year the British Psychological Society has awarded 19 stipends to undergraduate students who will gain research experience over the summer break. Among the projects chosen for funding are investigations of human-robot interactions and voice identity perception.

Student Mandy Norrbo (University of Glasgow), with support from Dr Phil McAleer, will explore how we recognise people from their voices, and whether age has an effect on the accuracy of that recognition. ‘The project I am involved in looks specifically at how children, compared to adults, recognise voice identity. As there is currently, to my knowledge, no research looking at how voice identity perception develops with age, I am very keen on exploring that uncharted area! It will be fascinating to investigate whether voice identity perception develops in the same way as face identity perception.’

Norrbo will design and create her voice recognition experiment and, after a pilot, plans to run the experiment at Glasgow Science Centre. She is also hoping to write her own R script for later statistical analysis. ‘Our hypothesis is that the ability to recognise speakers will increase as a function of age in a staged fashion consistent with face perception research.’

Dr Maria Panagiotidi (University of Salford) will support student Michelle Wain in exploring the effect of an interaction with a companion robot on psychophysiology and mood. Wain has been working as a research assistant on a project involving virtual reality which sparked an interest in cognitive psychology and cyberpsychology. ‘Maria’s proposed study incorporates both areas of my degree of psychology and counselling through looking at the potential of companion robots being used in robot therapy and social healthcare. I find the area of cyberpsychology a fascinating and innovative field… [with] potential benefits that emerge from the interaction of humans and machines. Moreover, it’s an area which I would like to potentially focus on for my third year dissertation project.’

Student Maisie Lo will be working with Dr Amy Paine (Cardiff University) on a project exploring the associations between parent-child relationship quality and the neurodevelopmental profiles of adopted children. Lo will gain experience working on the longitudinal Wales Adoption Study, Adopting Together Study, and collecting data at the Neurodevelopmental Assessment Unit at Cardiff University. ‘I shall also be conducting literature reviews and data coding for a sub-project… which will look at the interaction and collaboration between the mother and child as they have to work together to draw a house with an Etch-a Sketch.’

Paine, who works as a Research Associate on the Wales Adoption Study, said she had been motivated to apply for the BPS scheme for a number of reasons. ‘First, Maisie Lo is an excellent and proactive student who is interested in a career as a researcher. Maisie approached us for experience in a developmental research setting. This project will give her insight and experience in a vast range of neurodevelopmental assessments, literature reviewing, observational coding, through to data analysis, write up, and dissemination of a research project.’

Applicants to the Undergraduate Research Assistantship Scheme must be members of the Society who are active psychology researchers employed by a UK higher education institution, who may then appoint an undergraduate student who is finishing the penultimate year of their degree to become their Research Assistant in the summer break. Students must be completing a Society-accredited undergraduate degree (or equivalent) in psychology and be expecting a 2.1 or first class degree. The award provides a student stipend of £200 per week for a six to eight week project. 

For more information and to apply for the scheme (from November 1st this year) see: tinyurl.com/y89endtj

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