Research Highlight: Lauren Powell

by arowsey on April 26, 2021

I had the opportunity to speak with Lauren Powell concerning her research with Dr. Bucholz concerning the empathic differences between conservatives and liberals. 

Can you describe what your research project is about?

The most recent research Dr. Buchholz and I have presented was a study about the empathic differences between conservatives and liberals. Right now, we are looking at the use of fear appeals in politics and the levels of fear related to the 2020 U.S. presidential election. For this, we posted a survey in several different politically-leaning Facebook groups and had users fill it out. In the survey, we assessed fear and worry related to different core political issues, fears directly related to the election (ex., vote-counting issues), as well as fears related to the outcome of the election. We also included some empathy scales.

Why did you decide to do research?

To start, my brother is 7 years older than me. He is about to finish up and graduate from his Ph.D. program in school psychology. In the summer before my freshman year, my brother gave me two pieces of advice to take with me to undergrad: during your freshman year, put making friends over academics. It sounds weird, and of course, it doesn’t mean to flunk out during your first year as it’s all about balance, but make sure that you have a solid base of friends otherwise college won’t be a good time for you. The second was to DO RESEARCH! I’ve known for pretty much ever that I wanted to go on to grad school and eventually get my doctorate in Clinical Psychology and doing as much research as you can is a really, really good way to get there. Of course, maintaining a solid GPA is just as important, but having research experience is really important as well. It really helps you stand out from other applicants because at a bigger school, you might not have as many opportunities to do research with an advisor as you may be competing with graduate students (who I promise will come before an undergraduate student) for a spot in a lab. I was recently accepted into the University of Lynchburg’s Clinical Mental Health Counseling M.Ed. program, and I think that because my GPA wasn’t super high during my undergraduate years, the research really helped to bump me up to the top applicants and eventually got me a spot in their program.

How has your experience with your research advisor been?

I loved working with Dr. Buchholz for the past four years and wouldn’t change a thing. He was (and continues to be!) so helpful and understanding when it comes to research – if I had any questions about what I was supposed to be doing in our lab, in class, or just in general, he was always there to point me in the right direction. He never got mad when I came had shortcomings with my work because he always understood that some weeks I just had too much going on and not a lot of time left for our research. Dr. Buchholz and I have become friends at this point – in our meetings that we have every two weeks, a lot of the time is spent catching up and talking about what’s going on in my life and how he’s doing. COVID has really made our lab meetings interesting because we’re doing them via Zoom now, but we still make it work.

What has been your favorite or most interesting part of your research project so far?

For this project, I really enjoyed figuring out what core issues were important to both parties. It’s always fun to think about the other side and what’s important to them. I also enjoyed joining the Facebook groups and seeing what people with different opinions than my own have to say. Looking at the results of our data collection of course is always fun. Right now, I’m working on our paper and while that isn’t my favorite part it’s interesting to see how everything comes together in the end and all of the work we’ve done has produced a well-written and documented paper. We will be presenting our findings at APS’s virtual conference in May!

What would you say to current and incoming students interested in doing research?

Research in any field/major is super important – it’s important to keep researching to grow and improve the field. It’s really cool to be a part of that process. You read a lot of scientific articles/academic journals when you’re in college, and it’s neat to be able to understand what the researchers in the article you’re reading did because you have the experience. You’ll really learn to understand data analysis too, which again, makes the articles you would be reading regardless of if you’re involved in research or not a lot easier to understand. Additionally, you get the experience you need to improve your CV or your resumé. If you’re looking to continue your education at a graduate school after your time at Roanoke, a CV full of research experience is a really good tool to have to stand out from other applicants. You also become really involved and build close relationships with the faculty member(s) you work with – Dr. Buchholz is absolutely one of my favorite professors at Roanoke. I know that I can go to him for just about anything and I know he is always going to be there to help me, and that’s something I really hold close to my heart. He’s not only a professor to me but a friend as well! Another cool thing about doing research at Roanoke is that you will get the opportunity to attend conferences all around the country. I’ve been to two different conferences during my four years at Roanoke – one in Atlanta, GA my freshman year (which was really cool! Not a lot of students can say that they went and presented their research at a conference as a freshman!), and one in New Orleans, LA in February of 2020, right before COVID hit. Both were unforgettable experiences that I will always be grateful for. All in all, doing research at Roanoke really made me fall even more in love with the school and the faculty and I would recommend conducting research to every student! 

Anything else?

Applying to become a research fellow was hands down the most useful, productive, and important thing that I did at Roanoke. I remember before I started college, my brother told me that it was important to try and get involved in research especially as a psychology major with plans for graduate school. The Research Fellows program is awesome! You not only get the experience that is absolutely crucial for pursuing a masters degree or Ph.D. early, but you also get course credit and you get paid. Having the extra GPA boost each semester from the course credit I receive in return for doing research is always nice – I know that I work hard in our lab and it’s nice that my hard work and dedication to the research reflects on my institutional GPA. It’s also nice getting paid to do something I love to do!

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