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Psychology major chosen as 2004 UW President’s Medalist

Heather Knapp, Hansang Cho, Marie Ng and David Corina with Marie’s poster at the 2004 Undergraduate Honors Festival.
Heather Knapp, Hansang Cho,
Marie Ng and David Corina
with Marie’s poster at the
2004 Undergraduate Honors Festival.

Psychology major Tan Hung “Marie” Ng was selected from among all non-transfer graduating seniors as the 2004 recipient of UW’s highest academic honor, the President’s Medal. The award was presented to Marie by UW President Lee Huntsman at the university graduation ceremony in Husky Stadium in June.

Marie, who grew up in Hong Kong, came to the U.S. specifically to attend UW. “I knew from the beginning that I was going to major in psychology because I have always been so fascinated with human behavior,” says Marie. She minored in both philosophy and mathematics and participated in the Psychology and University Honors Programs. She also received two Mary Gates Fellowships and served as Secretary of Psi Chi, the national psychology honor society.

“As the first person in my family to enter college, I cherish every opportunity given to me, and I always try my best to achieve my potential, both academically and beyond,” says Marie.

“Research has been one of the most crucial parts of my undergraduate experience at UW. During my freshman year, I assisted UW Psychology Professor Jacob Leonesio with literature research on metamemory. The following year, I had my first opportunity to conduct independent research with UW Psychology Professor Miriam Bassok on semantic alignment of divisional and multiplicative equations and presented the results at the annual McNair/EIP Spring Research conference and the Undergraduate Research Symposium here at UW.

“During my third year, I began working with UW Psychology Professor David Corina on a collaborative project with Dr. George Ojemann in the Department of Neurosurgery. In this project, I had the unique opportunity to learn [during patients’ brain surgery] how the behavior of single human brain cells is related to the behavior of the entire organism.

“My research training here has enabled me to attain many opportunities at other institutions as well.” These include summer programs at Columbia University, University of Pennsylvania, and Chinese University of Hong Kong. This fall, Marie begins the Ph.D. program in psychology at University of Southern California.

Marie also gained teaching experience working as a peer tutor and teaching assistant for UW Psychology Professor Geoff Loftus’ Psych 317/318 statistics classes.

“The UW has enabled me to learn to seek opportunities, to be bold, and to create my own unique path. That’s the advice I have for students starting out: Seize opportunities and make things happen. Don’t just wait for something to come along.”

Undergrad program strengthened by curriculum changes

Beth Kerr, Steve Buck, and Mike Beecher.
Beth Kerr, Steve Buck, and Mike Beecher.

If you majored in psychology at the University of Washington more than three years ago, you probably haven’t heard of the recent improvements in our BA and BS programs.

Psychology has long been an extremely popular major. In fact, we continue to graduate more majors annually than any other UW department. However, we took up the challenge to make good programs even better. Guided by student and instructor feedback and a commitment to academic rigor, we overhauled key aspects of the degree programs.

“Students told us they wanted to eliminate redundancy, get more experience with writing and computer and web literacy, and in general have more challenging and satisfying classes,” says Associate Chair Beth Kerr. She worked for more than a year with a core group—composed also of Steve Buck, Mike Beecher, and Jody Burns—to design and evaluate the new program, prior to a three-year transition period. Faculty members worked together to redesign the courses in their areas.

“The keys to the changes are that we separated our majors from general education students in the core classes (e.g., developmental psychology), and ensured that majors had all taken research methods (Psych 209) and a new biopsychology (Psych 202) class before taking the cores,” notes Beth. “We also halved the student-to-TA ratio in the core courses and redesigned them to add writing, computer, and web assignments. The biopsychology class has been popular with students and has allowed us to increase the biological emphasis throughout our degree programs. Both the BA and BS degree programs are stronger. ”

“We’re seeing students better prepared at both 300 and 400 level now,” adds Beth. “They’re better prepared for both the core courses and for the subsequent advanced courses. Because the preparation in core classes is better, we’ve also been able raise the bar and expectations of students in the 400-level classes.”

Fine-tuning of the new program continues, as do attempts to smooth the transition into the major for community college students.

Outstanding Alumni: Jamie Gum and Fred Leach

Jamie Gum and Fred Leach sure have a lot in common.

Both were recipients of two Mary Gates Research Trainingship grants. Both participated in the UW Psychology Honors Program and graduated Summa Cum Laude this past spring. Both were winners of the Guthrie Prize for best undergraduate papers in 2004.

Now, with bachelors degrees and National Science Foundation Fellowships in hand, both have begun their Ph.D. work at Stanford University this fall. And on a more personal level, both Jamie and Fred were married over the summer--to each other. It’s a fairy-tale ending (and beginning), to a story filled with the thrilling pursuit of research, the rush of academic conquest—and, of course, true love!

Psych senior’s new start, bright future

Image of Brandon StogsdillBrandon Stogsdill’s earliest memory is of himself at four years old, sitting in front of his house and waiting excitedly for the school bus—but he was too young for school. Even at a very early age, Brandon envisioned a future that included education. Flash forward 13 years to a 17 year old Brandon, waking up on his first morning in prison.

A childhood and adolescence marked by his mother’s substance abuse and mental illness, and by his own failure at school and subsequent descent into a life of violence had brought Brandon to a place that four year old certainly could not have imagined. Now entering his second year at the UW, with plans to major in psychology and business, Brandon is realizing his dreams, working to help kids avoid the path that he took—and telling his story.

Brandon earned his associate’s degree, with honors, from Pierce Community College—completing most of his studies while in prison—and came to the UW with a Martin Honors Scholarship. Ironically, it was in prison that Brandon had his first experience of walking away from a fight.

“Using my intelligence got me through the experience and helped me to gain respect,” he recalls. Academic success didn’t come easily for him, but Brandon found that “the more I learned, the easier it became to learn.”

This full-time UW student, who is the recipient of a Mary Gates Leadership Award, spends his “off” time working with kids whose lives he hopes to impact. In fact, Impact is the name of one of the two programs for low income, at-risk youth where he volunteers as a mentor. The program allows Brandon to combine his love of sports with his passion for working with kids who are desperately in need of positive role models and a safe, healthy outlet for their energy. While he admits that it was initially tough breaking through to these kids, the rewards have been tremendous. “I’ve not been let down once by any of these kids,” says Brandon, “they’ve all opened up.”

Long term plans for Brandon include pursuing an MBA and eventually a Ph.D. in psychology. His dream project is to develop a diversion program through the juvenile justice system designed to help at-risk youth assess the repercussions of their destructive actions before they end up “in the system.” He would also like to open an extreme sports camp, using sports as a constructive alternative to risky behavior.

Brandon has a variety of projects in the wings, including authoring a book about his experiences, as well as working with another student on a program to take young people to visit prisons. The aim of that program is not to scare them, but rather to show the potential outcomes of their behavior.

“Every mistake, every poor choice I made, was a cry for help,” says Brandon, “but nobody heard me.” Brandon Stogsdill is listening. And he’s telling his story.

Psychology BS grad wins Nobel Prize

Dr. Linda B. Buck, who was recently awarded the 2004 Nobel Prize in medicine or physiology, is a 1975 B.S. graduate of the UW Psychology Department. Dr. Buck shared the Nobel Prize with Dr. Richard Axel for discoveries of some of the underlying molecular mechanisms of the sense of smell.

She is presently a member of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centers Basic Sciences Division, investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and affiliate professor of physiology and biophysics at UW. See our website for more information.

More undergrad kudos

Jennifer Bragg was awarded the Dan Warner/Bob Wiley Memorial Scholarship, Dept. of Communications.

Asefeh Faraz and Masha Fry were awarded Mary Gates Leadership Scholarships this past year.

Wing Chan, Avril Linane, Tan Hung (Marie) Ng, Jessica Palmer, and Laurel Stevens were awarded Mary Gates Research Scholarships this past year.

Statistics and methods classes get innovative support

Jessi Palmer, Autumn 2004 SAM Lab TA, and Laura Little.
Jessi Palmer, Autumn 2004 SAM Lab TA,
and Laura Little.

Think back to when you were a psychology major here at the UW. What was the most challenging part of our program? It’s a good bet that what comes to mind are the methods and statistics courses. Taking your feedback to heart, the Department took up the challenge to make these cornerstone subjects more accessible to our undergraduate students. Enter Professor Laura Little. Prof. Little worked to establish a statistics and methods study center, called the SAM Lab, and a website, called SMARTPsych. These resources have become integral to the teaching of our methods and statistics courses and have added valuable support to other courses in our undergraduate programs.

“We wanted students to have a place to come to interact with peers and teaching assistants, help each other learn about methods and statistics, and have the equipment needed to explore their course material and beyond,” explains Prof. Little. The SAM Lab houses four ultra-fast PCs (all equipped with Microsoft Excel, SPSS, and internet access), for student use in working with data, creating graphical displays of results, and running statistical tests.

The SMARTPsych website was developed by Profs. Laura Little and Beth Kerr, with graduate students Bryan Cochran, and Christopher “C.J.” Jones. Designed as both a tool for students in UW psychology statistics/methods courses, and a broader resource, the site has several components. Lessons assist students in learning about interactions, brushing up on math skills, and selecting statistical tests and Tutorials. These Tutorials teach students about different software packages that are often used in psychology research, including MS Excel and SPSS. The Windows to Research section includes examples of psychology experiments, followed by questions that allow students to test their knowledge of statistics and methodology. “I think that Windows to Research is probably the section on which we’ve spent the most effort,” says Prof. Little. “It contains some wonderful vignettes of research actually conducted by UW Psychology faculty across the full range of the department. We’ve made them interactive to give a real sense of what it’s like to be involved in those psychology experiments.

“As far as I know, the SAM Lab is unique. We hadn’t seen anything like it and didn’t have a model to base it on. It’s more than just a study center. Psychology teaching assistants and peer tutors staff the lab throughout the day. Students needing assistance don’t have to wait for their TA’s office hours.”

Prof. Little also notes that she has not seen other websites with the scope of SMARTPsych. “Soon after launching the site, we received congratulations from viewers outside of the UW, so we know it has a large audience,” she says. She explains that the feedback received from psychology majors is that they want to understand methods and statistics at a deeper level, not just do exercises. “As a result,” she says, “we’ve added more complex analyses and, in general, a lot of vertical depth to the site material. In addition, students who have moved on to taking more advanced psychology courses still come back to the site for review.” Instructors of these courses can now use the site to help them understand the background they can expect of students, allowing them to teach at a more advanced level.

Students praise UW Psychology

The following quotes were taken from the 2004 graduating class’ exit interviews. Read more on our website []

“Interesting classes, dedicated teachers (professors), high academic standards, helpful advisors, and 499 experience.” – a BA student

“The research and internship opportunities are excellent and provide students with unparalleled hands-on experience.” – a BS student

“The smaller classes in lab and 400-level courses were helpful. My professors seemed to really care about how much I was learning.” – a BA student

“I enjoyed the major and think it will help immensely in my future career as a nurse and generally as a person, to have a better understanding of fellow human beings and myself.” – a BA student

“This department has been good in that it really ties in writing, science, math, and theory. It is very well rounded.” – a BA student

“Because of Psych I have a vast array of skills a knowledge that can be applied to many things, including law, business, research and rock & roll (seriously!).” – a BS student

“They make you get out of your comfort zone. I believe the students graduating are well rounded and prepared for a job in the workforce.” – a BA student

“Excellent professors who cared about our futures as individuals.” – a BS student

Internships steer career path for psychology alumnus

Image of Daniel Jung“I’m very proud to tell people that my undergraduate background is in psychology,” says Seattle attorney Daniel Jung, who graduated from the UW in December of 1998 with a B.A. in psychology and a minor in society and justice. Daniel started his freshman year at the UW as a biology major, with a pre-med focus. “I was lost in school the first year,” says Daniel, “I did poorly and was eventually placed on academic probation.” Psychology 101, in the fall of his sophomore year, turned the tide. “I fell in love with psychology,” Daniel remembers, “the class intrigued me and I found that I was interested in a subject for the first time.”

Daniel is the kind of person who dives into an experience head-first, taking full advantage of all opportunities that present themselves. With seemingly boundless energy, Daniel combined his academic studies with a series of community-based internships and volunteer positions, which helped him to discover his path through the University, and beyond. Daniel’s former academic counselor, Carrie Perrin, still refers to him as the “poster child for the internship program.” “The internship experience opened my eyes to a lot of possibilities and helped me to narrow down the choices,” says Daniel, “when you do an internship it makes your studies much more relevant.” And, this is what translated into success for Daniel.

Step one was a discussion with his psychology adviser that focused on Daniel’s strengths and interests. His first instinct was to pursue a career as a therapist because he wanted to help people. A series of volunteer and internship positions followed, beginning with the Seattle Counseling Service Center and the King County Crisis Clinic and progressing into work with the county Juvenile Detention Facility and finally the Seattle Police Department. His experiences, coupled with his studies in psychology and society and justice, helped Daniel to refine and clarify his interests and goals—and, upon graduating with a B.A., he already had two years of rich and diverse work experience. “The internship program allows you to get into your chosen field from the get-go,” says Daniel.

Following graduation, Daniel worked briefly as a case manage for an adult day care program before being offered a position with TRAC Associates where he worked as a job developer, helping clients to move from welfare to employment. Daniel says that his work allowed him to deal with immediate situations and work toward solutions, while helping clients with self-esteem and confidence building. He found his background in psychology to be a valuable asset. “People who don’t study psychology often lack an understanding of a lot of behaviors that they are nonetheless quick to label,” says Daniel.

Following his work with TRAC, Daniel entered law school at Seattle University and is now employed by the Pioneer Square firm of Eims & Flynn, practicing workers compensation law. Always one to seek out new learning opportunities, in August of next year Daniel will begin a clerkship with the Washington State Court of Appeals. Daniel feels that psychology has been beneficial to him going into the legal profession, but he may yet return to the original goal that he discussed with his adviser several years ago. “At some point in my life, I still plan to go into mental health,” says Daniel, who hopes to one day earn a Master’s degree in counseling.

One thing is certain—with regard to Daniel, once a volunteer, always a volunteer. He serves on a number of Bar Association committees, volunteers in King County neighborhood legal clinics, and plans to begin working with the Korean Community Center legal assistance programs. Says Daniel, “It’s in these volunteer positions that psychology really comes into play—the work becomes almost more about counseling than legal issues.” It looks like one other thing is certain with Daniel—once a psych student, always a psych student.

Undergraduate internships

We are proud of the bright and talented students who represent the UW Psychology Department through their community-based volunteer and internship positions. Our students typically find positions in counseling, social services, education, human resources, criminal justice, and health related fields. Some agencies with which our students have been involved include:

  • Asian Counseling & Referral Service
  • Atlantic Street Center
  • Crisis Clinic of King County
  • Domestic Abuse Women’s Network
  • Family Help Line
  • King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office
  • King County Youth Services
  • Planned Parenthood
  • Powerful Schools
  • Refugee Women’s Alliance
  • SafeFutures Youth Center
  • Seattle Counseling Service
  • UW Experimental Education Unit
  • Valley Cities Mental Health
  • YouthCare

If you know of volunteer or internship opportunities for our students in your organization, we would love to hear from you. Contact Carrie Perrin, Academic Services Director, at or (206) 685-8971.

Psych 499 research receives high marks

“499 was a great experience! I was allowed a great deal of independence and was able to develop an independent research project. I’ve stuck with the same 499 lab for almost 2 years now will be sad to leave.” – a BS student

“EXCELLENT EXPERIENCE! I enjoyed being part of a larger “professional” psych community.” – a BA student

“I’ve had the opportunity to present at national conferences, design my own study, etc. I built a solid relationship with my faculty sponsor and s/he encouraged me to do the honor program. Because of this I’m now applying to Psych Ph.D. programs.” – a BS student

“My Psych 499 experience was with a breast cancer research study at Fred Hutch. It is possibly one the most eye-opening experience of my time here at UW. Getting a glimpse of the ‘behind-the-scenes’ stuff in study was very interesting.” – a BA student

“499 was the best part of the psych program. Meeting a great professor and working side by side is crucial to the psych experience.” – a BS student

“REAL psych work. I love my 499’s and am taking many more 499 credits than needed. I am now employed through the professor of my first 499. Helped my choose a possible future career path.” – a BS student

“I wish I had gotten involved sooner – encourage more students to start before their senior year.” – a BS student

“I am in 499 right now, and I really enjoy working so closely with the professors. It’s nice to send out an email with your name on it and to have the professor actually know who you are.” – a BA student