Newsletter Edition

Summer 2013

Published: 06/01/2013

Greetings from the Chair

Photo: Sheri Mizumori
Photo: Sheri Mizumori

Welcome to the Psychology department’s celebration of accomplishments of this past year! We continued to instruct close to 50,000 hours in the classroom, and many of our undergraduate students were recognized as our society’s future leaders and scholars. Our graduate students not only conducted cutting edge research, but many of them were awarded local and national prizes for their achievements. Both undergraduate and graduate students often work side by side with our faculty who provide the largest number of research and other experiential opportunities for UW students.  Our department is continually seeking ways to share our excitement about the numerous accomplishments of our students and faculty so that their efforts can facilitate resolution of the biggest issues facing society. With this goal in mind, our 2013 annual Edwards Public Lecture Series showcased ways in which our faculty and students’ research impacts our everyday lives. Further, led by Associate Director Dr. Kevin King, our department’s Center for Child and Family Well Being expanded efforts to link our research on resilient behaviors of adolescents to relevant education and community leaders and agencies.

I hope you enjoy catching up on our activities. Feel free to send to me questions or comments on any article, or suggestions for improvement of future newsletters.

Have a fabulous summer!

Sheri Mizumori

Featured Articles

New NSF Fellow Studies Cognitive Ability of Crows


The National Science Foundation's Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) is highly competitive and provides fellowship support for graduate students (master or doctoral) in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Recipients are given a three year award consisting of a fellowship stipend and an education allowance, in addition to the powerful networking opportunities and resources afforded by being selected as a fellow. 

Kelsey McCune
Photo: Kelsey McCune

The Department of Psychology has been fortunate to have several NSF fellows in the program each year. Kelsey McCune, a first year student in Animal Behavior with Drs. Renee and Jim Ha, is one of two of our most recent recipients of this prestigious fellowship.

Let's start with the basics, where are you from and where did you complete undergrad/masters? 

I'm from Sapulpa, Oklahoma. I did my undergrad at Randolph-Macon Woman's College in Lynchburg, VA where I majored in Biology and minored in Chemistry and Spanish.

How did you wind up at UW/why did you apply here? What do you think about living in Seattle?

I took two years off after undergrad to explore field jobs and to figure out on which area of animal behavior I wanted to focus.  After many long hours spent hanging out with a crow patient at a wildlife rehabilitation clinic, I was hooked on birds, and corvids in particular.  Further hours spent reading papers indicated that the Ha Lab was the best lab to be in for corvid cognition research.  I came to UW to work with Renee and Jim Ha, but now that I'm here, Seattle is definitely growing on me too.  I'm a huge fan of Mt. Rainier!

What is your research interest and how did you get into it (what inspires/motivates you)?

Aside from loving crows, I'm interested in the factors affecting the evolution of intelligence across taxa.  Corvids are a great system to study this because the species shows a range of social systems and ecological environments.  By doing comparative research we can begin to understand which elements of the environment- physical or social- could lead to different aspects of cognitive ability.  It's really intriguing that cognitive ability of many corvids is strikingly similar to that of primates, yet the species are evolutionarily very distant.

How did you learn about your funding opportunity and tell us about the application/waiting process?

The NSF GRFP is a really great program through which students can take their ideas and make them tangible.  The application process helped me to flesh out the ideas that I had and begin the process of putting them in to action.  Even if I hadn't succeeded in being funded this year, just the act of thinking through and writing out my project proposal would have been very beneficial.  Since the essays can only be two pages long, you are really forced to narrow your thoughts down to the essential information.

How did you feel when you learned that your application was accepted and that you will receive 3 years of funding?

The email notifying me of my acceptance went to my spam folder, so when I heard from a friend that I was on the recipients list I thought it was a mistake.  I didn't believe it was true for like a day and a half!  Then I became cautiously ecstatic :-)

Do you have any advice/tips/suggestions for others who may apply to this opportunity? About graduate study in general?

When applying for something like this, have as many people as you can find comment on it.  My lab was really an immense help in showing me what my application needed to take it to the next level.  As for my advice for graduate study in general: read, read, read!

What do you hope to accomplish with the funding and/or while in the UW Psychology graduate program?

I hope to accomplish all that I can!  My project ideas are pretty time-consuming, and thanks to NSF I now have more time to accomplish all of my goals.

What do you like doing in your spare time?

In my spare time I do a lot of bird watching!  Also: hiking, traveling, reading, games of all sorts, and meeting friends at happy hour.

The last book and/or movie you saw and enjoyed?

Currently reading and enjoying "The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature".

What you plan to do once you complete your PhD?

I think I'd like to do a post-doc.  There are some great people all over the world doing research on comparative cognition that I'd love to learn from.

Supplemental Reading:

Jenna Andrews: Finding the 'Sweet Spot'

"I no longer see myself as a non-traditional transfer student, but as an essential part of the UW community. I guess you can call me a Husky now!"

- Jenna Andrews, BS June 2013

Photo: Jenna Andrews
Photo: Jenna Andrews

When Jenna Andrews began her studies at UW in the fall of 2011, she didn't see herself fitting in. A transfer student from Seattle Central Community College, she recalls that she expected to go through her junior and senior years at UW with her head down, just going through the motions until graduation. Jenna was in for a surprise.

Jenna hit the ground running by participating in a class designed for first quarter transfer students who plan to major in psychology. Once she had the lay of the land, things started to click. She would go on to find academic success and to complement her studies with experiences as a research assistant and peer teaching assistant. As a peer TA with Jaime Diaz, who Jenna characterizes as "thorough, passionate, and dedicated to students learning the material," she says that she was able to interact with the course material in a way that truly encouraged critical thinking.

Born in New York City and raised in nearby Sammamish, Jenna was ever in search of that "sweet spot." Always believing that her career would involve helping people, Jenna initially envisioned doing so as a pastry chef and chocolatier. But, after earning a degree in Specialty Desserts and Breads from Seattle Central, Jenna decided to go back to school to work toward a a goal of becoming a child therapist. She has explored this interest in classes related to health psychology and by working with pediatric oncology patients.

In addition to research, volunteer, and peer teaching experiences, Jenna also had the opportunity to take on a student leadership role. At the end of her junior year, she was selected as an undergraduate Fellow for the College of Arts and Sciences "C21" program. "As part of this small group of students, we worked all year long to improve liberal learning at the University of Washington," Jenna says. She and her C21 colleagues were even granted a research scholarship to go to Tokyo, Japan, to examine how their higher education system functions.

So, what does the future hold for this go-getter? Perhaps a little jet-setting. Two days following graduation, Jenna will leave for Zambia where she will work with locals on issues related to nutrition, women's empowerment, and children's health education. She then plans to travel to Johannesburg and Cape Town, South Africa, and then on to London. When she lands back in the Seattle area, she'll focus on applying to clinical psychology master's programs, hoping to begin in the fall of 2014.

It seems that this former pastry chef has truly found her sweet spot!

Building Adolescent Resilience: From Research to Real World

Adolescence is a time of a great deal of development, change, and opportunity. As our teens grow from children into adults, they experience a great many social, physical, and neurological transitions that lay the foundation for a successful adulthood. Adolescent Resilience Research at the Center for Child and Family Well Being (CCFW) led by Associate Director Kevin M. King, Ph.D., focuses on improving the lives of teenagers in our community by understanding and shaping developmental pathways towards socio-emotional health and well-being. Comprised of Psychologists, Psychiatrists, Social Workers, and Physicians from around the University of Washington, these dedicated scientists are committed to identifying changeable developmental pathways that lead to problem outcomes, deploying targeted interventions to interrupt the development of those problems and promote well being, and leveraging community partnerships to improve our science for the health and well being of our youth.

Recently, the faculty affiliates in the Adolescent Resilience Core at the CCFW have been engaged in extensive outreach efforts, aimed at getting the message out to the community that adolescence matters. We have formed recent collaborations between the CCFW and state and local agencies to infuse information about adolescent social-emotional development in order to improve the lives of children. For example, several CCFW faculty affiliates (Dr. King, Dr. McLaughlin, Dr. Bowen and Dr. Nurius) were funded to pilot test a mindfulness-based intervention aimed at improving self-regulation in a juvenile justice setting. This intervention is a collaboration between the CCFW and the Juvenile Justice and Rehabilitation Administration. In addition, Dr. King and Dr. Lengua, the Director of the CCFW, have started consulting with state agencies on how to infuse social-emotional learning information into the state-level literacy standards for K-12 students, and with Eastside Pathways, a community action group, to improve improving school outcomes among middle and high school students in the Bellevue School Districts. Finally, Dr. King and Dr. McLaughlin have begun consulting with the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction about how to improve the self-regulation abilities of adolescents exposed to trauma in the public schools.

We hope that this rising tide of information about child and adolescent development will raise all boats, and, in the end, improve the lives of all youth in our communities and around the State of Washington.