Newsletter Edition

Summer 2014

Published: 05/05/2014

Greetings from the Chair

Photo: Sheri Mizumori
Photo: Sheri Mizumori

Psychology has often been referred to as a Hub Science since its research uses diverse, quantitative, and multi-level approaches to understand our behaviors from clinical, developmental, social, cognitive, and neuroscience perspectives. Psychology also serves as a Hub in that a core mission is to provide the best educational experience possible for its undergraduate majors and graduate students, around 500 of which graduate annually with Psychology degrees that have prepared them to spin off into an impressive range of futures.

Armed with the immense knowledge that these students have gained during their time in our department, as well as new confidence and critical thinking skills, our students are prepared to enter into numerous careers including those in public and mental health, community services, business, and teaching. Other students will move on to work for advanced degrees in a number of academic programs including Psychology, or in other professional disciplines such as business, law, medicine, social work, and education.

The faculty and staff in our department are eager to keep in contact with our alums so that we can learn about the futures of the many students that we have come to know, and to continue to provide career-related advice even after they graduate. To facilitate everyone’s ability to keep in touch, we have created UW Psychology Alumni Connections. Check it out! Future issues of our e-newsletter will include an alumni section that will provide other ways for us to keep in touch - stay tuned.

Congratulations to our newest alums – the graduating class of 2014! I wish them the best in health and life as they enter the next exciting phase of their lives. I hope to hear from both new Psychology alums and from the alums of past years ( to learn how and what you are doing.

To all of our department friends, thank you for your wonderful support in the past year as that has had a huge impact on our ability to continue to maintain (and even grow in some cases!) our high standard of educational and research excellence.

Have a wonderful summer!

Warm wishes,

Sheri Mizumori, Chair

Featured Articles

2014 Edwards Lectures now available online

In February and March of this year, the Allen L. Edwards Psychology Lecture Series drew thousands of UW community members out to Kane Hall for lectures which examined the Science of Decision Making.  Lectures by all six speakers were recorded by UWTV and are now available for viewing online. 

Save the Dates for the 2015 lectures – February 18, February 25 and March 4.

Click on the links below to watch each lecture.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Neuroscience of Good Decision Making – with Chantel Prat

The Neuroscience of Good Decision Making - with Randall O’Reilly

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

How the Brain Makes Decisions Under Uncertainty – with Jeansok Kim

How the Brain Makes Decisions Under Uncertainty – with John O’Doherty

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Communicating, Understanding and Using Uncertainty Information in Everyday Decisions – with Susan Joslyn

Communicating, Understanding and Using Uncertainty Information in Everyday Decisions – with David Budescu

Marie Ng: Former Psychology Major Now UW Research Statistician... What Are the Odds of That?

Photo: Marie Ng
Photo: Dr. Marie Ng

I thought it would be really wonderful if I could apply my statistical skills to solve global health problems.

     Marie Ng, Ph.D. (BS in Psychology, 2004) 


For Dr. Marie Ng, the road to her current career took a few twists and turns along the way.  Now an Assistant Professor with the UW Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), Marie didn't arrive here as an undergraduate with plans to become a statistician.  "It was quite an unplanned journey that brought me to global health," says Marie.  As she was completing her Ph.D. in statistics and quantitative psychology at the University of Southern California, she came across an article in the UW alumni magazine that talked about the then newly formed IHME.  "That was the first time I learned about global health as a discipline," she remembers. 

A post-doctoral position at the IHME, followed by two years working in her native Hong Kong, eventually led Marie to her current position.  Examples of her research include evaluating an HIV intervention program in India and assessing a malaria control program in sub-Saharan Africa.  Additionally, Marie works as a consultant for UNICEF, developing statistically valid tools for assessing early childhood development in Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu.

Marie came to the field of statistics and quantitative psychology mid-way through her undergraduate studies.  "Originally, I was attracted to the psychology major because of clinical psychology," recalls Marie, "while later on I got interested in cognitive psychology and, subsequently, I discovered neuropsychology and did my honors thesis on single neuron recording."  But, her continually shifting interests didn't stop there.  Marie found that the classes that she enjoyed most--and that had the greatest influence on her--focused on statistics and quantitative methods.  Along with professors Miriam Bassok and David Corina (now at UC Davis), who were her honors advisors, Marie credits her statistics professors Geoff Loftus and Laura Little with having had the biggest impact on her academic career.

While a student here in the Psychology Department, Marie definitely took full advantage of the range of opportunities available to undergraduates.  In addition to her main course of study in Psychology, Marie completed minors in Philosophy and Mathematics, served as a peer TA, authored an honors thesis, and graduated Summa Cum Laude.  Her extaordinary efforts were rewarded when she was named the 2003-04 President's Medalist, the highest academic honor bestowed upon graduating seniors.

Marie urges current undergraduates to get involved, participate in research and teaching, talk to advisors, and find a mentor.  With this recipe for student success, odds are good things will follow!

James LauRae: A Hunger for Knowledge Leads to a Very Full Plate

Photo: James LauRae
Photo: James LauRae

Psychology has always interested me because I've always found people fascinating.  Whether "people watching" or just trying to figure out my own sense of self and develop my self-awareness, life has often seemed like a crash course in psychology.

     James LauRae (Senior, pursuing BS in Psychology)


James LauRae is a doer, but, you might not know it upon first meeting him.  He's hardly the "go-go-go" Type A personality that we usually associate with those among us who somehow have the capacity to take on a dizzying number of tasks or projects.  Rather, James is the kind of person whose easy-going manner and congeniality make you want to kick back with him and have a nice chat.  A study in contrasts: with people, he takes his time, gets to know you, but give the man a new opportunity or a job that needs doing and he's on fire!

Upon his arrival at UW, James enrolled in a class for first quarter transfer students.  The Psychology Transfer Academic Community class (TRAC), gives transfer students with the opportunity to gain an in-depth orientation to the Psychology Department and major, to learn about the wide range of resources available to psychology majors, and to build community with fellow transfer students.  "Because our transfer students arrive with only two or three years to spend at UW, they really need to hit the ground running," explains TRAC instructor and Psychology Advising Office director Carrie Perrin, "so we endeavor to expose them to all of the terrific options and possibilities that are available."  The thing about James is, he chose to take on all of those possibilities!

During his first four quarters at UW, James began a pre-med course of study in addition to his psychology BS coursework, got involved in undergraduate research, assisted with summer orientation for incoming transfer students, studied in Chile with psychology professor Dr. Jaime Olavarria, served as a peer TA for the 2013 TRAC class, and began the first steps in the establishment of a new non-profit agency.  His simple advice to others, "Get involved in as many things as interest you!  While you may not like them all or may find you overload yourself a bit too much, this really teaches you a lot about yourself."

Whether or not a particular experience revealed itself to be the start of a future pathway, James definitely took something valuable away from each opportunity.  Initially frustrated by the unexpectedly slow pace of work in a research lab, James stuck it out and was rewarded both by more intriguing work and by the realization that research psychology was perhaps not in the cards for him long term.  And, connections made at his Harborview lab have been an additional perk.  "I've gained invaluable connections with Dr. Kate Comtois," says James, "and, I've had the opportunity to speak with people from prospective medical schools, as well as the chance to shadow various doctors in a variety of settings." 

As far as "slam dunk" positive experiences go, James points to Dr. Jaime Olavarria's Exploration Seminar in Chile.  James was part of a group of students who traveled to Santiago, Chile, as well as more rural areas to the south, to study public health policies and health delivery systems in that country.  James notes that the opportunity that he had to compare US societal norms and values with those that he experienced in Chile actually informed how he plans to run his non-profit organization, Homes for Students of Higher Education.  "My own reflections on the contrasts between US and Chilean cultures have inspired me to develop in my organization a collectivist approach--essentially, encouraging the community to engage with and assist those in need," explains James.

Informed by his own experiences with hardship and homelessness, James (along with fellow UW undergraduate Dustin Levesque), founded Homes for Students of Higher Education in early 2014 to bridge the gap that is disconnecting disadvantaged and homeless college students from the services that may benefit them.  With plans to encourage a high level of student engagement in the organization, James aims to foster the kind of community involvement that he witnessed while in Chile.  "We are all guilty of taking things for granted, but we can change this with just a little effort," says James.  "By encouraging the theme students helping students," he continues, "our organization will continue in a long, successful tradition of building a strong sense of community and appreciation for one another."

With a goal of furthering his education in medical school, with a likely area of specialization in psychiatry, and a desire to see his non-profit grow and perhaps serve as a model for others across the nation, the full plate that is James's life looks to stay that way into the forseeable future. 

Join us on LinkedIn!

Join the group Psychology Alumni Connections on LinkedIn to stay in touch with fellow alumni and the department, as well as to learn about upcoming lectures or other events sponsored by the Psychology Department.