By Elidia Moctezuma | September 29, 2016
Research Assistant, ETR
I love research! That’s not something I knew, or even imagined, when I started my college career. Thanks to the guidance of some outstanding teachers and mentors, I’m now ready to make research the focus of my career.
I started out as a psychology major at California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB). I had to read some research articles in my lower division courses, but they didn’t really give me a sense of the true nuts-and-bolts of the process.
Then I had an opportunity to join a research lab affiliated with the university. On my first day of lab, I was anxious and worried. I expected everyone else would be way ahead of me. Was I in over my head?
What I found was a group of students who were also brand new to research, and an amazing psychology professor. This was Dr. Jennifer Dyer-Seymour, who didn’t just give me a sound introduction to research. She eventually became my research mentor, role model and one of the people I admire most.
My research group was exploring some ideas about theory of mind—a branch of cognitive science that looks at how we comprehend the mental states of other people and recognize that these can be different from our own. Some research has found that reading literary fiction enhances readers’ ability to empathize with others. We wondered if the same effects could be seen when people watch movies.
We created and carried out every step of our research, from developing initial concepts, to study design, recruiting participants, gathering data, crunching numbers and drawing conclusions. I liked all of these bits and pieces of the process.
For over 2 years, I continued to work on this project. Now that I have graduated, my mentor, my two lab mates and I are continuing to work together, completing this project and starting others. This experience definitely solidified my interest in pursuing a career in research.
After graduation, I was hired as a Research Assistant at ETR. I was very excited to get a job that involved hands-on research work, and I especially liked that the research ETR is doing serves and benefits our community. I’ve now had the opportunity to work on several projects here, all in different stages.
I’ve learned that most researchers don’t do every step in the research process. Bigger projects require a bigger team—more people with a broader range of skill sets. It’s been fascinating to see what the demands and challenges are on projects over time and how these change depending on what stage of the project is currently at hand.
I have been inspired by everyone’s dedication to the organization and the work they do. Working here has further motivated me to continue my education. Dr. Jill Denner, the senior researcher in charge of the projects I work on, has been especially inspiring. One day, I hope to be in a position like hers.
I have also realized the importance of having someone to look up to who guides and mentors you. My admiration and respect for Dr. Dyer-Seymour has made me want to aim higher in my life. I hope that one day, I’ll be able to influence someone else’s life as she has mine.
Elidia Moctezuma is a research assistant at ETR. She will be leaving her position here at ETR to continue her studies and research projects. We will miss her! You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org