We are pleased to announce that undergraduate psychology major, Lydia Lin Wenxin, has been awarded an Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Prize (OURP) for AY 2009/2010, for work done on her honors project. The OURP was first launched in 2006/2007 as an annual university-wide competition to encourage research and to recognize the best undergraduate researchers in NUS.
Lydia graduated with first-class honors from our department and will be pursuing her second honors degree from Waseda University in 2010/2011. She was able to present her work at the 2010 Association for Psychological Sciences’ (APS) Annual Convention in Boston, and we persuaded her to describe her experiences (and showcase some of her photos) in the following write-up.
When the call for poster submissions for the Association of Psychological Sciences’ (APS) Annual Convention came around early 2010, I was mid-way into my first round of data collection for my honours thesis project under the supervision of Dr. Melvin Yap. Attending an overseas conference had never once crossed my mind, but I was gently encouraged to give it a try. I guess the question I really asked myself then was ‘Why not?’ – and upon being unable to find sufficient reason against doing so, I felt I should give it a try. My thesis dealt with comparing priming and word frequency effects in both the visual and auditory modalities; specifically, how these effects are manifested in response time (RT) data on the lexical decision task. A novel part also was looking at the RT data distributionally (i.e., at aspects of the entire distribution instead of only the mean), where the utility of this technique lies in being able to observe many of the effects of manipulated variables at a finer granularity. The results we got back then were rather puzzling; it was hoped that bringing this research to Boston could help us see new perspectives on our interpretation of the data.
APS in Boston was an extremely humbling experience, and I always say I met minds, not physical beings on the trip to the United States. There were numerous poster sessions where one could present or interact with other researchers, and there also was an excellent theme programme line-up (This year there were three, on risky behaviours, emotions and behaviours that go ‘too far’, and love and attraction). The real highlight for me, however, was being able to listen to two giants in cognition – Jeremy Wolfe and Steven Pinker – give their respective addresses. Although APS is a general sort of conference, with programmes ranging from a debate on the future of clinical psychology, to symposiums focused on dream interpretation, it was in all very much still an intellectually-challenging learning experience.
Travelling (i.e., the every-day hunt for the best Boston clam chowder and double-boiled lobsters!) was definitely another major highlight. Boston is a quiet, pleasant town, and it is an open secret that even when one jaywalks, cars would obediently slow down to a stop without sounding the honk. Later I learnt that their traffic laws are not at all in favour of motor vehicles on the road – it is invariably always the vehicles’ fault for mangled pedestrians (In other words, pedestrian is king and this useful nugget of information was fully utilized to the pedestrians’ advantage). We also found time amidst the hectic conference schedule to sprawl on the green at Boston Common, wade through books at Barnes & Nobles, whale-watch and catch a brilliant performance at the local playhouse.
I guess sometimes it takes a tiny decision to trigger a sequence of bigger events one gets increasingly committed to. On hindsight, I’m glad I had not prematurely foreclosed any possibility of trying out conferences – it was altogether a really enjoyable experience at APS (although I would admit, also slightly intimidating) and I would go for another should similar opportunities come by again.