Carly began her undergraduate career studying psychology and ended it with a focus on human culture and gender with a double major in anthropology and gender studies. Her focus at that time was on advocacy for survivors of domestic violence. After graduation, she attended law school in order to pursue a law degree as a powerful tool for making change in people’s lives. Carly worked as a lawyer for nine years, helping families plan for their future and advising on legal ethics rules. While legal work enabled her to problem solve and polish her skills in writing, she didn’t feel like she was maximizing her skills to improve the lives of others. Carly had never stopped cultivating her interest in psychology and considered that psychology could offer a more direct tool for making change. She reached out to local psychology labs to see if anyone would allow her to help in their lab to gain experience and give her a sense of whether she would enjoy research. With luck and persistence, she was invited to volunteer with a lab to study popularity and its effect on aggression and prosocial behavior in adolescents. The opportunity to be engaged in critical thinking and thoughtful discussion about how we conceptualize and measure beliefs and behavior reinforced her desire to pursue graduate education in psychology.
As someone without an undergraduate psychology degree and just a small amount of research experience, Carly knew she would need to add a solid foundation in psychological research, statistics, and theory to her existing enthusiasm in order pursue a doctoral program in psychology. With another dash of luck and hard work, she was able to join the MSPS program at UIUC, where she works with Dr. Karen Rudolph in the Family Studies lab, studying adolescent emotions and their relationships with risk for psychopathology. As part of a current research project in the lab, she has learned how to recruit study participants, keep detailed study records for both IRB and grant agency requirements, and administer study appointments with fMRI tasks. She has also had the opportunity to analyze existing data using SPSS and R with the goals to both submit a poster at a conference and an article for publication. Outside of the lab, Carly is taking advantage of the large range of statistics classes that are offered at UIUC that focus on both theory and practical application. For example, her Applied Regression Analysis class includes direct practice manipulating data in R while her Secondary Data Analysis class guides students through the process of selecting, cleaning, analyzing, and publishing on large publicly available datasets using both R and SPSS.
Carly’s primary interest is in how differential susceptibility to positive and negative experiences and environmental factors can change developmental outcomes with respect to well-being and psychopathology. She is particularly curious about how a trait that can be a risk factor in one situation might be a protective factor in another. Ultimately, Carly wants to explore how we can prevent negative outcomes; how we can support positive outcomes; and how we can use our knowledge about the differences between people to maximize the effectiveness of interventions. With the research tools acquired in the MSPS program, Carly hopes to grow a body of research that will make a direct and measurable impact on people’s lives.