Loyola University Maryland


Research Mentoring in Psychology

by Michiko Iwaski, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Psychology

Every year, 8-10 students join my research lab to work on a number of projects outside the classroom.  Graduate and undergraduate students work together in groups allowing students to exercise teamwork, leadership, and supervisory skills, while I mentor them.  Our work can be extremely challenging, but through camaraderie and good humor, we work well together.   

During the 2017-2018 academic year, motivated by the #MeToo Movement, two sub-groups of students actively engaged in research projects to understand who reports and does not report sexual assaults. We used the survey data generated by Amy Henninger (’18) in her doctoral dissertation. One group conducted a quantitative study to examine factors related to non-reporters. The second group conducted a quantitative study to generate themes associated with the experience of their report process by those who did report their assaults. Another group reviewed strengths and weakness of the existing scales designed to measure attitudes toward older adults.  Stronger teamwork and a sense of ownership emerged as these projects progressed.

The highlight of our research team's activity was a group trip to attend a professional conference.  This year, five team members (Matt Picchiello, Casie Morgan, Charlotte Little, Justin Harker, and Jake Moore) presented multiple projects at the 2018 Great Lakes Conference (APA Division 17 regional conference) held in Kalamazoo, Michigan. In addition to the group projects, many of them presented their own research.  As a mentor, I was very proud of how Loyola students explained their work and responded to their audiences’ questions.  In addition to conference presentations, another team member, Michael Di Bianca, and I completed a manuscript about cancer and end of life discussions.  We were extremely happy to learn about its acceptance for publication in a high-impact peer-reviewed journal!! Although many of my team members graduated in May, a longest member, Ana Aghababian, will continue working on some exciting projects.   - Michiko Iwasaki, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Psychology

By Michael Di Bianca, B.A. in Psychology ‘18

Working on research with Dr. Iwasaki during my senior year at Loyola was an incredibly enjoyable and formative opportunity. I feel that I have grown significantly as a researcher and as a writer, and am therefore thankful for the chance to further develop these skills before beginning graduate studies. The two projects I worked on with Dr. Iwasaki challenged me in different ways. The first, a clinical correspondence manuscript about cancer and couples' end of life communication, challenged me to learn how to make a strong and compelling argument while also considering the various possible clinical implications. This project in particular honed my writing skills and familiarized me with the publication and revision processes. The second project, a presentation of findings from survivors of sexual assault, allowed me to work on a topic that is very meaningful to me. I was able to practice coding and re-coding responses, as well as searching for common themes in a data set. In addition, I was able to collaborate with other students and delegate responsibilities, a skill which I believe to be critical in this field. Throughout the year, Dr. Iwasaki offered a balance of supervision, guidance, independence, and interest in my graduate school application progress; all of which I considered to be essential for my growth. Overall, I am thankful for the support and experience, and am confident that conducting research with Dr. Iwasaki this year has enhanced my research skills going forward. 

By Matthew Picchiello, B.A. in Psychology ‘18

Conducting research under Dr. Iwasaki over the past year at Loyola was both challenging and highly rewarding. Under the mentorship of Dr. Iwasaki, I was able to complete various research projects on different topics in the field such as a literature review on five scales used to measure attitudes towards older adults as well as a study on emergency personnel responses to sexual assault victims. We were able to present our findings for both studies at the Great Lakes Regional Counseling Psychology Conference in Kalamazoo. Aside from this, I also enrolled in an independent study course during my spring semester under Dr. Iwasaki. We collected a sizable data set of over 400 responses on questionnaires asking study participants about their perceptions on older adults, subjective aging experiences, health, leadership, and work experiences. Within the coming months, we will look more into the data in hopes of publishing manuscripts based on our results. As someone who never conducted a study of this size before, I relied on Dr. Iwasaki’s expertise and guidance which helped to make our project a success and useful for future Loyola students. Working in Dr. Iwasaki’s lab has offered me lots of opportunities to travel to conferences, engage in crucial dialogues with others in the field, as well as improve as a writer, presenter and researcher. This lab has provided me with an amazing and important mentor in my life who is dedicated to my success and my growth.

By Casie Morgan, B.A. in Psychology and Writing ‘18

The Great Lakes Regional Counseling (GLC) Psychology Conference in Kalamazoo was the first professional conference I had attended as a presenter rather than as a mere member of the audience. Prior to the conference, I had never formally presented work I had done in psychology. Therefore, other than participating in Loyola’s Undergraduate Student Research and Scholarship Colloquium, this was my first time presenting (both oral and poster). With that, my experience at GLC was an enriching learning experience that helped me hone skills in public speaking, collaborating, and strategic planning. For me, one of the most meaningful moments of the conference was the large group discussion that occurred following my oral presentation on sexual assault victim reporting factors. The conversation that ensued during those final thirty minutes covered topics of gender roles in sexual assault, victim-blaming, perspectives of the perpetrator and how to help them, pedophilia, and the ways in which psychology can assist and educate legal or public health systems on how to best handle sexual assault cases. The dialogue I experienced during that half hour demonstrated just how important and personal this issue really is outside of simply observing the newfound interest through the #MeToo movement on social media. Lastly, I am incredibly appreciative for my experience doing research and attending GLC with Dr. Iwasaki because not only did she teach me valuable skills in writing and research, but she also opened up a door for me and my research partner, Charlotte Little. Through her, we submitted a proposal for an independent project we had been expanding since our Research Methods class sophomore year, and were fortunate enough to present a poster presentation at the conference as well.



By Charlotte Little, B.A. in Psychology and English ‘18

One of the most impactful parts of my Great Lakes experience was all of the small dialogues I had the opportunity to engage in with the other presenters. Whether I was discussing how physical abuse is a predictor for APD diagnosis or how emotional intelligence is linked to prosocial behavior, learning about the impact of group processing on academically vulnerable students, or participating in a round table about teaching gifted children, I was very impacted by the exchange of information that was taking place. I enjoyed educating people about my projects as much as I enjoyed learning from the work other people have done. That exchange of information left me feeling like a more developed professional and expanded my knowledge in ways that I never would have thought of. Approaching GLC, I had no idea how much I was going to learn, and I'm grateful for the presenters who made me think in very different ways than I ever had before. 

By Jake Moore (2nd year student in Loyola’s Masters in Clinical Psychology-thesis track) and Justin Harker (1st year student in Loyola’s Masters in Clinical Psychology, thesis track)

Attending the Great Lakes Conference at Western Michigan University was a vital experience for our growth as professional psychologists. The environment created by Division 17 was not only welcoming, but creative and stimulating. Each of us had the opportunity to present our individual posters to colleagues for public review and feedback, providing us with new perspective on our specific topics. More, our presentation on the withholding of reporting sexual assault facilitated valuable discussion on the future directions of sexual assault research and prevention. Overall, the lessons learned and connections made at the Great Lakes Conference were invaluable. We hope to return to the conference next year in Louisville! 


By Anahys Aghababian, B.A. in Psychology ‘19

I have been a part of Dr. Iwasaki’s research team for two years, and it has been an extremely rewarding experience. When I joined at the beginning of my sophomore year, I had no research experience, but Dr. Iwasaki was very patient and supportive. Although the research team consisted of only students older than me, including many graduate students, Dr. Iwasaki trusted me to be just as involved as all of the other members. I was constantly learning new skills and was able to apply many of these skills in my psychology courses. Dr. Iwasaki introduced me to SPSS, which proved to be helpful when I had to use it in my Research Methods course. SPSS is a complicated software to get used to, but because Dr. Iwasaki had taught me and made me practice using this software in her research lab, I was able to teach my classmates and help them out. My involvement in Dr. Iwasaki’s research team has taught me important skills in research. Through our weekly meetings, I developed stronger problem-solving skills by collaborating and deliberating with Dr. Iwasaki and the other members of the team. I also learned to be meticulous by comparing results with other members and ensuring that there were no human errors made. I am honored to have been able to work on Dr. Iwasaki’s research team and am grateful of the opportunities it has opened up for me. 

Presentations at the Great Lakes Conference (APA division 17 Regional Conference) in Michigan. 

Harker, J.R., Moore, J.A., Morgan, C.M. J., Iwasaki, M., & Henninger, A. (2018 April).

“Experiencing Sexual Assaults: Understanding the Factors of Withholding Disclosure.” Paper session presented at the annual meeting of the APA Division 17 Great Lakes Conference, Kalamazoo, MI.

Little, C.N., & Morgan, C.M. (2018 April). “Back when I was A kid...”: Facilitating parent child

dialogue on alcohol-related behaviors.” Poster session presented at the annual meeting of the APA Division 17 Great Lakes Conference, Kalamazoo, MI.

Iwasaki, M., Picchiello, M., & Anahys Aghababian, A. (2018 April). “Ending Ageism: The Need

to Reevaluate Attitudes.” Poster session presented at the annual meeting of the APA Division 17 Great Lakes Conference, Kalamazoo, MI.

Iwasaki, M., Picchiello, M., Aghababian, A., Little, C.,  DiBianca, M., & Henninger, A. (2018

April). “Tough Talks: Sexual Assault Survivors’ Experience with Reporting.” Poster session presented at the annual meeting of the APA Division 17 Great Lakes Conference, Kalamazoo, MI.

Harker, J. R., Kirkhart, M. W., Iwasaki, M., & Lating, J. M. (2018 April) Race, Gender, and

Exercise Maintenance: The Mediating Effects of Task, Coping, and Scheduling Self-Efficacy. Poster session presented at the annual meeting of the APA Division 17 Great Lakes Conference, Kalamazoo, MI.

Moore, J. A. (2018 April). “Perceptions on masculinity and emotional intimacy: How manipulation of social networks and masculinity can affect emotional intimacy in romantic relationships.” Poster session presented at the annual meeting of the APA Division 17 Great Lakes Conference, Kalamazoo, MI.

Madeline Valentine


Madeline’s relationships with incredible faculty and mentors inspired her passion for research

Biology, Psychology