Psychology Student Charlotte Rothwell volunteered as a research assistant as part of the Psychology Employability Programme.
How and why did you choose to volunteer your time?
“I applied for my placement via the Psychology Employability Programme. I chose to volunteer in the Babylab as I thought it was a fantastic opportunity to get some hands-on research experience, in a setting with a great reputation and facilities. The Babylab is part of the Infancy and Early Development research group in Psychology, with state-of-the-art facilities. Its design is based on children with play areas and everything childproofed as much as possible so it is the optimum place for doing developmental research. It was a good way to have experience doing research in the developmental field, to see if it is something I would like to do in the future.”
Had you worked with a charity or organisation before starting your project?
“Yes, I had worked in a hospital and a hospice, as well as with a youth club.”
Why did the organisation need a volunteer?
“They needed two research assistants to help them to set up and run a study, and collect and input the data. The study was about categorisation, so 14-month-olds are read a book containing pictures of toys that are unfamiliar to them. Some of these toys are given a made-up name. Using an eye tracker we aim to see whether the baby had learnt the label for the object or not.”
What skills did you use and develop working on the project? Did you learn any new skills?
“Over the course of my placement I acquired many new skills, for example, I learnt how to make the stimuli for the experiment using new computer software, and how to use an eye tracker. It also taught me what the process of doing research is, from start to finish, and what can happen along the way. I developed my communication skills and also skills working with babies and young children through doing my placement too.”
How did you help the organisation?
“I made the stimuli for the experiment, then ran the study and collected data.”
What was the best thing you think you did for the organisation?
“I think the best thing I did for the organisation was carrying out the experiment and collecting data, as it enabled more participants to be tested over a period of time.”
What was the best thing about the project for you?
“The best thing about the project for me was gaining an invaluable research experience, which I thoroughly enjoyed.”
What was the result- has it led to more projects with the organisation?
“Not yet as this project is still ongoing.”
What career do you hope to pursue at the end of your course and how has your project helped you achieve that? Did it help you make any decisions on your career?
“I hope to pursue a career in clinical psychology at the end of my course, so although my project was not directly related to this field, it has definitely given me insight into the many areas of psychology. It should also help me when I come to do my own research project in the third year, and also when I go onto further study after my undergraduate degree, as I already have the research experience that others may not.”
Can you describe what it’s like studying at a top global 1% Lancaster University?
“Studying at a top university is amazing, as both the staff and students are very motivated and proud to be here, so there is a great atmosphere. The facilities cannot be faulted, as everything you could ever need is right here on your doorstep, as it is a campus university with everything in close proximity. Being a top university and also a research university opens up many more doors and opportunities for you, which is a huge bonus to being here.”
Would you recommend your course to prospective students? If so, why?
“Yes, I would recommend my course to prospective students as it is very interesting and opens up a lot of doors and opportunities.”
This work was supported by the International Centre for Language and Communicative Development (LuCiD). The support of the Economic and Social Research Council [ES/L008955/1] is gratefully acknowledged.