What I Did for Summer Vacation

Psychology majors conduct research on a tropical isle.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

By Peter Nichols

Most undergraduate study means going to class, reading books, doing homework, writing papers, taking exams. Students who want to take undergrad education up a notch roll up their sleeves and take on a research project.

Funded by the Penn Provost's Hewlett Award for Innovation in International Offerings, five psychology majors traveled to a tropical island last summer to contribute their talents and energies to the Mauritius Child Health Project. The 37-year study, headed by Adrian Raine, has compiled a mountain of data that will be mined by the five students for their honors or senior theses. Raine, the Richard Perry University Professor of Criminology and Psychiatry, is a neurocriminologist who uses the theory and methods of brain science to study the causes of and cures for crime. Professor Raine spent two weeks with the young scholars, shepherding them in the lab, engaging them in daily discussions, challenging them with questions and, in the words of sophomore Emily Freeman, “making us think really, really hard.”

“The usual undergraduate experience is just spitting out information that’s been given to you,” observes senior Ashley Belton, “which essentially is a lot of what you end up doing with regular exams and papers. Independent research is so much more creative, innovative and self-driven. We’re really happy we’ve gotten the opportunity to do it.”

In this slide show, undergrads Simone Tang, Emily Freeman, Ashley Belton, Ji Yoon Chung and Keri Wong talk about their research experience on Mauritius.