Alumni: Sheela Ramesh
Sheela graduated from CMU in 2009 with a BFA in Vocal Performance and a B.S. in Psychology. She is originally from New Providence, New Jersey, but currently lives and studies in London as a Marshall Scholar.
Title of Undergraduate Research Project and Type of Support: Small Undergraduate Research Grant: "Jam vs. Jelly: How Children Reason with Semantically Similar Words"
When did you become involved in undergraduate research at CMU? My sophomore year, I did some work with then-PhD student Kaori Idemaru in Lori Holt's Speech Perception and Learning Lab. I really got involved as a lab member my junior year in Anna Fisher's Cognitive Development Lab (where I did my undergraduate Honors Thesis) and the same year began working in David Klahr's Discovery Process Lab as well.
How did you find your mentor? I had taken Research Methods in Developmental Psychology with Anna Fisher the beginning of my junior year. At the end of the course, I joined her lab. When it came time to think about my Honors Thesis, she was the natural choice for a mentor, both in terms of her expertise and the great working relationship we had developed.
How has your idea/project evolved through your academic years? The project developed as a next step to prior research in the field. Initially, the scope of the project was very broad. I attempted to address the issues at hand with several related experiments, all of which appeared in my thesis. Following the thesis, however, we built upon the aspects of the study that were the most effective to address the research issues at hand and ran follow-up experiments to uncover a more thorough picture. In doing so, we left parts of the project aside in favor of a more focused line of research. Recently, I presented the results at the 2010 Cognitive Science conference, where I received valuable feedback for the next steps in this research.
What successes or difficulties have you encountered in this project or others? I was very lucky with this project, in that my hypotheses going into the study were supported by the evidence I gathered; often, however, this is not the case, which can be frustrating as a researcher. It was also hard to acknowledge that a big part of my study was not actually the best way to address the issues at hand, and to come to terms with letting go some of the hard work I'd performed.
If you could summarize your experience in one word, what would it be? Eye-opening (if a hyphenated word is allowed)
How did your undergraduate research project help you shape your future after CMU? As a result of this research experience, I discovered I had passion and skill in this field of work, and am currently embarking on a degree in Cognitive and Decision Science, furthering my knowledge in this area.