Carnegie Mellon University

Research Labs

The Department of Psychology is fortunate to have faculty who are world leaders in each of our areas of expertise: Social/Health, Developmental, Cognitive, and Neuroscience. 

To learn more about individual faculty members’ research interests, current projects, and requirements for undergraduate research assistants, visit the laboratory websites below.  All of the labs listed on this page actively recruit undergraduate research assistants.

Note: There are several faculty members not listed here who are still actively engaged in research. If you are interested in working with one of them, the best approach is to read some of their publications and write them an email detailing your interest in their research. If you are a good fit, the PI may still be able to accommodate you.

Lab Name

Research Description

Data Driven Diversity Lab (D3)

 

Faculty PI:
Kody Manke

 

Lab website

The mission of the Data-Driven Diversity Lab (D3 Lab) is reflected in its name: using data to understand and improve how different groups experience student success, thriving, and sense of belonging at Carnegie Mellon University. Our lab studies how underrepresented or marginalized groups fare as students in terms of well-being, academic performance, and perceptions of support and belonging. The D3 Lab has three goals:

  • Our first goal is to identify and understand the experiences of students from a diverse set of backgrounds on campus and analyze existing institutional data to identify areas for improvement.
  • Using these insights, our second goal is to design and implement theory-driven interventions to improve student outcomes and to deploy these interventions as applied research projects.
  • Our third goal is to rigorously evaluate the efficacy of these interventions and use our analyses to guide theoretical developments in our understanding of how people thrive and succeed.

Each semester, we accept a new cohort of students who are interested in getting involved in our research. To apply, please send a resume and statement of interest to Dr. Kody Manke.

Health and Human Performance Lab

 

Faculty PI:
David Creswell

 

Lab website

 

The research in the Health and Human Performance lab focuses broadly on understanding what makes people resilient under stress. Specifically, Dr. Creswell conducts community intervention studies, laboratory studies of stress and coping, and neuroimaging studies to understand how various stress management strategies alter coping and stress resilience. For example, he is currently working on studies that test how mindfulness meditation training impacts the brain, peripheral stress physiological responses, and stress-related disease outcomes in at-risk community samples (click here for a mini-review paper of this work). David also explores how the use of simple strategies (self-affirmationrewarding activitiescognitive reappraisal) can buffer stress and improve problem-solving under pressure.

David has made some recent research forays into other areas, such as in describing the role of unconscious processes in learning and decision making, developing new theory and research on behavioral priming, and in building a new field of health neuroscience.   

Student Research Assistants:

Research assistants work in lab nine hours per week and participate in our weekly lab meeting. Research assistants are expected to work in this lab for at least a year so that they can get a variety of training experiences. If you are interested in getting involved, please download the RA application on Dr. Creswell’s lab website, fill in your information save it, then email it to Dr. Creswell (creswell@cmu.edu)

Behavioral Health Research Lab

 

Faculty PI:
Kasey Creswell

 

Lab website

 

The Behavioral Health Research Lab’s work aims to understand the social, emotional, and genetic aspects of addictive behaviors.  Currently, the lab is working to uncover the basic affective mechanisms of cigarette craving and alcohol use using experimental methodologies including in vivo smoking cue exposure paradigms and alcohol administration protocols.  These allow observations of social and emotional processing under conditions that model real-world contexts (e.g. while participants are intoxicated or experiencing strong cravings).  Ultimately, Dr. Creswell’s research aims to specify the mechanisms by which individuals fail to self-regulate and to identify individuals who are at risk to develop an addiction.

Student Research Assistants

Research Assistants typically work nine hours per week, which includes lab work and attendance at a weekly lab meeting.  If you decide to apply, know that Research Assistants are expected to commit to working in the lab for a minimum of one year.  Also, know that applicants must have a cumulative GPA of at least 3.3 to be considered.

If you are interested in getting involved, please download the Research Assistant Application on Dr. Creswell’s lab website, complete it, and email it to Dr. Creswell (kasey@andrew.cmu.edu).

Relationships Lab

 

Faculty PI:
Brooke Feeney

 

Lab website

The Relationships Lab conducts research on interpersonal relationships, investigating the ways in which relationships may help individuals as they face new challenges, opportunities, and adversities. As a student in the Relationships Lab, you may assist in developing research materials and studies, learn how to be an experimenter and take participants through research procedures, and collect and interpret observational and physiological data.

Students accepted to the Relationships Lab are inquisitive, organized, highly motivated, and in good academic standing (≥ 3.0 GPA). This is a minimum two-semester commitment - new applicants must be able to work at least 9 hours per week in their first semester, and at least 6 hours per week in subsequent semesters. Questions and applications (found on the lab website) should be sent to Shelby Parsons, Lab Manager, at smparson@andrew.cmu.edu.

Gender, Relationships, and Health Lab

 

Faculty PI:
Vicki Helgeson

Lab website

The Gender, Relationships, and Health Lab conducts research with college students, people from the community, and people who face various chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.  We use a variety of methods, ranging from experimental research in the lab to on-line surveys, to ecological momentary assessment methods, to longitudinal field studies. 

Student Research Assistants

Research Assistants are expected to work about 10 hours a week in the lab.  The number of openings varies greatly from semester to semester.  If you are interested, please contact Dr. Helgeson for details (vh2e@andrew.cmu.edu)

Name

Research Description

Cognitive Development Lab

 

Faculty PI:
Anna Fisher

 

Lab website

Our research group is interested in understanding various aspects of cognitive development, including how children generalize knowledge they have to new situations, how children acquire language, what role language plays in knowledge generalization, how children maintain focused attention, and what role focused attention plays in the acquisition of new knowledge. We study cognitive development by presenting children (and occasionally adults) with thinking games. These games are designed in such a way that people’s responses help us understand how young children think and how their thinking changes with development.

Student Research Assistants:

Minimum commitment is 2 semesters at 6-9 hours per week; there are usually about 2 openings each semester; preference is typically given to sophomores and juniors but all interested students should apply.  Interested students should visit the lab website and complete the application.

Communication and Learning Lab

 

Faculty PI:
Dan Yurovsky

 

Lab website

Children acquire language at a striking pace, learning the meanings of over a thousand words by the time they can run down the street. But even more impressively, they learn how to combine these words to communicate successfully with their caregivers and peers. In the Communication and Learning Lab, we study the processes by which children go from learning their first word to become fluent speakers of their native language. We measure these processes using games that two people—adults, children and their parents, and pairs of children—play together, allowing us to measure how people coordinate with each-other in order to communicate successfully. We characterize these processes with computational models that allow us to make predictions about new experiments and to determine whether the behavior we see in the lab scales up to describe the conversations people have in the world outside the lab.

Research assistants in the Communication and Learning lab will be involved in the design and implementation of these experiments, as well as analysis of experimental data and big data from real-world communicative interactions. Research assistants will also be invited to attend weekly lab meetings where we discuss progress on ongoing projects and read papers about topics in language, learning, communication, and cognitive development.

Experience working with children, programming experience, and an interest in machine learning are all desired but not requirements. We ask for a commitment of at least six hours a week for two-semesters. RAs are eligible to work for either course credit or pay.  For more information please visit callab.github.io.  Please contact Dr. Yurovsky at yurovsky@cmu.edu if interested in opportunities.

Infant Cognition Lab

 

Faculty PI:
David Rakison

 

Lab website

The main focus of Dr. Rakison’s research is infant perception and cognition, with a focus on the origins of knowledge and the mechanisms that underpin learning in the first years of life. He uses infant-appropriate behavioral methodologies that are relatively straightforward for undergraduates to learn and implement – such as habituation - and computational modeling to examine a number of early developmental phenomena including categorization, induction, causality, the development of animacy concepts, and fear learning. Key issues under debate addressed by this research include the relative role of general or specialized mechanisms in early learning, the relative role of surface features versus less perceptually available ones in concept formation, the influence of action on perceptual and cognitive development, whether constraints on learning are acquired and/or innate, the and the extent to which behavior is generated on-line or is based on prior representations.

Student Research Assistants:

Research in the lab is a two-semester commitment and is open only to Freshman, Sophomores, and rising Juniors. Openings are typically available, and students choose the hours they wish to work in the lab. There are no class prerequisites, and majors from any school are welcome to apply. To find out more, contact Dr. Rakison (rakison@andrew.cmu.edu), Phuong (Phoebe) Dinh (graduate student): pdinh@andrew.cmu.edu, or Aishwarya Selvaraman (research assistant): aselvara@andrew.cmu.edu.

Infant Language and Learning Lab

 

Faculty PI:
Erik Thiessen

 

Lab website

The Infant Language and Learning Lab is focused on understanding how infants and adults learn language.  We work with infants between 4 and 24 months, children between 3 and 5 years, and adults, looking to see how individuals learn at different ages. Research assistants will have an opportunity to work with some or all of these participant groups, and to learn how to run experiments with infants who are just learning to produce and comprehend language.  In addition, research assistants will have an opportunity to generate stimuli including artificial languages, visual and musical analogs of language, and age-appropriate materials assessing language comprehension.

Student Research Assistants:

Research assistants should be reliable, independent, and willing to commit to working in the lab for two consecutive semesters.  If you are interested, please complete the application on the lab website and send it to Dr. Thiessen (thiessen@andrew.cmu.edu)

Kid Neuro Lab

 

Faculty PI:
Jessica Cantlon

 

Lab website

The Kid Neuro Lab is looking for some new undergraduate research assistants to start over the summer. We're looking for an undergraduate interested in how research labs work and is able to give two semesters of commitment. 

As an undergraduate RA in the Kid Neuro Lab you will have the chance to run behavioral and neuroimaging studies on children and adults. In addition, you will learn how research labs function and about the environment of academia. It is also the hope that you'll be able to run some research of your own!

If you're interested in becoming an RA with the Kid Neuro Lab please follow the Qualtrics link. If you have any questions, please feel free to email Nour, the Research Manager, at nzaghlou@andrew.cmu.edu. You can also check out our website for more information about what we do.

 

Name

Research Description

The Auditory Lab

 

Faculty PI:
Laurie Heller

 

Lab website

Our research examines the human ability to use sound to understand what events are happening in the environment. Our perceptual experiments address whether there are acoustic cues that reveal attributes of sound events. We test discrimination of sounds, labeling of sounds, and even gestures. We have also examined how this knowledge influences which brain regions are recruited during the perception of sound events. Current questions are whether audition plays a significant role in the perception of multi-modal events and how listeners can learn to extract the information that echoes contain in order to navigate.

Student Research Assistants:

Understanding of acoustics or perception is desirable, and the willingness to learn to use Matlab. Appropriate for students with an interest in Cognitive Psychology, Cognitive Neuroscience, HCI, signal processing, or audiology. For Research Programmers, experience in Matlab programming is a plus.

Research assistants and programmers will be eligible to receive research credit. If interested, please email a resume to laurieheller@cmu.edu

Intelligence, Cognition, Evaluation, Choice,  Reasoning, Education And Metacognition (ICE CREAM Lab!)

 

Faculty PI:
Danny Oppenheimer

 

Lab website

Our research explores higher-order cognitive processing - how we think, how we decide, and how we learn.  Using largely behavioral methods, we explore an eclectic range of topics in thinking and reasoning and their application to real-world problems in education, policy, and business.  Current questions explore how technology influences our patterns of thinking, what is the nature of intelligence, how voters make political choices, and the effectiveness of various educational interventions for improving learning.

Student Research Assistants:

Specifically looking for rising seniors interested in committing to two semesters of independent research leading to a senior thesis. Programming skills desirable, but not necessary.  Students must have taken a statistics class and must be willing to take ownership of a project.   For non-rising seniors, there are often (but not always) available positions for assistants and programmers who will be eligible to receive research credit.  Email: oppenheimer@cmu.edu with a paragraph describing your goals for a research position. 

Language Production and Executive Control Lab

Faculty PI:
Bonnie Nozari

Lab website

We study how the brain turns thoughts into words and sentences, how children learn to do this, and how adults produce language so fluently. We also study other modalities of communication, such as typing and texting. Research in our lab requires a commitment of ~9h of work per week for at least two semesters.

For more information, visit our website or contact Dr. Bonnie Nozari: bnozari@andrew.cmu.edu

The Memory Lab

 

Faculty PI:
Lynne Reder

 

Lab website

 

The research in our lab focuses on furthering our understanding of how information is acquired and retrieved for use in different situations, using a variety of methodologies. These include computational modeling, behavioral studies that measure accuracy and latency, psychopharmacological interventions (using midazolam that creates temporary anterograde amnesia), neuroimaging (both EEG and fMRI).

Student Research Assistants:

Experience in cognitive psychology and/or cognitive neuroscience is desirable. For Research Programmers, experience in Lisp is a plus. 
Research assistants and programmers will be eligible to receive research credit.  If interested, please email a resume to reder@cmu.edu.

Name

Research Description

 Cognitive Axon Lab

 

Faculty PI:
Tim Verstynen

 

Lab website

The CoAx lab uses a combination of behavioral testing, computational modeling and neuroimaging to explore how the architecture of sensorimotor pathways in the brain regulates action planning, learning and executive control. Research assistants typically help out with data collection and data management through a one-on-one mentorship with senior lab members (e.g., graduate students, postdocs).

Student Research Assistants:

Research Assistants are expected to commit to at least one year working in the lab, but a two-year commitment is preferred.  Contact Dr. Verstynen (timothyv@andrew.cmu.edu) to apply.

Concepts, Actions, Objects (CAOs) Lab

 

Faculty PI:
Brad Mahon

 

Lab website

The Concepts, Actions, Objects (CAOs) lab of Dr. Brad Mahon is recruiting undergraduate researchers for ongoing studies using MRI and behavioral tests to study how the human brain recovers from injury. Student researchers will work with human participants with neurological injury, and be involved in study design, implementation, data collection, data analysis and interpretation.

The lab is also recruiting undergraduate software developers interested in working on the development of JAVA and Python based tools to support research studies. 

Research assistants are directly involved in data collection and analysis. Software engineers are involved in the development of research software solutions. The lab seeks to provide an engaging environment for mentored student research, and training toward future career goals (graduate school, medical school, industry). All lab members receive training and direct project and career mentorship. 

If you are interested in applying to the lab, please contact Dr. Brad Mahon (bmahon@andrew.cmu.edu) with a short summary (1 paragraph) of your interests in research.