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

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 CMU Relationships Lab conducts scientific research on interpersonal relationships.  The studies conducted in the lab are designed to help us learn about relationship dynamics, their predictors, and their consequences.

Notes for undergrads to apply:

Preference is given to freshmen through juniors (non-seniors) who will have time to develop in the lab.

You must be able to work with us for at least 2 consecutive semesters.

You must be able to register for a minimum of 9 units.

Preferred Credentials:

  • Psychology major
  • Minimum 3.0 GPA
  • Responsible, mature, professional and highly motivated
  • Desire to learn about research

Person to contact for more info:  Bria Toneff, Lab Manager - btoneff@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.

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), Deon Benton (graduate student: dtbenton@andrew.cmu.edu), or Emily Kim (research assistant: emilykimx3@gmail.com).

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)

 

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 Cognitive Psychology, Cognitive Neuroscience, HCI, signal processing, or audiology. For Research Programmers, experience in Matlab programming and/or Unity is a plus.

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