Early Scientist Program

The Department of Psychology is proud to offer an Early Scientist Program

What is it?

The early scientist program in the psychology department gives undergraduate students a chance to join a research laboratory as a research assistant right after finishing the general psychology course (PSY 121). We waive all the other course requirements. The idea is to get students into research labs as soon as possible – perhaps as freshmen or sophomores – and start them down the path to becoming expert researchers.

Over the course of their college careers, many of the early scientists develop superior research skills that serve them in good stead when looking for jobs or seeking admission to graduate school. With the extra years of laboratory research experience afforded to them, they often go on to win competitive university-level undergraduate research grants to support their own projects, complete honors theses, present research projects at major conferences around the country, and even publish papers in professional research journals. These accomplishments are more likely for early scientist students because they have more time than other students to achieve a high level of research training. Graduates of the early scientist program have gone on to many graduate and professional schools, including UNC Chapel Hill medical school and clinical psychology program, Princeton University’s Ph.D program, and the University of Michigan’s MSW program.

The program not only trains research skills, but provides a good way to get to know faculty and graduate students working in the research labs in the department. Students also meet advanced undergraduates who can serve as a model for what to do in the discipline and how to excel. It is a good way to stand out and get to know professors well enough to get a good letter of recommendation for jobs or further training later.

Who can participate?

Currently, it is a “by invitation only” program, meaning that to be considered an early scientist, you have to be asked to join. Typically, the top 5-10% of students in PSY 121 are invited each year. We do not look at anything except students’ grades in the general psychology class before inviting them.

The process begins with a brief interview about your goals and interests, and then we try to match you with a research lab that can mentor you. Obviously, most of the students who are interested are psychology majors, but we have had students participate from many other departments, including biology, nursing, and computer science.

What if I’m not eligible for the program? Can I still do research?

There are many other more traditional ways to get involved in scientific research at UNCG. We pride ourselves on both the quality and quantity of research opportunities available to our students. If you want to do research, but were not invited into the early scientist program, you can still apply to join labs in the traditional way. Our page on research and independent study opportunities outlines how to do that.

Director of Undergraduate Studies: Dr. Kari Eddington

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