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What You Should Know as an Incoming Student

The M.S. in Experimental Psychology degree program in the college's Department of Psychology and Neuroscience prepares students to conduct scientific psychological research in industry, government, or private consulting firms, or for enrollment in doctoral programs in biological, cognitive, developmental, social, evolutionary, health, clinical, or other areas of psychology. Students will have access to numerous resources, including direct access to faculty, laboratory space, and a large research participant pool. The program is geared toward students who have excelled as undergraduate psychology majors (or occasionally minors), and who are interested in pursuing psychological research. Students will receive considerable personal attention in this program. Most classes are very small, and there is a superb ratio of faculty to students. Students should talk to their faculty mentors regularly about their plans for career and/or doctoral program applications.

Students are required to take courses in the various major subfields of experimental psychology (biological, cognitive, developmental, and social psychology), as well as courses in statistics and research methods. Elective courses (such as evolutionary psychology) are also available. However, coursework is certainly not the only requirement; students are also expected to develop a program of research, culminating in a master's thesis at the end of the second year. Students are admitted to the program without a specific faculty research advisor. During the first year, students are strongly encouraged to get to know all of the psychology faculty members, and to learn about their areas of research. By the end of the first year, students should determine who their faculty mentor will be. Ideally, there should be a strong match between the research interests of each student and those of his or her mentor. During the second year, students are expected to propose and run an original study or studies, to write a thesis based on this research, and to submit a modified version of this thesis for publication in a peer-reviewed professional journal. Note that the master's thesis is the minimum research requirement; students are strongly encouraged to conduct other research projects (collaborating with their mentor or other faculty members) in addition to the thesis. Students should make an effort to present their research at professional conferences. Note that while the course requirements are fairly obvious, research tends to be a more self-directed endeavor. While all of the psychology faculty members are available for mentorship and advice, it is up to each student to develop his or her own program of research.

Because you are no longer an undergraduate student, your interactions with the faculty members in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience will differ from the typical faculty-undergraduate interactions. As a graduate student, you are not only a student of the SBS faculty; you are also a junior collaborator and colleague. This is a privilege, but it comes with added responsibility. Undergraduate students are, for the most part, told exactly what to do in order to complete the requirements for their degrees. As a graduate student, it is up to YOU to determine your career path. For example, if you want to enter a doctoral program in psychology, you should be sure to conduct plenty of research, and you should study extensively for the GRE. If you plan to enter a research position in industry, you might consider taking extra courses in statistics. As faculty members, we see our graduate students as budding colleagues who can direct their own careers. Naturally, we are happy to advise and help you along the way! One person who may be able to provide you with particularly useful advice is the Research Coordinator; this professor knows a great deal about the latest available funding sources for various areas of study in psychology—including funding awards for graduate students! You should be sure to conduct yourselves professionally, of course, but we also want you to feel comfortable approaching us for general advice, discussions about your research, or concerns about your career goals.

We strongly recommend that students do not work at a separate job for than 10 hours per week during the two years in this program. Being a student in this program is a full-time job in itself. If you are having financial hardships, please talk to the faculty coordinator of our M.S. program; he or she may be able to advise you. Naturally, you can also talk to your faculty mentor(s) about this issue.

Please direct questions to Jonathan Banks, Ph.D., program director for the M.S. in Experimental Psychology. Once enrolled, you should always feel free to talk to the faculty (especially your faculty mentor) about issues regarding your research and career plans.

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