Research Opportunities

The Department of Psychology is home to several laboratories conducting research in various areas of psychological science. The activities that take place in these labs not only expand our understanding of behavior and mental processes, they provide unique opportunities for students to apply what they’ve learned under the close supervision of faculty research mentors.

Students who work on research teams often

  • Pursue research questions that captivate their intellect, curiosity, and creativity
  • Develop close friendships with their research colleagues
  • Become more engaged students
  • Get to know their professors better
  • Have a richer university experience that includes attending psychology conferences
  • Increase their chances of getting into graduate school

Some of Psychology’s active research labs include the SPARK Lab, the Cognitive Processes Research Lab, and the Behavioral Neuroscience Laboratory.



Dr. Anne Duran’s Social Psychology Academics, Research, and Knowledge (SPARK) Lab is a forward thinking laboratory that aspires to promote the study of social psychology through encouraging and fostering student involvement in research, as well as student-driven research and collaborative research between students and faculty. 

 One of the most prominent goals of the SPARK lab is to demonstrate to students the gratification of conducting research. Those involved in the lab are committed to the practice of sound theory and methodology; we pride ourselves on professionalism and the commitment to contributing to the theoretical knowledge base of social psychology.

For more information about the SPARK Lab, please contact Dr. Anne Duran,

Cognitive Processes Research Lab

Cognitive processes labIn the Cognitive Processes Research Lab (CPRL), we are interested in questions about brain processes such as memory, perception, attention, and language. By measuring response time and accuracy while people perform different cognitive tasks, we can begin to understand the amazingly complicated work the brain is doing to help us perform our daily tasks seemingly effortlessly. Current projects include human factors research on voice characteristics of computerized command programs such as GPS systems, research on the factors that affect students' abilities to understand their own knowledge, and research on how voice characteristics affect reading and memory for spoken words.

For more information about the Cognitive Processes Lab, please contact Dr. Marianne Abramson,

Behavioral Neuroscience Laboratory

Neurobehavioral lab

Dr. Isabel Sumaya

Currently, my research investigates the effects of high fat diets on learning and memory in rats kept in long-term enriched environments.  Additionally, we study the indoleamine neurohormone, melatonin and its in vivo behavioral effects in animal models including Parkinsonism, Depression and Anxiety. Of special interest is the behavioral effect of melatonin on the D2 dopaminergic receptor system during extrapyramidal motor disturbances and the circadian effects of D2 dopaminergic agonists and antagonists.   

For more information about this research, please contact Dr. Isabel Sumaya,

Dr. Gancarz-Kausch Laboratory

Dr. Amy Gancarz-Kausch

The focus of my lab is investigating behavioral and neurobiological mechanisms that underlie vulnerability to drug addiction. It is of great interest to examine why some individuals are susceptible to drugs of abuse while others are more resilient. My training as a graduate student focused on studying various animal models of behavioral phenotypes that may mediate variability in drug-taking behaviors (i.e., sensation seeking impulsivity, negative consequences of self-administration). As a postdoc, I studied the neuronal, molecular, and behavioral plasticity that occurs following repeated exposure to drugs of abuse. My research seeks to understand behavioral and molecular processes that lead to the development of drug addiction.

For more information about this research, please contact Dr. Amy Gancarz-Kausch,

Social Cognition Lab

Our primary research focuses on the social and cognitive psychological processes that influence eyewitness memory error. This encompasses many facets of eyewitness memory including why people are better at recognizing familiar vs. unfamiliar race faces (cross-race effect), as well as understanding why verbal descriptions of faces sometimes enhance (verbal facilitation effect) and at other times impair (verbal overshadowing effect) subsequent face recognition accuracy. As a secondary area of study, we are interested in how repeated retrieval of memory through memory testing can enhance retention for students and discovering the optimal testing and pedagogical techniques, that lead to accurate long-term memories. Finally, we examine how societal stereotypes can hinder academic performance through the lens of Stereotype Threat. All of our research is experimental in nature, strongly rooted in theory and quantitative analyses, with an application toward improving legal and educational practices.  

For more information about the Social Cognition Lab, please contact Dr. Kyle Susa,

Students at the annual convention of the Western Psychological Association in Reno, NV, April 2013