Katie Dyer ('16, Psychology)

Photo of Alexa Sterling What do you do for your undergraduate research?

I work in a lab with Dr. Galizio and Dr. Bruce where we are studying abstract concept learning in rats.I am assisting in an experiment studying an abstract concept learning area calledstimulus equivalence. In this procedure we train rats to respond to different scents. Then we can test to see if any novel or untrained relations emerge. This is similar to human learning and symbol use. For example, humans show symmetry- if we are trained that A=B, we will spontaneously assume that B=A even without explicit training. The goal of our study is to see if symmetrical responding occurs in nonhumans such as rats. This will help us understand more about the cognitive capabilities of nonhumans.

What made you want to pursue an undergraduate research project?

I really wanted to experience learning about animal behavior hands-on. I am hoping to handle animals in my future career so working in the lab is just the beginning. I am really interested in animal behavior, and being in the lab and seeing what it is really like to handle animals and train them is something I wanted to experience while I am here at UNCW.

How did you start your research project?

I was in two animal behavior-related classes with Dr. Bruce in my first semester here. I was really interested in her work in the lab and also really admired how passionate she was about animal behavior. We had a couple of active learning experiences in those classes, but I thought that working in a lab around animals would be a great thing to do, especially under her supervision.

Was doing your own research fun? Be Honest.

YES! I love it so much! Going to the lab is what I look forward to most every day. I have developed friendships with a lot of people working in the lab. I want to maximize my experience by working as hard as I can and learning as much as possible about what we do and animal behavior in general. I have already learned so much about our research and what it is like to be a part of a lab.

It isn't required to do research as an undergrad, so what advantages do you think this experience has provided you?

Doing research in the lab is such a great opportunity. It has taught me so much about how experiments are really done outside of learning about them in class. I have also learned so much about animal research and behavior. I feel like this opportunity has increased my passion even more. Working with graduate students, fellow undergrads, and teachers creates a very rich and diverse learning and working environment. Seeing it all come together is amazing.

What recognition and/or grants did you receive for your research?

I have received two CSURF Research Supplies Grants for Fall 2013 and Fall 2014 to help fund our studies in stimulus equivalence. I recieved the Board of Visitors Undergraduate Fellowship for the 2014-2015 school year to help support my participation in my research project. I have been a co-author on several posters presented at various conferences, and presented a research poster at a conference for the South Eastern Association for Behavior Analysis.

What are your plans after you receive your degree from UNCW?

After graduating from UNCW, I hope to be training animals at a zoo or park, like Discovery Cove. Animals are my passion and I would be so happy if I could work with them for the rest of my life.

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