Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo

Kulani Diaz ’13

What type of research do you do at Clark?

Well, I’m a currently a Junior and a Psychology and English double major. I am involved in a lot of research in Psychology. I currently have two research assistantships in Developmental and Clinical Psychology, and a research internship in Social Psychology. I work with a graduate student in studying moral development in Indian children/teens, and in the Clinical field, am working with another graduate student in studying couple interactions and problem-solving mechanisms. I also designed my own research study for my double Honors Thesis in Psychology and English, where I use experimental, and both quantitative and qualitative measures to explore the prevalence of mechanisms of moral disengagement and ingroup glorification in post-war Sri Lanka. For my research internship, I work with Dr. Vollhardt again, in administrating and conducting focus group interviews with various refugee groups in the Worcester area.

Which professors do you work with?

I work with Dr. Johanna Vollhardt, Dr. Lene Jensen Arnett, and Dr. James Cordova in Psychology. I work with Dr. James P. Elliott and Dr. Stephen Levin in English, where I explore Foucauldian notions of power structures, Althusser’s work on Idealogy, and how these manifest in resistance in our contemporary world.

So tell us a little bit more about your own research for your theses?

Sure. I loved the “on-field” experience I got in collecting my own data for the pilot study on moral disengagement and ingroup glorification in December 2011. I was recently awarded the Steinbrecher Fellowship to continue my research into the summer, and next year. There’s not been much research done in Sri Lanka, or indeed, the ‘Eastern’ world, and this is why I think it’s so important for students to really get immersed in ‘real-world’ research in areas that they’re passionate about. I think it’s important that in Psychology, which is a relatives new field, where the measures developed thus far tend to be predominantly Western-based, methods need to be further tested, extended on, and adapted onto multi-cultural contexts. This is mostly why I work with Dr. Lene Jensen Arnett and Dr. Johanna Vollhardt because they base their research in countries such as India and Rwanda, respectively.

My own research explores means by which individuals morally justify their actions and attitudes, however biased, against the perceived outgroup. This happens on a day to day basis, but is very nicely operationalized in conflict zones, which is why I chose to work in post-war Sri Lanka. I use both interviews and questionnaires.

How did you first get involved with doing research?

I was in Dr. Vollhardt’s Experimental Methods class, and she mentioned she did research in ethnic conflict so I spoke with her about it after class. We got to talking, and the next thing I knew she had helped me design my own study! I was approached my graduate students of Dr. Cordova and Dr. Jensen to help in their own research after various labs/classes I took with the professors.

In your opinion, what’s the hardest thing about doing research?

Interesting question. I’d have to say… actually carrying it out. It’s easy (or not so easy) enough to conceptualize constructs and methods within a classroom setting. Not so easy to actually enter the real world and deal with the practicalities of, say, getting translators, and coordinating times with participants and so forth within a given time span. I love these challenges though. Makes the experience that much more real -- kind of bridges the gap between academia and the ‘real-world’ itself. This is why I love research itself.

Do you want to continue doing research in the future?

Definitely. I’ll be continuing research for my Honors theses well into the summer and next year.  Then there’s graduate school (hopefully!) and I’m pretty positive that I want to pursue research as a career in the future. 

A native of California, Caitlin is now a junior at Clark University in Massachusetts studying Psychology and Communications. She is the advertising manager as well as a contributing writer for her university's newspaper, and is involved in various other clubs as well. In addition, she works as a lifeguard and swim instructor. In her free time she enjoys going to sushi and Starbucks with her friends, listening to John Mayer, and swimming.
Similar Reads👯‍♀️