Psychology students expand their research training at University of California-Riverside

Psychology students expand their research training at University of California-Riverside

Psychology students expand their research training at University of California-Riverside


Taylor and Kemani at UCR

Taylor Robinson and Kemani Hunter at the Mentoring Summer Research Internship Program in Riverside, California.

Taylor Robinson and Kemani Hunter are on the fast track to their careers due in part to an eight-week intensive summer research and training experience funded through the UC-HBCU Initiative. The UDC psychology students participated in the University of California-Riverside (UCR)-UDC Pathways to Psychological Sciences Program.

Dr. Benson Cooke, professor of counseling and psychology at UDC, worked with UCR faculty to create opportunities for UDC psychology students. Dr. Afiya Fredericks, assistant professor of psychology at UDC, served as a faculty mentor and liaison, planning with Dr. Cooke and UCR staff to ensure an enriching opportunity for the students and speaking with the students weekly, providing students with ongoing support.

The program was designed for rising sophomores, juniors and seniors from the University interested in pursuing a doctoral degree in psychology. UCR provided students with a stipend, and all expenses were paid for their travel, room and board.

“I was mentored by a psychology professor at the University of California Riverside,” Robinson said. “I worked in her lab and participated in weekly meetings. I also conducted research and presented it at UCR’s Research Symposium after the program alongside other research mentees. My research focused on the role of the gut microbiome in the onset and development of neurological and psychiatric disorders.”

Robinson is a senior psychology major and has a goal of becoming a board-certified psychiatrist and earning a combined MD/Ph.D. and a master’s in public health.

“I’d love to join or establish a holistic practice working alongside a plant-based nutritionist and other holistic doctors encompassing general specialties,” she said. “I would also love to continue conducting research, speak internationally about health education and medicine, and influence health policies and laws.”

Hunter worked with Dr. Carolyn Murray in the Department of Psychology at UCR on a project titled “Potential Environmental Antecedents of Self-handicapping.” Robinson worked with Dr. Aerika Loyd in the Department of Psychology at UCR on a project titled “Identifying Key Components of Gut Dysbiosis Research for Potential Neurological and Psychiatric Interventions.”

Both students presented at national conferences this year and were financially supported through the program.

They presented their research projects at the 35th Annual Mentoring Summer Research Internship Program (MSRIP) Research Symposium at the University of California Riverside.

Robinson won a presentation award at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minoritized Scientists (ABRCMS) 2022 in Anaheim, CA, in November in the Physiology and Pharmacology division for her presentation “Identifying Key Components of Dysbiosis Research for Potential Neurologic & Psychiatric Disorders.” She was presented with a $300 award for her research presentation. Robinson presented the research she engaged in during her summer research experience at the University of California Riverside.

In addition, the students will be conducting research at UDC with Dr. Fredericks in the Implicit Beliefs and Unlimited Potential (IB-UP) lab on projects that focus on how implicit beliefs (mindsets) impact behaviors, the learning environments and student experiences.

“I gained so much priceless personal and interpersonal development,” Robinson said. “I

learned how to manage my time more efficiently, the ins and outs of research, what to look for in graduate programs and principal investigators, and how to network better. I also realized that California feels like a second home.”

Dr. Fredericks agreed that the experience was exceptional.

“It has been a transformative experience, not only for students, but for me,” she said. As an early career professor starting at UDC at the onset of the pandemic, it hasn’t been easy. However, with the support of UDC leadership, Dean April Massey and colleagues whom I met here, like Dr. Benson Cooke and countless others, I have been able to do more than just survive. I truly feel like I am thriving! With such a supportive environment, it allows me the ability to provide countless opportunities to support our students and ensure that they are not only successful while they are here, but well beyond this institution.”