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Welcome to Psychology

From childhood to old age.

Psychology at Heriot-Watt focuses on providing
excellent learning experience combined with strong
and active research culture

 

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SCHOOL OF SOCIAL SCIENCES - DEPARTMENT OF PSYCHOLOGY

VOLUNTARY RESEARCH ASSISTANT SCHEME

The Voluntary Research Assistant Scheme (VRAs) is an experience offered to UG students (year 2 to 4) enrolled in a Psychology programme at Heriot Watt University.

Aims

  1. Increase your employability profile by including the scheme in your CV
  2. Develop further your transferable skills in terms of data handling and reports preparation
  3. Get greater knowledge of a research environment, including team work, and of the research environment in general
  4. Get hands-on research experience on a specific topic of Psychology of your interest


How?

By taking part in a research project led by a staff member.

Minimum duration: 2 months; Maximum duration: 12 months
Minimum hours/week: 2 hours; Maximum hours/week: 8 hours

The number of hours undertaken will depend on the time of year and your commitments in relation to your studies and should be discussed and agreed with your supervisor.

Is there a selection process?
The VRA experience is agreed with the supervisor. If the supervisor accepts the application and there are places available, then no further selection is needed. If there are more applications than places available, then there is a selection process.

The selection is based on:

  • CV (qualifications acquired up until the application and extracurricular relevant activities)
  • Personal statement highlighting the reason for pursuing this opportunity ( e.g. experience useful for pursuing Masters programme or PhD position; experience useful for developing particular skills; experience useful for deciding between clinical and research career)
  • Match between abilities-project (e.g. if project requires use of SPSS independently, unlikely to benefit year 2 student).

If you are interested in becoming a VRA for any of the projects below, please email the relevant staff contact copying in VRA Coordinator: Dr Mel McKendrick M.McKendrick@hw.ac.uk

 

Project Title
1 Objective, automatic measures of depression – can data from a mobile phone be related to depression?
Description                  Participants will be asked to complete some baseline measures assessing cognition, personality and mood. All participants will need to download an app for their phone.
VRA Role
  • Check the tests on Qualtrics
  • Help recruit participants (approx. 80 students)
  • Answer any queries regarding downloading the app or the tests on Qualtrics
Start Date                         The beginning of the semester will be the busiest as this is when the recruitment and setting of the study takes place.
Duration  The post is for approximately 4 weeks.
Benefits to VRA The VRA will gain experience in measures of depression, emotion, personality and cognition.
Staff Contact             Dr Mary E. Stewart
Email M.E.Stewart@hw.ac.uk

Project Title
2 Attendance tracking
Description Collecting attendance tracking data to promote the student experience shortly.
VRA Role Data analysis: Collection and analysis of ad-hoc staff attendance records. These will be compared with newly collected data.    
Start Date Beginning of semester
Duration 6 months (initially)
Benefits to VRA Development of practical data collection and analysis skills.
Staff Contact Dr Terry Lansdown
Email T.Lansdown@hw.ac.uk

Project Title
3 Driver Distraction
Description An existing dataset concerning self-report driver distraction behaviours requires analysis.                                                                    
VRA Role Investigation and data analysis.
Start Date Beginning of the semester
Duration 6 months
Benefits to VRA Development of practical data collection and analysis skills.
Staff Contact Dr Terry Lansdown
Email T.Lansdown@hw.ac.uk

Project Title
4 Real world Observation of Driver Distraction
Description   A paper by Sullman provided a datum of real world observational data on driver distraction. This project will collect and analyse data on current behaviours in and around the Edinburgh region.
VRA Role Data collection and analysis
Start Date Beginning of the semester
Duration 6 months
Benefits to VRA                Practical experience of data collection and analysis
Staff Contact Dr Terry Lansdown
Email T.Lansdown@hw.ac.uk

Project Title
5 An investigation of differences in social perception across levels of social anxiety and autistics traits.
Description A pilot project has been conducted on differences in face processing and social anxiety. The study will be refined and expanded to an online sample.
VRA role Help with recruitment, data collection and analysis of the survey presented on Qualtrics.
Start Date Semester 1
Duration To be agreed depending on availability
Benefits to VRA     
  • Gain experience of the research process and recruiting a community sample.
  • Gain knowledge about social anxiety, autistic traits and social cognition.
  • Gain knowledge of face processing experimental studies.
  • Gain experience of statistical analysis and working with Qualtrics survey platform.
Staff Contact Dr Mel McKendrick
Email M.McKendrick@hw.ac.uk

 

Project Title
6 Enhancing memory binding abilities across age using tDCS
Project funded by the Alzheimer Scotland Dementia Research Centre
Description                                                                                                                                                                                          Recent studies suggest that transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) can enhance Visual Short term Memory (VSTM) capacity. Binding is a cognitive construct that operates in VSTM but can be dissociated from other VSTM functions. Binding is vulnerable to abnormal variants of ageing such as Alzheimer’s disease and declines dramatically in older adults with cognitive impairment (e.g., MCI). Proving that binding functions can be enhanced using brain electrical stimulation would help design non-pharmacological interventions aimed at enhancing memory abilities relevant to everyday life functioning. To this aim, we will apply tDCS to a brain network pivotal for VSTM binding (Exp 1). Secondly, we will investigate the electrophysiological changes related to the stimulation (Exp 2) and, finally, we will explore the impact of ageing on memory benefits drawn from Tdcs (Exp 3).
VRA Role     The VRA post within this project is to participate as research assistant in Experiment 2 and Experiment 3 of the above project.
Exp 2: We will investigate the neural correlates of enhancements in VSTM abilities resulting from tDCS. Sample: healthy participants free of sensory, neurological or psychiatric disorders (explored through a preliminary questionnaire). Tasks: recruitment, testing, data processing.
Exp 3: We will investigate if older adults can also benefit from tDCS regarding their overall VSTM abilities and more specifically their binding abilities. Sample: older healthy participants free of sensory, neurological or psychiatric disorders (explored through a preliminary questionnaire). Tasks: recruitment, testing, data processing
Start Date     September 2018
Duration         9 months
Benefits to VRA                                 Techniques learned:
  • Exp 2: tDCS, EEG;
  • Exp 3: tDCS
Staff Contact Dr Anna Sedda
Email a.sedda@hw.ac.uk