Catching Up with Former MRRI Research Assistant Julie Wilson

Julie Wilson worked as a Research Assistant at the Brain Injury Neuropsychology Laboratory at Moss Rehabilitation Research Institute (MRRI) until 2021 when she enrolled in graduate school. During her time at MRRI, she worked under the mentorship of lab director Amanda Rabinowitz, PhD, and it was a pleasure to catch up with Julie to hear more about what she is doing now.

1) Can you tell us what you are doing now?

I am currently in the doctoral program in the Psychology Department at Lehigh University, with a focus on cognitive psychology.

2) Why did you choose this particular program?

I chose this program for a couple reasons. First, my research interests are closely aligned with those of Dr. Jessecae Marsh, my current advisor at Lehigh University. Dr. Marsh’s lab focuses on beliefs in relation to causal connections, and how those beliefs affect our categorization decisions. Here is a link to the lab webpage for more information: https://wordpress.lehigh.edu/ccrlab/. In addition, I had multiple interviews with Dr. Marsh before deciding to attend Lehigh University, and each of our interactions strongly suggested to me that we would work well together. Lastly, I had a location restriction since I own my home near Philadelphia, PA. I chose to look at schools that were up to a 2.5-hour drive away from home, and Lehigh University was a great fit for all of my needs.

3) What are your current research interests?

I am currently interested in the interrelationships between perception, belief, and decision-making. My first-year project involves evaluating peoples’ perceptions of their own knowledge about certain everyday devices (i.e., a toaster, can opener, etc.) before and after asking them to explain how the device works. Previous research has shown that people tend to initially overestimate their knowledge about certain causal mechanisms of these devices and that the act of physically attempting to explain how the device works causes most people to realize their intellectual miscalibration. In my study, my research aims to determine what elements within these freely-written explanations lead someone to reassess their knowledge. Specifically, what is it about someone’s explanation that either allows them to recognize their ignorance or to continue to maintain their false perception of understanding?

4) Why did you choose to work as a Research Assistant at MRRI?

I chose to work as a Research Assistant and MRRI because I was interested in both psychology and neuroscience, and I knew I wanted to work with people. I believed working at MRRI would allow me to gain the experience I needed before advancing my education in either psychology of neuroscience.

5) What was it like working in the Brain Injury Neuropsychology Laboratory at MRRI?

It was an honor and a pleasure to work in the Brain Injury Neuropsychology Lab at MRRI. It was easy to become friends with each of my colleagues and my mentors treated me with respect while pushing me to do my best. I loved working with our study participants and was so grateful to have made connections with patients and their families.

6) Is there something you learned at MRRI that has helped you in your current endeavors?

Working at MRRI taught me how to efficiently manage my time since I was often part of multiple research projects at once. I also helped to write and publish two peer-reviewed journal articles during my time at MRRI, and these experiences will definitely help me now that I am in graduate school and am beginning to lead my own research projects. Most importantly, I further developed my compassion for people in all walks of life and my ability to listen to someone’s story without judgment.

7) What is one of your favorite memories from your time working at MRRI?

I have many wonderful memories from working at MRRI! I loved the time spent talking with and getting to know my co-workers, both at MRRI and in the Brain Injury Unit. We even got to play with the therapy dog, Pender, once each month! However, my favorite aspect of my job at MRRI was spending time with our study participants. I really enjoyed listening to each of their unique stories and how their brain injury had changed their perspective on life. I was very lucky to have met each and every one of them.

8) What is something that you are really excited about or looking forward to in your current role?

In my current role as a graduate student, I am really excited to be able to answer my own scientific questions. As a Research Assistant, you perform the tasks necessary to successfully complete research projects designed by other people. Now, I finally get to learn how to develop my own research studies to find answers to questions that I find interesting or believe need to be solved.

9) Can you tell us more about your long-term career plans or goals?

After I graduate, I would ideally like to work at an academic institution doing about 60% research and 40% teaching. I enjoy teaching and tend to find myself learning just as much from the ideas and perspectives of the students as what I hope they learn from me. However, my constant curiosity and passion for problem-solving lead me to believe that research is where I want to spend the majority of my time during my career.

10) What are some of your personal interests or hobbies?

In my spare time, I volunteer at an animal shelter in Media, PA. I spend my time there walking dogs, cleaning kennels, and even helping at outside events. I also enjoy hiking and the outdoors, as well as learning new types of crafting. Free time in graduate school can be hard to come by, but I still try to make it to the animal shelter at least once per week.

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