Wu Lab, Northern Illinois University
*** Update as of August 18, 2018 ***
To prospective undergraduate applicants: My lab has closed down recruitment for the Fall 2018 semester. If you have an interest in my lab, and envision wanting to apply for Spring 2019, please see the relevant link below and submit an application. I plan to review applications beginning around early November, so feel free to submit one around that time frame. Note that I do not anticipate recruiting very many students for Spring 2019, perhaps in the range of 2-3. Thank you for your interest in our work.
Overview for Prospective Undergraduate Students
Since my first year on the NIU faculty, I have been training undergraduate students with respect to the conduct of research relevant to clinical psychology. Since 2006, I have had somewhere near 100 students come through the lab. Some have held majors in other departments; several have been post-baccalaureate students; one student came from Bradley University for a summer position; one was a high school student from St. Charles, IL; however, the majority have been undergraduate Psychology majors (either BA or BS) here at NIU. In today's climate, students who wish to pursue advanced training in clinical psychology (read: want to compete for positions in graduate school) pretty much have to have documented research experience and hands-on research training. Of course, all successful students need to be bright, hard-working people, but often this is not enough to compete successfully for graduate positions. More on that below. The take-home message is that Psychology majors should give serious consideration to pursuing research training while here at NIU and my lab offers certain opportunities.
The Independent Study (PSYC 485) research assistant (RA) experience in my lab generally allows for students of different research backgrounds, ranging from no experience to multiple years training in another lab. With respect to the work we do (see the Wu Lab Research link on the left panel of this screen), undergraduate RAs typically have multiple responsibilities:
* Attendance at weekly lab meetings (typically, Fridays from 12-1pm)
* Participation in proctoring data collection sessions
* Reading empirical articles
* Discussing issues relevant to clinical psychology and clinical psychology research
Some students look for increased involvement, including having a say in the design of new studies, data entry and analysis, and data presentation. For these students, it is likely that they will need to be part of summer meetings so that new studies can be ready to go in early Fall. I have supervised several Capstone Projects, many fewer departmental Honors Theses, and in 2013-2014, my first Research Rookie. These activities are time-intensive for all, but can and should be rewarding experiences. In 2011-2012, several students collaborated on a new start-up project that was presented at the Undergraduate Research and Artistry Day on April 24, 2012. This project later was presented as poster sessions at the Annual Convention of the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies in National Harbor, MD, in November 2012 and in Nashville, TN, in Fall 2013. When it is working well, this is how I envision the RAs functioning in my lab.
Lab meetings are critical to the experience in my research lab. They are the venue at which we touch base about weekly activities, but we also use that meeting to address professional issues, expose RAs to the graduate students (e.g., via presentations or practice talks), and consider graduate school / career issues. For example, in 2013, a meeting was dedicated to bringing back two lab alumni who now work in applied settings with terminal bachelors degrees. Most years, typically Fall semester, we dedicate multiple meetings to graduate school application issues, such as holding a graduate panel discussion involving the lab's current graduate students, working on CVs, drafting personal statements, and discussing interview skills. The importance and utility of this meeting is why it is required.
Let me offer a word about recruitment. Over the years, I have interviewed and accepted undergraduate RA applicants from a wide range of backgrounds, spanning those with multiple years of research training in another lab to those who did not bring any prior research experiences. To be completely candid, this openness has met with mixed success, in that students who arrive with zero research experience outside of classroom exposure have a steeper learning curve and may be more challenged than their lab mates to succeed in performing the research we do at a high level. Making such predictions is anything but scientific, but I use the data at my disposal to make the best predictions I can. These data include: major field of study (Psychology major is preferred) and courses completed (e.g., those who have completed and fared well in courses such as PSYC 316, PSYC 305, and PSYC 413 tend to be further along in their clinical psychology research understanding); grade point average, especially specific to NIU coursework (I do not use an absolute cut-off, but students who do not carry at least a 3.0 GPA tend not to be my strongest applicants); prior research experiences beyond in-class exposure; successful completion of one of my undergraduate courses (e.g., PSYC 316, PSYC 413 -- absolutely not a requirement, however); and communication skills demonstrated first via email and then during an in-person interview (e.g., evidence of matched interest between the research emphasis of the lab and career goals). Because I must make selections for a finite number of positions from what typically is a larger body of applications than I can reasonably accommodate, this means that I nearly always am forced to turn down some applicants. I dislike doing that with any student, but the reality is that I typically have to. As such, let me offer the (overly) general statement that students who do not carry at least a 3.0 GPA are unlikely to compete successfully for a spot in the lab. Most RAs in my lab carry a 3.5 GPA or better, and these impressive applicants are some of the most accomplished students I have met in the Department of Psychology. Again, this is not absolute, but I want to make it clear that the process is a competitive one and not all applicants can be accepted in such a context.
I wish you well in your research pursuits, whether they ultimately are realized in my lab or elsewhere with my NIU colleagues.