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Student’s Research Published in Academic Journal

11/02/16

It’s an impressive accomplishment to have one’s scholarly research published in an academic journal, but when the author is an undergraduate student, the achievement is even more impressive. That’s just what happened when Sara Peck ’17 of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., co-authored an article last year with her professor, Dr. Thomas Byrne, which appeared in a recent issue of the Behavioral Processes journal.

Peck decided to major in psychology because she was interested in how the brain and mental processes work.

“Early on in my undergraduate career, I added behavior analysis as a concentration,” she said. “I was attracted to this area of psychology specifically because of the empirical approach to behavior analytic intervention.”

According to Peck, the study she conducted with Byrnes is relevant in the world of experimental analysis of behavior. “This was the first report of demand curves produced by systematically increasing reinforcer requirements defined by response duration, instead of the number of discrete responses,” she said.

While Byrne developed the experimental design for the study, Peck assisted with running experimental sessions, and recorded and organized the data. She and Byrne wrote the paper together. For the most part, she said, their results were what they had hoped for.

According to Peck, her participation in the study greatly enhanced her understanding of how to apply experimental analysis of behavior. “I was given first-hand experience in the process of developing an experimental design, running experimental sessions, analyzing data, and writing up a manuscript,” she explained.

No stranger to sharing her research, Peck presented her work not only at MCLA’s Annual Undergraduate Research Conference last spring, but also at a National Conference of Undergraduate Research (NCUR), at the University of North Carolina at Asheville.

The NCUR conference provided Peck with an opportunity to present her work to a large, national audience of scientists, educators, and undergraduate researchers like herself. Peck was one of nine MCLA students who joined nearly 4,000 other college students from throughout the United States at last spring’s event.

In addition to her conference participation, Peck tutors other MCLA students in psychology, and works as a behavior research assistant. She also is a teacher’s assistant for “PSYC 100,” and serves as president of the psychology club and vice president of the campus’s chapter of Psi Chi, the international honor society for psychology.

After she graduates next spring, Peck plans to attend graduate school to obtain her master’s degree in behavior analysis. Ultimately, she aims to become a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA), and is considering earning her PhD in behavior analysis, which will allow her to continue her research and become a professor.

While it remains to be seen how the study and its publication might assist her in reaching her career goals, Peck said the experience she gained through the opportunity, “is priceless to me.”