Procedures for Undergraduates

Thank you for your interest in the BGA laboratory!

The lab’s graduate students and project staff are currently recruiting undergraduate research assistants on an as needed basis.

Dr. Palmer uses a tiered mentoring model for all members. Undergraduate students are paired with graduate students and staff to achieve the lab’s research and your training goals.

Individuals applying to join the lab are encouraged to do so after taking at least of the following courses with Dr. Palmer or another faculty member:

  • PSYC 223 – Drugs & Behavior
  • PSYC 352 – The Genetics of Human Behavior
  • PSYC 180 – Research in College Drug Use
  • PSYC 770 – Behavior Genetics I / II

*Preference will be given to students who have completed PSYC 352 and/or PSYC 223.

Applicants who meet the above requirement may apply using two approaches:

  1. Apply to contribute to ongoing research projects under the supervision of graduate students and Dr. Palmer:

To apply to work with a graduate student please (a) review the scope of their research and (b) submit a copy of your most current resume to one of the current graduate students:

My students and I will review your application. If selected, you will be invited to an interview with the graduate student and myself.

  1. Apply to be a MAPme Ambassador under the supervision of MAPme Study Staff and Dr. Palmer:

PSYC-QSS students are strongly encouraged to join the MAPme Team, which is an ongoing multi-campus research study. Interested students may submit an application (your most current resume and academic transcript) to Ms. Hope Derricott (email Hope Derricott).

Separate from joining the lab, students who want to learn about research on substance addiction and health can do so via the PSYCH 180 course taught by Dr. Palmer:

Students who are interested in learning about research in the psychological sciences and have an interest in addiction may contact Dr. Rohan Palmer directly for permission to enroll in PSYCH 180 (Research in College Drug Use). This 15-person course provides an intensive semester-long experience in research using data from the MAPme Project and other publicly accessible databases. PSYCH 180 is generally offered in the fall semester on a bi-yearly basis in the Department of Psychology.

Expectations for Undergraduate Research Assistants

Students joining the BGA laboratory are expected to commit to at least 12 hours per week engaged in research and training activities. This includes attending the weekly lab meeting and any separate meetings related to the research. Students are responsible for completing assigned activities, such as readings in preparation for these meetings.

All undergraduates start off as lab trainees. We generally require students to commit to 2+ years because any student interested in contributing to our research in a substantive way (i.e., hypothesis generation and analyses for PSYCH 499 and honors thesis), must first undergo training in ethics, behavior genetics methods, and statistics. The first year will involve project-specific learning (e.g., directed reading, directed academic courses, and/or tasks that support prospective individual projects). Time in the lab culminates with an understanding of research design and implementation, advanced statistical methods, and independent study/honors thesis. Throughout your time in the lab, training will be achieved through tutorials/lectures and actual research experience. We expect students who know more to help train junior lab members.

***A special note to undergraduate students who wish to complete an independent research project (499) or honors thesis: Student led projects are invited at the discretion of Dr. Palmer. This opportunity is invited because these projects require students to work with minimal, but regular (weekly) supervision. Honors theses and research conducted over the course of a PSYCH 499 are not guaranteed to be submitted for peer-reviewed publication outside of Emory University. Students may express interest in an honors thesis after being in the lab for a minimum of three semesters. Students may enroll in a 499 to obtain credit for these research contribution after being in the lab for two semesters and are able to demonstrate competency in the subject area(s) related to the research team they are a part of.

*Please see details below for expectations for undergraduate research assistants, as well as the timing of 499 and Honors Theses below*.

Students invited to conduct an honors thesis project MUST have:

  1. MUST have completed a research methods course in their respective department
  2. MUST have completed a 499 semester previously with Dr. Palmer and their supervising graduate student
  3. MUST have completed a graduate statistics course in regression prior to the honors thesis request or plan to do so during the honors thesis. If the project is qualitative in nature, the student must have completed or will complete a graduate-level course in the topic area.
  4. MUST submit a recommendation email from the senior lab member (graduate student / postdoc) who has previously supervised the student
  5. MUST meet other departmental/college requirements. For example, in Psychology these are:
    1. an overall GPA of 3.50 (or higher) by the beginning of the senior year;
    2. a GPA of 3.50 (or higher) in the major by the beginning of the senior year;
    3. successful completion of PSYC 200W by the end of the second semester of the junior year. Students are not eligible for honors in psychology if they have not completed PSYC 200W by the time they enter the first semester of the Honors Program (which is typically the first semester of the senior year). Petitions to waive this requirement will not be    entertained.
  6. MUST have completed a research plan/plan with Dr. Palmer for your honors thesis, after having worked in the lab for at least 3 semesters. Details follow:

The approved project MUST be compiled into a 1-2-page proposal and submitted to the Honors Program during the summer prior to the start of the honor’s thesis. On rare occasions, students may begin the thesis in the lab during the summer (July-August).

Example undergraduate research projects in the lab include:

  • Examining the relationship between stress, mood disorders and substance use
  • Identifying genetic variation related to alcohol and other drug use, cognition, and other behaviors in humans
  • Curating gene-sets related to substance use phenotypes across model systems

Example of a recent URA project:

Poster presentation by Ms. Pamela Romero during the Fall 2017 Undergraduate Research Symposium. Ms. Romero is no a graduate student in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience and the Institute for Behavior Genetics at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

See the Research page for more information on the full range of the lab’s research.