Psychology Projects and Training Opportunities

You may not need to meet with your adviser to get help in this area. Please read the content below, and contact your adviser if you need additional assistance.

The projects listed below are a small sampling of some opportunities in our department. To view a full list of faculty research, download our Faculty Research Inventory.

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Boredom in Education

Dr. Trice's research focuses on understanding the role of boredom in education. Intuitively, we may assume that when students find a topic or class or instructor boring, they learn less, but research suggest that it is not nearly that straightforward. We are interested in several research questions in this area:

  • Why do middle school students report the highest rate of boredom?
  • What do we learn from feeling bored in class or while studying?
  • What kinds of changes can we make to instruction that reduces boredom without compromising the integrity of the instruction? Do we want to do this?
  • Is online learning more or less boring that in person learning? Who is more bored by online learning? Are required courses more boring that electives? Why are classes with mathematical content usually found to be the most boring?

If these questions are not boring to you, please contact Dr. Trice at for further information, including the scheduled lab time. Students will assist in many aspects of research, including finding, reading, and reporting on research articles, participating in weekly lab meetings, collecting, analyzing, and presenting data.

I prefer for students beginning this experience to register for a 1 credit 200-level Research or Readings class. During a second semester, students are encouraged to complete a 3-credit 400-level experience.

Counseling Center Internship - JMU

Apply now for next semester! The JMU Counseling Center would like to invite junior and senior psychology majors to join them for a semester of learning and practical experience! Join us for PSYC 402 and earn three credits.

  • Prepare and co-present workshops on mental health or interpersonal skills topics.  Topics vary by semester. Examples of workshops presented in the past include: Assertiveness, Dealing with Difficult People, Stress Management, Countering Negative Self-Talk, Mindfulness 101, and Practicing Self-Compassion.
  • Assist us with outreach programming and with advertising our programs.  Selected examples include attending outreach events with our staff and/or one of our four therapy dogs to advertise our services, helping out at events for National Suicide Prevention Day, the Walk for Hope, representing the Counseling Center at events such as CHOICES, and creating brochures or tri-fold boards for De-Stress for Success week at the Libraries.
  • Checking students in and out of our relaxation room – the OASIS – which has four massage therapy chairs, diffusers/oils for aromatherapy, yoga mats, and other relaxation items.
  • Staffing the STUDIO – our expressive arts therapy room.
  • Learn all about the role and functions of a University counseling center.
  • Attend an all-day Cultural Immersion Field Trip. This is designed to help you gain some diversity awareness by experiencing cultures and religions different than your own. We will process this experience and through discussion and self-examination, you will gain a greater understanding of yourself and be better prepared to be an effective mental health professional.
  • Assist a staff member with a project or research. There may be multiple opportunities for this!

This is a wonderful way to gain experience in your field!  This 402 can be highlighted on your resume or graduate school application.  If you would like to apply for this experience, please e-mail Magali Laitem ( to request an application.

Discourse, Reading, & Memory (DReaM) Lab

Dr. Upadhyay's research focuses on understanding the cognitive processes that inform reading. Discourse processing - or text and narrative comprehension - involves more than simply understanding the individual words on a page. Our mental representations for what we read build from the smallest units of language to the broadest higher-order representations, and include word and sentence level comprehension, memory, attention, and social and pragmatic information. 

Several broad questions guide Dr. Upadhyay's research:

  • We know our memory for the information we read is not infinite; what captures our attention as readers?
  • Are readers guided by a story character’s experience?
  • To what extent does a reader’s “inner voice” reflect a character’s voice?

If these questions intrigue and motivate you, please visit Dr. Upadhyay's website to apply, and complete the DReaM Lab Research Assistant Application via the Google Form. 

Students will assist in many aspects of the lab including finding and reading research literature, experimental design, participating in lab meetings, preparing IRB protocols, collecting, analyzing, and presenting data, as well as preparing manuscripts for publication. 


  • A two-semester commitment


  • An interest in cognitive psychology, specifically reading, language, and memory
  • Completion of the methodology core
  • Completion of PSYC 380 Cognitive Psychology - preferably with Dr. Upadhyay

Please be prepared to discuss your research interests in the Research Assistant application as well as with Dr. Upadhyay. Prior to completing a Research Assistant Application, or contacting Dr. Upadhyay, it is helpful for you to review sample publications to make sure your research interests align with the lab. If you have issues or questions with the website, please email

Increasing Engagement in Large Classes

Interested in teaching? Dr. Lyons is looking for students to join her in investigating student engagement in large classes and student development.  Students who participate will have the opportunity to work as either teaching assistants for PSYC 160 or research assistants (There are more places for teaching assistants). This opportunity to work will be of particular value to students who have an interest in college student development and teaching. Teaching assistants need to be available during Dr. Lyons’ lecture times each semester. Teaching assistants will need to have taken PSYC 160.  Research assistants will need to have taken PSYC 210.  Students will also need to be available for one-hour weekly meetings. Duties involved include: grading student assignments, assisting in the development of class materials, data entry, and data collection.  A two-semester commitment from participating students is preferred.  Interested students should email Dr. Lyons at

Motivation Research Institute (MRI)

Do you wonder what motivates us and what can be done to help improve our motivation? If yes, JMU's Motivation Research Institute (MRI) is interested in recruiting students to join either (1) our research lab for a PSYC 203 or 403 independent study research experience or (2) a book club for a PSYC 202 or 402 independent study reading experience about motivation. Please contact Dr. Kenn Barron at to learn more and to request an application to apply for either experience.

Passion for Activities Lab

Are you passionate about your major?  Are most students passionate about their majors?  Does being passionate for your major (or for academics in general) have a positive effect on your subjective well-being, on your life satisfaction, and on your likelihood of being successful?  These and other related questions are the focus of Dr. Bryan Saville’s research lab.  Dr. Saville is looking for several motivated research assistants who are interested in studying passion for activities and how it impacts both subjective (e.g., happiness, subjective well-being) and objective (e.g., performance) outcomes.  Students will assist in many aspects of research including designing studies, preparing IRB protocols, collecting and analyzing data, and preparing manuscripts for publication.  For more information on this 3-credit PSYC 403 opportunity, or to obtain an application form, please contact Dr. Bryan Saville (

Social Connection Lab

Dr. Kerr and her research students are developing a new program to help JMU students feel more socially connected. Want to join the team? Students will earn Psyc 203 credit as they develop, implement, and assess programs to boost social connectedness on campus and beyond. Student will also have the opportunity to assist with other research projects related to social connection and disconnection. Completion of Psyc 210/212 and Psyc 211/213 preferred. To obtain an application, email Dr. Kerr at

Social Relationships Lab

The Social Relationships Lab seeks to understand how relationships with family members, friends, and romantic partners contribute to meaningful qualities of future relationships and individual adjustment. Students will have the option to work from a longitudinal data set containing a multitude of developmental, clinical, and social measures from annual assessments of individuals across ages 13 to 35.

Current lab interests include (a) how family and peer relationship factors promote healthy vs. unhealthy romantic relationships, (b) how observed peer interactions on social networking websites such as Facebook affect individuals’ friendships and well-being over time, and (c) how individual differences in emotion regulation and coping responses may affect the quality of romantic relationship development and online social relationships. However, data are available to address a wide range of students' interests, and students are encouraged to develop a project that fits with their interests.

Interested students are invited to learn more about the experience on the lab website (, complete an application (downloadable from the website), and to contact Dr. Szwedo ( to set up a time to discuss their interests and learn more about potential opportunities.

This opportunity is offered as a PSYC 403 experience and as a two-semester sequence, accepting students in the Spring for participation during the next Fall-Spring academic year. It is most appropriate for students who have completed PSYC 211/213 by the start of the experience.  

Structural Oppression as Feelings, Attitudes, and Behaviors Psychology Lab

Lab Description: In the Structural Oppression as Feelings, Attitudes, and Behaviors Psychology Lab, or S.O.F.A.B. Psychology Lab, students will assist with research that investigates the connection between individual difference variables (e.g. identity, personality, and values), social psychological variables (i.e. feelings, attitudes, and behaviors), and socio-political variables that have the capacity to affect social structure, including voting, activism, and other types of engagement aimed at creating social change for members of marginalized groups. Upcoming studies will examine these particularly among LGBTQ, racial, and SES/class-related minorities.

To find out more information, contact Dr. Blankenship at or visit

Terror Management Lab

If you are interested in being a part of cutting-edge existential research that utilizes Terror Management Theory (TMT) - a theory concerning the management of death anxiety - as its theoretical framework, Dr. Harvell-Bowman ( is always looking for a team of students interested in getting involved in this type of research. We have investigated issues such as suicidality, Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, paranormal beliefs, religious beliefs, and various theoretical extensions. There is an interview process in the latter part of each semester for openings in the lab. This interdisciplinary lab offers students in the Department of Psychology, the Department of Graduate Psychology and The School of Communication Studies a unique opportunity to work together to produce research. This lab includes undergraduates, master's students, and doctoral students. We regularly present at the Existential Preconference for the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP), the larger SPSP, the National Communication Association, and the International Communication Association, as well as some regional conferences in psychology and communication. For further information, please check out our lab website ( and check our work out each year at the Psychology Symposium!

The Future of Learning at JMU - Spring Only

In this Psych 403, you will partner with students and faculty from across campus to shape the future of learning at JMU. Working in interdisciplinary teams, you will embark on a semester-long project that responds to one of JMU's strategic priorities:

  • Being the change at work and in the world;
  • Embracing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion;
  • Attracting the students of tomorrow;
  • Recovering and Learning from COVID-19 in 2021 and beyond.

Another strong possibility will be working closely with Student Affairs to re-think student development and well-being in and out of the classroom. At the end of the semester, you will have the opportunity to showcase your work to members of the university administration, who will assess your projects for further development and possible implementation.

To apply, send an email to Dr. Kenn Barron ( In your email, share why you are motivated to apply for the course based on the above description and why you feel you are a good fit to participate in this unique collaborative experience. Also, provide the name of a JMU professor who could serve as a reference for you.

Visual Perception

Dr. Jeff Andre anticipates needing research assistants for the upcoming semester. He is currently working on a variety of visual perception topics such as the visual guidance of locomotion, eye tracking, and wayfinding. An interest in visual perception research and a prerequisite of PSYC 211 are required. Having completed PSYC 375 would be a plus. Research activities include developing/conducting experiments and lab meetings to discuss relevant theoretical topics. PSYC 403 credits are available. A two-semester commitment is preferred but not required. For more information, contact Dr. Jeff Andre (, Miller 1163).