Research Assistants

General RA Information

The typical RA spends 6-9 hours in the lab for 3 hours of PSY 5993 credit. Committed volunteers are also welcome. RAs are expected to participate in lab meetings (typically biweekly) that involve discussions of current research in the field, professional development, and other topics relevant to psychology, careers, and future education with a degree in psychology. At the end of the PSY 5993 experience, most RAs are eligible to receive a letter of recommendation from the lab when applying to graduate school or related jobs.

We typically accept applications for new RAs in April/May (for the summer term), August/September (for the fall semester), and November/December (for the spring semester). Announcements for new applications will all be posted to this website and shared in Psych Scoop. All RA positions will be posted here along with their application link(s). Applications are typically open for 2-3 weeks or until all positions have been filled.

Current Research Assistant Position Postings

We are not currently hiring for any open RA positions. We typically post opening in July/August (for fall start dates), December (for winter start dates), and April (for summer start dates). Please check back during those times for updates. 

Recommendations for RA Applicants

To ease the process of applying for our lab, we have compiled a list of qualities that make applications stand out. Please keep in mind that these suggestions are not exhaustive and the qualities we look for vary from semester to semester based on project and team needs.

Strong applicants typically...

  • Are motivated, conscientious, and effectively communicate with others
  • Have enough time/availability to complete the duties being asked of them in the lab - typically at least 9 hours/week for first-time applicants. If applying for a position involving in-person data collection, applicants should have substantial evening and weekend availability
  • Are interested in completing the tasks that will be required for a given project (e.g., indicate interest in coding for a coding project or in collecting data for a data collection project) 
  • Answer all application questions thoughtfully, carefully, and concisely, being sure to answer the exact question being asked
  • Demonstrate a genuine interest in the topics studied by our lab and by the specific project being hired for
  • Are willing to commit to working in our lab for multiple semesters
  • Previously completed coursework in statistics and/or research methods
  • Express long-term goals or interest revolving around research in social and/or developmental psychology or related topics
  • Have experience working with relevant programs such as R/RStudio, Media Recorder, ObserverPro, DirectRT, AcqKnowledge, Qualtrics, Kaltura, and/or Box Secure Storage
  • Have prepared questions about the lab and their role if hired during the interview process

Benefits of Involvement

A typical week in the Social Interaction Lab for an undergraduate RA will involve 6-9 hours of "lab work" which varies by project. Lab work includes, but is not limited to, collecting data with participants, coding behaviors in interactions of couples or families, transcribing audio clips, or entering/working with numeric or text data. A lab supervisor, typically a graduate student, will be in regular contact about goals, assignments, and tasks that RAs are expected to complete. This may also involve group meetings to discuss project progress. These tasks should give RAs hands-on experience with conducting research and allow RAs to hone in on specific research interests. 

Additionally, our lab hosts lab meetings (typically biweekly) in which we discuss current social and developmental research, professional development, and other psychology and career related topics. At the beginning of the term, we ask our RAs for input about what they would like to see at these meetings that would most benefit them. Dr. Simpson typically attends/hosts at least 2 of these meetings each term. These meetings provide an opportunity for RAs to gain insider knowledge and professional development information as well as a chance to network with their peers, graduate students, and Dr. Simpson. Attendance at these meetings is strongly encouraged. 

All RAs in good standing are eligible to receive a letter of recommendation from the lab when applying for graduate school or related jobs upon completion of one full semester's lab work. Letters of recommendation are typically stronger for RAs that commit to the lab for multiple semesters. 

Finally, all undergraduate RAs in our lab are given access to our "lab insider" repository of files and information for applying for graduate school and for jobs outside of academia. This is a collection of years of readings, data, and example applications that can ease the process of applying to graduate school or jobs. Our RAs maintain access to these files even after they have left the lab. These files are intended to give our RAs an advantage in their future career endeavors. Approximately 60% of former RAs from our lab eventually go to graduate school and 95% report that the information we provided them significantly improved their application experience. 

Capstone Students

Students enrolled in Senior Capstone who are interested in completing an empirical/research paper are required to (1) have worked in the lab for at least 2 consecutive semesters and (2) be an active lab member at the time of their Capstone class. Students should discuss their project idea and plan for project completion with their primary supervisor prior to the semester the student is enrolled in Capstone. Students may not be able to analyze data from a project they were directly involved with if the data collection, data cleaning, coding, or initial analyses have not been completed by the semester the student is enrolled in Capstone. Students who have been in the lab for less than 2 semesters at the time of the Capstone project are encouraged to complete a literature review on a topic relevant to the lab's research focus. Approximately 15-20% of undergraduate RAs in our lab complete an empirical paper for Capstone while the vast majority write critical literature reviews.

Honors Students

Honors students should have worked in the lab for at least 2 consecutive semesters prior to beginning their honors thesis. Honors students should have a clear plan about their honors thesis that may or may not involve the use of new or existing data. All plans for honors thesis work should be proposed to the student's direct supervisor and Dr. Simpson in advance of beginning thesis work in the student's senior year.

Note: Given Dr. Simpson's current commitments as the department chair, he will not be able to directly supervise any honors thesis students. Because of this, all honors students in the Social Interaction Lab during Dr. Simpson's term as department chair will be directly supervised by a graduate student from the lab. If students would like more direct faculty contact through this experience, they are encouraged to consider other labs where a more direct collaboration with a faculty member will be feasible during this time. 

Current and Former RAs

Thank you all again for your previous or continued commitment and hard work in our lab!

Current RAs should be in contact with their direct supervisor on an ongoing basis about their current project. Current and former RAs should have ongoing access to the lab Google Drive folder with resources for general professional development, graduate school, and career preparation. If you do not have access to these folders, please contact the current lab manager directly to be granted access to these materials.    

If you are seeking a letter of recommendation or reference, please contact your current or former supervisor directly. Typically, we request you give your supervisor a minimum of 4 weeks notice to write a letter of recommendation. In your email, we recommend including the following information: 

  • When you were in the lab (ex. Fall 2016 - Fall 2017) 
  • What project you were involved in (ex. the Co-Parenting Project) 
  • What you did in the lab (ex. assisted with data collection and coding videos) 
  • What you will be needing a letter of recommendation or reference for (ex. applying for a PhD program in social psychology) 
  • When your letter of recommendation or reference will be due (as applicable)