As a Child, I often hear stories about how some of the patients’ “ Incurable diseases” were cured simply because they chose to be happier in their lives. I knew early on that many illnesses might have to do with the emotional or psychological health of the patients. I was always intrigued, and always wanted to study Psychology.
This time, I had the privilege to speak with Lauren Burger, who holds an M.A in Psychology, and is a currently a 4th year student at UC Davis Department of Psychology.
Lauren is not only an expert in the Psychology field, but also works at the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing as a health care administration staff. It is unquestionable to say that she has a deep understanding in both fields of psychology, biology.
The field of Psychology was traditionally recognized as a specialty in Arts and Humanities; however, in the recent years as technology developed it is more and more regarded as a part of Biological Sciences.
Even the 2015 new MCAT (Medical College Admission Test) has adamantly added Psychology as a field of testing. The goal of Psychology is to understand human beings, including patients through Psychological and Physiological perspectives. This is where the field of Psychology interweaves with the field of Biology.
Psychologically, it is a critical to understand the patients’ emotion, mind, and will. Physiologically, it is critical to understand the patients’ body under different situations, both health and unhealthy conditions. It is through a careful evaluation through both the Psychological and Physiological perspectives, a healthcare provider can accurately deliver the most wholistic care available.
To be Successful in achieving the goals in the field of Psychology, a scientist must have a thorough understanding of the procedures, means of collaboration, as well as the courage to research beyond the paradigm from time to time.
First of all, research follows very strict guidelines in the field of psychology. Lauren has been the leading investigator for her multiple dissertations and experiments. In order to complete a successful research project in, a scientist must first come up with a good idea, preferably one of which that was never yet tested. Then, the researcher would have to put together a team, usually consist of a PI (Principle Investigators), RA (research assistants), and specialists depend on the projects, specialists could include Neurologists, Statisticians, and Physicians.
To avoid any conflicts later on when publishing papers or any altercations about the credit issues, these experts would usually come to a consensus of the order of their names appear on the publications. It is assumed in the field of Psychology, the Principle Investigator would get the first order on the publication, thus assuming most of the work.
In contrast, when publishing in the field of Medicine, the last person on the publication is usually the most important. Once this matter is properly addressed. All the members will come together and contribute ideas base on their specialties. Then, one of the scientists will write up the research procedures, this 6 to 10 page write up will be scrutinized by everyone who is involved on the project.
Once everyone feels that it is a solid procedural write up, the team will submit the proposal to the IRB (Institutional Review Board). The IRB have full time employees who determine the eligibility and value of the studies. They have the power to accept a research proposal, reject a study completely, or “request” for modifications. Once the proposal has been accepted, the team will go into a phase to intense experimentation. This is what Lauren referred to as “Publish or Perish” rule in Psychology: scientists must publish before all others to assume the credits in the project.
This introduces one of the biggest dilemma in the field of psychology as well as other research fields: collaboration or not! It is unquestionable that if scientists collaborate, funding such as government grants will be easier to apply to, compare to that of the “lone wolf’s”. However, many scientists also need to have important independent discoveries in the field to be fully recognized and honored. So the scientists themselves are constantly trying to balance the extent of collaboration that is the best for the project, for the psychology community, and for the advancement of Science.
On one hand, the procedures must be followed; all the rules must be complied. On the other hand, to be groundbreaking, scientists often have to go outside of the box to discover the new. For example, Lauren is involved in a project that is looking at reducing health related diseases in immigrant populations. Instead of using the traditional medical treatments to improve the health of community, she came up with Ancient Chinese dance form. This outside of the box method actually helps the elders to come together, exercise, and build a healthier community. This is against the paradigm in the field.
This approach involved the “untraditional” groups of “scientists”: Art professors, psychologists, and community workers. This is an actual application of untraditional and creative way of discovery. For another instance, described by Lauren: Rick Robins, a psychologists at UC Davis, when he conducted his research, he also went against the conventions.
Dr. Rick Robins runs a lab seeking for find the underlining cause for emotional distress linked to prideful behaviors. Almost always, researchers will utilize the undergraduate students as the subjects in any particular experiments; however, instead of using undergraduate students as subjects, instead Dr. Robins went to a Remote Island. Looked at a tribe. Identify the important components of pride; still have underline emotions, even within the remote community. The experiment was considered more valuable in the psychology community compare to a traditional approach.
“The field of Psychology is transforming, it is seeking for a closer collaboration between Psychology and Biology like never before.” Said Laruen. Indeed, in order to fully understand the human beings, future healthcare providers must have the basic knowledge in understanding both the psychological and physiological aspects of a truly healthy live.