Over the summer, my faculty mentors provided me with much-needed direction and moral support. My primary mentor was Dr. David Bridgett, director of NIU’s Emotion Regulation and Temperament Laboratory, where my experiment and data analyses were carried out. Because of the neurobiological aspects of my project, I also enlisted the help of Dr. Angela Grippo, who runs the Grippo Laboratory at NIU. Dr. Bridgett’s lab is primarily interested in the development of self-regulation and temperament, whereas Dr. Grippo’s lab is more focused on the biochemical processes which underlie physical and psychological illness.
Early in the summer, Dr. Bridgett and I met to outline our goals. We agreed on a list of 45 academic articles related to childhood trauma, stress, and self-regulation for me to read – five per week. At first I was less than enthusiastic about this assignment, but I quickly realized how valuable this background information would be for my project. As the summer progressed and my understanding of the relevant literature deepened, Dr. Bridgett and I met periodically to refine my hypotheses and steer my project toward completion.
My data was already being collected as part of an ongoing project in Dr. Bridgett’s lab, so a large portion of my summer was devoted to analyzing that data. When it came to the heart rate data, each heartbeat had to be manually double-checked, or “cleaned,” due to the presence of artifacts. Thankfully, Dr. Grippo already had experience cleaning heart rate data collected from rodents in her lab. After a brief tutorial from the professionals at MindWare, who supplied the equipment and software, my mentors and I devised a procedure for cleaning the data for my project, and I got to work.
Throughout the summer, I encountered plenty of obstacles and had to acquire a surprising number of new skills. Whether I thought half of my data was missing, I had to learn a new computer program to conduct statistical tests, or I just needed a pep talk, my mentors were eager to show me what to do next. With their help, I was able to stay on track while incorporating some of my other interests, such as mindfulness, into my project. I would not have made it this far without them, and I look forward to continuing my work with Dr. Bridgett and Dr. Grippo as I complete my final year at NIU.