“I didn’t really know what psychologists in the lab do. I mean, yes, I’ve read scientific papers, but nothing beats hands-on experience.”
Every summer for the past three years, Hildigunnur has been working in a community center in her native Reykjavik, helping teenagers with physical and mental disabilities develop the necessary skills to function in a range of different workplace environments.
Her interests have grown organically to studying psychology in her undergraduate courses at the University of Iceland and focusing on developmental psychology during her research in the Amgen Scholarship Program.
Why did you apply to the Amgen Scholars Program?
“I had never had any lab experience before and at my university we don’t get many opportunities to work in research. That’s what really interested me.”
What did you work on in the lab?
“I researched the executive function of parents and children. What this means is that I was working on a study that was looking at the thinking skills in three- and four-year-old children and one of their parents. My involvement was in the follow-up study with the children, to see whether their thinking skills had changed.”
What’s the larger significance of your Amgen Scholars research? What’s your ultimate career goal?
“The experience has definitely opened my eyes to research. I didn’t really know what psychologists in the lab do. I mean, yes, I’ve read scientific papers, but nothing beats hands-on experience. I am still not sure what type of psychology I want to pursue for my Masters or Ph.D., but I’m pretty certain in the longer-term, I do want to go into some kind of research. I may also do some teaching too at a university, or work on the clinical side.”
What’s been the most rewarding part of your experience?
“I got to do actual data collection working with actual study participants. I assumed quite an important role and was put in charge of the parent cohort, while my supervisor, Dr. Rory T. Devine, was working with the child cohort. I feel like my work really made an impact.”