Students 'advance science' by presenting research at high-level conference

March 16, 2015

PHILADELPHIA -- Nine Penn State Abington students presented their own research, or first-author work, at the Eastern Psychological Association annual conference in Philadelphia last week. 

Michael Bernstein, assistant professor of psychology at Abington, said having research selected for a conference is an important experience for students and an uncommon one for undergraduates.

"These students are bringing work they created with mentorship from Abington faculty to the field as a whole," he said. "This is how science advances, and these students are part of the process."

Melissa Aguilar, a Schreyer Honors scholar, developed her project in the psychology laboratories on campus as well as for the Abington College Undergraduate Research Activities (ACURA) program. 

"Students are bringing work they created with mentorship from Abington faculty to the field as a whole. This is how science advances, and they are part of the process."

-- Michael Bernstein, assistant professor of psychology at Abington 

After returning from the conference, Melissa shared her academic journey with her mentors Jacob Benfield and Bernstein as she transitioned from student to published researcher:

A year ago, I was asked to join the Research Lab Group as a research assistant for the psych labs at Abington. Over the course of the fall semester, a group of us ran SONA (subject pool software) studies for the professors as well as research for ACURA students. We helped out in the labs and also got three credits as a 400-level psych course for doing so.

As a project for the class, we developed our own research proposals and conducted the studies for them. Dr. Bernstein and Dr. Benfield were our advisers and were always very supportive of our research and how to make it work the best.

Just last week, I presented my research at the Eastern Psychological Conference. It was such an amazing experience because we were surrounded by professionals, other psychology students and our psychology faculty. It was great to discuss my research with professors from different universities.

My study was on the relationship between emotional intelligence and facial expression detection. I hypothesized that those with higher emotional intelligence levels would score higher on a facial expression detection task. The study found a significant correlation between the two so my hypothesis was correct!

A professor from another university will be using one of the measurements from my research. It related to his current studies, and he found the way that I measured my dependent variable (facial expression detection) was a lot better than the current way he was measuring.

The conference was definitely a unique experience that I am hoping to be able to do next year. If I am not able to present, I do still hope to attend -- maybe even come back as a researcher or professor one day.

Learn more about undergraduate research at Abington at

Learn more about the psychological and social sciences major at


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Last Updated July 28, 2017