Paterno Fellow completes workplace behavioral research in Scotland

Molly Ligon
September 30, 2021

Senior Nicholas Banerjee spent the summer in Edinburgh, Scotland, working as a research assistant at the University of Edinburgh.

The State College, Pennsylvania, native and psychology and labor and human resources double major wanted the chance to go outside of his comfort zone, so when he learned about the position in a weekly email from the College of the Liberal Arts, he jumped at the opportunity. Even though his trip had to be adjusted due to the coronavirus, he was still able to have a meaningful enrichment experience.

“They weren’t doing anything in person, but I still got to meet up with my professor there,” Banerjee said. “We would chat in her office about academic differences in the U.S. and the U.K., which is important because I hope to go to graduate school. Learning those differences helps me prepare for a life in academia.”

In addition, the Paterno Fellow and Schreyer Scholar talked about his work as a research assistant.

“In terms of the day-to-day and the actual work I was doing, the professor focuses on innovation and creativity in the workplace,” Banerjee said. “She is a trained, industrial and organizational psychologist, which means she studies behavior at the workplace.

The first half of my experience, I was doing literature reviews and reading a bunch of research on creativity and innovation to help her work towards the paper she was writing about those subjects in the workplace.”

Banerjee said he worked on a completely different project the second half of his time in Scotland but that it still had its ties to industrial and organizational psychology.

“The second half of the summer, she gave me a dataset from an international consulting firm,” Banerjee said. “It is called 360-degree feedback. It’s when an employee’s boss, their peers on the same level, and their subordinates all rate them on all these different things.

I got to look at all of those ratings and run statistical analyses and all this stuff to draw conclusions and predict things about people.”

Banerjee said he felt confident in the research he was doing because of the classes he’s taken at Penn State.

“Being a psychology major was the most important thing,” Banerjee said. “You take all your statistics and research methods classes which helps a lot. Penn State also has an industrial and organizational psychology program so taking those classes really prepped me well.”

After spending time completing research, Banerjee said it reaffirmed his desire to attend graduate school and continue his time in academia.

“That’s what I love about not just an abroad experience, but any kind of research or internship experience. It gives you a chance to ask yourself, ‘Is this really what I want to do?’ and fortunately, going into it, I felt like I wanted to go to graduate school and become a professor, but after doing the research here, it strengthened that idea.

The nice thing too about our field and what I learned from that experience is that it has a big, applied component, so it’s applied psychology. So, if I wanted to, it opens all of these routes to being a consultant or a head of human resources. I think it really prepared me to ask those questions.”

Banerjee explained that another benefit of completing research was the flexibility and amount of free time he was given.

“The nice thing about research is that it is very at your own pace,” Banerjee said. “Rather than giving me a ‘You must be in the lab’ or ‘You must be working on this thing from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., it was a lot like, ‘In one or two weeks, come back to me when you have this done.’ I had a lot of free time, but I wanted to use it wisely.”

In his free time, Banerjee explored his new surroundings, which is something he liked about being abroad.

“I really am a big history nerd, and I really love Scotland and Scottish culture,” Banerjee said. “I visited a lot of castles, historic sites, and stuff like that. It was a lot of fun to learn about the unique culture they have there and the relationship they have with the rest of the U.K.”

Although he appreciated his time in the U.K., Banerjee said he would want to attend graduate school in the United States.

“I enjoyed being abroad for three months,” Banerjee said. “It was a nice experience to get out and live somewhere else, but I like our U.S. culture and luxuries too much to miss out on that.”

Banerjee explained how grateful he was to have received a lot of financial support from the College of the Liberal Arts to complete his experience abroad.

“I ended up getting funds from the Career Enrichment Network, the Department of Psychology and the School of Labor and Employment Relations,” Banerjee said. “I am super grateful. It really reduced a lot of the stress from travel, and especially during COVID, the college had a lot of different resources available.”

Banerjee expressed how great of an experience he had completing research abroad and suggested that every student consider it before they graduate.

“To any Liberal Arts student, I highly suggest studying abroad or studying in a different state because cultures geographically are so different and to get those opportunities to experience things that you’re not used to is awesome,” Banerjee said.

“Using the College of the Liberal Arts’ resources to do these kinds of things has helped me grow as a person.”

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Last Updated October 01, 2021