Professor Wendy Goldberg finds guiding students in research on topics of mutual interest to be the most rewarding aspect of undergraduate teaching. The research opportunities she received as an undergraduate motivate her to offer the same opportunities to the students she mentors. Through her mentoring, Professor Goldberg’s students gain a deeper appreciation for the scientific underpinnings of psychological inquiry, learn the complexities of conducting research with children and develop an appreciation of the myriad decision points in designing and carrying out studies. Professor Goldberg encourages students to get involved in research, not because it will look good on their record, but because they have a real passion for their topic.

1. How did you develop an interest in mentoring undergraduate research or creative projects, and what type of projects have you directed?

I had wonderful research opportunities when I was an undergraduate at a private liberal arts college. When I became a professor at UCI, I wanted my students to have the same kinds of opportunities that I had even though they attended in a large public university. I believed then and still do now that the opportunity to do primary research under faculty guidance enriches the undergraduate experience. Some students come to me with their own ideas for research that falls within my areas of interest and expertise and some take part in research ongoing in my behavioral lab. The projects that I have supervised have varied widely and have included studies of work and family, marriage and family, parental school involvement, infant sleep arrangements, and early detection of autism. Perhaps the most ambitious project was one that examined spillover from workplace stress to family life. The student who did that project chose members of a high stress occupation—air traffic controllers at O'Hare Airport—and obtained measures of workplace stress, marital quality, and individual well-being. Support from UROP was essential for such an ambitious undergraduate project!

2. What do you look for and what are your expectations of undergraduates you select to conduct research under your guidance?

As a basic screen, I expect students who get involved in research to be doing very well in their courses so that they can take on the additional responsibilities of research. I also expect students to have taken methods and statistics courses as well as substantive courses in developmental psychology. In terms of personal characteristics, they should be self-starters, highly motivated, inquisitive, well-organized, and able to work well with people of all ages and backgrounds. I look for students who are intrigued and excited by the opportunity to learn more about children, families and the larger social context in a systematic, scientific way.

3. Describe your level of engagement and style in mentoring undergraduates.

Students gain a variety of mentoring experiences that range from individual supervisory meetings with me and meetings with one or more of my graduate students, to joining weekly lab meetings, participating in research seminars, and joining small group training sessions to learn, for example, coding strategies for videotaped data. Mentoring experiences also extend to preparation of papers for academic conferences (including the UCI Undergraduate Research Symposium) and, for the best of the undergraduates, preparation of manuscripts for journals. My level of engagement is highest with Honors students, as I guide the preparation of an Honors thesis in addition to the other activities.

4. In your experience, how have your students improved or benefited as a result of their undergraduate research experience?

Students often exclaim that they didn't realize how much effort went into the research studies that are summarized in just a few sentences in a textbook. The students gain a deeper appreciation for the scientific underpinnings of psychological inquiry. They learn the complexities of conducting research with children (including the IRB process) and the myriad decision points in designing studies and coding and then analyzing data. Many students are inspired by their research experiences to continue their education by applying to graduate school in psychology and allied fields.

5. What have you learned or benefited from guiding undergraduate research or creative projects?

I find guiding students in research on topics of mutual interest to be the most rewarding aspect of undergraduate teaching. I am impressed time and again by the creativity and energy that most of the students bring to their research activities. Over the course of a year or so, I witness great maturation in the students’ ability to turn an idea into a scientific investigation.

6. What recommendations and advice would you give students embarking on undergraduate research or creative projects?

My recommendations center on personal characteristics. Get involved because you are interested in the area of inquiry, not just to get a letter of recommendation for graduate school! Be willing to make a serious commitment of time and thought and be a responsible, dependable member of the lab. Expect the unexpected and stay flexible when conducting research with “real people,” especially young children. Be diligent and pay attention to detail when coding and analyzing data. Don't wait until the last quarter of your senior year to get involved in research!

Research Interests: Parent-child relationships; work and family; transition to parenthood; parental school involvement; autism and family functioning

Faculty Profile:


Past Faculty Mentors of the Month

Dec. '10 Derek Dunn-Rankin
Nov. '10 Wendy A. Goldberg
Oct. '10 Bernard Choi
Sep. '10 Daniel S. Stokols
Aug. '10 James S. Nowick
Jul. '10 Thomas J. Carew
Jun. '10 Kristen Day
May. '10 Keith Woerpel
Apr. '10 Anshu Agrawal
Mar. '10 Darryl Taylor
Feb. '10 Michael J. Montoya
Jan. '10 Gregory Alan Weiss