Personality Studies

"It gave me hands-on experience with a career directly linked to the field, as well as provided valuable experience sought after by graduate schools."


Supervising Faculty:

Paul A. Pilkonis, PhD



Joseph E. Beeney, PhD


Area of Research:  Clinical


Description of Research:

Directed research students are encouraged to apply to become a member of the Social Cognition, Relationships and Personality (SCRAP) Lab. Our research examines the mechanisms of borderline personality disorder (BPD) particularly seeking to understand the ways in which individuals may struggle to develop close, intimate, and healthy relationships, and how such difficulties may impact other areas of functioning, such as affective instability, suicidality and impulsivity. We employ brain imaging (functional magnetic resonance imaging) and physiological measures as objective indices of alterations in systems supporting social and emotional behavior. We study these processes among both adolescents and adults, seeking to understand early risk factors for BPD and relationship functioning and its consequences throughout the lifespan. 


Duties of Students:

Research assistants have the opportunity to assist in data collection and analysis on an fMRI study focused social behavior amongst adolescents with symptoms of BPD. In addition, students can learn coding systems focused on emotion and social emotion regulation and learn to apply these to conflict interactions with romantic couples in which one member of the dyad has a personality disorder. No prior experience in neuroscience or coding is required. Other tasks include data entry, attending lab meetings and literature reviews. Opportunities for independent research are available. The lab is run on a growth-oriented, team-focused, continuous improvement model. This model emphasizes the problem solving and leadership of those closest to the work. Strong collaboration, communication, humble character and hunger to learn and contribute are a must. Students interested in seeking to build a strong a resume for graduate school are particular encouraged to apply. 


Additional Requirements:

  • Overall GPA of 3.0 or higher
  • 12 credits of Psychology (including current term)
  • STAT 0200/1000/1100- Statistics
  • PSY 0035- Research Methods in Psychology
  • 2-term commitment 


Terms offered: fall, spring and summer


Number of Students: 1 or 2