Student researches in cognitive neuroscience

"I can't talk about this very much," Peter Kang warned about the discussion of his research. "It's an ongoing study." Kang is a junior psychology major, with minors in chemistry and anthropology and two different on-going research projects.

For psychology research, it's important that subjects don't know too much about the studies they participate in. "People tend to try to confirm the researchers' expectations if they know what the study is supposed to measure," he said. "We don't want them to come in with a bias." For both of his studies, Kang and his advisors find many of their subjects locally.

Kang is involved in two fundamentally different types of psychology research. For one of his research projects, Kang works under Joan Ballard, associate professor of psychology.

This congnitive study involves the use of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) on the subjects as they perform specific tasks. fMRI produces a series of pictures of the brain, which show how the blood oxygen level in the brain changes. Researchers can look at these images to determine what parts of the brain are significantly more active.

Geneseo doesn't have fMRI facilities, so the subjects for this experiment have to be transported to a brain-imaging center in Rochester for the trials. Luckily, the study doesn't involve a large number of subjects. "Because of the nature of the work, and the cost, we have very few subjects. Most FMRI studies have only 20, 30 subjects," he said.

Kang also works with associate professor ofpsychology Monica Schneider doing correlational, survey-based research. Kang explained the difference between his research and that of other scientific disciplines. "In experimental research you have an independent and a dependent variable. You can't really ethically do that in psychology research. You can't induce something like feelings of anxiety." Correlational research is a more practical alternative in psychological science.

Since starting the project with Schneider last year, Kang has been able to present his research at the Undergraduate Science Symposium at Geneseo and at last years annual meeting of the Association for Psychological Science (APS). Most recently, Kang presented both projects at G.R.E.A.T. Day and plans to bring both to this years meeting of the APS.