News 2024: Psychology student wins spot in NSF's REU program

News 2024: Psychology student wins spot in NSF's REU program
Psychology student wins spot in NSF's REU program

Naomi Mwangi will study Mind, Brain, Body, and Behavior at Emory University in Atlanta

Naomi Mwangi '25 pictured in the Grove

Junior psychology major Naomi Mwangi '25 was recently awarded a spot in the National Science Foundation's prestigious Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program, where she'll study mind, brain, body, and behavior (MB3) for one year, including a residence at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia this summer.

"Psychology Professor and Department Chair Mahzad Hojjat urged me to apply for this," said Mwangi. "The program looked so competitive that I wasn't sure I'd get in. However, Professor Hojjat believed in me and convinced me to give it a shot. If it wasn't for that push, I would've missed out on such a prestigious opportunity. I screamed when I got the call in December that I was accepted into the program.

"I had Professor Hojjat for my social psychology class last year. The fact that she, the department chair of one of the largest majors on campus, would think of me and offer to write my letter of recommendation when she saw an opportunity means so much. She was so over the moon when she heard the news of my acceptance."

The REU program is a year-long venture open to undergraduate students from all over the country. Mwangi's cohort will begin to pair up with faculty at Emory University based on their shared research interests in a couple of weeks, when they'll be given a research topic and assignments to get started on.

As full-time students at universities across the U.S., the group will conduct research on a part-time remote basis in the spring and fall semesters. This summer, they will be flown to Emory University in Atlanta to work with faculty in person, full-time for 10 weeks. The Brockton native is hoping to gain more knowledge on clinical psychological research through this REU opportunity.

"I want to be a clinical psychologist one day, working in mental health settings focusing on minority children and adolescent groups. I want to focus on the harmful stigmas surrounding mental health and conduct research pertaining to this demographic," says Mwangi. "Being a first-generation student, I don't have anyone to look to for guidance on research, graduate school, and career preparation in this field.

"UMass Dartmouth's psychology faculty have been so helpful to me, and faculty mentorship is something I really value. This program will give me 1-on-1 access to someone who's been where I am and is now where I want to be. Getting even closer exposure to psychology research and a mentor in my field is priceless."

According to the NSF, the Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program supports active research participation by undergraduate students in any of the research areas funded by the National Science Foundation. REU projects involve students in meaningful ways in ongoing research programs or in research projects specifically designed for the REU program.

"I'm so thankful for Professor Hojjat and the whole psychology program at UMass Dartmouth," says Mwangi. "They've built a second home for me here. If you show initiative, they'll show their support. I wouldn't be the student that I am today without so many of my professors. They are truly amazing in every way. My experience in the major has been worthwhile because of the faculty that are a part of it."