Research Opportunities

Gaining research experience is a crucial part of preparing for graduate study in Psychology, particularly Ph.D. programs. Postbac students are required to complete 2 semesters of research in a Columbia psychology department lab to earn the certificate. One semester may be done on a volunteer basis or as a paid research assistant. The other semester must be completed for credit by registering for 3 points of PSYC UN3950 (Supervised Individual Research). To earn credit for a semester, you should be working in the lab approximately 10 hours per week (minimum).  You will most likely be working with a graduate student or postdoctoral researcher, helping with ongoing projects rather than developing your own project. The longer you work in a lab, the more responsibilities you will be given and the more you can get involved in the research process.  If you are in a lab for long enough, you may be able to develop your own project and/or be coauthor on a publication.  You are welcome to work in more than one lab.  The more the better!   

  • Volunteering is an option in most labs. Some labs require that you work as a volunteer for one semester prior to enrolling in Supervised Individual Research (PSYC 3950).
  • Supervised Individual Research (UN3950) can be taken for 1-4 credits per semester. To earn the certificate you must complete 3 credits.  Generally, 10 hours of work per week plus some sort of academic product (a paper or presentation) is required for 3 credits. Expectations will vary from lab to lab.  Be sure to establish what the requirements are with your supervisor at the beginning of the semester.
  • Paid research assistant positions are occasionally available. Check the weekly department newsletter for listings.
  • Research in other departments.  If you find a research position in another department, you may be able to register for PSYC UN3950.  Inquire with the program director regarding this option.

Choosing a Lab

Most labs have websites describing their research.  Be sure to take a look.

In the Fall, the Psychology Department holds its Fall Lab Preview for Postbacs and undergraduates who are interested in getting involved in research labs. This event begins with very brief presentations from each lab that is looking for research assistants, followed by an open hours.  This is a good place to learn about all of the current opportunities in the department.

Another excellent way to learn about current research is to attend departmental talks (e.g., Monday Seminar, Colloquia). Professors and graduate students present current topics in their fields. All are invited.  The seminars regularly offered in the department and across the university can be found here

Finally, though it is optimal to find a lab doing research that closely matches your personal interests, this is not always possible.  Moreover, it is not necessary to do research on the exact question that you hope to study in graduate school. Because of the small number of labs in this department, you may have to be somewhat flexible about who you work with.

Getting Accepted into a Lab

Postbac students typically have little difficulty finding a lab placement.  A good place to start is to attend the Fall Lab Preview, but if you are unable to attend this event or want to get started looking for a lab even earlier, there is no reason not to contact faculty, lab managers and/or graduate students directly to ask them about research opportunities in their labs.  Be prepared when you contact the professor. Know what type of research they do and be able to talk about why you are interested in working with them.

Internship Experience

Internships are paid or volunteer positions that can give you hands-on experience in a clinical or clinical-related field. They are particularly useful for students intending to pursue a Psy.D., but also supplement the clinical Ph.D. graduate application.

Every Spring Barnard offers a Clinical Field Practicum. Below is a link to the course website, which includes a link to a list of organizations that have previously offered volunteer positions in clinical psychology.  If you are pursuing a graduate program in clinical psychology, you may substitute the Barnard Clinical Field Practicum for PSYC UN3950 (Supervised Individual Research) with permission of the program advisor.