Faculty and students at Waterloo have brilliant minds and conduct innovative research. As such, a number of students get involved by becoming Research Assistants (RAs). I volunteered as an RA in my first year, and one of the best parts of the position was the opportunity to learn from, and learn about, other students. Naturally, I was excited to speak to current RA Seth Mahon about his interests, his experience as an RA, and what he would like to say to other students who are interested in research positions.
Q: What program/year are you in?
Seth: I am in my fourth year of my Honours Psychology major with a Research Intensive Specialization.
Q: What inspired you to become an RA?
Seth: What inspired me to become an RA was the idea of taking the knowledge I gained from classes and using it to do real, hands-on research.
Q: What labs are you a part of? Can you tell us a little bit about them?
Seth: I am a part of the Diversity and Intergroup Relations (DIGR) lab and the Memory, Attention, and Cognition lab. The DIGR lab focuses on interactions and relationships between people from diverse groups, while the Memory, Attention, and Cognition lab studies human attention, learning, and memory.
Q: What excites you about these labs in particular?
Seth: What excites me about these labs is not only the content, but also the differences between them. Working in a social and a cognitive psychology lab allows you to develop a wide range of research skills, and helps develop your specific research interests.
Q: Why is research important to you?
Seth: Research is important to me because of the benefits it has for the world.
The more we know about how people interact or how they think, the better we can understand one another and fight against inequality in the workplace, memory disorders, and any other issues.
Q: What’s a week in the life of an RA like?
Seth: Every week for an RA is usually not the same. Depending on what the lab needs, you may be running participants for a study one week, and the next you are helping code or analyze some data. The work is always changing and you are always learning new things.
Q: What really stands out to you about your experience? What are you most proud of when it comes to your work as an RA?
Seth: The thing that stands out the most is how welcoming and patient all the other lab members are. Lab directors, grad students, and lab managers are all willing to help teach and mentor you so that you can get the most out of this RA experience and be prepared for grad school. I am not proud of any particular work; however, I am proud of how far I’ve come and everything I have learned since becoming an RA.
Q: Why should others get involved on campus?
Seth: They should get involved because it is the best way to get some hands-on research experience. It also looks great on a résumé, and if you are planning to go to grad school, being an RA will put you a step above the competition.
Q: What advice do you have for students who would like to become RAs?
Seth: Apply to anyone and everyone. Be open to becoming an RA in a field or specialization that isn’t related to your intended career path. No matter where you work, the skills you will learn are valuable.
Q: Where do you want to go from here? What are your future aspirations?
Seth: My goal is to get my PhD in Social Psychology and continue researching the barriers for women and men going into counter-stereotypic careers.
For more stories featuring Arts students like Seth, check out the Arts tag on the UWaterloo Life blog!