For recent Chapman graduate Amber Hopkins, research has expanded her mind–and helped her measure it. With degrees in both psychology and philosophy, Hopkins centered her undergraduate research around brain function and human observation. Working with Chapman’s Brain Institute, professor Uri Maoz and graduate students Jake Gavenas and Andy Liang, Hopkins has used her SURF-supported summer to expand her research and professional world.
“I am working with a team at Brain Institute to explore using pupil dilation change as an external and physiological measure for the onset of conscious intention to move. Much of the research in this field depends upon subjective report, which means individuals report when they felt an intention. However, subjective report can come with its own set of problems. An external measure, like the pupil, would be a great tool for future research and allow for more freedom in experimental design,” Hopkins explained.
SURF – the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship – is awarded to Chapman students who show promising futures as researchers. Overseen by the Center for Undergraduate Excellence, SURF is competitive program only awarding about 40 percent of its applicants.
As a SURF researcher, Hopkins has been formulating ideas, running experiments, and expanding her research and professional skills. Having presented her research in the past, she is no stranger to the research field, but explained that SURF has taught her how to better navigate the professional world.
“I presented my own research at the Psychology Undergraduate Research Conference hosted by UCLA my senior year,” Hopkins said. “I have also presented my own research and research I have been working on with the Brain Institute at the Student Scholar Symposium hosted by Chapman.”
Reflecting on her time as a SURF fellow, Hopkins said that “CUE and SURF have made it possible for me to stay here and continue researching with Brain Institute,” since her fellowship and the Undergraduate Scholarly/Creative Grant she received have funded integral parts of this project.
“In the future, I know the Center for Undergraduate Excellence will help me with applying for funding and scholarships for graduate school,” she said.
When asked what she would recommend to students interested in engaging with research while in their undergraduate careers, Hopkins said that passion and interest should be the guiding forces.
“Research starts with taking a class with a professor that you resonate with, where something that they teach sticks with you and you have questions about it,” Hopkins said. “When you really pursue things you’re interested in, it leads to relationships with faculty. Go into something that excites you, the opportunities will make themselves visible.”