Thank you for your interest in the Jaswal Lab and the graduate psychology program at UVa. We hope you will find the following information helpful as you navigate through the application process.
Would the Jaswal Lab be a good fit for me?
Prospective graduate students interested in joining the lab to work on projects related to communication and autism are encouraged to explore the website fully to get a clear sense of our goals. You are also encouraged to read our recent lab publications relevant to autism and atypical development, and then contact Dr. Jaswal directly. If your primary interests are related to early intervention, we are unlikely to be a good fit because that is not our focus.
A note to prospective graduate students who are interested in working on trust, testimony, or social cognition: Dr. Jaswal continues to enjoy collaborating with students and colleagues on these topics. However, because the main focus of the lab has shifted to autism and communication, he would not be a good primary advisor for you. But do not despair! The Psychology Department is blessed with three other terrific Child Development Labs that work on social and cognitive development in typically developing children. Their research interests may align well with yours. If you do come to UVa under the auspices of one of the other labs, Dr. Jaswal will happily collaborate with you even if the Jaswal Lab is not your primary home.
What do you look for in prospective students?
An ideal candidate for graduate admission should have research experience. It does not have to have been in autism—though that’s certainly a plus. We use a range of quantitative and qualitative methods, including behavioral tasks, eye-tracking, in-depth interviews, and focus groups. If you have experience with these methods, that’s also a plus. Finally, teaching and/or personal experience with autism or other developmental disabilities is highly desirable.
Applicants should explain in their personal statement how their experience, perspective, and goals fit with those of the Jaswal Lab. Please specify “Developmental Psychology” as your area of interest on the application form. Professor Jaswal is happy to collaborate with students in the department’s clinical area, but does not serve as a primary advisor for students in that program.
Where can I learn more about the program?
Undergraduate research assistants (RAs) have the opportunity to help design studies, run experiments, and analyze data. Typically, RAs either volunteer or receive class credit. We ask RAs to commit to at least 10 hours/week. Additionally, RAs are expected to attend monthly lab meetings, where we discuss both practical and theoretical issues related to the research.
Positions usually open up in the summer and fall. However, there are sometimes opportunities for new RAs to join the lab in the spring. These positions go very quickly, so it is important that you apply early. We generally review applications for the summer and fall in early March. Applications for the spring are reviewed on an ongoing basis during the fall semester. Opportunities and directions to apply will be posted on our website, so check back often.
Visit the Psychology Department website to learn more about the undergraduate program and to explore other research opportunities.
What qualities do we look for?
Friendly. In our lab, you may interact with families, collaborators, and other community partners. It is therefore crucial that you are friendly and enjoy being part of a team.
Meticulous. Many of our studies involve very subtle manipulations. RAs need to be extremely vigilant to ensure that the results of our studies are valid and day-to-day lab operations run smoothly.
Conscientious. For some of our studies, we contact families to visit our lab and participate in our research. Scheduling their visit, greeting them at the door, and completing other logistical lab tasks require attention to detail and punctuality.
Curious. Although you’ll start out working on well-defined tasks, we expect you will contribute your own ideas and take the initiative to learn about the broader issues that we are investigating.
Why be an RA?
Getting involved in research can be one of the most fulfilling aspects of your undergraduate career. We urge you to get involved with a lab as soon as you find a topic that interests you. It will give you in-depth experience on a particular topic, train you in how science is done, and help to prepare you for graduate, professional, or medical school. Many RAs have gone on to do Distinguished Majors Projects in the lab in their fourth year. Several are co-authors on presentations and published papers. It’s also fun and can really make you feel like you’re part of a community.
How to apply
We have filled all undergraduate RA positions for 2017-2018! Please check back in spring 2018 for opportunities to join the lab.