Volunteer Information

The IDEA lab is currently recruiting volunteers for lab assistant positions. As a lab assistant in the IDEA lab, you will be exposed to many different types of studies within the broad domain of cognitive psychology. The central goal of this research is to understand how people and other animals pay attention, and the forces that determine how intently, how long, and how effectively one will attend to a source of information, and how do individual differences in attention control relate to differences in learning, memory, and executive functioning (e.g., planning, monitoring, self-regulation). If you volunteer to help in the IDEA lab, you will be assisting in the testing of undergraduate participants in this research; but these data are frequently compared to responses from monkeys and chimpanzees that are tested on similar tests in Dr. Washburn’s other laboratory at the Language Research Center.

We need volunteers to help test undergraduates on computer-based testing. If selected as an IDEA lab assistant, you will participate in:

• Training on the ethical conduct of research
• Conducting experiments (e.g., greeting and testing participants, answering questions)
• Paper work, data entry, and potentially data analysis
• Other lab work (keeping the lab clean, moving computers, etc. may be part of science too!)
• Potential for poster presentation at PURC (Fall) and/or GSURC (Spring)

As a research volunteer in the IDEA lab, you will learn about a wide range of cognitive-science research techniques and findings. You should feel free to ask Antonio or Dr. Washburn to explain anything you don’t understand about the studies. You will also learn about research ethics and regulations, and may acquire technical skills with new apparatus or techniques. You will have the opportunity to collaborate on and to present research findings at local or regional professional conferences, and may be able to co-author published papers. Occasionally, we are able to find funds (e.g., from the Brains & Behavior Program or the Language & Literacy initiative) to pay IDEA lab assistants in the summer or academic year. Very occasionally, IDEA lab assistants who are interested in the research with monkeys and apes are able to gain additional research experience at the Language Research Center. After at least one semester of successful volunteer work in the IDEA lab, you may be able to register for academic credit (Psychology Research Practicum) for your efforts in the lab. You will be able to request a letter of recommendation from Dr. Washburn or a collaborator, who will be in the position of writing an informed letter in support of your graduate or job applications. You will also contribute to scientific progress through your efforts, helping the entire field better to understand cognitive competence, its development, and its disorders.

A regular commitment of at least 6 hours/week (e.g., three 2-hour sessions) for the entire term. This is a set schedule for the rest of the semester, but can change from semester-to-semester to accommodate class and work schedules. Critically, researchers and participants depend on you to be in the IDEA lab at the time that you are assigned. You should indicate the times that you can realistically and definitely be at the lab to help, and then you must be there at those times in which you are scheduled to work. Failure to be at the lab as scheduled is grounds for immediate termination of your volunteer assistantship.

Please inform Antonio immediately if your availability changes and you need to adjust your schedule during a semester. We recognize that you are a volunteer, and that you have many responsibilities outside the lab that take priority. That said, if you commit to working in the IDEA lab, then it is imperative that you be responsible and trustworthy in this commitment.

Near the end of the semester, you can indicate whether you wish to continue in the IDEA lab the following semester. If so, you will be able to adjust your schedule around your new classes.

Lab Safety
The IDEA lab is located in Kell Hall, rooms 209 – 215. IDEA lab student assistants are issued a code for the lockbox that is located at 209-K. The key in this lockbox will open all lab doors. It is imperative that the key is returned and secured within the lockbox and that all doors are locked when you leave the lab. Data, including paperwork associated with participant testing, must remain within the lab unless approved in advance by Dr. Washburn or a primary collaborator. Participant-testing information is privileged information, and you should not discuss, write about, photograph, or otherwise distribute information about IDEA lab activities. This is to protect the rights and anonymity of research participants. Research assistants may study, snack, and rest in the IDEA lab, so long as these activities do not interfere with ongoing research. Lab computers should not be used for activities unrelated to research or academics, and in no case should be used for downloading or viewing pirated materials, pornography, virus/malware, or unauthorized software. Cell phone coverage is very poor in Kell Hall. There is a university telephone in the IDEA lab, and you should give that number to anyone who might need to reach you in case of emergency. The phone numbers for the university police and the counseling center are located near the phone for your use in case of emergency. If at any point you feel unsafe in the lab, inform Dr. Washburn or a primary collaborator immediately and take measures to ensure your safety.

To get more information or to volunteer, contact Antonio or Dr. Washburn to schedule an interview. In the interview, we will ask about your background and future plans. We will assess whether your availability matches our needs. We will attempt to verify that you understand the commitment as well as the opportunities inherent in a volunteer research assistantship

We are pleased that you are considering assisting with the research in the IDEA lab. Across the years, dozens of undergraduate students have helped with this research. Many have gone on to develop their own noteworthy research programs as graduate students and as professors. Many published articles have acknowledged the contributions of volunteer assistants in the IDEA lab. Whatever your goals, we are confident that you will find the work in the IDEA lab to be interesting and rewarding. Your assistance is very important, and we welcome this opportunity to discuss this possibility with you!