SRU to host psychology conference April 15


Andrew Smith with psychology presentation

Andrew Smith, a senior psychology major from Owings Mills, Maryland, presented "The Moderating Effect of Gender on Attraction Type and Intimacy in Adolescent Romantic Relationships" at this year's SRU Symposium for Scholarship, Research, and Creative Achievement. SRU will host the 2017 Western Pennsylvania Undergraduate Psychology Conference April 15.

April 7, 2017

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Katherine Clark considers herself more of "a reader and a writer" in her academic pursuits as a psychology major at Slippery Rock University. That's why she's embracing the challenge of presenting at the 45th Annual Western Pennsylvania Undergraduate Psychology Conference. For the first time since 2010, SRU is hosting the event, 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., April 15 in the Smith Student Center Ballroom.

Nearly 150 attendees from institutions throughout western Pennsylvania will meet to share and discuss research about a variety of psychology topics. Undergraduate students submit abstracts to present either as a paper, with a 10-minute presentation, or as a poster, during two sessions with open-ended discussions.

For poster presenters like Clark, a junior from Volant, it is an excellent opportunity to build communication skills as well as valuable resume experience for her graduate school application.

"I'm understanding how to interpret data and communicate it," Clark said. "I get to do that in practice. It's an essential part of science."

Clark will present her topic, "Modern Sexism and Relationship Satisfaction: Comparison of Heterosexual and Gay/Lesbian Communities," which was developed with mentorship from Catherine Massey, professor of psychology. The topic is a slight departure from Clark's focus in developmental psychology and her career trajectory in psychiatrics and working with adolescents. However, she chose the topic to better understand different views about gender, which will further broaden her studies.

"This will help me get a grasp of what's happening in our world and what's changing with the way people see relationships," said Clark, whose presentation will address how gender roles and feminist and sexist views contribute to how satisfied people are in their relationships.

According to Jennifer Sanftner McGraw, professor of psychology and event coordinator, students were paired with professors who have an expertise in a particular area of study or research. Students then identified a question and methodology before submitting an abstract that was approved by their professors. They then analyzed data, compiled their findings and prepared their papers or posters for presentation, completing what often amounts to a yearlong process.

"They learn intensively about a topic that they might not learn about as much in a class because a class has to cover a broad area, so this really helps them learn a specific topic in much more detail," Sanftner McGraw said. "It's a high-impact practice for students to be working with faculty outside the classroom. Faculty get to know the student and really can help them with their career interest and making sure that they are understanding and doing all the things that they need to do to prepare for their careers."

The WPUPC provides a unique opportunity to students from different colleges and universities to share research with their peers in a way that is similar to a professional conference, but with less pressure on the presenters to perform. Additionally, the conference is a convergence of many areas of psychology, from neuroscience to clinical psychology. For example, in forensic psychology, researchers examine what motivates jurors to make decisions.

"It's a really good learning experience for students to reinforce the skills of taking the scientific method and applying it to a question that they want to answer," Sanftner McGraw added. "They get that opportunity to do that hands-on."

Registration for all attendees is $15 and includes coffee, a light breakfast and lunch.

For more information contact, Sanftner McGraw at or 724.738.2717.

MEDIA CONTACT: Justin Zackal | 724.738.4854 |