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College of Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences

Department of Psychology

Psychology Matters

Major Matters

majorBy Angela Narayan, PhD, Miriam Castillo, and Laura River
Assistant Professor, Research Assistant, and Doctoral Candidate




The PROTECT Lab (Promoting Resilience in Offspring and Targeting Early Childhood Trajectories), directed by Dr. Angela Narayan in the Department of Psychology, is committed to providing undergraduate research assistants with unique research experiences. These include engaging in culturally sensitive research projects and benefitting from a peer mentorship model of training. Current DU senior, Miriam Castillo, has been with the PROTECT Lab since it opened its doors in 2016. Miriam, a bilingual Spanish- and English-speaker, worked with Dr. Narayan on a project supported by the DU Faculty Research Fund that evaluated pregnant women's "angels in the nursery," positive memories with childhood caregivers. Together, they listened to recordings and read transcripts of ethnically-diverse pregnant women speaking about how they planned to recreate loving moments from childhood with their new babies.

Miriam reflects, "Working on these projects made me realize the value of conducting research: by building from and adding to the literature, we test new ideas and devise solutions. This realization made me fascinated. Reading, listening to, and coding narratives prepared me for the opportunity to write a Summer Research Grant. I felt supported to investigate my own research topic when I learned I was a recipient!"

Miriam joined PROTECT Lab clinical child psychology doctoral student, Laura River, in an international training on Narrative Coherence (NC), adults' ability to talk about attachment figures in a manner that is clear, consistent, and complex yet emotionally regulated. Miriam's Summer Research Grant afforded her time and resources to develop her independent research project. With Laura's mentorship, Miriam is coding Spanish- and English-speaking pregnant women's NC about their romantic partners/the fathers of their babies. Together, they have uncovered exciting findings that women's NC about partners during pregnancy may be associated with how they parent their babies after birth!

Laura reflects, "Narrative coherence is a tricky concept to understand, and there's an added layer of challenge because we're applying it to narratives about romantic partners for the first time. Miriam has an exceptional ability to combine her personal experiences and insights with existing theory and findings to generate scientific hypotheses. Her intellectual curiosity, drive, and knack for analyzing evidence make her a natural researcher, and it is such a pleasure to work with her."

Dr. Narayan reflects, "Everyone gains a deeper understanding of cultural diversity in family processes when we have the ability to code data in the language in which it was collected and preserve its cultural nuances."

Students of all levels in the PROTECT Lab benefit from working with their peers. Dr. Narayan has also mentored several undergraduate students to successful matriculation into graduate programs, and her doctoral students provide undergraduates with key insights about the graduate admissions process. Everyone is happy to share their perspectives.