Consistent with the University of Arkansas Clinical Training Program, Dr. Ham adopts a scientist-practitioner approach to research and training in the Laboratory for Anxiety and Substance Abuse Research (LASAR). The primary objectives of Dr. Ham’s laboratory is to advance the knowledge of the development and maintenance of concurrent anxiety and addictive disorders, with an emphasis on the interplay between social anxiety and alcohol misuse, as well as to advance knowledge about the correlates of and interventions for college substance misuse. Secondary aims are to examine sexual violence and sexual harassment in young adults. Another objective is to train graduate and undergraduate students to develop research and critical thinking skills more generally, and knowledge and skills related to scientific examination of anxiety and substance abuse more specifically. The final objective is to mentor students in their professional development in order to prepare them for further training or employment within the mental health field.
Teaching and Professional Development
The Laboratory for Anxiety and Substance Abuse Research is a teaching laboratory, and therefore emphasizes the training of undergraduate and graduate students in all stages of psychological research. As psychological researchers-in-training, a focus on professional development is also a core element of training.
All graduate students in the Laboratory for Anxiety and Substance Abuse Research become full members of the research team upon beginning their first semester in the Clinical Training Program. While gaining familiarity with the relevant research and clinical literature, beginning graduate students receive hands-on experience working in the lab. These experiences include collecting data in an ongoing study already underway and/or helping to design a new study. Further, students begin developing their master’s thesis in the first semester and typically propose their master’s thesis in their first year. There are a variety of opportunities for students to initiate their own research studies, utilize the numerous existing datasets to investigate a research question, or contribute to other laboratory projects (e.g., grant-funded projects, student-directed projects). Graduate students have many opportunities to present and publish lab research. In fact, dissemination of research findings is viewed as a crucial element in the research process, and students are encouraged to engage in dissemination of research findings.
Graduate students are active participants in laboratory meetings, joining all meetings in which current and future projects are discussed. Graduate students are also active participants and in some cases, leaders, of laboratory meetings with the undergraduate laboratory members. The opportunity to lead laboratory meetings and mentor undergraduate students is designed to promote the professional development of the graduate student as an independent research and mentor. In addition to group laboratory meetings, graduate students meet with Dr. Ham individually on a regular basis to discuss their development as a researcher and professional, with an emphasis on progress within the Clinical Training Program and on meeting individualized training and career goals.
Training undergraduates is a central element of the laboratory. The research assistant position has been designed to provide training and mentoring regarding graduate school and professional development, in addition to direct training in the research process. We strive to prepare undergraduates for further involvement in the mental health field by providing a comprehensive, yet focused, set of training and didactic experiences.
The Laboratory for Anxiety and Substance Abuse Research emphasizes the mentoring of undergraduate students so that they better understand the field of clinical psychology and clinical psychology research. For instance, undergraduates receive direct mentorship in the research process and in professional development (e.g., how to present research findings, applying for graduate school) from graduate students in the doctoral Clinical Training Program at the University of Arkansas. Students work with a graduate mentor (or mentors) under the supervision of Dr. Ham.
In addition to weekly lab meeting in which basic laboratory issues are discussed, both required and optional didactic sessions are available. Didactic training includes conducting ethical research, conducting laboratory- and questionnaire-based research, a review of the latest research in the field, and the recommended steps for applying to graduate school. Undergraduates also have opportunities to learn about the dissemination and presentation of research data. For instance, students are given opportunities for exposure to practice honors thesis, master’s thesis, and dissertation presentations as well as presentations for professional conferences.
Perhaps the most important training is the hands-on training the students gain in LASAR through being involved in all steps of the research process in an actual laboratory. Further, students are encouraged to get involved in professional conferences, both by attending and presenting LASAR results.
There are a limited number of opportunities for Honors students to complete Honors thesis under Dr. Ham’s mentorship. Dr. Ham is committed to providing quality mentorship to each honors student that she accepts. See this link for expectations for Honors students who wish to complete an Honors thesis.