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Undergraduate Researchers

Mina Attia

Mina Attia, Psychology

McNair Scholar

“Foreign-born Psychology Students' Supports and Barriers”

Little research on the experiences of psychology students has focused on those who are foreign-born. This study compares the academic and non-academic barriers and supports experienced by students who immigrated to the United States early in their childhood versus those who immigrated at a later age. We hypothesized that participants who immigrated earlier would have more academic and non-academic supports and fewer barriers than those who immigrated later in life. A national web-based survey was used to collect data from 3633 psychology students regarding their experiences. Implications and limitations of the study will be discussed.

When did you join the Ronald E. McNair (REM) program?

I joined the McNair Scholars program my senior year of college (2012).

How did you find out about McNair?

I was actually going to the student services office to ask for help on my personal statement and with applying to graduate school. I ended up in the office of Dr. April Householder, the assistant director of the McNair Scholars program. She explained to me what the program is about and encouraged me to apply.

What have you gained from being a McNair scholar?

I have gained so much from being a McNair Scholar. The various workshops tailored to the scholars as well as the research course during the semester were a great start to getting me thinking like a scholar. This was followed by the Summer Research Institute fellowship, which was one of the most amazing experiences I had academically. I was able to work one-on-one with my mentor while being in a scholarly atmosphere the rest of the time.

What is your most recent independent research project?

My research is on foreign-born students and the age that they immigrated to the U.S. and how that has is correlated with their academic and non-academic barriers and supports.

How did you find your mentor for this project?

I searched on the psychology department website for the faculty list and their research. Going down the list I took note of several labs that were of similar interest as mine. I contacted and met with several professors and Dr. Maton’s research seemed to be most fitting for me.

How did you know this was the project you wanted to do?

I figured that doing research on something that I am passionate about or can relate to is the key to staying motivated in the research process. I am a foreign-born student who immigrated to the U.S. I experienced the barriers and supports that I am researching first hand.

How much time do you put into it?

I started working on my research project the beginning of my last semester at UMBC (Spring 2012). I will be working on it until the end of the McNair Summer Research Institute in July when I will be presenting at the University of Buffalo McNair Research Conference.

What academic background did you have before you started?

Since I started this research project my senior year, I pretty much had all of my major classes finished. Courses that helped me were Psychology 331 and 332, which focused on research methods and statistics.

How much did your mentor help you with your research?

Dr. Maton helped me a lot with my research project. I try to meet with him at least once a week just to make sure that I’m on track and to get any help that I need. From day one, Dr. Maton has been a dedicated mentor, guiding me along my research.

What is your advice to other students about getting involved in research?

Definitely get involved in research as an undergraduate! UMBC offers a rare opportunity in having so many research programs and labs available for undergraduates. This is not the norm at other universities, so take advantage of it! The sooner that you get your foot in the door the more involved and excited you will become about your future.

What are your career goals?

I plan to apply to Ph.D. programs in clinical psychology. I am interested in topics such as immigration, minorities, and oppressed populations. I hope to use my knowledge and Ph.D. to make a difference in those communities.