My work: I am a clinical research assistant on a genetic study of families with at least one child with a diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). In a series of face-to-face visits, my colleagues and I administer a battery of cognitive, language, behavioral, and diagnostic assessments to collect diagnostic and phenotypic information about observable traits relevant to ASDs.
My Wheaton: As a psychology major, I had the opportunity to study a wide variety of topics in the field. Courses in clinical, developmental and abnormal psychology, as well as research methods and lab, helped me establish a strong foundation of knowledge and the skills necessary for my current position. As a Hispanic studies minor, I was able to hone my Spanish language skills and gain key understanding of the broad Latino cultures. This will allow me to pursue my dream of working with a Latino population at some stage in my career.
Additionally, as a Community Scholar and Wheaton/Porter Fellows, I received generous financial support from the College and its alumnae/i. This enabled me to spend my summers working as an unpaid Clinical Intern and Research Assistant at an outpatient pediatric developmental clinic at the Einstein College of Medicine in Bronx, N.Y. My exposure to and involvement in the day-to-day work responsibilities in this clinical setting gave me invaluable experience to take with me in my post-college work. It also provided me with the opportunity to be an integral part of a published study on bilingual children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder.
The rewards: The most rewarding aspect of my job is the face-to-face time I spend with the families and children affected by autism. Working as a research assistant is a typical post-college position for a psychology major — a way to pay one’s dues— but what attracted me to this particular position was the degree to which I would be able to interact with participants. Although I spend a good deal of time crunching numbers and writing reports, meeting and working with families offers me a unique perspective on their everyday lives, struggles, and joys. I feel fortunate to be able to help them in ways both small (providing a free report of results for which private clinicians charge as much as $1,000) and large (collecting information that will, hopefully, one day lead to discovering the causes of Autism).
Future plans: I plan to pursue a graduate Ph.D. or Psy.D. in Clinical Psychology. I hope to continue to work with children and families affected by Autism, as well as those who face a broader array of developmental and mental health issues.