Katy Valentine had her pick of psychology PhD programs because of her Missouri State experience. She was accepted to at least six top programs, and will be starting doctoral studies soon at the institution of her choice.
Valentine, a double Missouri State graduate who earned a bachelor’s in psychology in 2011 and a master’s in the same field in 2013, became a per course instructor at MSU during her graduate studies in the experimental track of the program.
She originally thought she was going to be a clinical psychologist, talking people through their problems. However, as an undergraduate she volunteered to work with Dr. Harry Hom, a faculty member.
“I spent five years learning how to write a research paper and how to do all parts of an experiment,” Valentine said. “He really believed in me and pushed me to follow through with a master's degree.”
She learned how much she loved working with the math and statistics side of psychology, a unique niche population within academics. She worked on quantitative projects with local nonprofits dedicated to helping children and youths.
In graduate school, the bulk of her research was related to something called the “qwerty effect.” “Qwerty” is the most common arrangement of letters on a keyboard. The “qwerty effect” is an emerging theory that says people perceive words with letters from the right side of the keyboard as more pleasant than words with letters from the left. MSU psychology professors and students are examining if and why this is true, and how the brain processes data as you use keyboards.
“We made words that were all right-handed or left-handed, or equal left and right, and we got people’s ratings of those words,” Valentine said.
They are adding to psychology’s growing body of knowledge about the “qwerty effect.”
With her body of research work and experience leading a classroom, Valentine was sure to be accepted into many PhD programs. She credits MSU for providing what she calls astounding mentors.
“My mentor, Dr. Erin Buchanan (an assistant professor), went out of her way 110 percent to tell me things I had to do for my degree and help me prepare for my PhD,” Valentine said. “She pushed me to research and to get published. She wanted me comfortable with teaching and she took me to conferences.”
The psychology department helped her individualize her master’s experience so she could focus on quantitative analysis, looking for “truth in data,” as she puts it.
“They are all amazing people who have put me in the place I need to be.”