BINGHAMTON RESEARCHERS, SCHOLARS & ARTISTS SPOTLIGHT
Meet a Faculty Mentor
Professor of Psychology
Dr. Matthew Johnson is the Director of the Marriage and Family Studies Laboratory and a research mentor to a number of undergraduate Psychology majors at Binghamton University. His work focuses on the identification and possible prevention of marital discord. Professor Johnson explains: "I divide my research into three domains. First, I am trying to determine what predicts marital discord and divorce by focusing on how two individuals in a couple interact with each other. Second, I look at how to prevent discord and divorce. Finally, I focus on my overall methodology and try to improve it in order to better study relationships."
Professor Johnson first became interested in Psychology when he was an undergraduate at the University of Denver. There, he worked in a laboratory which used a coding system to predict whether a marriage would fail or persist. Professor Johnson says that "Because I discovered my interest in Psychology as an undergrad, I know it's important to push for more opportunities for undergraduate research." His lab is currently conducting a study that observes how individuals in a married couple support each other by looking at the changes of their hormone levels. "Right now I have 20 undergraduates, mostly juniors, in my lab assisting me with the study. I have students involved in recruiting couples, collecting samples, recording interactions on video."
Students can become involved at the laboratory in various ways. Dr. Johnson says, "If we need students, we recruit by putting an advertisement through the Psychology listserv. Some students reach out to me through email. Often, I cannot take students because the lab is too full."
Naquan Ross, one of his current students, approached him regarding research opportunities in the fall of 2012. At the time, Dr. Johnson could not take any students, but in the following semester he was able to offer Naquan a chance to work at the lab. "He was in my Research Methods class and was always eager to ask questions. Naquan is interested and energetic about research in Psychology and I was happy to help him."
Naquan's research interests were similar but not identical to Professor Johnson's. "He [Naquan] wants to look into some of the myths around sexuality in relationships. He has done a nice job looking at the literature addressing some of these myths. Right now, he is working on a honors thesis on the association of sexual satisfaction with success in relationships."
Dr. Johnson enjoys carrying out research in his field and helping his students find their own niche in Psychology. " I was not necessarily thinking that a career in research was for me. But once I started, I was hooked. I feel I have the best job in the world. I have the chance to answer questions in Psychology that interest me and I get to work with Binghamton undergrads, who are not only smart, but are also fun to work with."
....and his Student Mentee
Naquan Ross, May '14 Graduate
Psychology student Naquan Ross studies the myths around sexual satisfaction and relationships. Working with Dr. Matthew Johnson at the Marriage and Family Studies Laboratory, Naquan has had the opportunity to pursue his research interests in Psychology. "I did not know whether to major in PPL or Psychology. So I took the intro courses in each. I discovered that while I did not enjoy PPL, I really liked Psychology."
In the beginning of his junior year, Naquan approached Professor Matt Johnson about research opportunities. Dr. Johnson did not have a spot open at that time, but Naquan was able to begin in his lab a few months later. "When I first began at the lab, I was Dr. Johnson's assistant. I looked up references for articles, checked email accounts, and attended all the meetings. I always knew what was going on with the research of graduate students." Naquan presented his first research poster during the 2013 Binghamton University Research Days. "The name of the project was 'First Cut, the Deepest Cut.' I wanted to test the myth that the first breakups were the worst of all relationships. After doing a literature review of several studies, I found that first breakups actually help with future relationships."
After this experience, Naquan wanted to continue his work and decided to participate in the McNair Summer Research Program with Dr. Johnson as his faculty mentor. "Dr. Johnson is one of my biggest supporters on campus. Research is very much apparent here, but it is also very competitive. I am glad he saw my passion and gave me the opportunity. I never saw myself in clinical psychology. But after working with him, I knew I wanted to do this."
During that summer, Naquan began a project entitled, "Let's Think About Sex." Naquan tackled three myths: the congruence of adolescent sexual experiences and real-life experiences, sexual satisfaction as an indicator of successful relationships, and validity of the claim that all marriages are consummated. He presented his findings at the 2013 University of Buffalo Annual McNair Summer Research Conference. In the fall, he decided to focus on the second myth through an honors thesis.
"Dr. Johnson suggested [that] I pursue an honors thesis. We decided I should focus more on the myth of sexual satisfaction being an indicator of success in a relationship. I am doing a meta-analysis, which requires me to gather all the statistical information on the area and combine them into one. It is basically taking a literature review to the next level." Through this experience, Naquan learned that "It is important to follow the research instead of the other way around. He [Dr. Johnson] emphasizes the significance of not picking studies that only serve my hypothesis."
Aside from research, Naquan is heavily involved on campus. He is Resident Assistant in Dickinson, a tour guide supervisor, and the founder of the student community service organization called the Mountaineers. After graduation, Naquan will take a year off working in a clinic or a lab that focuses on intimate relationships. "Many schools in the field want you to have working experience. But afterwards, I definitely plan on participating in doctorate programs in clinical psychology."
Articles written by: Tasfia Rahman '14