IPR Offers Undergraduates Immersive Research Experience

By Roger AndersonSeptember 14, 2018

How do children learn to talk about, interact with, and relate to people different from them?

Rising junior Ericka Woods spent the summer exploring the topic— in terms of weight, physical abilities, ethnicity, and other factors — at Northwestern’s Social Cognition and Intergroup Processes (SCIP) lab.

“We were looking at how parents interact with their children and talk to them about people,” says Woods, who is majoring in social policy, with minors in African-American studies and business institutions. “With the knowledge that we gain from this project, we can learn how to better raise and talk to children in ways that don't influence bias or prejudice.”

Woods was one of 43 Northwestern undergraduates supported by the Institute for Policy Research’s (IPR) Summer Undergraduate Research Assistants (SURA) program. The program provides students with a direct experience in the conceptualization and conduct of policy-relevant social science research. This year, SURA students shared their research experiences as part of a first-person blog.

Woods worked alongside IPR associate Sylvia Perry, psychology, who investigates how individual difference factors interact with situational factors to affect intergroup contexts, educational and healthcare settings, and people’s sense of belonging and psychological wellbeing. 

SURA is a 10-week program that exposes undergraduates to active policy research led by IPR faculty. It includes an informal course in a commonly used statistical software package in social science research, as well as in how to navigate data archives and services.

“IPR is proud to inspire a new generation of policy researchers by giving them hands-on experience digging deep into rigorous social science projects—many for the very first time,” said economist and IPR Director Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach. “Northwestern is a world-class research university that takes the undergraduate research experience seriously.”

Student blog posts by Dylan Doppelt (WCAS 19), Thalia Perez (WCAS 21), Woods (SESP 20), Jonathan Sun (SESP 21), Dakota Baker (WCAS 19), and Alex Carther (WCAS 19) can be found on the IPR website.