Transylvania professor opens doors to expanded psych lab research

Bethany Jurs, a professor in the psychology and neuroscience programs, has been working to expand research opportunities in Hazelrigg Hall over the summer.

This lab discovery didn’t involve any data or experiments.

One day in the basement of Transylvania University’s Hazelrigg Hall, Bethany Jurs came across a door she’d never noticed before, so she tried her key. It fit.

Inside she found a room with a few storage boxes — no big deal — but she also saw a sign that read, “The Frazier Behavioral Research Lab” — which was a big deal because Jurs, who is a professor in the psychology and neuroscience programs, and her colleagues have been trying to accommodate a growing demand for research.

Jurs’ discovery coincides with this summer’s upgrade to the existing psych lab across the hall — improvements that include new desks, tables, chairs, computers and a monitor for an electroencephalograph (brain activity recorder) the school installed this past fall.

The new furniture replaces particleboard tables and chairs you might not have wanted to lean back in — bringing the main lab’s appointments in line with its high-tech equipment, which also includes BIOPAC devices that measure physiological data like heart rate, and neural headsets that allow students to control computers with their minds.

These enhancements will allow for Jurs to incorporate lab components into classes, something she’s a big proponent of. “The ability to have an actual lab/classroom space is going to open up a lot of opportunities for incorporating lab activities into our curriculum,” she said.

Also opening up opportunities will be the newly discovered behavioral lab. “There are more of us doing research now — and a lot more students who want to do research,” Jurs said. This increased demand created scheduling issues for experiments. “Before, we were just really constrained by physical resources.”

The improvements will bolster the university’s relatively new neuroscience program, as well as student-faculty collaborative research.

Iva Katzarska-Miller, associate professor of psychology, also extolled the changes. She said the expanded space will help students work on studies at their own pace, and it could allow for more manipulation of the normative environment to examine effects of artifacts on research participants.

Additionally, Katzarska-Miller noted how the extra room will make the research process smoother for everyone. “Currently, because we are sharing a space, we have to constantly negotiate when different studies can be conducted,” she said. “Having two spaces would allow for more productive usage of both researchers’ and participants’ time.”