Leanne Keller (Psychology and Cognitive Science) and Liz Hetterly (Biology and Dean’s Scholar in Global Health and Social Justice) tell us about their senior thesis projects.

Leanne Keller: “The Effects of International Adoption on Children’s Abilities to Sustain Attention: An Assessment of Group Differences and Long Term Sequelae”


“I think I am most excited about actually looking at my results, as I’ve been collecting and analyzing data since the beginning of the summer so I’m really looking forward to seeing what’s there. The most challenging part of my research has probably been how different what I’m doing is from the interests of most other people in my lab. My research focuses on cognitive development, but the lab that I work in usually looks more into emotional development and attachment. In a lot of ways, I’m on my own with what I’m doing, especially with reviewing the existing literature, because I’m one of the few people in my lab who have really looked into it. That really ties into what I’m hoping to learn from this process, as I want to more fully understand the research process at all stages.

Participating in undergraduate research can give you a good clue into how things usually go, but I really think the independence of a senior thesis and the control of a project from the very starting stages of coming up with a proposal to putting the finishing touches on the final paper is beneficial beyond other available research opportunities. After graduation I hope to go to graduate school for a Ph.D. in either a Clinical or Developmental Psychology, where I’ll be involved in projects like this thesis for many years to come!”

Liz Hetterly: “Unintended pregnancy and need for family planning services among the urban adolescent poor in Bangladesh”


“What most excites me is the idea that this is “real” research…this is not just a lab or a class exercise, but real-life research that there is a genuine need for, that will have a real impact on people’s lives. That’s exciting to me. It’s exciting to think that this is the type of work I might be doing in the future. For me, the most challenging part is communicating with the other people who are working on this project…this may be specific to me, because I’m doing an international research project. But being halfway across the world and staying in the loop on how the study is going has been a challenge. I was able to accomplish a lot more when I was there in Bangladesh over the summer, and that is why I’m planning on returning for winter session. Being there in person makes an enormous difference.

I’m expecting to gain a better understanding of the barriers adolescents in urban slums of Bangladesh face in accessing family planning services, and in what ways we can reduce those barriers. On a broader scale, I’m hoping to learn about the context of reproductive health around the world – to learn about the lives of young girls in Bangladesh, the context that they live in, and how that influences their ability to make choices concerning their reproductive health.

My plans for after graduation are to work in South Asia doing research on maternal and reproductive health, in order to gain some more experience and research skills before going on to medical and graduate school. To this end, doing a senior thesis has been INVALUABLE. I wouldn’t be qualified to continue working in this area if I didn’t have the experience of going to Bangladesh this past summer and completing a thesis. My senior thesis has given me the skills, experiences, and connections needed to further my academic and professional career. Most of all, my senior thesis has helped me see exactly what I want to do in the world! After my experience in Bangladesh, I knew that I was interested in the social determinants of health and health issues affecting girls and women, and that is what I plan to study in the future.”

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Kelli Lynn Shermeyer

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