Sharla Meeks

1. What is your specific area of research (include the name of your faculty and/or laboratory)?
My specific area of research is social psychology, and my faculty mentor is Dr. Peter Ditto.
2. When and how did you first get involved in research?

I first became interested in research during the spring of 1998. I was taking Dr. Ditto's class (The Social Animal), and the research he presented on aggression really interested me. I started going to his office hours and we discussed topics that were of interest to me, such as sexual aggression and date rape. At that time I decided that I wanted to work on my senior honors thesis with Dr. Ditto.

3. How has research enhanced you education?

The research I have been involved in has allowed me to explore ideas that I am genuinely interested in and ask questions that I really want to know the answers to. I have been able to establish my own hypothesis, test my hypothesis, and analyze and draw conclusions from the results. Working through the process of creating my own set of hypotheses and conclusions has given me a new appreciation for scientific theory and research.

4. What has been you favorite experience with research (include any interesting stories or specific events)?

My favorite experience with research was when I was struggling through setting up my hypothesis. I thought that strong desire (such as sexual desire) would affect people's decision-making skills, leading to poor decisions. I was having a hard time conceptualizing how this phenomenon would play itself out, and then the Clinton/Lewinsky relationship was brought to the public's attention. This was a great example of what I was trying to capture with my hypothesis. A rational and intelligent person had succumbed to a strong desire and made a poor decision. The Clinton/Lewinsky situation became a running joke between Dr. Ditto and I, as well as the central example we fell back on in many of our discussions.

5. What are your future plans and how has being involved in research helped to prepare you to meet your goals?

Next year I am going to begin the Ph.D. program in Health Psychology at UCI. My research experience has been so challenging and fulfilling that I have decided to continue in this line of research. My work as an undergraduate has enabled me to run my own study and test my own ideas. I cannot imagine a better type of preparation for graduate school than that.

6. What advice would you give to a student interested in pursuing a faculty-mentored undergraduate research project or creative activity?

The only advice I would give a student interested in pursuing research is to choose a topic that you feel passionate about.

Past Researchers of the Month

Dec. '99 Gina Rappleye
Nov. '99 Maria Rendon
Oct. '99 Scott Avecilla
Sep. '99 Peter Krutzik
Aug. '99 Raj Gopalakrishnan
Jul. '99 Christina Rahn
Jun. '99 Catharine Larsen
May '99 Han Kang
Apr. '99 Bonnie Pau
Mar. '99 Sharla Meeks
Feb. '99 Simin Bahrami
Jan. '99 Catherine Le
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