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Academic & Research Programs

Faculty members may belong to more than one, and may teach, do research and supervise graduate students in several areas. The areas are:

  • Behavioural Neuroscience: Research in this area investigates the interaction between the brain and the nervous system and behaviour. Topics typically associated with this area include behaviour genetics, behavioural neuroendocrinology, psychopharmacology, decision making, impulsivity, cognition, neuroplasticity and the underlying neurobiological components of neuropsychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders. The primary aim of the behavioural neuroscience graduate program is to ensure a high degree of research competence and productivity in this area of specialization, while providing a broad academic background that will enable students to relate their research interests to psychology in general. To this end, each graduate student engages in research from the beginning of the program, first by working under the close supervision of the advisor and then by assuming a more independent approach as specific research interests are formulated. Students are required to study a wide range of behavioural neuroscience topics that focus on both the behavioural and neurobiological facets of the discipline.

  • Clinical: Clinical Psychology deals with a variety of issues related to psychopathology. The Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology at UBC is based in a clinical science model. Accordingly, the program focuses on research and practice directed towards (a) the promotion of adaptive functioning, (b) the assessment, understanding, amelioration and prevention of human problems in behaviour, affect, and cognition, and (c) the application of knowledge in ways consistent with scientific evidence. It has full accreditation from the Canadian Psychological Association and the American Psychological Association.

    The training goals of the program are to help students identify as a psychologist in the clinical science tradition, contribute to the knowledge base in domains that enhance psychological science (including potential interdisciplinary collaboration), and develop competence in knowledge and skills required for functioning in academic and/or clinical settings with a lifelong commitment to clinical science. The major theoretical perspectives represented in faculty interests are behavioural, cognitive, interpersonal, and psychophysiological. Students are expected to acquire proficiency in the following areas: (1) knowledge of the substantive content, theoretical approaches, and methodological procedures of psychology in general, and of psychological dysfunction, assessment, and intervention strategies, in particular, (2) application of psychological principles and techniques in health service settings; (3) development, implementation, and evaluation of psychological services; and (4) execution and evaluation of psychological research. Proficiency in these areas is acquired and assessed through formal course work, directed studies, supervised clinical work, practica and internships, participation in faculty and self-directed research, theses, and comprehensive examinations.

  • Cognitive Science
    : The Cognitive Science area covers a wide range of research and theoretical interests, including perception, learning and memory, memory in different physical and emotional contexts, prospective memory, the role of attention in cognition, psychophysics, perception-action interactions, cognition and creativity, cognition during and after general anaesthesia, consciousness, cognitive neuroscience of attention and thought, and perceptual and cognitive development across the adult lifespan. Primary data used to address these topics include signal detection theoretic measurements of performance, reaction time, EEG, MEG and fMRI recordings of brain activity, and performance of neurological patient populations. The central aim of the program is to ensure that each student acquires an in-depth understanding of research and theorizing in their area of specialization, and that they build up a substantial track record of research in that area. Initially, students work in close collaboration with an advisor, but they are expected to develop into independent researchers as they progress through the program.

  • Developmental
    : Developmental psychology focuses on the way that behaviour changes as the individual goes from infancy through childhood and all the way through to old age. Graduates of the program use their knowledge in a variety of settings including universities, hospitals, community agencies, and industry. Faculty members in the area have a wide range of research and theoretical interests, as indicated below. New students are admitted to work with a specific faculty member. Students also have the opportunity to interact with more than one member of the area to add breadth and depth to their training. The training is research oriented, and thus the graduate program strives to provide students with a solid foundation in developmental theory and research methodology. From the first term on campus students are encouraged to undertake a program of increasingly independent research. The variety of course offerings within the university, and a low student-faculty ratio, allow graduate training to be tailored to the needs and interests of individual students. Typically there are about 12 students in the graduate program in developmental psychology. A developmental lunch seminar is held during the school term to allow students and faculty to interact around intellectual issues in a more informal setting. As well, there are numerous occasions for social get-togethers among the faculty, postdoctoral fellows, and graduate students in the Developmental Area.

  • Health
    : Health psychology is a discipline at the intersection of psychology and medicine. Its goal is to conduct scientific research around questions such as: Do psychosocial characteristics contribute to the development and progression of medical illness? What are the mechanisms through which this occurs? How does medical illness affect the well-being of patients and their families? The primary aim of this graduate program is to train research scientists in the use of basic theories and methods in Health Psychology. Students are expected to pursue the goals of research excellence, effective teaching, and scholarly breadth. Towards fulfilling these goals, graduate students engage in research from the outset of the program, first by working under the close supervision of an advisor and then by assuming a more independent role as specific research interests are formulated. This program does not provide clinical or practical training in Health Psychology; it is intended for students seeking careers in research and teaching only.

  • Quantitative Methods
    : The focus of this area is on the measurement of human behaviour and the development and evaluation of psychological tests and statistical methods of analysis. The mission of the graduate program in Quantitative Methods is to (a) train students in the theory and application of quantitative methods for psychological research and (b) contribute to the development of new knowledge in the field of Quantitative Psychology. The graduate program provides a broad curriculum and extensive training and experience in research. Our aim is to contribute to the advancement of knowledge in substantive areas through the development, evaluation, and dissemination of the careful and proper use sophisticated quantitative methods.

  • Social/Personality
    : The Social/Personality Area focuses on human social interactions, person perception, decision making, the nature and structure of personality, and the impact of emotion, religion, culture, and our evolutionary roots on behaviour. The graduate program provides in-depth training in the scientific study of social and personality processes. Students are expected to pursue the goals of research excellence, scholarly breadth, and effective teaching. Towards fulfilling these goals, graduate students engage in research from the outset of the program, first by working under the close supervision of an advisor and then by assuming a more independent role as specific research interests are formulated.
For more details on these areas, plus a list of affiliated faculty members and their research interests, please see Research Areas and the Faculty Listings.
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