Jaeden Joyner | Outstanding Undergraduate Psychology Major Award

Other Awards: Norman R. Ellis Endowed Scholarship, Significant Contributions to Research in Psychology, Psi Chi inductee

Hometown: Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Favorite Experience: The best experience I have had at UA has been my participation in the Cognition, Brain, and Autism Lab. My mentor in this lab has been Dr. Rajesh Kana, and he has been extremely influential in helping me to accomplish my goals both at UA and after graduation. The work I have done in this lab has been a truly rewarding experience. I have had the opportunity to work on several ongoing research projects all at various stages, including working with postgrads on large-scale projects, participating in a review paper on a novel exciting topic, and designing my own project to present at conferences. I have had the opportunity to work with members of this lab who are some of the most brilliant minds at the University, and they have been extremely inspiring to me. By working with them I have learned so much about psychological research, including the realities of writing and publishing papers, the recruitment process, possibilities for future career directions, and the drive required to be successful in this field. My participation in this lab has been a huge source of inspiration for my future plans, as its biggest project, an interventional study designing to improve reading abilities of children with autism, has inspired me to pursue translational research.

Favorite Class: It is extremely hard to choose a single favorite class, but the class that has had the most influence on my future plans was Neuroanthropology (ANT 474). This class was unique and incredibly inspiring to me. Up to this point in my undergraduate studies, the focus of my courses had always been strictly biological. This class was the first to teach me about the other side of mental health: the influence of culture and environment. In this class I had the opportunity to read diverse and interesting studies that showed me that our culture and experiences influence our neurobiological makeup and behavior. The class changed my perspective on psychology and neuroscience entirely. Most importantly, I learned that cultural differences have a significant impact on how mental health disorders are viewed differently, and consequently medically treated differently, in different areas of the globe. It is due to things I learned in this class that I came to understand that it is essential to take culture into account when attempting to studying mental health around the world, especially when the objective is to provide care in regions that have different beliefs about what mental health care should look like.

Future Plans: I have been accepted to study for a master’s degree at King’s College London in the United Kingdom. The program I will be participating in is a MSc in Global Mental Health, where I will study the interaction of culture with other factors of mental health, including neurobiology and standard treatment practices. This program will prepare me to be able to design and evaluate mental health systems around the globe, but especially in developing and underdeveloped countries. I will be taught by researchers from the Centre for Global Mental Health, and I will learn how to conduct impactful research on various mental health issues in many different cultures.