Prospective Graduate Students
Thank you for your interest in the Teen and Young Adult Lab (TAYA Lab)! I'm the PI and I'm excited to accept applications from prospective Ph.D. students for the 2022-23 admissions cycle through the Psychology Department at the University of Pittsburgh (Pitt), to begin graduate training in the 2023-2024 school year! Applications are due December 1, 2022. More info is available on Pitt's page here.
The TAYA Lab studies sociocultural influences on adolescent and young adult development and mental health, with a focus on social media use, body image and self-objectification, depression, disordered eating, gender, sexuality, LGBTQ+ identities, and an increasing focus on race and ethnicity.
Our lab returned to Pitt in the summer of 2022 after two years at the University of Delaware.
While this page has information specifically written for prospective applicants, the other pages on this site have info on our research team, projects, and pubs.
Here are the questions about the graduate admissions process that I've been asked most frequently over the years:
FAQ: Can I list your name as my graduate mentor? Are you accepting applications through specific Ph.D. programs?
Listing a mentor.
When applying to Psychology Ph.D. programs at Pitt, prospective students apply to work with a specific faculty member(s) in their research lab as their advisor/research mentor. There is a spot on the application where you can list one or more mentors of interest. That's where you should list my name if you are interested in working in my lab and would like for me to review your application.
Applying to a specific program.
You will also specify one or more programs you're applying to. One of the many exciting benefits of graduate training at Pitt is the opportunity to pursue a Ph.D. across more than one area of Psychology. The Department has an outstanding joint Ph.D. program already established in Clinical & Developmental psychology, which is the program through which 3 of my 4 current doctoral students are receiving their training (4th-year student Savannah Roberts, 2nd-year student Claire Stout, and 1st-year student Zelal Kilic, whose primary mentor is Dr. Jennifer Silk). Students in my lab can also create their own Ph.D.; for example, 5th-year student Annie Maheux designed her own individualized Ph.D. in Developmental and Social Psychology.
The Psychology Department's cross-disciplinary emphasis is reflected in my own affiliations with three programs: I am a clinical psychologist by training, but I am a core faculty member in Pitt's Developmental, Clinical, and Social Psychology areas.
For this admissions cycle, I will consider applications through the following Pitt programs:
4. Individualized Joint Ph.D. Program, in Developmental & Social Psychology
A note for students who are interested in Social Psychology.
If you are interested in an individualized cross-training Ph.D. in Developmental and Social Psychology, I recommend you apply through the Developmental program as your primary program, given the focus of my research. If you apply to the Social Psychology Program without mentioning the Developmental program, I will give your application full consideration, but I will encourage all members of my lab to pursue training in developmental psychology to support our research on adolescent developmental processes. I do not have an affiliation with the Cognitive or Biological & Health programs within the Department of Psychology, but students in my lab are welcome to take courses in these areas.
Affiliated programs and training opportunities.
The Psychology Department has very close ties to the renowned Psychiatry Department and its affiliated hospital (Western Psychiatric Hospital, formerly known as Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic), with many faculty having affiliations in both Psychology and Psychiatry. Together, the University of Pittsburgh and UPMC rank in the top ten nationally for NIH funding.
Psychology graduate students can pursue training through the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition (CNBC), Pitt and Carnegie Mellon's joint neuroscience research and education program.
I have collaborations across the university, with many scholars conducting cutting-edge research on adolescent social media use and LGBTQ+ youth -- in Medicine (University of Pittsburgh Medical Center; UPMC), Public Health, Education, and Nursing. Students in the lab will benefit from a multi-disciplinary training experience.
I have an affiliation with Pitt's Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies (GSWS) Program. This program does not accept graduate applications directly; Pitt doesn't offer a Ph.D. in GSWS. However, students in my lab are welcome to take GSWS courses and can choose to pursue enough courses to earn a formal GSWS Ph.D. Certificate that appears on their transcript.
Finally, the Pitt Psychology building is less than a mile from the campus of Carnegie Mellon University, and students can take courses there as part of their training.
FAQ: Is a waiver of the application fee available? Is the Ph.D. funded if I'm admitted? Do you accept applications from international students?
The Psychology Department provides financial support to admitted students through tuition coverage and a stipend. Funding for students in my lab comes from a range of sources, including research assistant slots from my Pitt start-up funds and possibly in the future from grant funding (multiple grants currently under review), fellowships (e.g., from Pitt and the National Science Foundation), and teaching assistantships (TA) and independent teaching (Teaching Fellow or TF). More information is available on Pitt's website here. Information about application fee waivers can be found here. Applications from international students are welcome; specific requirements are discussed here.
FAQ: What are you looking for in a prospective student? How do you make admissions decisions?
Qualifications of applicants
Strong applicants to the TAYA Lab are passionate about one or more research areas in our lab, have a strong academic record, typically have completed prior coursework in Psychology, and have usually gained at least one year of research experience in psychology or a related field, ideally including post-baccalaureate experience and/or independent research experience (for example, through a senior thesis, poster presentations, publication experience).
I will consider applications from prospective students interested in any of our current research projects. I especially welcome applications from students who are interested in Project ROSE -- an ongoing study focused on gendered racial identity among Black young women -- and our lab's related work on the intersection of racial, ethnic, gender, and sexual identities.
It is possible that I will be able to accept two students this year; I currently have two grants under review that would offer graduate student support -- one focused on social media intervention development and dissemination (HX Learn project), and one that would fund a large version of Project TAGS (using eye-tracking, longitudinal surveys, and ecological momentary assessment to understand how social media affects cisgender and transgender teen girls' body image).
Issues related to equity, inclusion, intersectionality, and sociocultural factors are central to my work. In reviewing applications, I look for evidence of applicants' interest in and commitment to these issues. Furthermore, as noted below, part of my holistic review process includes paying close attention to structural barriers applicants may have experienced in their academic and career journeys.
As of September 2022, the Pitt Clinical and Developmental Psychology programs have listed GRE score submission as optional and the Social Psychology program has decided not to accept the GRE. In light of concerns about equity related to the GRE, I plan NOT to use GRE scores in my holistic review of applications to my lab, even if applicants choose to submit scores.
Holistic review process
My holistic review process includes reviewing personal statements, letters of recommendation, CVs, transcripts, and other submitted materials. I pay special attention to structural barriers and unique circumstances applicants may have experienced on their academic and career journeys (e.g., first-generation status, structural and interpersonal stigma related to marginalized identities), which you may decide to discuss in your personal statement and/or ask your letter-writers to discuss on your behalf.
After conducting a holistic review of all applications, I will contact selected applicants to begin the first-round, "unofficial" interview process. First-round phone/Zoom interviews with a "long list" of candidates will provide the opportunity for applicants to meet with me and one or more of my lab members. A smaller number of applicants will later be invited for official interview visits at Pitt (online or in-person, to be determined), where they will have the opportunity to meet with faculty and students from across the Psychology Department.
Although I will be the primary person reviewing the applications that list me as a potential mentor, the ultimate decision about whom to invite for official interview visits (and final admissions decisions) is made collectively by faculty in the specific graduate programs.
FAQ: Should I email you to let you know I'm applying to your lab?
It is not necessary to email me before applying. Sometimes applicants feel they need to email faculty to express their interest in advance. For me, this definitely isn't necessary. Whether or not you email me will have no bearing on your ultimate chances of admission. I will carefully review all applications that list me as a potential mentor on official apps submitted through Pitt, and my holistic review process does not involve checking to see if students emailed me or reviewing content sent via email.
With all this said, you're of course welcome to email me (email@example.com) if you have a specific question not answered on my website or Pitt's website. When applicants email me to generally express their interest, I direct them to this webpage. :)
FAQ: Can we meet by phone/Zoom before I submit my application? Can you review my materials in advance and let me know if I'm a strong candidate?
I plan to wait until December 2022 to review applicants' materials, once the Pitt application window has closed. After conducting a holistic review of all applications, I will contact selected applicants to begin the initial interview process (see above).
I won't be scheduling phone/Zoom calls with applicants before the interview stage. Although I love speaking with prospective students, it wouldn't be possible for me to meet with all applicants to the lab (historically ~150/year) or to review all applicants' materials in advance, and therefore this process maximizes equity and transparency, while also allowing me to focus on mentoring my current students.
My current doctoral students have also decided not to speak by phone/Zoom with prospective applicants who contact them before the formal review process. Because TAYA grad students will be involved in the admissions process, having conversations in advance about admissions with some applicants (and not all applicants) could create inequities. Additionally, on a practical level, TAYA grad students are busy with research, coursework, and (in some cases) clinical work, making it challenging to correspond with applicants before official apps are submitted. However, if you are invited for an interview, you will have lots of time to meet with TAYA grad students and discuss your questions about the lab, my mentorship, Pitt, and Pittsburgh!
Many questions about Pitt admissions can be found here.
FAQ: Do you have advice for me as I work on my applications?
As you consider grad school options and work on your applications, I highly recommend these amazing resources!
The professional development webpage of my own graduate school mentor, Mitch Prinstein, clinical psychology professor at UNC Chapel Hill
Mitch Prinstein recently updated his famous guide, Mitch’s Uncensored Advice for Applying to Graduate School in Clinical Psychology. I relied heavily on this guide during my own grad school search back in 2008-2009! I then contributed to the guide as a grad student in Mitch's lab.
Mitch has also gathered and posted extensive resources from colleagues and students. For example, if you're considering PsyD programs, be sure to check out data Mitch posted on match rates for psychology internships (in order to become a licensed psychologist, in most states you need to complete an accredited internship) and passing rates for the EPPP (the exam you must pass to become licensed).
Mitch Prinstein also has a new APA YouTube series for prospective students.
This program is specifically designed for applicants interested in pursuing PhDs in Clinical Psychology to study body image and eating behaviors.
Savannah is working with Rowan Hunt, clinical psychology grad student at University of Louisville, and Missy Dreier, clinical psychology grad student at Rutgers.
(Note that this program is geared broadly toward labs that study body image and disordered eating, not to the TAYA Lab specifically; participating or not participating will not affect your chances of admission to our lab.)
"Academic Twitter" has many posts about freely available info sessions for applicants, and especially for students with identities historically underrepresented in psychological science.
I retweet any I see from my TAYA Lab account!
FAQ: Where do you see your research going over the next few years?
The TAYA Lab has multiple ongoing research projects and we're always developing new projects and collaborations, which keeps things exciting! Check out our research projects page to learn more about our current work.
Over the next few years, I anticipate continuing to focus on multi-disciplinary research regarding adolescent social media use, body image, and mental health, with a continued focus on LGBTQ+ youth and processes related to gender and sexuality, using a broad range of methods, including longitudinal survey-based studies, qualitative interviews, eye-tracking, and collaborations that include fMRI, machine learning, ecological momentary assessment, and intervention development and testing. I provide brief overviews of some of our current collaborative projects in a recent Twitter thread.
You can also see more information about my collaborators here.
I anticipate an increasing focus in my research over the next few years on (1) the lived experiences of youth of color, (2) the intersection of multiple marginalized identities, and (3) the development of intervention and prevention programs that promote positive social media use, body image, and mental health.
I currently have large grants in-preparation and under review related to Project TAGS (social media and body image), the Gender Minority Youth Study (longitudinal study of gender minority youth mental health and risk for suicidal behavior), and HX Learn (social media intervention and dissemination study). More info on all these projects can be found on the Research Projects page).
FAQ: Can you tell me about your mentorship style?
Mentoring students and trainees is one of the greatest privileges and joys of my career! I strive to foster an inclusive, warm, and collaborative research lab.
I meet with my graduate students every week, both individually and as a group. Using a developmental mentorship model, I provide more scaffolding at the beginning of our mentoring relationship, with increasing independence over time.
I aim to help trainees identify what they are most interested in (which usually evolves over time) and what the dream career path would look like for them (whether that's in academia or not), rather than imposing my own interests. I encourage students to chart their own path, with collaborations with other students and faculty outside of the lab.
I strive to approach my mentorship through an inclusive, feminist, and antiracist lens. This means I view my own and my trainees' work/life balance, personal identities, and mental health as being relevant to our work, and we regularly discuss social justice at the local and broader levels. Finally, I aim to model self-care, humility, and a healthy dose of skepticism and laughter about academia.
FAQ: What is Pittsburgh like?
My grad students and I love Pittsburgh! It's such an amazing place to pursue graduate training.
I first moved here in 2015 as a trainee myself. I moved from Chapel Hill NC for my pre-doc clinical internship year and post-doctoral fellowship at Western Psychiatric at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. I fell in love with the City of Bridges (did you know it has more bridges than any city in the world, including Venice?).
Pittsburgh provides the benefits of city life (e.g., convenience, energy, and diversity in many forms) without the stress and sky-high rents of bigger cities (I've lived in DC and Boston). Pittsburgh also has 90 distinct neighborhoods within the city limits, allowing students to choose to live in a variety of different places, while still being an easy bus-ride away. Students, faculty, and staff can use their Pitt ID to ride city busses for free. Most students live within a 15-30 minute bus ride to campus and many live close enough to walk or bike.
I met my wife in Pittsburgh. We moved to Delaware from 2020-2022 for dual career reasons and were overjoyed to have the opportunity to return to Pittsburgh in the summer of 2022. My wife is now a professor at Carnegie Mellon (less than a mile from Pitt) and we hope to stay in Pittsburgh indefinitely! Check out our view from a recent Pirates baseball game.
Research Assistant Positions for Undergraduate Students &
This section was updated on November 18, 2022.
We are currently accepting applications from Pitt undergraduate students for Directed Research and Volunteer research assistant positions to begin in January 2023. We have a formal application process. More information is available in the application here. Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis beginning in November 2022, until all positions are filled.
We do not currently have any open paid positions in the lab. We also do not currently have any openings for volunteer positions for non-Pitt undergraduate students or for post-baccalaureate trainees.
It is possible that we will have an opening for a paid position for a post-baccalaureate research assistant beginning in Spring 2023; we are currently waiting to hear about grant funding.
If you are interested in learning about future opportunities, please email TAYA Lab Manager Emily Gotkiewicz at EMG196@pitt.edu and we will email you if positions become available.
Before you apply to any lab position, please review all information on other lab website pages, and especially the Research Projects page.
We will update this page once undergraduate positions are filled, and we will also update this page if we have new openings. Thank you for your interest!