Prospective Students

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Thanks for your interest in the TAYA Lab! All information below was last updated on Sept. 16, 2022. 

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. 

You can read more about our lab on the Research Team, Research Projects, and Pubs, Scales, & Media Coverage pages. 

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: 

1. Clinical/Developmental Joint Ph.D. Program

2. Developmental Psychology Ph.D. Program

3. Clinical Psychology Ph.D. Program

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. 


Graduate students in Pitt's Psychology Department can also pursue a Minor in Quantitative Methodology within the Department, a distinction that appears on students' transcripts. 

 

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. 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.

As of September 2022, the Clinical and Developmental programs have listed GRE score submission as optional and the Social 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 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. You're welcome to email me if you have a specific question not answered on my website and Pitt's website. Whether or not you email me will not affect your ultimate chances of admission. I will review all applications that list me as a potential mentor on the official application submitted through Pitt.

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 they will be involved in the admissions process, having conversations in advance with some applicants could create inequities. However, if you are invited for an interview, you will have lots of time to meet with my grad students and discuss your questions about the lab, my mentorship, Pitt, and Pittsburgh! 

Many questions about Pitt admissions can be found here.

 

As you consider grad school options and work on your applications, I strongly recommend the professional development webpage of my own graduate school mentor, Mitch Prinstein at UNC Chapel Hill! 

 

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.

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 a great 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! 

Positions for Undergraduate Students & Post-Baccalaureate Scholars

The TAYA Lab does not have any openings for paid, volunteer, or course-credit RA positions for undergraduate students or post-bacc scholars for Fall 2022.

We plan to accept applications for Pitt undergraduate RAs later in fall 2022, to begin in the Spring 2023 semester. We will have a formal application process that I will post about here. 

If you would like to be added to an email list of interested prospective RAs, please email TAYA Lab Manager Emily Gotkiewicz at EMG196@pitt.edu and we will email you if positions become available. Thank you for your interest!