As Rebecca Beiter left Franciscan University of Steubenville in May 2015, she not only carried a psychology degree under her arm but a published research paper as well.
Rebecca, a Charlottesville, Virginia, native who graduated summa cum laude, published and presented a paper on depression, anxiety, and stress in college students at two conferences during her senior year.
The research started at Franciscan University, where Rebecca, along with psychology professor Dr. Stephen Sammut, surveyed students and analyzed the results as part of an experimental psychology class.
“I did a lot of the analysis in multivariate statistics,” Rebecca says. “[Sammut] asked me if I wanted to continue with it, so I said ‘Sure!’ I wrote up the paper and put it all together. We then edited it, prepared the manuscript, and started submitting it to journals.”
After the Journal of Affective Disorders published the paper, Rebecca moved on to presentations, attending the Undergraduate Psychology Research Conference at John Carroll University in Ohio.
Rebecca was one of the few undergraduates to present a published paper. “We each had 10 minutes to give our presentation, going through the basics of our study,” she says. “It was a really good experience to be able to actually present in front of an audience.”
For the Association for Psychological Science Conference in New York in May 2015, Rebecca created a poster presentation and saw many other research projects.
She credits the faculty at Franciscan University for guiding her along the way. “Dr. Sammut has been really helpful in getting me potential research experience and letting me be part of the ongoing research here at Franciscan. Most undergraduates don’t get that at big universities,” she says.
In addition to her extracurricular survey work, Rebecca worked as the senior research lab assistant. She trained incoming underclassmen and organized the experimental and cleaning schedule in the research lab.
“[Rebecca] was organized, driven, disciplined and very much motivated,” Dr. Sammut says. “She worked well beyond the required hours, and I cannot even begin to describe the great amount of work she did.”
Upon graduation, Rebecca accepted a position as a research technician at the University of Virginia, where she is pursuing a doctorate in neuroscience. She is currently working on elucidating molecular mechanisms that may contribute to both multiple sclerosis and depression and plans to graduate in May 2021.
“My experience at Franciscan, and especially the mentoring I received from Dr. Sammut, not only trained me in how to conduct rigorous scientific research,” says Rebecca, “but also modeled for me how to live out a calling as a Catholic scientist. Working in a field that is so often viewed as incompatible with true faith, the Catholic and scientific background I received at Franciscan has truly helped me in living out my vocation as both a Catholic and a neuroscientist.”