I am a third year graduate student in the Social and Personality Division. I have received my undergraduate degree in Psychology and Criminology from UIC in 2009, and during my studies I became interested in the role social psychology theory can play in informing our legal system. UIC was the perfect place to continue my studies in this area. My interest in the legal system led me to pursue an MA degree in Criminology, Law, and Justice. My love for social psychology and scientific methodologies in research motivated me to pursue a Ph.D. in psychology with a focus on psychology and law under the guidance of Dr. Bette Bottoms. In my primary line of research, I test basic social psychological theories of emotion in the context of jury decision-making. For my master’s thesis, I used a mock trial study involving a euthanasia case to test the interplay of legal (i.e., nullification instructions) and psychological (i.e., manipulated incidental anger) factors that can moderate jurors’ reliance on attitudes about euthanasia in giving verdicts. My interest in emotion and legal decisions is also reflected in a study of the interactive effect of anger and disgust on jurors’ feelings of moral outrage and guilt verdicts This study was recently accepted for publication in Psychological Science (Salerno & Peter-Hagene, in press). I am currently interested in the role of self-regulation processes (e.g., emotion regulation) in jury decision making and during deliberation.
In other lines of research with my advisor, Dr. Bottoms, I am analyzing longitudinal data on the role of socio-emotional support on children’s eyewitness memory for an event. We are finding that that supportive (versus unsupportive) interviewing helps children overcome the otherwise detrimental effects of young age, low working memory, and lack of secure attachment on memory and suggestibility. Finally, for the past three years I have also been part of a research team under the guidance of Dr. Sarah Ullman. We are working on an NIH-sponsored, large-scale longitudinal study of sexual assault survivors’ experiences with disclosure, social support, and recovery.
By the time I graduate, I will have spent ten years of my life at UIC
You completed your MA in Criminology here at UIC before enrolling in the Psychology PhD program – can you tell us a little bit about your decision to change departments and how your experiences in the Criminology program prepared you for our program?
While I was completing the MA in Criminology I was able to gain additional research experience, at the time I wasn’t quite sure exactly what I wanted to do, but I was able to explore my research interests and focus on my goals. I also learned the importance of social networking while in graduate school, during the first few months I built a strong social network of friends that I am still close with today and lean on for support.
Can you explain your working relationship with your advisor, and how she has helped you through the program so far?
Dr. Bette Bottoms is amazing, I can’t put into words how much she has helped me become the graduate student I am today. I met her while I was completing my MA in Criminology and she really pushed me to apply to the Psychology PhD program. Bette really pushed me to pursue my research interests and helped me develop confidence in my abilities, she is an amazing motivator that has taught me how to manage and navigate the graduate school experience.
What is your favorite memory of graduate school so far?
My favorite memory has to be the holiday party a few years ago when it had a ‘Cowboy’ theme. A group of us hung out all night and I made quite a few new friends in the department – it was a great way to meet people who were in other programs of study or who were in other cohorts.
You were born in Romania, what was your experience transitioning to the university life in the US and Chicago?
I moved from Romania to Chicago when I was 22 years old, I was looking to try something new and had a friend who lived here. I started an undergraduate degree while in Romania, but took a little time off before I completed my undergraduate degree here in Chicago. It took me a while to get back into the swing of things, you sort of have to learn how to be back in school again and how to balance everything.
What are some ways that you balance the demands of graduate school and your home life?
Each week I try to take one day for myself to rest, a former student gave me great advice before she left and said that it is best to focus on one thing at a time – so when you are at work you should be only thinking about work, research, school, etc. and when you are doing personal things really try to relax and not let your work life seep into your home life. Try to keep everything separate.
Do you have a current TV show ‘addiction’?
I recently started watching Curb Your Enthusiasm, I discovered it a little late but I’m hooked!
What was the last book you read?
I’m currently reading The Master and Margarita, a Russian Novel. I also recently read the Game of Thrones series.
Backstreet Boys or New Kids on the Block?
New Kids on the Block.