August 14, 2018  

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NIH Internship Helps Psychology Student Gain Research Skills, Career Insights

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USM Honors College senior Latisha Swygert, right, a psychology major from Clinton, Miss. and her faculty mentor Dr. Nora Charles. Swygert is interning with the University of Texas School of Medicine at San Antonio as part of a program for undergraduate students supported by the National Institutes of Health.

A nationally competitive internship facilitated by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is giving a University of Southern Mississippi (USM) undergraduate valuable research experiences she can leverage in graduate school and her career.   

Latisha Swygert, a senior psychology major from Clinton, Miss. and student in its prestigious Honors College, earned a spot in the NIH’s National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) 2018 Summer Research Internship Program. The program introduces students to the field of drug abuse and addiction research through participation in eight-week research internships, working with NIDA’s distinguished scientists at universities across the country. Interns also receive a stipend and support for travel and housing.  

Laboratory experiments, data collection, data analysis, formal courses, participation in lab meetings, patient interviews, manuscript preparation, library research, and literature reviews are activities that make up some or all of these internships. Participants give a presentation on their research project at the conclusion of their internship.

Swygert’s internship placement is at the University of Texas School of Medicine in San Antonio, where she is working with its Association of Adolescent Substance Use and the Development of Impulse Control, also known as the Children’s Research Study, which is a longitudinal study that follows the influence of substance use on impulse control of adolescents.

In addition to gaining new insights and perspectives on research, the internship’s clinical setting allows Swygert to see what diagnoses look like in an applied setting. She believes the experience is enhancing her research skills and further preparing her for the next level.    

“This has definitely been a great opportunity for me to learn more about myself, see research in other settings, and get a better understanding of what different career paths may look like, which is important since I'm a senior this year,” Swygert said.  

At USM, Swygert is a member of the Psychology Scholars program and works in the Youth Substance Use and Risky Behavior Laboratory directed by her faculty mentor, Dr. Nora Charles, who also supervises Swygert’s Honors thesis.

Dr. Charles describes Swygert as “bright, talented and dedicated.”

“Since she joined my lab, she has really stood out as having the drive and capability to be successful,” Dr. Charles said. “I’m confident Latisha’s experiences here at USM, in combination with those in San Antonio, will further prepare her for graduate school and a rewarding research career.”

For information about undergraduate and graduate psychology degree programs at USM, visit https://www.usm.edu/psychology.