When people talk about Pittsburgh’s humidity, I can’t help but laugh internally because clearly these Yinzers have never traveled down south. I’m originally from Georgia, so the “humidity” that everyone seems to be stressing about doesn’t faze me in the slightest. I’ve stayed in Pittsburgh for the summer since enrolling at CMU and the city never disappoints. As a result, I couldn’t be more excited to begin working on my Dietrich senior honors thesis and have the opportunity to spend my summer in Pittsburgh once again.
I study Neuroscience and Psychology on the pre-med track, but my typical introduction just focuses on my interests in gender, personality, and health so I often just skip over the formal degree titles. I prefer focusing on my research (compared to my majors) because I can always feel my eyes light up when I talk about communal coping, unmitigated communion, and gender’s impact on health. As a freshman, I never expected to be heavily involved in research—in hindsight, as a pre-med student, that’s such a rookie mistake—but I’ve really become involved in Dr. Vicki Helgeson’s lab where my interest in research has flourished.
Generally, my Dietrich honors thesis focuses on unmitigated communion (UC), a personality trait that results in individual’s having an excessive need to help others with their problems, often to the detriment of their own problems. Individuals high in UC experience distress—whether that be anger, anxiety, or depression—when they are unable to help their network members. Additionally, they may also experience distress when receiving support, rather than giving support to others; however, the development of distress in this case is more ambiguous. Therefore, one goal of my summer research is developing further knowledge on the development of psychological distress in UC individuals.
My research will also delve into the importance of intimate relationships, such as relationships with family members, close friends, and romantic partners. Intimate relationships (or the lack thereof) may demonstrate a moderating effect on the development of distress, possibly increasing feelings of happiness during scenarios in which UC individuals can help, but also increase negative emotions when receiving help because the UC individual feels burdensome or helpless.
In a word, I’m excited. Excited for the summer, excited for the upcoming year of thesis work, and excited for senior year that’s been rapidly approaching since the Fall 2015 semester.