Lab Work for the Non-PhD? Absolutely! Working in a research lab helped this master’s student learn about ethics, time management, problem-solving and much more. Student's Say
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Student's Say  |   July 01, 2015
Graduate student Sara Pool navigates the D.C. subway system and the logistics of balancing class and clinic assignments with research responsibilities.
Lab Work for the Non-PhD? Absolutely!
Author Notes
  • Sara Pool, BA, is a second-year speech-language pathology master’s student at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Follow her on Twitter @CanDoSLP. sarafpool@email.gwu.edu
    Sara Pool, BA, is a second-year speech-language pathology master’s student at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Follow her on Twitter @CanDoSLP. sarafpool@email.gwu.edu×
Article Information
Professional Issues & Training / Attention, Memory & Executive Functions / Student's Say
Student's Say   |   July 01, 2015
Lab Work for the Non-PhD? Absolutely!
The ASHA Leader, July 2015, Vol. 20, 40-41. doi:10.1044/leader.SSAY.20072015.40
The ASHA Leader, July 2015, Vol. 20, 40-41. doi:10.1044/leader.SSAY.20072015.40
When I submitted my application to graduate school for speech-language pathology, I never imagined that I would soon find myself calibrating a pneumotachograph or analyzing an electroglottograph signal. Which is to say, I never imagined myself as a research assistant. You might think, as many students do, that research is only for doctoral students and academics. I’ve learned that couldn’t be further from the truth.
As an undergraduate student, I became interested in transgender voice feminization after organizing a lecture on culturally competent service provision. I began annotating the latest articles in the discipline. Still, I felt that I was on the outside looking in, thinking that being a student and a clinical researcher were mutually exclusive. I had assumed that students were merely consumers.
But after reading several articles by Adrienne Hancock, assistant professor at The George Washington University, I emailed her to ask about opportunities in her Transgender Voice and Communication Lab—where I now work.
I have many responsibilities in the lab. For one, I ensure compliance with ethics requirements: I obtain consent from research participants, de-identify data, and protect the security of records at all times. I also administer research protocols, such as calibrating the lab equipment and using it to collect data. It’s important to carry out this process carefully and uniformly, according to approved methods, to protect the validity of our data.
I also analyze the data from each participant, manually measuring each speech signal with precision to again ensure that data can be trusted for interpretation.
Carve out time
Balancing my research duties with clinic and classroom assignments was a challenge at first, but I knew that finding balance would mean I would never have to choose between the two. I quickly learned to optimize my work routine:
  • I use an electronic calendar (color-coded!) and to-do list. I check my calendar every day on the train ride home to make sure I’ll be prepared for the next day.

  • I adopted some strategies, such as using an app that simulates the ambient noise of a coffee shop or tapping the Pomodoro time-management technique (work intervals of about a half-hour separated by short breaks), to maximize time spent working.

  • I take time out of the day to care for myself: I eat breakfast every morning and take walks when I’m feeling overwhelmed. After all, a drowsy or distracted research assistant is more prone to error, potentially resulting in time-consuming and costly mistakes. Don’t let your data fall victim to your own self-neglect.

Being a student researcher isn’t always easy, but it’s certainly rewarding. The three places I spend my day—the research lab, treatment room and classroom—are all environments that generalize to one another, paving the way for constant learning.
For example, I have become a better problem-solver. Whether I’m adjusting the gain on a microphone or establishing a cueing hierarchy for treatment of a speech sound disorder, I have learned to respond to novel challenges.
Research has also helped me understand the evidence in evidence-based practice. Skills in research design and evaluation of levels of evidence will help me better judge findings that I might apply in clinical practice.

Whether I’m adjusting the gain on a microphone or establishing a cueing hierarchy for treatment of a speech sound disorder, I have learned to respond to novel challenges.

Find a spot
If you’re interested in working in a research lab in grad school, here are some tips to help you get started.
I encourage all students to seek out opportunities to participate in a research lab—and for faculty members to look for ways to involve students. After all, working in a research lab offers more than just another line on a résumé: It’s an introduction to the real work of speech-language pathologists.
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FROM THIS ISSUE
July 2015
Volume 20, Issue 7