The PSYC Honors Program allows exceptional students to collaborate directly with a faculty mentor to complete an original research project. This engagement fosters an intellectual culture in our department in which faculty members mentor the next generation of scholars to conduct research that advances knowledge in psychology and contributes to the betterment of our world. Results from honors projects have been reported in scientific journals and presented at professional conferences.

PSYC Honors includes two terms of independent study courses with the mentor, culminating in a written thesis report and a poster presentation. Successful program participants are awarded an honors designation at graduation (B.S. degree “with honors”).

At large, the PSYC Honors Program has the following goals:

  • Educate students to think independently as scholars in their field
  • Provide opportunities for close, scholarly, and scientific analysis of significant topics in psychology
  • Encourage and provide opportunities for students to undertake independent research
  • Introduce students to a broad range of psychological ideas and issues.

All psychology majors have the opportunity to graduate with the distinction of Honors in Psychology.


Benefits of the Program

Honors students may take graduate courses and apply the credits toward their undergraduate degree. However, in order to take a graduate course, the student must get special permission from both the Director of Undergraduate Studies in the Department of Psychology and the Assistant Dean in BSOS. Students have access to the upper level General Honors seminars and many of the General Honors functions. Honors students may establish their own internships under supervision of the Department of Psychology and receive Honors credit.



Eligibility Criteria

Psychology majors may apply at the end of the sophomore year, or during the junior year, but in no case later than the sixth semester.

Applicants must have:

  • Completed three courses (9 credits) in psychology, including PSYC 200
  • An overall and psychology GPA or at least 3.50


Requirements for Completion of the Honors Program

To graduate with Honors in Psychology, students accepted into the program must:

  • Complete the requirements for a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in psychology
  • Complete an undergraduate honors thesis (PSYC468H, PSYC469H, PSYC499H)
  • Complete honors seminars including PSYC498H
  • Maintain a 3.50 UMD GPA (both cumulative and in psychology) for Honors
  • Earn a 3.80 UMD GPA (both cumulative and in psychology) for High Honors, in addition to completing an honors thesis of exceptionally high quality as determined by the thesis committee
  • Be actively involved in leadership or volunteerism in our department, university and/or community (e.g., assist with Welcome to PSYC Day, volunteer with BSOS or in the community)
  • Present the thesis at the Department of Psychology Undergraduate Research Day
  • Join Psi Chi International Honors Society for Psychology for at least senior year 


Honors Coursework

PSYC Honors Coursework









To apply to the Psychology Honors Program, download and submit the application from our Honors Forms page.  Meeting all requirements does not guarantee admission. Only the top applicants, as determined by the Honors Director, will be admitted into the PSYC Honors Program.  If you have any questions about the Honors in Psychology Program, please feel free to contact the Department of Psychology’s Office of Undergraduate Studies at (301) 405-5866 or PSYCadvising [at]


                                                                    Apply By Nov. 15th!

sample honors program




The Undergraduate Honors thesis is an original, independent undergraduate research project carried out under the guidance of a faculty member in the Department of Psychology who serves as the student’s advisor. The thesis research explores a concept or problem within psychology in depth, includes a study that uses knowledge gained in undergraduate coursework, furthers understanding of a salient topic in psychology, and culminates in a substantial research paper. The thesis requires at least three semesters of focused work. The thesis forms a significant part of the student's Honors Program experience and is conducted under close supervision from the advisor. Example theses can be found at the following link (


The Honors thesis advisor must be a faculty member in the Department of Psychology (tenure/tenure track or professional track). The theses of undergraduate Honors students may not be supervised by graduate students, post-doctoral researchers or non-members of the Department of Psychology faculty.

The Honors Thesis Committee consists of three faculty members in the Department of Psychology. Students may petition the chair of the Department of Psychology to request that one of the committee members be a faculty member from outside of our department. Students should submit a written petition to the chair three weeks in advance of their proposal meeting with the rationale for including a faculty member outside of the department on the committee.


  • Describe key concepts, principles, and overarching themes related to a research topic
  • Engage in innovative and integrative thinking to develop and implement a study
  • Design, conduct, analyze, and interpret psychological research
  • Understand and follow ethical practices in scientific research
  • Engage in statistical analyses
  • Use scientific reasoning to interpret psychological phenomena
  • Demonstrate effective communication and writing related to research
  • Present research findings (to advisor, committee and Psychology community)


Students work with their advisor to identify a topic of interest and together, they decide on the research design for the study. The student writes a thesis proposal that consists of the following sections: Introduction, Literature Review, Method, and References. It is expected that the advisor provides edits and the student revises the proposal based on the suggestions from the advisor. Once the advisor approves the proposal, the student must present the proposal to the Honors Thesis Committee.

The student schedules a 1-hour meeting during which time the student gives a 10 to 15 minute presentation describing the research and then answers questions from the faculty. Each committee member independently votes whether the student passes (meets expectations) or does not pass (does not meet expectations) the proposal meeting. The student passes if they receive two or more passing votes.

After the meeting, the advisor submits the Thesis Proposal Meeting Form to the Assistant Director. If the student passes the meeting, the student makes edits based on committee feedback. After completing requested edits and receiving final approval of the proposal from the advisor, the student submits a proposal to obtain approval from the University of Maryland Institutional Review Board Human Subjects Committee or Animal Care Committee. Once the proposal is approved by the IRB, the student begins the research project.

If the student does not pass the meeting (receives two or more does not pass votes), the student has four weeks to make edits and hold a second proposal meeting. If the student does not pass this meeting, their participation in the Honors Program is terminated.

The thesis consists of the following sections: Introduction, Literature Review, Method, Results, Discussion, and References. After the advisor determines that the thesis is ready for review, the final thesis must be presented to the Honors Thesis Committee. The student schedules a 1-hour defense meeting during which time the student gives a 10 to 15 minute presentation describing the research and then answers questions from the faculty. The committee should receive the written thesis two weeks prior to the defense meeting. Students must defend their thesis no later than the last day of classes in the semester in which they plan to graduate.

In evaluating the written thesis, the Thesis Committee weighs (a) how well the student places the research into the context of the relevant literature; (b) the clarity and originality of the study design; (c) the relevance of the statistical design and analysis; and (d) the student's interpretation and integration of findings within the research and theoretical literature in psychology. Similar criteria are used to judge performance in the oral examination. Each committee member independently votes whether the student passes (meets expectations) or does not pass (does not meet expectations) the proposal meeting. The student passes if they receive two or more passing votes.

After the meeting, the advisor submits the Psychology Honors Program Thesis Defense Form to the Assistant Director. Often, edits are needed prior to submission of the final thesis. If the thesis is approved, the advisor submits the thesis and the Final Thesis Approval Form to the Assistant Director. In addition, students are asked to upload their thesis on the library repository (DRUM). When the thesis is ready to upload, the students should send an email message to drum-help [at] and the staff will assist the student in uploading their thesis. Please note that the final thesis must be approved by the advisor and submitted to the Assistant Director prior to Spring graduation for the student to be recognized at the Department of Psychology Spring graduation ceremony.

If the thesis is not approved, the student has the opportunity to make edits and schedule a second defense of their thesis to the Honors Thesis Committee within one month of the defense meeting. If the student does not pass on the second attempt, participation in the Honors Program is terminated. No credit will be received for participation in the Honors Program if the student does not successfully defend the thesis.


Meet our PSYC Honors students


Madelyn Harris: "Black Grief Matters: Disenfranchisement, Social Support, and Coping Among Black College Students Grieving the Deaths of Black Americans by Police Brutality"

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Karen O’Brien

Black Americans are nearly three times more likely than their white American counterparts to be killed by police, accounting for over 40% of the victims of police killings nationwide (Bor et al., 2018). Ubiquitous access to social media and news platforms facilitates widespread viewing and sharing of police brutality against Black Americans, and exposure to this violence is associated with negative mental health outcomes among Black Americans including heightened stress, depression, and grief and loss reactions (Allen & Solomon, 2016; Bor et al., 2018). Factors which may contribute to these negative mental health outcomes include disenfranchisement of grief (i.e., the grief not being recognized or acknowledged; Piazza-Bonin et al., 2015), the absence of social support during grieving (Burke et al., 2010; Stroebe et al., 2005), and the ways in which college students cope with these killings and their grief (Andersen et al., 2013; Fox-Williams, 2019). Informed by the multidimensional model of racism-related stress (Harrell, 2000), the biopsychosocial model of perceived racism (Clark et al., 1999), and the cognitive theory of stress and coping (Folkman et al., 1986), Madelyn's study examines how grief disenfranchisement, social support and coping style predict stress, depressive symptoms, and prolonged grief in Black college students as they respond to deaths by the police brutalization of Black Americans.


Holly Liposky: "Advice-Giving in Final Sessions of Psychodynamic Psychotherapy: Is it Advised?"

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Clara Hill 

Here’s a riddle: “Almost everyone needs it, asks for it, gives it, but almost nobody takes it. What is it? Answer: Advice.” (Roman, 2019, p. 99). Indeed, when people have problems, they frequently seek out advice from family, friends, and advice columnists. Similarly, when clients go to therapy, they frequently expect therapists to give them ideas about what to do differently so that they can feel better and function better in everyday life (Duan et al., 2018). Holly's study examines what effect advice can have within the therapeutic process and whether or not some kinds of advice are better than others. 


M Pease: "Title: Gender Minority Young Adult Mental Health: Anti-Transgender Prejudice, Mediators, and Implications in the COVID-19 Era"

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Derek Iwamoto

Gender diverse young adults experience health disparities due to their marginalization in society. M's thesis investigated factors underlying the relationship between minority stress (i.e., discrimination) and negative mental health outcomes. Results have important implications for researchers, policymakers, and practitioners, with particular relevance in the context of COVID-19 and in the recent wave of anti-transgender legislation in the United States.

Pease, M. (2020, November). Gender minority young adult mental health: Anti-transgender prejudice, mediators, and implications in the COVID-19 era. UMD Libraries Digital Repository.


Karoline Trovato: "Educate and Empower: An Online Intervention to Improve College Women’s Knowledge and Confidence when Communicating in a Romantic Relationship"

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Karen O'Brien

Historically, and especially during the covid-19 pandemic, the vast majority of unpaid family care has been provided by women with devastating associated outcomes including lost jobs, increased poverty, and mental health concerns. Notably, equal family work distribution and healthy communication are associated with women’s relationship satisfaction and fewer depressive symptoms. Young women are an especially important population to educate regarding salient predictors of relationship satisfaction because they typically have not made long-term relationship commitments. The purpose of Karoline’s study is to create and evaluate the effectiveness of an innovative online intervention to educate college women about family work distribution, effective communication, and the PARTNERS Communication Model (a strategy for healthy communication based on existing literature and developed by Trovato and O’Brien for this intervention). Her intervention is aimed to empower young women to make thoughtful choices regarding their future partner based on research related to healthy romantic relationships.





PSYC Honors Alumni


Toluope Adetayo: TBD

Faculty Mentor:  Dr. Edward Bernat

Tolu is pursuing a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.



Aniruddh Ajith: "HRV as an Index of ANS Activity During Emotion Regulation"

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Edward Bernat

Anirudh had a post baccalaureate position at the NIH, in the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities. Anu worked with Dr. Kelvin Choi on projects involving smoking. He is currently pursing a MD/PhD at the University of Pittsburgh. 



Shereen Ashai: "Coping with Loss: Advancing Understanding of Posttraumatic Growth and Grief in Kashmiri College Students"

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Karen O’Brien

Shereen is currently pursuing Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology at the University of Maryland.



Alissa Cole: "The effects of prediction and speech rate on lexical processing."


Faculty Mentor: Dr. Bob Slevc

Alissa is a doctoral student at Florida State University SU's clinical psychology program. Her previous research focused on psycholinguistic mechanisms of language comprehension and the role of working memory and processing speed in reading and language. Her current research interests include investigating executive function impairments in ADHD and examining its association with disorders of reading and language in children.



Tessa Botkin: "Measurement invariance among multi-informant assessment of fear of negative and positive evaluations: Implications for the psychometric properties of commonly used instruments".

Faculty Mentor:  Dr. Andy De Los Reyes

Tessa is a Research Specialist at UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital.



Vardaan Dua:“I’m Sorry, Curry & Rice Are Just Not My Thing: Online Sexual Racism as a Predictor of Body Evaluation Among South Asian and East Asian Sexual Minority Men”. 

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Jon Mohr

Vardaan's project focused on examining online sexual racism as a predictor of body image concerns in East Asian & South Asian Queer Men. He is pursuing a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology at the University of Tennessee Knoxville. 

 Carli Fine

Carli Fine: "Relations Between Long-Term Memory Measures and HippocampalVolumes in Early Childhood

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Tracy Riggins

Carli investigated autobiographical memory for real-world events in 4-6-year-old children and how this type of memory relates to the lab-based Temporal Order Memory Task. She is currently a Research Technician Associate at the University of Michigan. 



Vedavalli Govindan: "The Effect of Decision-Making and Inhibition Control on the Autonomic Nervous System"

Faculty Mentor:  Dr. Edward Bernat

Vedavalli is a client advocate at the Pregnancy Clinic in Columbia, MD, which provides free services (e.g. counseling, pregnancy tests, and sonograms) to socioeconomically disadvantage and undocumented mothers. She also engages in research at Children's National Health System and with the Clinical and Cognitive Lab at University at Maryland.



Micah Herman“College Dating Violence: Barriers and Facilitators of Bystander Intervention” 

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Karen O’Brien

Micah's thesis aimed to  update, replicate and extend a randomized controlled trial that tested the effectiveness of the STOP Dating Violence Bystander Intervention training program. Micah is a Counseling Psychology Ph.D. student at the University of Albany.


Samantha Jay: "Stability and Predictive Validity of the Parent-Child Sleep Interactions Scale (PSIS): A Longitudinal Study from Early to Middle Childhood."

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Michael Dougherty

Samantha attends UMBC's Clinical Psychology doctoral program, working with Dr. Jason Schiffman. Her research focuses on suicidal ideation and behaviors in adolescents and young adults at clinical high risk for psychosis.

Lena Meredith


Lena Meredith: "Exploring Hippocampal Structural Differences as Children Phase Out of Napping"

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Tracy Riggins

Lena investigated if hippocampal volumes and subregion volumes are related to napping in children. 





Alexandra Ostrander: "Parenting Predicts Changes in Preschool Children’s Cognitive Styles" 

Faculty Mentor:Dr. Lea Dougherty

Alex’s research looked into depressogenic cognitive styles, specifically in preschool  students. she currently works for Kennedy Krieger Institute as Behavior Data Specialist in an inpatient hospital unit for children with extreme mental and behavioral disorders.




Nina Parekh: "Bisexual Women's Female Friendships: Predictors and Outcomes of Sexual Identity Disclosure"

Faculty Mentor:Dr. Jon Mohr

Nina's study focused on predictors and consequences of sexual orientation disclosure in the female friendships of bisexual women. She is currently pursing a Counseling Psychology the University of Akron. 

Alexandra Hickey:"Exploring Gender Differences in Theory of Mind"

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Elizabeth Redcay

Alex is currently a Research Specialist at the University of South Carolina. 



Erin Hill: "Evaluating an Online Intervention to Enhance Knowledge, Confidence and Skills in Undergraduate Students’ Responses to Bereaved Peers"

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Karen O’Brien

Erin is a second year doctoral student in Counseling Psychology student at the University of Maryland. 



 Image removed.Natania Lipp: "Bereaved College Students: The Roles of Social Support, Coping Style, Continuing Bonds, and Social Media Use in Grieving Outcomes"

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Karen O’Brien

Natania is a doctoral student in Counseling Psychology at Lehigh University.

Sheetal Patel

Sheetal Patel: "Developing crosscultural competencies: An innovative service learning course."

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Karen O’Brien

Dr. Patel currently practices as a Psychologist at a private practice in Washington, DC. 




Madeleine Pekosz: "Investigating the role of body surveillance, feminist beliefs, and feminine norm adherence in women's reproductive health efficacy and behaviors" 

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Derek Iwamoto

Madeleine’s previous research projects include investigating how adherence to masculine norms relates to drinking behaviors in men, and developing an intervention plan with the goal of reducing adherence to masculine norms associated with binge drinking and negative health behaviors. She is currently pursuing graduate studies at Villanova University. 


Samantha Jay


Taylor Rezeppa: Untrained observers’ ratings of emerging adults’ social anxiety and social skills within controlled, cross-contextual social interactions with unfamiliar peer confederates” 

Faculty Mentor:  Dr. Andy De Los Reyes



Luba Roytburd: "Factors contributing to career problems in Jewish college women: The influence of attachment, separation from parents, and self esteem." 

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Karen O’Brien

Dr. Roytburd currently practices as a Psychologist at a private practice in Bethesda, Maryland. 



Alicia Rozycki: "Attachment theory and women’s career development: Does relationship with mother influence daughter’s career choices?" 

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Karen O’Brien

Dr. Rozycki currently works as a Military Psychologist at Primary Care Behavioral Health.

Nazish Salahuddin


Nazish Salahuddin: "Predicting burnout in women’s crisis workers: The role of stress, coping strategies, and duration of service."

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Karen O’Brien

Dr. Salahuddin currently serves as Director, Undergraduate Studies and the Assistant Chair, Equity and Inclusion at the University of Maryland Department of Psychology. 



Elizabeth Sauber: "Parental stress and depression in mothers of children with ADHD: Does employment act as a protective factor"

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Karen O’Brien

Dr. Sauber currently works as a Staff Psychologist at the Department of Veteran Affairs at the VA Palo Alto Healthcare System.

Christa Schmidt


Christa Schmidt: "Factors contributing to the research productivity of counseling psychologists: An analysis of research self-efficacy, vocational interests, gender, and research team experiences."

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Karen O’Brien

Dr. Schmidt currently serves as an Associate Professor and as the Director of the Counseling Psychology Training Program at the Towson University Department of Psychology. 


Chandini Shah


Chandini Shah: Examining the role of self esteem and collective self esteem in the psychological health of South Asian Americans.

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Karen O’Brien

Dr. Shah currently practices as a Staff Psychologist at the University of Maryland Counseling Center.



M Wasserbach


Mary-Charlotte Wasserbach: "Self-Referent and Non-Self-Referent Verbalizations in Young Children: Temporal Stability and Associations with Risk Factors for Depression."

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Lea Dougherty

Mary-Charlotte is currently pursuing a Master's degree in School Psychology at Towson University.