Angelina Leary '19, an alumna of BHC and first-year clinical psychology Ph.D. student at UCF, recently received the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, an award that recognizes outstanding students in the STEM fields. As an undergraduate, she was involved in research, co-authored several lab publications, and presented at various conferences. In the future, Angelina hopes to work in research as a psychology faculty member at an R1 institution.

How did you achieve the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship? What are some of the things you've been involved in that you think have gotten you to this point?

I have been in the Reale-Time Lab for four years, beginning when I was a sophomore undergraduate (I am currently a first-year clinical psychology Ph.D. student). In my lab, I worked on research regarding college student alcohol use, the role of identity in behavior change and a social psychology theory called deviance regulation theory. I am a co-author on several publications from my lab, along with presenting my research at many conferences. I also completed my HIM within my lab with my mentor, Dr. Robert Dvorak.

I also worked for UCF’s Department of Housing and Residence Life for two years (where I was nominated for “Resident Assistant of the Year”), as well as Inclusive Education Services for one year, [and] I worked as an undergraduate teaching assistant in the psychology department for 1.5 years. [Plus] I had the opportunity to study abroad in Peru with the psychology department (which was amazing!). I also was an officer in Psi Chi (psychology honor society) for two years, and created a club called Access at UCF with peers when I was a freshman at UCF.

What is your long-term goal and how will this help you get there?

My ultimate goal is to have a career in research as a psychology faculty member at an R1 institution. I want to use that role as a platform to help other students with disabilities in the STEM field by providing research mentorship to those underrepresented students. With the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, I am able to fully focus on my goals, and flourish in my research, academic, professional, and personal life. I am also able to continue with more mentorship and outreach work with the funding provided. With this award, I am given an opportunity to create other opportunities for people, as opportunities were created for me.

What advice do you have for others interested in receiving the NSF fellowship?

I would advise to be persistent and have grit, but be kind to yourself. Perhaps the most important advice is to be kind to yourself, and not compare yourself to anyone else. This is your own journey. I would recommend [making] connections with faculty members as well as your peers, as they are your mentors and support system. Specifically for the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, I would recommend beginning to work on your application several months in advance. I also recommend asking your mentor to help with the process, as they are also your cheerleader and wish for you to be successful. [Be] your authentic self in the application.

 Any top hobbies?

I really enjoy karate, yoga, gardening, and painting…. all [of] these really comfort me! Oh, and going to Disney World!