Graduate Students Undergraduate Students
Thank you for your interest in the Jaswal Lab and the graduate psychology program at UVa. We hope you will find the following information helpful as you navigate through the application process.
Would the Jaswal Lab be a good fit for me?
Prospective graduate students interested in joining the lab to work on projects related to communication and autism are encouraged to explore the website fully to get a clear sense of our goals. You are also encouraged to read our recent lab publications relevant to autism and atypical development, to browse our research page, and then contact Dr. Jaswal directly. If your primary interests are related to early intervention, we are unlikely to be a good fit because that is not our focus.
A note to prospective graduate students who are interested in working on trust, testimony, or social cognition: Dr. Jaswal continues to enjoy collaborating with students and colleagues on these topics. However, because the main focus of the lab has shifted to autism, communication, and social interaction, he would not be a good primary advisor for you. But do not despair! The Psychology Department is lucky to have three other labs that work on social and cognitive development in typically developing children (Drs. Lillard, Vaish, Grossman). Their research interests may align well with yours. If you do come to UVa under the auspices of one of the other labs, Dr. Jaswal will happily collaborate with you even if the Jaswal Lab is not your primary home.
What do you look for in prospective students?
An ideal candidate for graduate admission should have research experience. It does not have to have been in autism—though that’s certainly a plus. We use a range of quantitative and qualitative methods, including behavioral tasks, eye-tracking, in-depth interviews, and focus groups. If you have experience with these methods, that’s also a plus. Finally, teaching and/or personal experience with autism or other developmental disabilities is highly desirable.
Applicants should explain in their personal statement how their experience, perspective, and goals fit with those of the Jaswal Lab. Please specify “Developmental Psychology” as your area of interest on the application form. Professor Jaswal is happy to collaborate with students in the department’s clinical area, but does not serve as a primary advisor for students in that program.
Where can I learn more about the program?
The Psychology Department website contains general information for current and prospective graduate students and the graduate program in Developmental Psychology.
Undergraduate research assistants (RAs) have the opportunity to help design studies, run experiments, and analyze data. Typically, RAs receive class credit. We ask RAs to commit to 7-10 hours/week for the full academic year. Additionally, RAs are expected to attend twice-monthly lab meetings, where we discuss both practical and theoretical issues related to the research. We invite all undergraduates interested in our research to apply. We enthusiastically embrace all forms of diversity including, and especially, neurodiversity. The application deadline for undergrad RA positions for academic year 2023-2024 has passed. Thanks to all those who applied; we will be in touch soon. We expect to begin accepting applications for academic year 2024-2025 in late February 2024.
The Jaswal lab RAs in 2020-2021 created the short video below to explain a bit more about what being an RA is like and the application process!
What qualities do we look for?
Friendly. In our lab, you may interact with families, collaborators, and other community partners. It is therefore crucial that you are friendly and enjoy being part of a team.
Meticulous. Many of our studies involve very subtle manipulations. RAs need to be extremely vigilant to ensure that the results of our studies are valid and day-to-day lab operations run smoothly.
Conscientious. For some of our studies, we contact families to visit our lab and participate in our research. Scheduling their visit, greeting them at the door, and completing other logistical lab tasks require attention to detail and punctuality.
Curious. Although you’ll start out working on well-defined tasks, we expect you will contribute your own ideas and take the initiative to learn about the broader issues that we are investigating.
Why be an RA?
Getting involved in research can be one of the most fulfilling aspects of your undergraduate career. We urge you to get involved with a lab as soon as you find a topic that interests you. It will give you in-depth experience on a particular topic, train you in how science is done, and help to prepare you for graduate, professional, or medical school. Many RAs have gone on to do Distinguished Majors Projects in the lab in their fourth year. Several are co-authors on presentations and published papers. It’s also fun and can really make you feel like you’re part of a community.
How to apply
If you are interested in an RA position, please explore the website carefully first, read a few recent papers, and then complete the application when it becomes available (usually in March for the summer and following academic year).