Where Are They Now?

UNE’s Cognition Lab is focused on creating opportunities for undergraduate students to get involved in the research process. When first applying to the research assistant positions, we ask students what they hope to gain from their time working in the lab. We recently have started reaching out to past research assistants to see what they chose to do after graduating from UNE. We asked each alumni the following questions:

What are you doing now? Where?

How did working in the research lab help you after you left UNE?

What advice would you give to current/future research assistants?

Find their answers to these questions, along with an updated photo below!

Reading Comprehension & Cognition Lab Research Assistant Alumni:


Abby LaChance – Class of 2017

Abby is currently seeking employment in the Western, MA area. She hopes to pursue a career working with women and children. In the near future, Abby also intends to attend graduate school, but has not made a decision on what degree to pursue.
Besides learning laboratory tasks such as analyzing data, running participants, researching articles, and writing/proofreading manuscripts in APA format, Abby has learned many life and career skills throughout her time in the RCC lab. Dr. SB is an incredible resource when it comes to writing cover letters and updating your resume. She is also incredibly knowledgeable of graduate school programs as well as career opportunities. The RCC lab has also helped improve skills such as time management, perseverance, flexibility, self-reflection and taking initiative.

“To current/future research assistants I would advise that you take every opportunity that comes to you. Apply for that conference, because you can never have enough practice presenting research. Go to the events the psychology department hosts, because you never know what kinds of connections you will make. Push yourself to learn each time you enter the lab, because the knowledge you will gain will be worth it. Last but not least, ask for help, because you don’t need to know everything right away but resources are there to help you succeed. Trust me, you will cherish the memories, friendships, and knowledge you gain in the RCC lab!”

Emily Vasseur – Class of 2017Image (2)

Emily plans to attend Johns Hopkins University this fall, in a masters program focused on Clinical Mental Health Counseling and School Counseling. She is currently considering two job offers working with people who suffer from co-occuring mental illnesses. She will either be working with young children immigrating in the US and helping them acclimate or working with 16-26 year olds as an employment coach/mentor. She will also be working in a reserach lab at Johns Hopkins University as a graduate assistant doing Bystander Intervention Training Supervision and Support.
“When I was offered a position doing research at the University of New England with Dr. Stiegler-Balfour in the Reading Comprehension and Cognition lab, I had no idea how much it was going to help me succeed in my studies. I was learning valuable concepts in the classroom and when I got to lab, I was able to apply my new knowledge. Additionally, as an undergraduate research assistant, I wasn’t expecting to do anything other than run participants. Dr. Stiegler-Balfour made sure that we were involved in all aspects of research ranging from designing experiments, analyzing data, presenting finding, and following some of our own interested topics. This gave me valuable experience and many key skills in the research field. In both my profession and my graduate assistant position, I will be able to utilize everything that I have learned through my experiences in lab.”

“To future research assistants: First, be as dedicated and involved as possible. You can learn so many things in lab so be present, work as hard as you can, ask all of your questions, and follow your passions. Your fellow research assistants and principle investigators are just one of the many resources you can use within the psychology labs at University of New England. Second, attend presentations and conferences. Once you get to share your research findings at various different conferences, you become much more involved in your research and can also ignite a passion that you may not have known about prior. Being able to share your ideas and also discuss your findings with others is so exciting and can really benefit you in the future.”

 Zoe2017Zoe Roberts – Class of 2017

Zoe is attending the University of Massachusetts Amherst, studying to get her PhD in School Psychology. After her previous experience in schools in Biddeford, she decided she would like to pursue a career in the educational system, as a school psychologist.
While working in the research lab, Zoe gained experience with every part of the research process with the help of Dr. Stiegler-Balfour. Overall, working in the RCC Lab made her a better student, a good researcher, and helped her gain self confidence and motivation. She plans to use all these skills throughout the rest of her life, especially in her next chapter at University of Massachusetts Amherst.
“Take advantage of every opportunity, even if you’re not sure it’s right for you. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or to ask for help. And lastly, work hard and never give up!”

Jessica Hering – Class of 2015Image (3)

Jessi is currently studying and prepping for her National Board of Certification in Occupational Therapy boards, which is schedule for the end of summer. She currently lives in Portland, ME and is seeking employment while not studying. She hopes to work within a hospital or rehabilitation setting, working with adults and older adults. In the meantime, she is pursuing observation time at the local hospital, within the acute care, older-adult psychiatry and brain injury units. She hopes to eventually work with adults and older adult with brain injury/ stroke.
Within the few years Jessi spent within the research lab, she learned various tasks such as gathering/analyzing data, reading data, analyzing research articles, running participants and more. All of these tasks prepared Jessi for graduate school at UNE as she has two research courses. Participating in the Alzheimer’s study attributed to the passion Jessi has for Gerontology, as well as the studying completed with individuals who have dementia which was conducted this past spring (2017). Jessi’s growing interest in cognition plays a huge role in occupational therapy, as well as the process of learning and memory which was gained from working with Dr. SB and within the research lab itself. Additional skills gained from the experience in working with the research lab includes time management, flexibility and public speaking.
Advice for current/ future students: My first piece of advice would be advice Dr SB told me once, which is to invest in your education. Taking advantage of all the opportunities that arise throughout your time in the research lab such as participating in various studies and attending conferences are a learning tool that attribute to your education more than you think. The atmosphere at the various conferences are amazing, and speaking at them in general is a proud moment. You will also become more involved in your research and may even discover some of your personal passions within the psychology world. Any career path you take you will take with skills learned in this lab, and that is something I am grateful.

pictureAndrea Taatjes – Class of 2013

” After graduating from UNE in 2013 I earned my Master’s Degree in Forensic and Counseling at William James College in Newton, MA. I recently submitted my application to obtain my LMHC (Licensed Mental Health Clinician) and should be fully licensed in the upcoming months.  Immediately after graduating with my masters I worked full time as a mobile crisis clinician for 2 years. Here I evaluated individuals in psychological crisis and determined appropriate levels of care, helped facilitate placement in community/hospital mental health treatment, and worked with insurance companies to get the level of care approved. In April 2017 I accepted a job as a clinician working for the Department of Youth Services in Dorchester, MA. I work on a locked juvenile detention unit with 15 adolescent boys ages 15-19. I am responsible for 5 adolescents on the unit which involves behavior management while on the unit, dealing with past trauma, addressing their committing charges, substance abuse, and preparing them to be successful members of the community once they return home.

During my time at the RCC lab, I learned not only about running participants and analyzing data, but how to translate that information into workable knowledge. Dr. SB allowed me the opportunity to be a part of a team and to be published in a journal. I was not only asked, but encouraged to be involved in every step of the process.  Before becoming involved in the RCC lab, I had not thought about being involved in research. However, I quickly learned to appreciate the process and even developed my own research project for my senior thesis. My advice to current/future research assistants would be to take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way. The more things you involve yourself in, the more knowledge and experience you will gain. You may learn you have a passion for something you never thought before. Take the opportunity to present your research because not only is it a good experience, but it is something you can look back on and be proud of. Lastly, ask Dr. SB for help when you need it. She is an amazing resource and not only a wonderful professor but a great person who goes above and beyond to help all of her students!”



Hadleigh Smith – Class of 2013

After graduating from UNE, I moved to Colorado and now live in Denver with my fiance and our dog.  In August 2017, I started my fourth year teaching 5th grade at a charter school in Brighton, Colorado.  I now lead my team of three 5th grade teachers and recently stepped into an additional role as a math content leader, delivering professional development related to developing numeracy and reasoning skills in 3rd-5th grade students. My job also entails a lot of creative emoji use, cheesy jokes, and wondering how we keep going through sticky notes so quickly in my classroom. 

I found that in a relatively competitive job market, research experience in cognition and reading comprehension was something that enabled me to stand out.  My involvement with Dr. Stiegler-Balfour’s projects showed potential employers that I had an understanding of how our brains develop automaticity at complex cognitive skills, as well as the ability to reference and learn from peer-reviewed scholarly texts.  I discovered a few years into my teaching career that building math confidence in my students is one of the most personally rewarding aspects of my job, but my time working with and learning from Dr. Stiegler-Balfour was still incredibly meaningful in helping me glean insight into some of the multi-faceted and universally relevant cognitive processes involved in learning and memory. With Dr. Stiegler-Balfour’s guidance, this type of research became much more approachable and transparent for me, and I think my ability to seek out and learn from peer-reviewed research is something that really benefits my students.

On a more practical note, balancing my time between classes, the lab, student-teaching, and summer commitments was not a skill I had immediately mastered.  I learned not to overextend myself, and how much I prefer the feeling of doing my best at a few important commitments rather than scrambling to grab at every small opportunity that was presented.  I’m so thankful to have learned this important skill during my college years so that I could put it into practice during my adult life.
Working in Dr. Stiegler-Balfour’s lab is truly a fantastic opportunity! I’d suggest making your time in the lab a priority, and working to build an understanding of how the current research aims relate to your career goals and areas of interest.  Dr. Stiegler-Balfour is an wonderful resource, and I think anybody would benefit from working with her!”