Regarding research assistant jobs

NeuroQueen

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Jan 28, 2014
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    Dear All,

    I am applying to graduate school this cycle, Clinical Psychology PhD.

    I have recently accepted a 20hr/week Clinical RA position in a Behavioral Medicine lab. This position is unlike other CRA positions in that I will be working with data that has already been collected, I will be doing statistics and writing the data up. I agreed to take on this position because I feel that it is a higher level of work compared to data collection. I have a MSc and 2+ years research experience as an RA.

    What does SDN think - is this a higher level of work than would be normal for a regular CRA?

    Thanks!
     

    WisNeuro

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      Yes and no, data analysis usually goes to the people who have earned it in labs. Lots of undergrads get this experience after they've shown the initiative and skill to do so. In terms of the top applicants I'd say this is more the norm. But, it at least puts you in the group. This is also assuming that you'll get a product out of it, like a poster at minimum in a national/international conference.
       

      MamaPhD

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        Yes, being responsible for analyzing and writing up data are higher-level functions than you'd find in the typical RA job. The fact that you have a master's makes this more plausible. Regardless, being able to get this experience (especially if it results in a conference presentation and/or journal publication) should be helpful to you! What you do on the job will more closely resemble the work of a (productive) graduate student, so if you perform well that should say something about your potential for doctoral training.
         
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        Dr.Penguin9000

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        Oct 5, 2015
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          How would you rank other functions/responsibilities in a clinical lab, e.g. lit reviews, helping develop the design and treatment protocol, co-leading treatment groups, etc. in addition to data collection and analysis-related duties?
           

          WisNeuro

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            Rank then according to what? Those things may not be as tangible in terms of being able to show a product at times (poster, manuscript), although they may make it more likely that you can get on one, but, they are all key skills to making it through a reputable program. Being able to do those things with some level of competence is necessary, and, if you get an interview, being able to talk about how you helped with those duties will be good.
             

            mxbz

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              I found direct testing experience to be the most useful skill I got as an RA/psychometrist. I worked on manuscripts and presentations on my own time and during no-show appointments.
               

              mxbz

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                Direct testing being "most useful" in applying to and getting into grad school or from a practical standpoint in skills that are helping you in your program or both?

                Both. My research and clinical interests developed directly from the work I was doing before entering grad school, so I had a lot of relevant concrete experience to talk about in each one of my interviews. Having the experience has let me jump into more of the deep end (relatively speaking) assessment wise, especially in terms of research projects and data collection, and I think it makes it much easier for me to contribute to discussion in classes with more advanced students, because I can reference the work I was doing with assessment before entering grad school.
                 
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                Dr.Penguin9000

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                  Both. My research and clinical interests developed directly from the work I was doing before entering grad school, so I had a lot of relevant concrete experience to talk about in each one of my interviews. Having the experience has let me jump into more of the deep end (relatively speaking) assessment wise, especially in terms of research projects and data collection, and I think it makes it much easier for me to contribute to discussion in classes with more advanced students, because I can reference the work I was doing with assessment before entering grad school.

                  That makes me feel a whole lot better about the applications I've submitted this cycle, as my clinical and research interests also stem from the psychometrician duties and other clinical work I've been doing. I have (ongoing) clinical research experience as well, though it's not really in the areas in which I'm interested in working for grad school, so I'm hoping the years of clinical experience I have are helpful in that regard.

                  I was just kind of worried because so many people say clinical experience does not matter all that much, especially for these kinds of programs. That said, I figured that my clinical experience is so similar to what my POIs are doing in their research and clinical work that it has to be worth a bit more than just checking a box that I have clinical experience, as I've seen other people doing when they list their own clinical experience.
                   

                  mxbz

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                    Something that surprised me when I started my program was that a lot of people have pretty separate research and clinical interests. Mine overlap a lot, and I think that is really helpful from a practical standpoint.
                     

                    NeuroQueen

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                    Jan 28, 2014
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                      Thank you WisNeuro and MamaPhD taking the time to address my question. Yes, my contributions will lead to authorship on publications and poster presentations. Of course, I enjoy stats and manuscript prep (from previous RA positions) - otherwise I would not feel prepared to take on these responsibilities. As you mentioned, I also believe that this experience speaks to my ability to conduct graduate school research.

                      Dr.Penguin9000 - I am glad your concerns over your application are assuaged. I am sure you are a fine applicant with relevant experience.
                       
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