IOG Insider: Predoctoral Student Pamela May
The IOG will be welcoming five new students this fall, and welcoming back seven current students to our research mentorship program. Each of which are pursuing PhD’s in their home department or program while gaining additional support, mentoring and professional development from a faculty member or affiliate of the IOG with a focus on aging. To get better acquainted with our student body, we thought it a good idea to interview this years IOG Graduate Student Organization (GSO) incoming President, Pamela May.
Can you share something about yourself and the work you currently do at the IOG?
I’m beginning my fifth year as a pre-doctoral trainee at the IOG and my first year as the IOG Graduate Student Organization President. I am a clinical psychology doctoral candidate at Wayne State, working towards proposing my dissertation and applying for clinical internships. My research interests include predictors of cognitive status in older adults and neuropsychological assessment, more broadly. Following a successful dissertation proposal, I plan to collect data from community dwelling older adults and examine associations between their affect, level of engagement with life (i.e., the degree by which they have cognitively stimulating lifestyles), and cognitive functioning (e.g., memory complaints and memory performance based on standardized testing).
Beyond the day-to-day graduate life, I enjoy being outside in nature and taking hikes. I am a huge fan of horseback riding. I love to salsa dance, and I enjoy pretending that I am good at it. Drawing and painting with watercolors are also some of my favorite pastimes, along with chasing and playing with my pet ferret, Curious George.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in a large suburban town on the south shore of Long Island, New York with my parents and older sister. My hometown was only an hour train ride to New York City. I lived in the same house throughout my childhood and adolescence, until I moved away for college.
Where did you go to school?
I went to college at State University of New York, at Geneseo. It was a small liberal arts college in Western New York that was surrounded by farmland. My sister went to Geneseo as well, so I followed her footsteps. I also chose Geneseo because it had a great reputation academically, and I liked the idea of living in a rural college town. It was quite different from living in the suburbs of Long Island.
What did you study?
I chose psychology as my major at Geneseo without ever taking a psychology course before. I just knew it was what I wanted to study – I wanted to understand human behavior and use this knowledge to help others. The experience of taking an introductory psychology class further strengthened my passion in this area. I consequently took more psychology classes than necessary, and became a research assistant and a leader in the college’s Psychology Club.
What led you to study aging?
Several years ago, before my senior year at Geneseo, my undergraduate mentor asked me if I would like to be a research assistant for her friend, who was a gerontologist. At the time, I never met a researcher in aging, or studied aging. I accepted the opportunity and found myself enjoying the process of working with older adult research participants. My own personal experiences with my beloved grandparents also directed me to gerontology. My grandmother often noted that her older years were the “best years” of her life; she continues to be a role model for how I would like to live as an older adult. Together, these experiences led me to choosing a gerontology research focus at Wayne State. My graduate research mentor, Dr. John Woodard, introduced me to the IOG, to foster and support my research endeavors in gerontology.
How do you hope to have a positive impact on aging?
As a soon-to-be clinical psychologist, I hope to play a positive role in the field of aging, through research, teaching, clinical practice, and service. Through research, I plan to disseminate evidence for modifiable, lifestyle predictors of cognitive impairment in late life. Through clinical practice, I hope to educate older adults about the effects of normal and abnormal aging on cognition, by providing feedback on their cognitive performance. Overall, these endeavors attempt to directly or indirectly help older adults maintain their cognitive health into their later years. I personally hope to empower older adults to become active, informed, and independent agents in their lives, where possible.
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To learn more about the IOG click here.