Applied Developmental Psychology Concentration

Tanya Tavassolie, 2018

Tanya Tavassolie

What led you to choose to major in psychology?

I was a neuroscience major in college, and I was pre-med for a while. I went to a small liberal arts school in Pennsylvania and as a neuroscience major I took some psychology classes. That’s what introduced me to the field in general and the field of child development. Before that, I didn’t know there were researchers who studied developmental psychology. I had wanted to be a pediatrician before and knew I wanted to work with kids, and it was like I finally found the people who were having the kinds of conversations I wanted to have and the way I wanted to have it. So after college, I decided to get a job in a research lab doing child development research, and that’s what led me to pursue graduate work here.

What have you enjoyed so far about studying psychology?

For me it’s really about the way our research impacts the policies that are affecting children, so I really like to think about how what we do here impacts kids in schools across the country. What I love most is that we are studying the relationship between policy and research and how our research can impact policy.

What is your favorite class?

The regression class and longitudinal methods. I really like the statistics training we get here. I think the professors are really great and they’re willing to help us work through some of the more complicated stuff we have to learn. Learning these skills helps put a context to what we’re reading in our content psychology classes—so that we can really understand what’s happening and how they’re analyzing their data.

What extracurricular or other exciting activities are you involved in?

I really like to run, so I do some races around the area. I also volunteer with two organizations. One is Girls on the Run in D.C., which is an after school program for elementary school girls. It teaches young girls valuable life lessons through running—things like confidence, persistence, determination, and goal setting—that are important for girls. I also volunteer with the Kathy Wilson Foundation, which is an organization focused on screening low-income preschool children and trying to detect if they are ready for school or if they need extra services before starting formal schooling.

What are your career goals after graduation?

My goal is to work at an applied research firm that does research related to education, children and/or family policies.

What advice do you have for new students in your program?

First, make sure this is something you really want to do. Getting a Ph.D. is not an easy task, and it requires a lot of dedication, hard work, and it’s really time consuming, so it has to be something that’s worth it in the end—something you really want. Also, if you do decide it’s the path for you, then get involved in as many things as you can early on in your graduate career. If there are papers you want to write or organizations you want to be involved in, get involved in them early.