Grant to fund study of infant development

imageTwo SUNY Oswego students and a professor are conducting a pilot study on the development of reaching in infants under a campus Student/Faculty Collaborative Challenge Grant.

The collaboration between Dr. Leigh Bacher of the psychology faculty and seniors Leila Ertel and Lauren Richmond will study how visual cues and motor skills develop as infants move into the more mobile and aware phase when they begin reaching for objects.

“We hope to gain new insights on the relationship between visual attention and arm movements as infants learn to reach toward nearby objects,” Bacher said. The Oswego team effort is a pilot program that could pave the way for Bacher to prepare a grant for external funding for a more extensive study.

Ertel and Richmond are performing graduate-level research, Bacher said. The students take part in observation, data coding and analysis, and expect to present their findings at a conference.

“I knew that I wanted to get some research experience while going to school here so that I could see if I wanted to do experimental psychology for a living,” explained Ertel, a dual major in psychology and public justice from East Syracuse. “While I am involved, I expect to expand my knowledge in conducting research and coding.”

Richmond believes the project offers multiple benefits. “This has allowed us to make inferences about the role that visual attention may play in the emergence of arm control,” the psychology major from Middleburgh said. “It was also a wonderful way to learn about the expected developmental outcomes of 12- to 16-week-old infants.”

The grant underwrites stipends for the students, avenues to disseminate their findings, and equipment that will allow the team to better observe and record infant eye movement.

“Buying new cameras instead of using outdated equipment will allow us to take many more pictures per second and allow for a more intricate quality of work,” Richmond explained.

Ertel added that she found it gratifying to help keep the important study going, even though it will wrap up after she graduates.

The project is the kind of experience that allows students hands-on experience that may determine their future paths, Bacher noted. “Students often find that their research or internship experiences are crucial in helping them to chart a course for their careers,” she said.

“Doing research with students is one of the most rewarding kinds of teaching that I do,” Bacher said. “Giving away useful skills and knowledge is extremely satisfying. Building mentoring relationships is another very rewarding aspect of working collaboratively with students.”

A total of $10,000 of grant funding was available through the Oswego College Foundation and the SUNY Oswego Provost’s Office for faculty-student projects this year. The college’s Scholarly and Creative Activities Committee judged proposals and recommended awards for three projects.

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PHOTO CAPTION: Reaching study—A SUNY Oswego psychology faculty member and two students are conducting a study on the development of reaching in infants, thanks to a campus Student/Faculty Collaborative Challenge Grant. Preparing to record an infant’s motions are, from left, Leila Ertel, a senior psychology and public justice major; senior psychology major Lauren Richmond; and Dr. Leigh Bacher, assistant professor of psychology. They hope the pilot project will lead to an external grant to conduct a more comprehensive study.

(Posted: May 02, 2005)