Mary Gates Endowment For Students

Sahana Sridhar

Mary Gates Research Scholar, Autumn 2021

Research Project: The Effects of Spatiotemporal Priming on Temporal Memory Binding in Children

Project Description: Adults in Western cultures instinctively think about the progression of time from left to right. This study explores whether the ubiquity of this “mental timeline” is indicative of its potential to be repurposed as a mnemonic. In particular, we’re testing if priming children to think about the order of events from left to right will bolster how they reason with, memorize, and engage with temporal progression. More broadly, I’m interested in what this means for the practical applicability of spatialization—that is, the use of space as a backdrop for representing intangible, abstract concepts, like time, number, and size—in STEM curricula.

What have you learned throughout your research project?

The inner workings of conducting well-designed, ethical research—particularly in academia—can feel like an entirely new world. Working on my research thesis has taught me the merit of truly committing to every step of the process—from proposal writing and applying for funding to designing novel experimental paradigms and collecting data—and allowing myself the space and time to understand the ins and outs of each of these elements. Working in this field is a constant learning curve, but learning to regard every step along the way as a vital tenet of conducting impactful research, and asking for guidance when I need it, have unequivocally been my most valuable takeaways so far. Addedly, contributing to developmental research in particular has been a refreshing reminder that young minds are far more capable than we give them credit for, and that they deserve to eventually inherit a more empathetic and well-informed society than the generations before them built up. 

What piece of advice do you have for future applicants?

There is so much inherent value in pursuing research, even and especially at the undergraduate level. The competitive atmosphere of higher education is adept at convincing early career researchers that they don’t deserve to inhabit academic spaces, but wanting to be here and being passionate about well-designed open science is prerequisite enough.