Undergraduate student Kelly Nisbet feeds curiosity through research

2015 grad Kelly Nisbet didn't expect she'd end up with a career in research, but she knew it was a fit after her positive experiences as an undergraduate researcher.

Kristy Condon - 4 June 2015

Keep your options open, and follow your interests: that is the attitude Kelly Nisbet brought with her when she began her studies at the University of Alberta. Now with her BSc in hand, she credits that attitude for getting her to where she is today.

Without a clear path in mind-in fact, without even deciding on a major-Nisbet welcomed the opportunity in her first year to take a variety of classes to discover her interests. Like many students, she found her interests and goals evolved as she learned more about science and herself.

Having grown up in Edmonton, Nisbet considered the U of A her top choice for postsecondary from the get-go. "With such a highly ranked university in my hometown, the clear choice for my post-secondary education was the U of A," she says. "Finding out that it is also among the top research universities in Canada came as a pleasant surprise when my interests shifted to empirical studies in psychology."

Following these interests, Nisbet got involved with the Undergraduate Research Initiative, where she discovered a community of other undergraduate researchers and developed skills to complement what she was learning in the classroom. "It was truly amazing to see the types of research projects students are conducting," she reflects. "Being able to talk to and discuss research with fellow students from all different faculties and backgrounds really added to my undergraduate experience."

Nisbet then had the opportunity to apply for a one-year internship in in the Department of Psychology's Complex Cognition Lab, where she learned the ropes of what it's like to work full time as a researcher. "I was able to truly see what it is like to conduct research right from the inception of an idea to the dissemination of results," she explains.

She loved the experience, and with the guidance of her two mentors, Thomas Spalding and Christina Gagne (both professors in the Department of Psychology), Nisbet made the decision to follow her passion and pursue a career in research.

"The most important thing I've learned through my studies is that education is more than just what you learn in class-it's about how you apply this knowledge to your interests and passions," she says. "For me, my curiosity was the driving force in choosing classes as well as extracurricular activities, and it ultimately allowed me to find my ideal career."

Nisbet is looking forward to moving to Eastern Canada in the fall to pursue graduate studies at Western University, where she will be studying speech and memory psychology.