"When you start to study something deeply, it can be difficult to find people to talk to about the nitty-gritty details. All of a sudden I found myself surrounded by people who knew the lifestyle and the language."

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Student Profile: Daniel G. Derksen

Law and Forensic Psychology PhD student in the Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences

December 03, 2020
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I found myself in my early-twenties fumbling for purpose, as one does when they're in their early twenties. I returned to school, originally planning to become an accountant. Instead, I ran into keen Psychology instructors at KPU who encouraged me to share my thoughts on research design despite my inexperience. This generosity eventually led to me pursuing behavioral research and joining Dr. Bernstein's Lifespan Cognition Lab at KPU. I was welcomed into meetings where we shared research progress and worked through problems.  I learned a tremendous amount. Dr. Bernstein's lab at KPU was the bread and butter of my undergrad. I received all the experience I needed, from design, data collection, analysis, and eventually conference presentations. After defending a successful honours thesis, I was ready to apply for graduate school.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO COME TO SFU?

I first met Dr. Connolly at SFU through joint meetings with Dr. Bernstein's and Dr. Connolly's research lab. Dr. Connolly's research was grounded in basic psychological principles but asked important applied questions. I liked the idea of applied research, so I decided to apply to work with Dr. Connolly in the experimental stream of the Law and Forensic Psychology program at SFU. I was accepted into the program and successfully defended my MA. Now I’m in the PhD program

TELL US ABOUT YOUR RESEARCH AND/OR PROGRAM.

I'm interested in how we sometimes unknowingly use our gut feelings when we need to make truth judgements and credibility assessments. In our research, we show that related photographs can make statements seem more true and believable, even when the photos lack useful or meaningful information. We think that the photos make the statements feel true by changing the way that we think about and process the statements. Now we’re trying to really dig in and study what’s going on under the surface.

WHAT ARE YOU PARTICULARLY ENJOYING ABOUT YOUR STUDIES/RESEARCH AT SFU?

The thing I’ve enjoyed most so far was the friendship and comradery that I immediately felt with my lab mates and cohort when I entered the MA program at SFU. We were all excited to be there and experiencing new things. It’s very nice to be around people with similar interests and educational backgrounds. When you start to study something deeply, it can be difficult to find people to talk to about the nitty-gritty details. All of a sudden I found myself surrounded by people who knew the lifestyle and the language.

HAVE YOU BEEN THE RECIPIENT OF ANY MAJOR OR DONOR FUNDED AWARDS?

I applied for and received Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarships from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) for both my MA and my PhD. I was also awarded with several graduate fellowships from SFU throughout my studies. Having funding support has helped immensely and allowed me to continue my research without accruing additional student debt since my undergrad. I’m very grateful for the support.

DESCRIBE YOUR PROGRAM FOR THOSE SEARCHING.

My program offers a flexible path of applied research in important areas of Psychology with highly qualified and experienced instructors and mentors.

Contact Daniel: daniel_derksen@sfu.ca