By Maura Coffey, Undergraduate Psychology Major
Earned Ph. D from Case Western Reserve University
Dr. Astrida Kaugars is a busy Marquette psychology professor, both inside the classroom and out.
She teaches undergraduate courses such as Health Psychology and Psychology of the Exceptional Child, as well as a number of graduate level courses. In her pediatric psychology lab, she collaborates with other professionals such as endocrinologists, dietitians, social workers and nurses to better the outcomes for children and adolescents with Type 1 Diabetes. Kaugars values this interdisciplinary research team, stating, “I enjoy collaborating and benefiting from the perspectives of people from different disciplines.”
When reflecting upon her research career thus far, Kaugars has learned a great deal about both the psychology field and the participants themselves. “I’ve learned how intriguing the research process can be. There are so many ways to ask research questions and find answers.” On a more person-centered level, Kaugars states, “I’ve realized how resilient individuals and families are and how important it is to really understand the unique circumstances of people’s lives.”
In the future, Kaugars is planning on conducting a “longitudinal study of preschool children with Type 1 Diabetes and follow them and their families for two years, looking to see how individual and family characteristics are related to diabetes characteristics.” She has recently applied for a grant that would fund this meaningful research.
The graduate students in Kaugars‘ research lab are thankful for her willingness to share her knowledge. Christopher Fitzgerald, M.S. praises Kaugars’ guidance, “As a research advisor, Dr. Kaugars is profoundly knowledgeable about her area of study. She consistently is able to balance providing guidance to her students while allowing their development of autonomy as independent researchers.” Ashley Moss, B.S. has a similar view, citing Kaugars’ “knowledge of the field and expertise. She chooses to be hands-on, guides me and helps me create meaningful project ideas.”
Kaugars and Fitzgerald have valuable advice to undergraduates interested in pursuing a career in clinical psychology. Kaugars states, “Finding mentors is important and critical to navigate the many decisions. It is also important to find out what you’re passionate about and what really interests you, because you need to be self-motivated to pursue graduate work.” Fitzgerald emphasizes experience, stating, “I would encourage undergraduates who are interested in clinical psychology to become involved in a research lab. It is a great way to help you determine what area of psychology you would like to pursue and it also helps you to develop relationships with faculty members.”
It will come as no surprise that Kaugars cites one of her biggest professional struggles as “finding enough time for everything.” Kaugars’ tireless work does not go unnoticed. Her teaching excellence and significant contributions to the field of psychology make her an asset to the Marquette psychology department.