By Michael Grace-Dacosta
Erica Naccarato thought her placement at Ryerson’s community psychology lab this summer would consist of sitting in on lab meetings. She never imagined she would be presenting a paper in New York City.
But that’s exactly what the third-year psychology student and setter on the volleyball team will be doing this November. She will be presenting a paper on obese young people at the North American Primary Care Research Group’s Annual General Conference (NAPCRG).
“I was really, really, excited and terrified at the same time,” Naccarato said about finding out the paper had been selected. “I was more excited when [Ryerson Psychology Professor Kelly Mcshane] suggested we should submit it to the conference. Then when I actually got it I was like ‘oh my god’.”
The NAPCRG annual conference is a forum for primary care researchers from across the globe to gather and present their research, collaborate for new research and foster growth for up-and-coming researchers.
Naccarato’s paper is about how effective motivational interviewing is on obese adolescents attempting to get better health habits. Motivational interviewing is a form of counseling where a counselor helps the patient change their behavior. It is typically used on patients suffering from drug or alcohol addiction and trauma.
Naccarato worked under the supervision of McShane and two psychology PHD graduate students. She was tasked with reading and analyzing close to 600 pages of academic journals to see if they could be incorporated into the papers findings.
McShane and the two graduate students started this paper three years ago as summer project but faced various setbacks trying to complete it. The paper was rejected twice by academic journals and eventually McShane and the graduate students got too busy with other commitments to continue to work on the project.
When Naccarato joined the lab as a volunteer she decided to revive the project.
“Erica is phenomenal,” McShane said. “She has an incredible work ethic and dedication to this project — without that, we would have never been able to pull this off in a summer.”
The project was supposed to be completed by Sept. 15, but McShane decided to rewrite the results section of the paper. This pushed the completion date back to December. The conference is Nov. 24 so the paper was submitted as a work in progress.
Naccarato said she is really thankful for this opportunity and that it helped her realize she wants to be a research psychologist. She wants to study body image and eating disorders among athletes.
“That’s something I really want to do because I can incorporate my two passions psychology and volleyball,” she said.
McShane and the other students will be unable to attend the conference so Naccarato will be presenting the paper by herself. The presentation will be 20 minutes long.
“The team was unanimous in giving [Naccarato] first authorship for the poster presentation to be made at NAPCRG,” McShane said. “She is without a doubt the strongest undergraduate student who has undertaking a research position with me.”